Sunday, September 6, 2015

What is Apologetics; a Primer

As the About Us page quite simply defines Apologetics (from Merriam-Webster online), it is systematic argumentative discourse in defense (as of a doctrine), or a branch of theology devoted to the defense of the divine origin and authority of Christianity.  That's what apologetics is, so let's talk about what apologetics is not ...

Apologetics is NOT an apology.

This is a common question among those not initiated into the cool-kid-apologetics-club.  It is a feature of the English language of adopting from multiple languages--in this case, Greek--that we have the English word "apology" that has the same basic root word.  The Greek term used in the New Testament is ἀπολογία--apologia, which is defined as "a verbal defense (particularly in a law court)."  The interlinear Bible and concordance says that the word is used eight times in the NT: Acts 22:1; 25:16, 1 Cor 9:3, 2 Cor 7:11, Phil 1:7; 1:16, 2 Tim 4:16, and 1 Peter 3:15.  Though apologetics is, at its core, defensive, the axiom holds true that "the best offense is a good defense."  As such, apologetics can actually be used (in limited terms) as a tactic in evangelism.  But, in general apologetics is not about changing what somebody else believes--it's about giving a reason (a defense) for why we believe what we believe.

Apologetics is NOT merely arguing.

Unfortunately, so many people seem to stop reading on that 1 Peter 3:15 text.  They read about how we always need to be ready to give a defense, but what they often overlook is how we need to do so "with gentleness and reverence."  Sure, famous and big-name apologists often engage in debates, but that's just one aspect of apologetics.  Many critics of apologetics from within the Christian community often say things like "you can't argue someone into the Kingdom."  In a sense this is true.  We, as Christians, need to be careful how we approach apologetics when it comes to sharing the faith.  Arguing with unbelievers is often counterproductive and drives the seeker away from Christ.

Apologetics is NOT super geeky.

Okay, well it's a little geeky, but really you don't have to have a B.A., M.A., PhD., and ThD. or any other combination of letters after your name to get the basics.  In fact, this blog is written by people who are not at the super philosopher/genius-level intellect--for people at the ordinary layman level.  (I was hesitant to include the reference to Greek above because I know people's eyes often gloss over when they hear pastors say, "in the original Greek ....")  If you want to get good at apologetics it's recommended that you study both philosophy and theology, but really it's not absolutely necessary to understand the basics.  For an introduction to apologetics I recommend the book On Guard by William Lane Craig (who has all those letters after his name by the way).  Also, the video series The Truth Project put out by Focus on the Family is a great introduction to apologetics.  Those two resources are really good, especially when combined with a study group.  Check with your church and see if they have a group or have had a group in the past that has studied apologetics.  If they don't, check out Ratio Christi for college campus apologetics ministry or Reasonable Faith to see if there's a chapter in your area or the Christian Apologetics Alliance which has a vibrant Facebook page and local chapters as well.  If you're feeling particularly enthusiastic, nothing ensures you learn something better than you teaching it to others, so consider starting one of those kind of groups.

You aren't alone in this!  We here at Chicken Fried Apologetics are just one of many many resources to learn about apologetics.  We pray that this site will be a stepping stone for newbie apologists to get into other resources to learn to share the Christian faith, as the On Guard subtitle reads, "... with reason and precision."

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