I was working in a ministry at Vincennes University once and an atheist told me that he thought what my ministry does is great! I was thankful for his praise but this confused me since I considered the main function of my ministry to convince others why Atheism is false!
For the last couple weeks I have outlined four parts to apologetics, “always being prepared to make a defense [a response] to anyone [an objector] who asks you for a reason [a reasoned/intellectual answer] for the hope that is in you [the claims you make as a Christian].” This is sort of a 50,000 foot view of the subject but this week we are going to have a closer look.
Defense Apologetics: Defending against false claims made about Christianity.
Most often Christian apologists use to 1 Peter 3:15 (above) to explain the first function. The word apologetics comes from this passage. It is a Greek, “apologia,” and it means defense or answer. The first function is defense. Defense apologetics is used when someone denies a Christian claim and we want to show why our claim is actually true.
Evidence Apologetics: Providing positive evidence for Christian claims.
The second function is evidence/vindication apologetics. This is when Christians make a positive case for their view. Often this helps to strengthen and affirm what Christians believe is true. An example of this is when Jesus showed himself to “doubting” Thomas in John 20. Jesus was giving Thomas positive proof that He was alive. Paul also set to vindicate his claim that Jesus was resurrected by eyewitness account, 500 eyewitnesses (1 Corinthians 15:5).
Criticism Apologetics: Refuting claims that conflict with Christian claims.
The third function is criticism/refutation apologetics. This comes into play when a different worldview affirms claims that contradicts Christianity. We have to have an answer for why such a view is incorrect. Paul has strong words for this in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
I think that criticism/refutation apologetics may be the least popular. I mean who wants to be criticized? So I will be devoting another post to this because I think people can abuse or misunderstand this particular task.
Evangelism Apologetics: Using arguments and evidence to help in persuading people to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.
The final function, into which all the others funnel into, is evangelism apologetics. The ultimate goal of apologetics is, through the Holy Spirit, to persuade people to closer a relationship with Jesus Christ. When I practice apologetics, I do not want to merely win an argument. I want to see people convinced that Jesus Christ is who he claimed to be. I want to see them become Christians. Paul made it his ambition to preach the gospel (Romans 15:20) and he would spend considerable energy reasoning with others (see Acts 17:2, 17:17, 18:2, 18:19, 19:8, not to mention considerable argumentation from his letters) so that they would become Christians.
Over the coming weeks we will be getting into the nitty gritty of these functions: Defense, Encouragement, Criticism, and Evangelism.
Question: Do you know an argument that would fit one of these functions of apologetics?
Your Friendly Neighborhood Apologist