Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Twofold Purpose of Apologetics

Apologetics Defined

Perhaps we should start by defining the word "apologetics". As they say,  "that's a pretty big word, like 'mayonnaise'" that not everyone is going to be familiar with. First of all, apologetics has nothing to do with apologizing for anything, especially the Christian faith. So, let's get that out of the way right off the bat. The word "apologetics" is derived from the Greek word "apologia" found in 1 Peter 3:15, which admonishes believers always to be ready to make a defense (apologia) to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in them. Christian Apologetics may be loosely defined as a branch of theology that seeks to defend the truth claims of Christianity. For example, a Christian apologist may seek to defend Christianity's claim that Jesus rose from the dead or, on a more foundational level, that God exists.

Objections to Apologetics

Now many have objected that only a doubting Thomas would need to have their faith defended. Don't we just take things the existence of God the resurrection of Jesus by faith? To which I reply, "Of course! And Muslims take it by faith that Allah is God and Mohammed is his prophet. But what makes your faith any more legitimate than his?" You might want to reply by offering some good reasons why Christianity should be embraced and Islam rejected. But if you do that, well then you've engaged in Christian apologetics! At this point you may retort that you can't argue anyone into heaven, and you'd be absolutely right. Salvation is accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit who enlightens the hearts and minds of sinners. But has it ever crossed your mind that the Spirit of God uses sound reasoning as tool the free those who are dead in their sins from the shackles that have bound their minds? Giving some one good reasons to trust in Christ doesn't usurp the power of the Spirit - it's function of the Spirit itself! 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." That's precisely what the Christian apologist seeks to do! Non-Christians often reject Christ, because of anti-Christian arguments and pretensions that have enslaved their minds. We are called to demolish their objections so that they can be free to embrace the knowledge of God.

So What's the Point?

In answering some objections to apologetics we already, in essence, unveiled the twofold purpose of apologetics. Simply put, Christian apologetics can accomplish two things if done well. First, it can strengthen the faith of those who have already placed their faith in Christ. Did you know that the vast majority of the kids in our churches' youth groups will drop out of church indefinitely after they go to college? You know one reason why this happens? They've spent their whole lives in a church that hasn't done jack squat to prepare them to stand firm in their faith in the real world. And once they enter that world the enemy of the souls uses every means possible to squash their vulnerable faith. They go on to attend a liberal arts college and inevitable register for a class taught by some atheist ideologue who's had a lot of practice students' faith to shreds and he takes great pleasure in doing so. Things might turn out very differently if the church would start taking apologetics seriously.

The second purpose apologetics can serve is evangelism. In case you haven't noticed many people nowadays will just as likely believe in fairies and leprechauns as in a resurrected Jesus. In that kind of intellectual climate it's imperative that Christians come prepared to make a well reasoned case for the Christian faith. Doing so can take away the defenses around the unbelievers' heart and mind and bring them closer to a point where they are willing to give Christianity some serious thought. As we already discussed, that in itself isn't enough. The Spirit of God has to be at work in their lives. But if we allow ourselves to become a tool of God by preparing ourselves to demolish objections to the Christian faith, we'll give the Spirit of God a lot more to work with.


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