Introduction to Apologetics

What is Apologetics?Apologetics image
 
Apologetics is engaging with peoples understanding of the gospel, which may be their objections, attacks, questions or curiosity. The word 'apologetics' is made up of two Greek words; 'Apo' meaning giving away and 'Logos' meaning a word.
 
So apologetics is giving away or giving back a word. Imagine a law court; a defendant would give his apologetic for why he is innocent. It is standing up and explaining this is what I believe, why I believe it and why I think it is believable.
 
Why bother with apologetics?
 
Matthew 28:19 reads, 'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit'. We, the church, are Gods primary way of spreading the gospel. We can do that through our actions and through our words. But we live in a world where many other messages bombard us. Imagine receiving thousands of letters through the post but knowing that only one contains a pay slip; it would take time and effort to search through the other messages to obtain what you needed. Every nation mentioned in Matthew 28:19 has a different background, culture and worldview and as well as this, each individual in that nation will have different opinions. The job of apologetics is to help people sift through their post.
 
1 Peter 3:15
But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honour him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you.
 
2 Corinthians 10:5
We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
 
Colossians 4:5-6
Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
 
The simple reason that you would want to do apologetics is the exact same reason that you would want to do evangelism; because your heart is broken for the lost - for those trying to create or sustain a worldview apart from God. Apologetics helps us to show, with love, how much others need God.
 
 
But you can't argue and persuade someone into a relationship with God
 
That is why, whenever talking with anyone about Christ, you pray. You never enter a discussion and think I know the answer to this question, I know the flaw with that worldview; I know. You cant do this because you don't know what that person has gone through. The people that you are in discussion with are not projects for you to work on and bring into church once you feel they are finished or complete. They are people loved by their Father and they are His. However, we are called to be involved in relationship with people and tell them they have a Father that loves them.
 
 
We can spend all of our time arguing and persuading but ultimately, humanity belongs to God not us. That is the reason why prayer is so important; it is asking God for His guidance in discussion. Imagine sending an email on your fathers behalf, however, you do not ask your father what you should say or whether you should send the message at all. Whose email is it really? That email would belong to you and although you may say it comes from your father, it doesn't. Prayer is essential in effective apologetics.
 
 
Different kinds of Apologetics
 
There are many different types of apologetic methods, but most can be put into three basic categories which are as follows; evidence based, presuppositional and logical.
 
Evidence based apologetics is looking at hard evidence that can be studied, which confirms the story in the Bible as true history and therefore, the message as true.
 
Presuppositional Apologetics basically means you must start with God. God must exist in order for everything to make sense.
 
Classical Apologetics is concerned with logic - Simply using logic to reason that God exists.
 
The three examples of Apologetic methods in more detail:
 
Evidence based
 
We can build a case for the reliability of the Bible, especially in relation to what it says about Jesus.
There are numerous accounts of Jesus from outside of the Bible that match with what we read within it. We can look to history, at people outside of the Bible and see what they say about Jesus. We can also look at the early enemies of Christianity and at their accounts as they have nothing to gain from supporting Jesus' claims.
 
There was a Roman historian writing in around 115AD called, Tacitus. He is a well-respected source in Roman history from this time period and he wrote of a fire that destroyed part of Rome. Emperor Nero blamed the Christians in order to shift the focus from elsewhere. Here is what he writes:
 
"Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind".
(Tacitus' annuls (15.44.1)
 
If we put aside, for a moment, everything we know from the gospels, we learn from Tacitus that by 115AD, Christianity had spread from Judea to Rome and that the founder of the religion was called, Christus (which is Greek for Christ). We can also see that he suffered the extreme penalty (crucifixion was a terrible word in the Roman era and the term 'extreme penalty', was often used in its place) at the hands of Pontius Pilate, a local governor. So everything we read from this extract connects and matches with everything we see in scripture.
 
We also have the letters of, Pliny the younger, who was a Roman governor writing around 112AD to Emperor Trajan. In these letters, he explains that he doesn't know what to do with the Christians who keep cropping up in his province and refuse to worship the emperor, but instead sing hymns to Christ as if He was God. The literal words he wrote are as follows, 'they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god', just as we do today on Sunday mornings, long after the collapse of the Roman empire. From this we learn that in 112AD people were worshipping Christ, just as we see in the Bible.
(Pliny, Letters 10.96-97)
 
There are many more texts that fit perfectly with scripture and these are all evidence for the truth in the Bible.
Evidence based apologetics is very interesting to people who may have dismissed Christianity, but it requires research. If you present something to someone that is later proven to be fake, it gives the impression that you will agree with anything provided if it matches your beliefs, regardless of whether or not it is true.
 
Presuppositional Apologetics
 
The Presuppositional approach claims that the biblical Christian worldview is the only worldview that makes sense of everything we see and feel around us. One presuppositional argument is the moral argument.
 
What is right or wrong? Is there such a thing? How can you have right or wrong? We feel it in ourselves that there is such a thing as right and wrong; how can they exist without God?
Dawkins claimed that morals come from evolutionary misfires and a survival instinct (The God Delusion, p253) and that people themselves created morality from an instinct to protect the tribe.
Lets say, hypothetically, there is a fire and some debris fell and trapped someone. You have two instincts; an instinct to come and help and a survival instinct to get outwhich one would you follow? How do you decide which is most right? Instinct alone is not enough to decide. You need something larger. If you believe in right and wrong then you need to have a foundation. The Bible teaches that right and wrong are created as an integral part of the rest of creation and that 'right' is the functional way God had intended the world to work; it is intimately linked to the relationship between God and His creation.
 
 
Classical Apologetics
 
Logic can be used to discuss the basics regarding the existence of God. One such argument is called the cosmological argument or an argument from cause and effect.
 
Everything has a cause and we can see the effect. The door opens because I push it. You breathe because oxygen is pumped into your lungs. I am alive because my parents had a childbecause my grandparents had children. At the very beginning of time something must have happened, there must have been a cause to begin with. 'That's the big bang' they might say, very well but what caused that? Something does not come from nothing. Imagine dominos standing in a line as far as you can see, both in front and behind you. You cannot see the end of the line and yet you can hear them clicking as they fall, starting in the distance and then going past you. There is no possible explanation as to why they are falling other than at some point down the line, someone knocked one over. An intelligent being must, at some point, have started the universe.

Go and defend
 
The Bible itself contains the word 'apologetic' in it.
 
1 Peter 3:15 ‘…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense (apologia) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.
 
So getting involved with apologetics is, on some level, part of evangelism. It is part of Gods plan to use you to spread His message in a way that is gentle, respectful and full of His love.
 
 Further resources
 
www.Probe.org
www.oneminuteapologists.com
 
 
Peter Graham, 28/04/2015