What is Christian Apologetics?

Fides quaerens intellectum (Faith seeking understanding)

No, Christian apologetics doesn’t mean saying sorry that you’re a Christian.

A confusion arises because the English word apology now has a rather different meaning from the Greek word from which it was derived (apologia).

Rather, this word literally means “out of logic/reason”, and refers to a reasoned defence that would be given in a court of law. The classic example is Plato’s Apology, Socrates’ defence against the charges of atheism and corrupting the youth.

Christian apologetics is the reasoned defence of the Christian faith against objections, but also includes the setting forth of positive grounds for Christianity. Christians need to know not only what we believe, but also why we believe it. Christ’s apostle Peter commanded us (1 Peter 3:15):

"Always be prepared to give an answer (apologia)
to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."

The Bible provides ample evidence of a concern to defend the truth of God’s revelation against other ideas. Apostolic preaching had a marked apologetic thrust, e.g. Acts 17:2-3 shows Paul in the synagogue, where the Jews believed the Old Testament. So he demonstrated how many Old Testament prophecies showed that “Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead.” Acts 17:16-34 sees Paul preaching to pagans. Their society was not unlike ours, steeped in evolutionary atheism and pantheism. He used creation (v. 24) and the Resurrection (v. 31) as evidence for the truth of Christianity.

The work of the Church Fathers was characterised by a marked apologetic stance as they explained and defended Christianity. Throughout church history, apologetic concerns have greatly influenced church teaching.

Taking hold of the Christian faith is not an irrational leap in the dark. Rather, it can be a series of reasoned steps into the light resulting in an intelligent commitment based on adequate evidence and critical investigation. The Christian has the duty to present the Gospel and the evidence for the Christian Faith to others in an intelligent way. However, it is the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:14) who imparts the gift of faith (Eph 2:8).

Committed Christians themselves have honest questions about various aspects of the Christian faith. Honest questions deserve honest answers. Christian apologetics can often provide these answers and help stabilise the believer’s faith.

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