Written by Jason Petersen
Apologetics can be a difficult field, not just in the area of argument, but also spirituality. The Bible clearly states that there is a war going on. A cosmic struggle between good and evil. God has already won the war through his death and resurrection, yet a battle still rages because of a defiant and prideful Satan.
No matter what part of the ministry you are in, be it pastoral, worship, leadership, evangelism, missionary work, apologetics, or administration, we all are a part of this war. We all are to do our individual parts, and all of these roles have some unique challenges that are associated with them. Some readers may be in one of these fields professionally, or perhaps there are readers that are in a personal ministry while working a secular job. All of these roles are equally important, and should be an integral part of The Church. This article will focus on the apologetic methodology and confronting some of the challenges that people will face when defending their faith.
Apologetics is a Biblical concept.(1 Peter 3:15) There is a proper and Biblical way to do apologetics. Contrary to what some may say, be they apologists that use presuppositional apologetics, classical apologetics, evidential apologetics, or reformed epistemology, what The Bible has to say about apologetics concerns itself with the way that we conduct ourselves. No matter which type of apologetics that Christians use, they must be sure to conduct themselves in the way that God has instructed us.
God, through his revelation, used the apostles in the New Testament to communicate his Word to us. Some readers may have heard the most often cited verses for apologetics: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). The first part of the verse that should be noted is “sanctify the Lord God in our hearts.” Certainly, philosophical reflections on the meaning of these words may vary. However, The Bible tells us exactly what it means by sanctifying God: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5, ) We are instructed to cast down arguments that are in opposition to the knowledge and authority to God, but readers should take notice of the last part of the verse. We are to take every thought to be captive to obey Christ. In this instance, Paul is not just speaking about intellectual issues as apologists are accustomed to dealing with, but also spiritual ones. This article will return to the subject of apologetic methodology after other important matters are examined.
Apologetics: An Act of Servant-hood
Some Christians will argue that apologetics is unnecessary or even say that apologetics is not Biblical. Clearly, such critics have not paid attention to the ministry of Jesus Christ or the Apostle Paul. However, we don’t even need to cover Paul, Jesus Christ himself was involved in apologetic encounters, as well. One might object and say, “Jesus wasn’t an apologist! Why should the God of the universe use apologetics?” The answer lies within the Trinity.
Jesus Christ is the second person in the Trinity. Jesus Christ became man and came down to Earth to live under the very curse that God placed on us. Most Christians that are asked the question of why Jesus died on the cross will answer that Jesus came to die for our sins. While the answer is correct, there is more to the answer than simply dying for our sins. Many either forget or do not realize that Jesus came to be obedient until death. (Philippians 2:8) What does this have to do with apologetics? Consider the Apostle Peter’s words in 1 Peter 3:15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear”. One might object and say, “1 Peter 3:15 wasn’t written yet!” Anyone who makes such an objection has forgotten about John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus always knew inspired Word of God before it was written.
One may ask, “Where did Jesus use apologetics?” In Matthew 12:22-28, Jesus casted out a demon. The pharisees accused him of casting out the demon in the name of Beelzebul, rather than by the power of God. Jesus responded with what is known as a reductio ad absurdum. This is a reasoning tactic that shows that an argument or line of reasoning is absurd even by its own admission. Now, on to the text from Matthew 12:22-28:
Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
Clearly, Jesus was defending his claim to be the Son of God, for the Son of God would never invoke Beezebul to cast out demons. Jesus also shows the pharisees how absurd their claim was. Why would the devil bother to cast out the demons that are doing is own work? If Satan works against his own will, then there is no way that the kingdom that Satan was trying to build would stand. It is doubtful that most who reject apologetics would go so far as to rebuke Jesus Christ.
We can see that not only are we commanded to use apologetics but that Jesus Christ himself was also obedient in that command. There will be other texts that will be used later that will give Biblical support for apologetics, but I will not be mentioning that they support it, because the purposes concerns explaining how we should conduct ourselves when we are engaging in apologetics.
Apologetics: The Armor of God
This is a war of cosmic proportions. The Bible even says so in Ephesians 6. Therefore, we ought to guard our heart. (Proverbs 4:23) How we should do so is clarified in Ephesians 6:10-18:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,”
Anyone who is involved in apologetics will often be in contact with those who disagree or hate Christianity. Indeed, such a ministry can be tiring. For some apologists, there will be little encouragement from others, because a lot of Christians reject apologetics. In such a ministry, the lies of Satan will often be encountered. The apologist will be discouraged, beaten on, mocked, harassed, and hated for defending the exclusivity of the Gospel. As a result, the apologist needs to be sure to equip the armor of God:
1.) The Belt of Truth: Always hold your heart to the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Do not be swayed by vain philosophies. Remember 1 Corinthians 1:20, “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” The World does not own truth. God himself is the truth.(John 14:6)
2.) The Breastplate of Righteousness: The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) We must take care to resist the temptations to conform to the foolishness of the world. We must guard our heart, whatever gets into our heart will be what will come out of us. Proverbs 11:4 says, Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. A heart that is set on righteousness will help us to keep from falling into sin.
3.) Shoes with Readiness for the Gospel of Peace: To know Jesus Christ is to know peace.(Ephesians 2:13) We must be ready to preach the Gospel in the same way that Jesus preached the Gospel to whom he encountered. Evangelism goes hand in hand with apologetics. Both evangelism and apologetics go hand in hand with Christianity. As a Christian, it is our job to share the Good News of the Gospel. We should not withhold the truth of the gospel from others. (Matthew 5:14-16) Some that we encounter may ask us to support our claims. We must be ready to support our claims in the same way that Jesus was ready to contend with the pharisees.(1 Peter 3:15)
4.) The Shield of Faith: The Apostle Paul places special emphasis on this piece. Faith is a necessary component for all Christians. Faith is the confidence and assurance that we have through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. It is also putting our trust in God in the same way that those before us such as Isaac, Abraham, and Abel did. (1 Peter 1:21, Hebrews 11:1) Faith also is what gives us the power and boldness to do great things for God. (Matthew 17:20) Faith is of greater worth than wealth. Wealth is temporary, but faith in Christ is forever. (1 Peter 1:7) Without faith, we bear false witness to God, and are therefore still in bondage to our iniquity.(1 Corinthians 15:14-17)
5.) The Sword of the Spirit: The Sword of the Spirit is The Bible. With it, we can destroy the foundations of worldviews that do not rest on the Truth of the Gospel. We are to use the wisdom of God to cast down all authorities that stand in opposition to God. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” The Word of God will give us the power to cast down authorities that attempt to usurp the authority of God Almighty, for the knowledge of God makes the knowledge of man foolish. Any worldview that does not start with The God of Scripture will be reduced to self-defeating skepticism. All apologists must read their Bible if they want to be effective. Any apologist that has not read The Bible needs to put down their apologetics books and read The Bible. The reading of scripture should not be neglected by any Christian. Along with the Sword of the Spirit, we also need pray, so that we can be reminded that we are to stay alert and conscious of our faith.
Apologists will be faced with numerous trials and tribulations. However, the very basic message that is often preached from the pulpit applies just as much to apologists as it does to any other Christian. Without the Armor of God, we risk conducting our business in the way that the world conducts business. Remembering the Armor of God, and following the guidelines that the Apostle Paul lays out will help us to conduct ourselves properly, glorify God, and resist the temptations of the world.