The word “apologetics” comes from the Greek word apologia, which means “the act of making a defense.” In Philippians 1:7, 16, apologia refers to a defense of the gospel, and in 1 Peter 3:15 it refers to a defense of the hope Christians have.
Apologetics is “an activity of the Christian mind which attempts to show that the gospel message is true in what it affirms. An apologist is one who is prepared to defend the message against criticism and distortion, and to give evidences of its credibility.”
Option #1: Defending Christian belief
One form of apologetics is to defend the gospel from challenges. Defensive apologetics is the defense of the Christian faith by showing when objections to Christianity do not stand. Defensive apologetics addresses objections about the concept of God’s triunity, the problem of evil, the Resurrection, the reliability of the Bible, and so forth.
For example, negative apologetics is used to rebut the claim that the doctrine of the Trinity “is an Error in counting or numbering; which, when stood in, is of all others the most brutal and inexcusable.” Negative apologetics will show that the doctrine of the Trinity is at least possibly true.
Another example is to defend against the charge that the Bible contains errors, contradictions, or inconsistencies. To give answers to the challenges that Jesus rose from the dead is also defensive apologetics.
Option #2: Giving reasons to believe
Another form of apologetics is to offer reasons to believe the gospel. Positive apologetics is the use of arguments and evidences to demonstrate the viability of the Christian faith. Apologetics intends to show, in a positive manner, that the claims of the Christian faith are indeed intellectually defensible and rationally justifiable.
Positive apologetics is making a positive case for the validity and truth of the claims made in Scripture, such as the resurrection of Christ, the existence of God, and the historical reliability of the Bible.
Option #3: Critiquing unbelief
Another form of apologetics is to critique unbelief, which combines both the positive and negative forms. Some streams of apologetics seek to show that unbelief is irrational and that holding to views such as relativism will lead to undesirable and irrational conclusions.
For example, holding to relativism entails that no universal ethical norm can be present since there is no objective truth to ground morality. This type of apologetics moves from the critique to a positive construction that shows how the Christian faith provides an alternative and logical worldview that best makes sense of reality.
Explaining how karma is a cruel and devastating belief is another form of critiquing unbelief. In the karma system of belief, if someone is suffering or in pain, they deserve it, and to help them is to go against the cosmic law (dharma) at play.
Another example is the critique that atheism logically leads to moral chaos. On what basis can an atheist say anything (even genocide, sexual assault, or child abuse) is bad or wrong? If ethics is based on opinion or consensus, then morality is determined by whoever has the most power. If nature is, to use Tennyson’s phrase, “red in tooth and claw” and survival of the fittest is true and good, then domination of one animal over another in any form can’t be called bad or wrong in a naturalistic worldview. Notice that this argument is not saying that atheists are immoral, but that their belief system has no support for objective morality.
Apologetics on mission
Apologetics is something you engage in every time you share your beliefs and convictions with your fellow Christians, with your children, and with non-believers. It is not an irrelevant or formal discipline reserved for intellectuals. Apologetics is an important tool for mission.
Here are some great resources for learning more about apologetics:
- Defending & Proving the Resurrection (a three-part blog series)
- The Great Debate: Does God Exist?
- Why Science Needs the Christian Worldview
- The Sinking Sand of Naturalism (a seven-part blog series)
- Collision Outtakes
Learn more about the reasons Christianity is credible, how to answer questions and objections about Christianity, and grow in your faith while learning how to help others come to faith.