Read an Excerpt
Defending Your Faith
By Norman Geisler & Joseph Holden
Broadman & Holman Publishers What Is Apologetics?
Copyright © 2002 Norman Geisler and Joseph Holden.
All rights reserved.
In Surfer's Paradise, California, high school seniors Peter and Jordan have just finished their first PE class of the fall semester. Jordan transferred into the school and knows no one. Their lockers are next to each other.
Peter: Whew! It's hot out there. I'm totally drained.
Jordan: Yeah.... I'm Jordan.
Jordan: Are they going to make us run that many laps every day?
Peter: Maybe. I can't wait to get home and get in the water.
Jordan: You surf?
Peter: As much as I can. You?
Jordan: Born to ride, man!
Peter: How about some surfing later?
Jordan: Have to pass. It's my sister's birthday. Got to do the family routine. But I always go Sunday morning; it's my spiritual trip for the weekend, right? Work for you?
Peter: No can do. I go to worship service at 9:00 Sunday morning, and
Jordan: No way!
Peter: Way. And then I've got my high school group from 10:00 to 12:00. We also meet on Wednesday nightsyou know, Bible study and some basketball. So, how about we get together Sunday afternoon for some waves if the water is nice?
Jordan: I'm surprised. You actually believe in God,Jesus, the Bible, and all that stuff? I thought, you know, you were too cool.
Peter: Uhhh ...
• How would you respond if you were Peter?
• Is it cool or not cool to believe in God?
• Do you feel embarrassed, uncomfortable, or defensive in openly proclaiming your beliefs to a nonbeliever?
To describe and define Christian apologetics
To gain an understanding of Christian apologetics and its limitations
In this chapter you will learn
• that the word apologetics refers to defending the Christian point of view.
• that apologetics has positive and negative sides.
• that evidential, historical, classical, and presuppositional are the four major approaches to apologetics.
• that the power of apologetics is limited and can't in itself make anyone a Christian.
• that when doing apologetics you should follow certain fundamental guidelines.
The word apologetics should not scare you. It's not a disease, nor is it a Christian who is "sorry" for his or her faith in Jesus Christ. The English word apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia, which literally means a "reasoned defense." In other words, apologetics is the branch of Christian theology that attempts to give answers to persons who ask questions about or object to Christianity.
An apologist presents various evidences to defend his faith much like a lawyer uses evidence to defend his client in a courtroom before a judge and jury. Apologetics is not presented in Scripture as an optional task, only for some special group or person to engage in; rather, it is a command for all Christians. The Bible says that we should be able to give an answer to anyone who asks about and questions our faith. The apostle Peter writes, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:15).
Things you should know about apologetics
• The word apologetics is not a military word; it is a word that describes how a lawyer gives a verbal defense for a client in the courtroom. That is, it tells how apologetics should and should not be done. This means we don't beat on people by clobbering them with our Bibles but by speaking gently and humbly to them.
• The Greek form of the word apologia is used at least nine times in the New Testament (see 1 Corinthians 9:3; 2 Corinthians 7:11; 1 Peter 3:15; Philippians 1:7, 17; 2 Timothy 4:16; Acts 19:33; 22:1; 25:16). This word can be traced back to the fourth century B.C. when the Greek philosopher Plato used it to title one of his books, Apology. His book gives the account of Socrates's (Plato's teacher) defense before a court of law that charged him with corrupting the youth of Athens and leading them into atheism.
• Apologetics is not new. It is something we do every day, even sometimes without knowing. It's simply giving "reasons" or "evidences" for why we believe something to be true.
• Apologetics has positive and negative sides. The positive side of apologetics is when we give reasons for why Christianity is true. Unlike the negative side, which tears down objections, we can build up confidence in Christ by providing good reasons, archaeological and scientific evidence, or some other available tools.
The positive use of apologetics is seen in Acts 1:3, when after rising from the dead Jesus showed Himself with many "infallible proofs": "He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God."
Jesus also did positive apologetics for His disciples when He gave them evidence of His bodily resurrection in Luke 24:38-40: "And He said to them, `Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.' When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet."
God did positive apologetics in Romans 1:19-20 by giving evidence of His existence through the created world: "What may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse."
The negative side evaluates reasons offered against Christianity and exposes their weaknesses. In other words, the negative side of apologetics makes it its task to "tear down" or "dismantle" ideas that are given to discredit Christianity. When "tearing down" reasons, it is crucial to accomplish this by refutation not condemnation. Don't get involved in tearing down anyone. Refuting a person's claims against Christianity is simply giving reasons for why we think the claims are false. If we begin raising our tone of voice and getting angry at the person we are talking to, we are entering the area of condemnation.
An example of a biblical command to engage in the negative side of apologetics is 2 Corinthians 10:4-5: "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."
Now that you know the difference between both the positive and negative side of apologetics, turn to the following Scriptures and try to discover which side of apologetics is being used: 1 Kings 18; Exodus 4:1-9; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.
Are there different kinds of apologetics?
There are different ways to build a defense for your faith. Each of the following apologetic types has a different starting place when attempting to answer persons who ask about Christianity. These types often overlap and use one another's methods of showing Christianity to be true. Although there are more than four types of apologetics, these seem to be the most popular.
1. Evidential apologetics focuses primarily on providing evidences that people can see with their own eyes. These apologists give evidence consisting of ancient copies of the original Bible (also called manuscripts), archaeological discoveries, or even scientific truths that are consistent with Scripture. The evidential apologist would say, "Look at the facts with your own eyes. This will prove the truthfulness of Christianity."
2. Historical apologetics focuses primarily on providing historical evidences. These apologists give evidences that are gathered from old historians such as Suetonius, Tacitus, and Josephus. Their purpose is to show that the Bible is historically accurate. The historical apologist would say, "Look to the past to support the truthfulness of Christianity."
3. Presuppositional apologetics defends Christianity from certain basic assumptions. The presuppositional apologist assumes the truth of Christianity without using traditional proofs for the existence of God. One basic presupposition the apologist holds is that non-Christians have presuppositions that obscure or taint everything they hear about God. It is the apologist's role to present the troth of Christianity and the falsehood of any worldview opposed to Christ. Unlike classical apologetics, which begins with reasons and evidence, presuppositionalists begin by assuming the Christian worldview and by attempting to show that only it makes sense out of the world. The presuppositional apologist asserts that "proofs for the existence of God are unnecessary; simply state the truthfulness of Christianity and show the weaknesses of other worldviews."
4. Classical apologetics focuses primarily on providing well-reasoned answers to persons who ask about or object to the Christian religion. Classical apologists begin by establishing the reality of absolute troth and proceed to show evidence for the existence of God and the possibility of miracles. Then they proceed to show historical evidence that supports the deity of Christ by examining His sinless and miraculous life, fulfillment of prophecy, and His resurrection from the dead. However, they usually begin by giving reasons apart from showing physical evidences in order to change the unbeliever's perspective (also called a worldview) on life and religion. When this is accomplished, they can accurately assess and interpret the physical evidence. The classical apologist says, "Change their worldview since it's the reason why unbelievers misinterpret the facts they see with their eyes. Once this is accomplished, show them the historical evidence."
What are the limits of apologetics?
It is important to remember that apologetics is limited and can't in itself make anyone a Christian. However, it can help clear the ground for anyone to receive Jesus Christ by removing obstacles that hinder saving faith. Just as a plow clears away snow from an icy road so cars can pass unhindered, apologetics clears away questions and doubts so the gospel can shine through to the unbeliever.
The limitations of apologetics also can be understood this way: it can only bring the horse to the water, so to speak; the horse is the only one who can decide to drink. It is the same way with salvation. Apologetics can show an unbeliever that Jesus is the Water of life, but the decision to drink is made by the unbeliever. This is the difference between "faith that" and "faith in."
Apologetics helps an unbeliever to see that Jesus is the way to salvation, but it is the role of the Holy Spirit and the individual as to whether he will place faith in Jesus. Apologetics can demonstrate that Jesus is the way to heaven by providing evidence; however, faith in Jesus can only be achieved through a personal decision apart from apologetics. In other words, apologetics goes only so far. Limitations, however, don't lessen the role that apologetics plays in bringing someone closer to Christ. After all, the unbeliever cannot believe in God until he first believes that God exists (Hebrews 11:6).
The following illustrates the limits of apologetics.
Faith that God exists Faith in God
Is an area of apologetics Is an area of evangelism Addresses the mind Addresses the will Uses reasons and evidence Requires the Holy Spirit Comes before faith in Comes after faith that Points the person to Jesus Places trust in Jesus
What are the rules of a good apologist?
To ensure good results, remember the following rules when using apologetics. They will help you become more effective when talking to others about Christianity. We have tried to make them easy to remember by placing them into the acronym A.P.O.L.O.G.E.T.I.C.S.
A = Always pray P = Pre-evangelism (establishing a theistic worldview) O = Obstacles are to be removed L = Love your neighbor O = Overcome discouragement G = Gospel message given E = Encourage friendships T = Truth I = Illuminate and illustrate C = Christ centered S = Scripture use
Congratulations! You have just finished your first chapter in apologetics. The purpose of this section was to describe and define Christian apologeticsa foundation for the second chapter. Now that you know what apologetics is, you can learn why it is important. Before you continue, test how much you remember by completing the following chapter review questions.
Excerpted from Living Loud by Norman Geisler & Joseph Holden. Copyright © 2002 by Norman Geisler and Joseph Holden. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.