Often when people hear the word “apologetics” they think means apologizing for the faith. But that is not what Christians mean by apologetics. There are far more learned people out there than I am so I have gathered a list of definitions from several Christian apologetics books (the first book is the most important one!) to help me out.
“but in our hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15, The Apostle Peter.
“Apologetics may be simply defined as the defense of the Christian faith.” Apologetics Study Bible, Kenneth D. Boa.
“Apologetics can be defined as ‘that New Testament ministry which seeks to provide rational grounds for believing Christianity in whole or in part and to respond to objections raised against Christianity in whole or in part.'” Love God with All Your Mind, J.P. Moreland.
“Christian Apologetics is the application of biblical truth to unbelief.” Covenantal Apologetics, K. Scott Oliphint
“Christian Apologetics involves making a case for the truth of the Christian faith.” On Guard, William Lane Craig
“[Apologetics] refers to the defense of what you believe to be true.” Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Josh and Sean McDowell
“The task or science of Christian apologetics is primarily concerned with providing an intellectual defense of the truth claims of the faith.” Defending Your Faith, R.C. Sproul
“Christian apologetics is “the discipline that teaches Christians how to give a reason for their hope.” Apologetics to the Glory of God, John Frame.
There are three commonalities involved when it comes to apologetics.
First, any apologetic issue will make claims about reality. Christianity makes a lot of claims about reality. For example: God exists, Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and the Holy Spirit lives in my heart. You actually cannot make it through a single page in the Bible without reading some sort of claim about reality.
Christianity makes a lot of claims about reality.
Second, there will be a conflict or objection to the claims Christianity makes. The Bible even tells us that people have opposed (2 Tim. 4:15) and will oppose (Gal. 5:17) the message of Jesus Christ.
These challenges can come from nearly anywhere, even within the church. Some people join a Christian cult. Maybe they grew up in a different religion. It is becoming more and more popular for college students to lose their faith in a “science” class.
There will be a conflict or objection to Christianity’s claims about reality. The Bible tells us that people have and will oppose Jesus Christ.
The third element in apologetics involves responding to objections about the faith. This is really where the rubber hits the road. For many this is not so easy. We want others to like us so we might let the objection go and say nothing. Or worse, we may play along in agreement just to get their approval! But Peter tells us to “always be ready with a defense (a response).”
Our response must have a rational or intellectual component to it. Peter tells us that our defense needs “a reason for the hope that is in you.” This reason is not merely a playground “uh-hhu” but a reasoned response that others can understand. Having a reason means doing research, having evidence for your faith.
Our reasons are not be mere playground “uh-ha,” but a reasoned response that others can understand.
I think this is the hardest parts of apologetics. If we left apologetics to the first two points it would be easy to merely agree to disagree. Doing that would save you some pride or preserve some sense unity. But to actually confront the disagreement and try to make your case to others is hard. There are lots of reasons we may fail to do this but I can tell you that doing the work pays off.