*Below is a guest post by Terrance Covin who is a part of Mercy Hill Church. Terrance has an apologetics ministry called Jetics League (jeticsleague.org). This blog post is part two of a blog post Terrance did on our blog back on January 20th. You can check out that blog here: http://mercyhillgso.com/the-importance-of-apologetics-by-terrance-covin/
In our last article we defined what apologetics is, its importance and who it was for. We concluded that not only is apologetics the responsibility of every believer, it is also something that can not be extracted from the Gospel. In this article we will cover the chief aims of apologetics.
No Believer Escapes Apologetics
It can be easy to overlook the important role, or aims of apologetics when it comes to sharing the faith of Christianity. Quite possibly because the aims are rarely brought to light in the context of spreading the Gospel. Many times it’s incorrectly perceived as some sort of argumentative stance for the purpose of proving someone into salvation.
This is simply not case. The overall goal is not to out debate someone into conversion but to persuade them into taking an intellectually honest look at Christianity, with the hope that they will come to Christ by the inner-working of the Holy Spirit.
The stark reality is, all Christians, wether they’re aware of it or not, are in involved in apologetics because the moment you deliver a reason for the belief in Jesus you’ve entered the realm of giving a defense. So what it really boils down to is you either:
a) Give really good, reasoned defenses for the Gospel
b) Give really poor, unreasoned defenses for the Gospel.
Either way, you simply can not separate apologetics from the act of sharing the Gospel.
So how does apologetics help us to give a reasoned defense? What should our goal be in using apologetics? What are the chief aims?
There are 2 chief aims of apologetics that are important for the believer to recognize. The first concerns evangelism.
Without a solid equipping of the faith, evangelism efforts can work to create more confusion instead of clarity. There are many unbelievers who, despite growing up in a church, never fully accepted the Gospel simply because they did not understand what they were being taught. It never fully made sense. Some never accept the Gospel in its totality because they’ve been subjected to teaching that isn’t biblically or theologically accurate. So unknowingly, they accepted the “wrong” idea of Jesus, which means they can not truly have salvation to start with. There are those who don’t accept the Gospel because there are so many varying opinions on scripture that it makes Christianity itself look kind of schizophrenic. As believers, we can not be so disillusioned into thinking that delivering a 10,000 foot view of the Gospel is all we are called to do and now it’s up to the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Holy Spirit does the actual saving. However as Christians, we are to deliver the Gospel in a clear, reasoned manner. Our responsibility can not possibly be made any clearer then in 2 Timothy 2:15 where we are called to rightly handle God’s word.
“15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
Apologetics helps to spread the Gospel to unbelievers in a reasoned fashion. When evangelizing you can be most certain questions will arise. Our ability to answer those questions can either help clear some of the stumbling blocks in the minds of unbelievers or put up more. It’s important to note the 3 typical types of unbelievers a Christian would encounter and how apologetics comes into play.
1) There are the Antagonists, who commonly refer to themselves as “Intellectuals”. They usually exert much energy trying to debunk the claims made by the Christian faith. Antagonists hope to expose why they think it is somehow immoral, irrational and barbaric to believe in God. They will usually pass on falsehoods of the faith using claims like, “there’s no evidence for the existence of Jesus” or “the bible was written at the Council of Nicaea AD 325”. Antagonists love to seek out debates with “unlearned” Christians to intellectually put them in their place or shake their foundation of belief.
Apologetics is important for engaging these individuals, especially in public forums to minimize the effect of mis-educating other unbelievers, or even believers who are not educated enough to know what is true.
2) Fencers, are individuals who have taken a look at Christianity but are unsure about some of its claims. They aren’t necessarily against the faith and would most likely be willing to take a closer look at Christianity and its truth claims, but the unanswered questions they posses won’t allow them to. Think of it as intellectual cobwebs that exist in their mind that keeps them from clearly understanding what the bible claims. Bad theology, listening or reading literature from antagonists or possibly being in a church where there is a lack of equipping can create intellectual cobwebs. This can cause a type of struggling to discern what is true as it relates to their unanswered questions. Apologetics can help nudge those in this camp over the fence to where they will take a more serious look at Christianity so the Holy Spirit can do its saving work.
3) Some unbelievers are simply in the Dark. These are unbelievers who have never truly heard the Gospel message. These unbelievers have not heard the Gospel message and therefore may not have intellectual cobwebs or seek to put up a philosophical defense. Once the Gospel is heard they may have serious concerns or questions which may cause us to give an account as to how our own personal lives have been affected by coming to Christ. This is isn’t where the Christian falsely tells the unbeliever that by coming to Christ all of your woes will be of the past, or that Jesus makes everything in life better. Scripture actually confirms the increase of hardships and persecution by the enemy. However, it is important to not simply gloss over the inner-workings of the Holy Spirit in our own lives or appeal to some sort of salvation prayer. Being able to give a reasoned defense, also from a personal perspective, on how God, through Christ, changed our lives can be very helpful to those who are hearing the Gospel for the first time.
So those are the 3 types of people a believer will usually encounter when it comes to sharing or defending the Gospel. It’s easy to see how apologetics can be of great help. For further emphasis, let us not forget the sermon by the Apostle Paul, probably the best example of apologetics, who reasoned greatly with the Greek Philosophers at Mars Hill (Acts 17:16-34). Paul didn’t just deliver a salvation prayer and move on. Paul took the time to address his audience, where they were at physically and spiritually, attempting to clear some of the intellectual and even religious cobwebs, so he could rightly present the Gospel in a way that made sense to them.
Strengthening The Believer’s Faith
The second chief aim of apologetics speaks to the purpose of strengthening believers. It goes without saying that the more a believer studies and equips themselves in the knowledge and truth about God as well as Christianity, the better they are able to give reasoned defenses for them. A benefit, is that through the act of further study for the purpose of equipping, one can better discern between bad claims and good theologically based claims. This can also help to sift the wheat from the chaff, identifying those who may not be soundly saved so that they can become soundly saved. It is easy to have the “wrong” Jesus. A good example of this is the Mormons and Christians who use the same language, yet their definitions are vastly different. Both believe Jesus is the son of God. However Mormons also believe Jesus is a created being and is the brother of Satan. Another example centers around those who claim to be ex-Christians. Yet when you speak to them it becomes apparent they never repented from their sins. They simply were not aware that turning from what God calls sin, not themselves, was a requirement. Once they found this out they ran from the church because they wanted to keep their sins. The truth is, they were never saved from the beginning. That bit of information could have been of use up front. Instead, they thought proclaiming the name of Jesus, gathering with other believers and attending church was all that was required. Well, Matthew 7:21-23 makes it clear that proclaiming the name of Jesus does not make one a Christian.
For the believer it is important to know as much as possible concerning Christianity as this delivers a well rounded understanding of the faith. With careful attention to apologetics the things of the Christian faith are made very clear. This clarity enables the believer to proclaim the Gospel with boldness, giving a very well, reasoned defense for the truth claims of the bible.
Statistics show the church is and has been losing a lot of ground for over a decade. Let us not be so disillusioned into thinking there is no place for apologetics within the church, or within the mind of every believer. Let us recognize the spiritual war that is taking place around us so that we may equip ourselves rightly, being prepared to give a defense to anyone who asks us for a reason for the hope within us. And let us do it with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15).