An Apologetic for Apologetics
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you
to give the reason for the hope that you have.
But do this with gentleness and respect.
- 1 Peter 3:15 NIV
- What is apologetics?
- Our English word "apologetics" derives from the Greek word (noun) apologia
(or verb apologeomai).
- It is found in many New Testament passages. See, for example, 1 Corinthians 9:3; 2
Corinthians 7:11; Acts19:33; 22:1; 24:10; 25:8, 16; 26:1, 2, 24; 2 Timothy 4:16; Philippians
1:7, 16; 1 Peter 3:15.
- Apologia was a Greek legal term, meaning among other things: an answer, a
defense, a verbal defense, a speech in defense, (BAG) a speech of defense, a reply.
- In Acts 24:10; 25:8, 16; 26:1, 2, and 24, the word is used in both a legal sense, and in
the Christian sense--as an "answer" as to why Paul believed in Jesus.
- An apologetic is a well-reasoned or thought out defense, or an answer or reply and
presentation of a position one holds or wants to defend or prove. In this case the cause
- As used in the Bible, an apologetic does not mean an excuse or "apologizing"
for what you believe. That is, it is not saying "excuse me" or "I'm
- Apologetics is a subdivision of Christian theology.
- Apologetics is the presenting of evidence and logical arguments or reasons why a person
ought to believe in Christ. This includes the whole gamut or types of apologetics and
- For example, God's existence, the incarnation, the deity, and resurrection of
- Also falsifying non-Christian beliefs
- Why should the Christian engage in apologetics?
- See Philippians 1:7, 16; Colossians 4:6; 1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3, and so forth
- Because we see Christianity boldly proclaimed and defended in apologetic style in the
Scriptures (see e.g., Acts 2:22-32-41; 17; 2-3, 17, 22-31; 18:4, 19, 28).
- To preach the Gospel today effectively, we must also defend it
- Luther: "Unless the gospel is preached with contemporary relevance, it has
not been preached."
- We live in a post-Christian and pluralistic world today (multiculturalism, pluralism,
postmodernism, relativism, etc).
- Who should be involved in apologetics?
- Just theologians?
- No! All Christians, to one degree or another, should be involved (1 Pet. 3:15). Just as
in one sense all Christians are to be evangelists (see 2 Tim. 4:5), so all Christians are
called to give an answer....
- What types of evidences should we use?
- Objectively Verifiable Evidence or Reasons
- For Example, the Resurrection of Christ
- See, for example, Acts 2:22-37-41; 26:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, and so forth.
- The Supreme Example of Christ:
- The use of objective evidence:
- If Jesus, God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, used objective
evidence to validate His claims, a fortiori, how much more so for you and me!
- Mark 2:1-5-12
- John 2:18-21
- John 10:30-31-32-33, 37-38
- John 15:24-25
- John 20:24-29
- The use of reason (argumentation):
- Matthew 12:24-30
- Argument from analogy (vv. 25-26)
- The law of logical or rational inference (v. 26)
- Reductio ad absurdum (vv. 25-26)
- Argument from analogy (v. 27)
- The law of logical or rational inference (vv. 28, 29)
- Argument from analogy (v. 29)
- The law of contradiction (v. 30)
- The law of excluded middle (v. 30)
- The Apostles:
- The use of objective evidence:
- Peter: Acts 2:14-22,32-39; 3:6-16; 4:8-14-20
- Paul: Acts 26:26; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
- The appeal to Objective Eyewitness Testimony: Luke 1:2-4; John 1:14; 19:31-35-36; 20:24,
30-31; Acts 1:1-3;2:32; 3:6-16; 4:8-14-20; 9:3-8; 14:8-14,20; 17; 22:6-9, 14; 26:12-18, 26; 1 Corinthians
15:1-8; 2 Peter 1:16; 1 John 1:1-3, and so forth
- The use of reason--rationality:
- Paul: Acts 17:2-3, 11, 17, 22-31; 18:4, 19; 19:8-9; 26:25; 1 Timothy 6:20
- Apollos: Acts 18:27-28
Note: Commended by God!
- Dialegomai is the Greek word used in the above passages.
- Dialegomai: to argue, dispute, or reason. BAG: "discuss, conduct a
discussion...of lectures which were likely to end in disputations...." Vine's:
"`to think different things with oneself, to ponder'; then, with other persons, `to
converse, argue, dispute'"... "`to dispute with others...'" (see Acts 17:2,
17; 18:4, 19; 19:8-9; Jude 9).
- Like Considering or Weighing the Evidence of the Worth of One Truck against Another:
Feature by Feature (4 vs 5 speed, horsepower, seats, stereo, dollar per dollar)
- Subjective "Proofs"
- My Testimony
- Problems with mere testimony
- The third eye experience
- Mormons: "the burning in the bosom"
- Hare Krishnas, J.W.s, etc., all have one....
- If we only talk about or appeal to our feelings or what Christianity has done for us,
others will all claim the same....
- Why is it important to establish the objective truth of the historical life, death,
and resurrection of Christ?
- 1 Cor. 15:12-19!
- Because, God's word says so.
- Christianity stands or falls based upon the truthfulness or falseness of the above
- Christianity's truthfulness is contingent on its historical veracity in the most unique
sense of all religions.
- What is the purpose of apologetics?
- To Obey What God has Commanded Us to Do!
- e.g., Colossians 4:6; 1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3
- We are to obey what God has commanded us to do irrespective of the results.
- We are to do this whether we feel like it or not.
- To Refute False Objections to Christianity
- This is done so that a way will be cleared to preach the Gospel itself (e.g., answering
alleged contradictions in the Bible).
- To Refute non-Christian Worldviews or Philosophies or Idealogies (e.g., Such as
- This is done, for among other reasons, to show people that the views they have been
trusting or believing in are not true and cannot help or save them.
- To Clarify the Faith to non-Christians
- That is, apologetics is used to help clarify to the non-Christian what
Christianity does and does not believe or teach, or what Christianity does and does not
- For example, we do not believe in three gods (as the Muslim or Jehovah's Witness would
accuse us of).
- We are trinitarians!
- We are not tritheists. We do not believe in "three gods."
- To Offer Sound Evidence and Reasons Why One Ought to Consider the Claims of Christ
- For example, we should present the evidence for the resurrection of Christ
Jesus from the dead (Acts 17:16-31).
- To Strengthen the Faith of Those who are Already Christians
- The purpose of apologetics is not to give people (Christian or not) questions
they do not already have.
- How do you "do" apologetics?
- Know the Bible and the Gospel well!
- See Psalm 126:5-6; Isaiah 55:10-11; Hebrews 4:12; and 1 Peter 1:23-25 (cf. Isa. 40:6-8).
- You do not have to be an expert on cults, the occult, world religions,
philosophy, or otherwise. But, you are called to be an "expert" on the Bible and
the Gospel (1 Tim. 4:16; 2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Peter 3:15; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 3:18).
- Prayer should be a priority--when witnessing and otherwise!
- Prayer should not be an after-thought or seen as a last resort: "Oh well, there is
nothing else that I can do, I guess I could pray."
- Bathe your witnessing in prayer!
- See Luke 18:1-2; John 14:13-14; 15:7-8; 16:23-24; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians
4:6-7; Colossians 4:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; and 1 John 5:14-15.
- We also should pray for a heart for those who do not know Christ, a genuine love for the
- Spiritual Warfare
- Always remember that you are involved in spiritual warfare!
- See Acts 26:17-18; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4; Ephesians 6:10-18; Colossians 1:13 and 1
- Non-Christians are spiritually dead.
- See 1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4; and Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-10.
- Thus, it is not just an issue of reading the Bible and being logical--of simple
- Giving a minimal amount of information, evidence, and reason are necessary but not
sufficient conditions for salvation.
- Never, never, never forget this!
- Do not present or deal with difficulties or objections to Christianity
that a person has not mentioned.
- Do answer to the best of your abilities questions they do have.
- The Apologetic "Sliding Scale"
- Start where the person is in their thinking about Christianity and proceed from
that point. (Note: start from where they are, not where you are!)
- For example, find out if they are they an atheist, agnostic, pantheist,
- Whatever the case, begin with appropriate scriptural references and argumentation.
- For instance, if they already believe in the existence of God, Jesus Christ as an
historical person, and/or that the Bible is God's revelation to us, do not try to
"prove" these to them, since obviously, they already believe such.
- The goal is to locate where an individual is along the spectrum or "scale" of
unbelief or objections to Christianity, whether holding to the most extreme or
"milder" objections, and move them, by the grace and working of God, towards and
ultimately to belief in Christ as Lord and Savior.
- Ask God Questions: Ask God (first and foremost)--James 1:5
- "What should I say to or share with them?"
- "What shouldn't I say to them?"
- "Relative to the Law/Gospel continuum, God where are they; what do they need to
- "What passages or scriptural truths will have the most impact on them?"
- For example, Mormonism helped them out financially....
- They should trust in God vs. rely on Mormonism for the family finances.
- See Matthew 6:25-34 and Luke 12:22-34.
- They are afraid what there family or others will think. See Matthew 10:24-40; Luke
12:4-10; and 14:25-26.
- Also ask God, for example:
- "Where are they coming from?" "What are their issues that I need
to address the most." "How do you want me to interact with this person?"
- Ask Them:
- Like a good medical doctor you should ask questions. In this case we are
getting a profile of the person's spiritual history and health.
A good doctor does not just start treating a patient--proscribing medication or
"cutting." They ask questions first (such as...). They obtain the necessary
- information--the patients medical history first.
- "Why do you believe (or not believe) this?"
- "How long have you believed (or not) this?"
- "When did you change your mind on this?"
- "What do you like about it?"
- "Why are (or how did) you involved in ?" (e.g. Mormonism financially taking
care of their family: counter Matt. 6:25-34; Luke 12:22-34--truth; or family, Matt.
10:32-40; Luke 14:25-27).
- "What do you derive from it, or what need(s) do you believe that it fulfills for
- Ask them to please define their words or ideas, that is, what they do and do not mean by
certain words or ideas. For example:
- "Who is Jesus Christ? Who or what do you mean by the name `Jesus'?"
- "What is your understanding of salvation?" (if they believe in any type of
salvation at all).
- What do you mean by ? Definition
- "What do you or your group mean by that term (x)?"
- "Would you please explain if for me?"
- Also Ask Them:
- "Are you stating a mere opinion or preference, or are you making some kind
of (objective) truth claim?"
- "How do you know that is right or true?"
- "What, if anything, would it take to show or prove (or disprove) to you?"
- "What, if anything, would constitute evidence for you that was true?" (or
false, as the case may be).
- "What would or should you accept as evidence?"
- "Would anything convince you, or is your mind already made-up?"
- "Why do you ?"
- "Why should I (we) believe ?"
- Define your terms.
- We as well need to always define our terms or ideas and do not assume that
those to whom we are speaking (1) understand the word or concept, (2) or are using it in
the same way.
- We need to carefully define our terms!
- There is no "sure-fire" combination of Scriptures.
- That is, there is no "sure-fire" way that is guaranteed to produce
converts every time one witnesses. There is no "just-right" combination of, or
usage of, passages and/or arguments that works every time for everybody--with guaranteed
- Trust God. He is working, whether you feel like He is or not, or see any
"visible" signs that He is (Isa. 55:11; John 16:8-11).
- Thus, be patient and do not despair (2 Pet. 3:9).
- Do not speak Christianese to non-Christians!
- Like any good missionary (1) learn what is important to the person or people
you are trying to reach, and (2) how to best communicate what you want to convey to them
by learning their language.
- Washed in the Blood...
- In the Flesh...
- Die to Self...
- Walking in the Spirit...
- These are great Christian truths but will not be understood by non-Christians. Thus,
watch your language when speaking to non-Christians.
- It's not up to you.
- God draws people to Himself (see John 1:13; 6:44, 65; Rom. 9:16; 1 Cor. 2:14;
- Trust God. Relax. The work or "burden" is not yours or on you. You cannot save
anyone. You're not a salesperson closing a sale or deal, or having to meet your "soul
quota" or else (or God will be upset with you if you don't "produce").
- Again, relax and enjoy as you watch God at work.
- Start with and share what you do know about the gospel.
- It's fun sensing and seeing God working through us.
- God is pleased with you that you are sharing the gospel.
- Do not take it so personal.
- If a person "rejects" you (unless you're really obnoxious or
offensive) it is because they are rejecting the One you represent (see Matt. 10:24-40;
John 15:18-25; 17:14-15; 1 John 4:5-6).
- If they reject Jesus it is not per se a personal referendum on you or your personhood.
- See if for what it really is--the ultimate spiritual contest (Mat. 13:1-23) and do not
retaliate or strike back in anger because you are offended or hurt (remember Matt.
- The resurrection of Christ and His atoning work for us is the touchstone of apologetics.
- In the above process we must never lose sight of the goal--belief in Christ.
- Do not get involved with superfluous apologetic issues (side or rabbit trails) which
detract or simply lose sight of the real issue, that is, why the individual person does
not believe in the veracity of Christianity--in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
- Where possible begin with Christ's resurrection from the dead and atonement for us
(dispense with your other arguments), since in order to preach the Gospel you must finally
arrive at presenting and explaining this to them, that is, Christ's atoning work for them.
- Go for it!
- See Ephesians 6:10-18; Philippians 4:13; Hebrews 13:20-21 and Philemon 1:6.
- Biblical Apologetics
- In order of their most frequent occurrence in the New Testament (qualitatively
and quantitatively), the following apologetics are found. (Notice that most are objective
- See Matthew 11:2-6; Mark 2:10-12; John 10:32, 37-38; 11:11-14, 40-44; 14:10-11;
15:22-25; 19:35; 20:30-32; Acts 2:22; Hebrews 2:3-4.
- The supreme miracle is Christ's resurrection from the dead.
- See John 2:18-22; Acts (Peter) 2:22-32; (Paul) 17:31.
- Fulfilled Prophecy
- The book of Matthew is a prime example of fulfilled prophecy as an apologetic
for the claims of Christ. See, for example, Matthew 1:2-23; 2:6, 15, 17-18, and so forth.
- Also see Luke 24:25-27, 44; and Acts 10:43.
- Subjective Testimony
- This is the use of one's personal experience with God (e.g., feelings,
experiences, and/or what one believes that God has done for them) as evidence for the
truthfulness of Christianity.
- Although testimony (subjective experience) is used in the New Testament as a
witness or evidence for the truth of Christianity, it is not the most used one
(quantitatively), nor the primary proof (qualitatively).
- This is contrary to what many evangelicals think.
- Furthermore, most of the times when someone gives their "testimony" in the New
Testament, it is in conjunction with one or more of the objective apologetics. See Acts
9:1-19; 22:6-21; 26:12-20.
- Natural Theology from General Revelation
- See Psalms 19; Job 38-41; Romans 1:18-23; 2:12-16; and so forth.
- Thus, the Bible places a high value on the objective nature of the evidence for the
truthfulness of Christianity.
- For example, the New Testament places a high value on the eyewitness testimony
of the apostles and other disciples.
- See Luke 1:2-4; John 1:14; 19:31-35-36; 20:24, 30-31; Acts 1:1-3; 3:6-16; 4:8-14-20;
9:3-8, 17; 22:6-9, 14; 26:12-18, 26; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; 2 Peter 1:16; 1 John 1:1-3, and
- Saved by God's Grace by Believing the Truth
- We are saved because we believe the truth. See 2 Thessalonians 2:13
- Conversely, for those who are not saved it is due, to among other factors, their
refusal to believe the truth, which corresponds to reality. See, for example, Acts 19:8-9;
28:23-24; 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.
- Christianity is true.
- See John 18:37 and Titus 1:1-3.
- Therefore, we challenge Christians and non-Christians alike to examine the evidence
regarding the truthfulness of the claims of Christ Jesus (Isa. 1:18; John 10:37-38; 14:11;
Acts 17:11; 26:25-26; 1 John 1:1-3; 5:9-13)!
- The Role of the Holy Spirit and Knowledge, Evidence, and Reason in Biblical Apologetics
- Do we merely "argue" or "reason" people into the kingdom of
God? Is this just like the issue of whether one car is a better buy than another?
- No! Only the Holy Spirit can enable a person to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord
and Savior. We are clearly told in Scripture that one can only believe the Gospel message
if and only God calls and enables them to believe through the work of Holy Spirit
testifying to the truthfulness of the Gospel message.
- See John 1:13; 6:44, 65; 16:8-11; Romans 9:16; Ephesians 2:8-10; 1 Corinthians 2:14 and
- This is necessary due to man's fallen and corrupt nature (1 Cor. 2:13-14; 2 Cor 4:4;
- The very ability to "hear," consider, and respond to the Gospel is from first
to last the gift of God (Rom. 1:17; Eph. 2:8-10). No one can believe or even begin
"looking" for the gift of salvation through the Gospel, save by the gracious
calling of God (Rom. 3:10-13).
- However, the Holy Spirit does not do this independent of knowledge, evidence, and solid
- The role of the Holy Spirit, and knowledge, evidence, and reason are not opposed to each
- The Holy Spirit uses the word of God and knowledge, evidence, and reason from
it to draw or lead people to trust in Christ as Lord and Savior.
- See Acts 17:22-31-34.
- See 1 Peter 3:15.
- God ordains both the means and the ends (analogously see, e.g., Acts 27:22-26 and
- It is not a case of either having evidence and being reasonable, or being
- They are not "at each other's throats."
- They are not contradictory but complementary.
- Thus, it is a false dichotomy to juxtapose knowledge, evidence and logic/rationality,
versus the work of the Holy Spirit.
- The past (Old) Princeton great J. Gresham Machen states:
- What the Spirit does in the new birth is not to make a man a Christian regardless of the
evidence, but on the contrary to clear away the mists from his eyes and enable him to
attend to the evidence.
- Dr. Kim Riddlebarger rightly remarks:
- A man cannot acquiesce to the truth of the Gospel apart from the enabling of
the Holy Spirit. But, a man cannot acquiesce to that which he either does not know or
believe to be true. It is thus an illegitimate separation of faith into either a
"mind or heart," "faith or reason" dichotomy. Biblically understood,
faith and reason are intimately, completely and inseparably involved in one another.
- Thus, while it is true that no one using human reasoning, unassisted by the Holy Spirit,
is going to reason their way into the kingdom, it is equally true that saving faith is not
independent from evidence and reason either.
- In the last analysis you can not divorce the mind from the work of the Holy
Spirit in conversion.
- The Holy Spirit enables one to properly attend to the clear evidence for the
truth of Christianity (John 16:8-11).
- Therefore, we are not usurping the role and work of the Holy Spirit by using knowledge,
historical evidences, and logic/reason in apologetics.
- In fact, we are being obedient to what He has called us to do when we do this.
- See 1 Peter 3:15!
- Again, you can not by using only "evidence or reason and argumentation," that
is, in and of themselves, lead a person into the kingdom, but neither can they believe
unless they are given at least a minimal amount of information or answers.
- See 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 and Ephesians 2:1-2.
- See Romans 10:9-14-15.
- Recall the above quotes (Machen and Riddlebarger).
- Thus, the working of the Holy Spirit and His use knowledge, evidence, and reason are
necessary preconditions for salvation.
- See Romans 10:9-14-15.
- B.B. Warfield, another great past theologian of Princeton, comments:
- Faith is the gift of God: but it does not in the least follow that the faith
God gives is an irrational faith, that is, a faith without grounds in right reason....The
Holy Spirit does not work a blind, an ungrounded faith in the heart....nor yet new grounds
of belief in the object presented; but just a new ability of the heart to respond to the
grounds of faith, sufficient in themselves, already present to the understanding.
- Therefore, by the grace and working of the one true triune God, the Father, the Son, and
the Holy Spirit we exhort Christians to be confident in the claims of Christ Jesus and
"...in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to
everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with
gentleness and respect" (1 Pet. 3:15).
Revision Date: 04/03/98
Copyright ©1999 Craig S. Hawkins. All Rights Reserved.