Experiences like that illustrate why Christian students need to become students of apologetics. It takes effort, but it can only enhance their Christian witness.
Christian apologetics is the practice of sharing reasons why we believe what we do. If you’ve witnessed to unbelievers about Christ, you’ve probably heard various objections to the Gospel message. Some people are under the false impression that the Bible contains errors. Others wonder how God (if He exists) could allow natural disasters. Whether a listener has a legitimate question about God or tosses out a thinly veiled excuse for unbelief, we must be equipped to support our faith with evidence and sound reasoning.
Apologia, the Greek root of apologetics, is an ancient legal term meaning “a defense.” The word, translated answer and reason, appears several times in the Bible. For example, 1 Peter 3:15 encourages believers to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (NIV). Apologia is the same word found in Philippians 1:7, where the Apostle Paul said he was prepared to defend the Gospel. The principle is also echoed in Jude 3 as believers are encouraged to “earnestly contend” or “stand up for” the faith.
Each of us has been given the assignment of not only presenting the Gospel but also explaining and defending the truths of our message to the world around us. Plenty of evidence supports what we believe. The Bible reminds us that the Good News about Jesus is not just based on human opinion or someone’s personal preference. Christianity is truth, not mere fables or myths (2 Peter 1:16). Romans 1:4 says that Jesus’ resurrection shows He was the unique Son of God. Acts 1:3 says that, after His resurrection, Christ showed He was alive by many undeniable proofs.
Christianity is unique in that it is the only faith system based on historical facts that can be thoroughly investigated. We have verifiable words and events, including the bold claims of Jesus Himself. When non-Christians say, “You have no right to judge me,” they are absolutely correct. But Jesus has evaluated the entire human race and His Word sums it up for each of us: “You must be born again” (John 3:3-20). It’s there in black and white, and yet people risk eternity by trusting their own opinion about what it means to be in right relation to God. If we hope to reach them, we need to be armed, not to win arguments but to win souls.
Categories of Christian apologetics include: (1) textual apologetics–defending the trustworthiness of the Bible, and then sharing what it says; (2) evidence-based apologetics–presenting the many evidences in defense of the Christian faith (such as historical or scientific facts); and (3) philosophical apologetics–exposing the flawed reasoning behind popular arguments against Christianity. Respected Christian thinkers throughout history have recognized that every possible argument against Christianity is based on faulty logic and incorrect conclusions. Beliefs and religions include everything from atheism (there is no God) to polytheism (there are many gods) to pantheism (everything is part of God). But regardless of the label that describes an individual’s view of the world, an effective presentation of the Gospel often requires that we address certain assumptions that a person may hold. Before the unsaved are willing to consider what Jesus taught, Christians may need to help them clear mental barriers that stand in the way.
In a culture known for its rejection of authority and cynical “prove it to me” attitude, knowledge of apologetics is vital to people serious about evangelism.