The What of Apologetics
I've noticed the word Apologetics prompts different responses in people. For some, it's a meaningless word that sounds complicated. For others, it's quickly confused with the word apology. And for a select few, it's a deeply important word which drives them to continuous action.
So what exactly is Apologetics? It's quite simply defined - a rational defense of the Christian faith. The word derives from the Greek word Apologia, meaning a formal defense of a position.
Now you may ask - Why do we need all this defending? To which I'll respond - just wait! I have a post in store explaining the need for Apologetics from multiple angles. For now, I'll stick with the What of Apologetics - what's all involved with it?
First, Apologetics involves defending the central truth claims of Christianity. These claims include:
1. God exists
2. God created the Universe
3. Jesus is God
4. Jesus rose from the dead
5. God is best described through the trinity
These central claims (along with others) can be defended in a couple ways:
1. By presenting arguments for the claims through various fields
- Theology (study of God's revelation to us)
- Philosophy (study of deep questions while using logic)
- History (especially ancient history)
- Science (especially related to origins)
2. By pointing out inadequacies in the claims given by other views
- Jesus never died (claim given by Islam)
- The natural world is all that exists (claim given by naturalism/Atheism)
- The purpose of life is to escape our sense of self (claim given by Buddhism)
- The Book of Mormon is historically accurate (claim given by Mormonism)
By defending the claims of Christianity in these two ways, Christians can use Apologetics to lead others closer to truth about God. But Apologetics isn't merely an intellectual exercise. It also involves building relationships with people, gaining an understanding of their views and struggles, and helping them come to a conclusion grounded in truth.
One example of Apologetics done well is spelled out in the book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. A Christian named David Wood met a Muslim named Nabeel Qureshi in college after they both decided to refrain from partying with other college students. One night, Nabeel saw David reading a Bible and asked him about it. A dialogue started about the claims of Christianity and Islam, which soon morphed into a series of long discussions about questions like, "Who was Jesus?", and "Was Muhammad a good prophet?"
Through these Apologetics-based discussions, David and Nabeel built up a strong friendship. And as the discussions continued, Nabeel became more and more convinced that Christianity is true. After a few dreams also pointed him to that conclusion, Nabeel became a Christian.
Notice that even in Nabeel's case, Apologetics wasn't the only thing that led him to Christ. The Holy Spirit can use many things to lead people to a relationship with Jesus. But for some people, Apologetics plays a key role in their journey to faith.
Now I'm starting to get into the Why of Apologetics, so I better stop here and conclude with the What. Apologetics is not being sorry for something you've done. It's not reading a bunch of books so that you look really smart. Instead, it's a vessel God can use to bring people closer to an eternal relationship with their loving Savior.