Introduction to Christian Apologetics by Charlie Campbell
Have you had a friend ask you questions about your faith in Jesus? I think most of us have. They raise some pretty good questions about the Christian faith don’t they?
• “What evidence do you have that God exists?”
• “How can you believe in a God of love that would send people to Hell?”
• “Why would God create a world where there is so much evil and suffering? If He is so loving and powerful as the Bible claims He is, couldn’t He just stop it?”
• “How can you say that God created Adam and Eve, when scientists have proven that man evolved over millions of years from other animals?”
• “Why should I trust the Bible, when there are lots of other books that also claim to be the Word of God. There is the Book of Mormon, the Quran, the Hindu Vedas?”
• “What about all those contradictions I hear exist in the Bible?”
• “What about the “lost books” of the Bible? Might those tell us the real truth about Jesus?
Those are just some of the questions people are asking today.
In 1 Peter 3:15 we have the classic text on apologetics, one that many of you are probably familiar with.
1 Peter 3:15
“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 gentleness and respect.”
This verse says several important things.
First, notice that God wants us to “be ready” (v.15). Ambassadors of Jesus Christ are to “be ready” to give answers. We may never run across someone who asks tough questions about our faith, but we should still be ready to respond if someone does. To be ready requires some study and preparation ahead of time doesn’t it?
Second, notice it says, that we are to: “always be ready to give a defense.” The Greek word there for "defense" is the word “apologia" which simply means: “to give reason or a defense”
It is from this Greek word that we get our English word “apologetics.” To be skilled in apologetics is to be able to give a defense of the Christian faith to someone who asks, or to someone who challenges your beliefs.
Notice next that it says we are:
“...always [to] be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with gentleness and respect”
There are good reasons why a person should believe that God exists, that the Bible is trustworthy, that Jesus rose from the dead, etc. The Christian ambassador should be familiar with these reasons and be able to articulate them to those who have questions.
SOME ARE OPPOSED TO APOLOGETICS:
Some well-intentioned Christians sort of frown when they hear about a course in apologetics. They commonly say, “We just need to preach the gospel and trust the Holy Spirit. The Word of God doesn’t need to be defended. It’s alive and powerful, sharper than any two edged sword!”
Yes! The Bible does tell us to preach the gospel.
Yes! The Word of God is alive and powerful.
Yes! I recognize that the Holy Spirit is necessary for conversion.
But the Bible also tells us to contend for the faith.
We just read the verse in 1 Peter 3:15 that tells us to always be ready to give a defense. Let’s look at some others.
“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”
Who was Jude writing to here? Was this a letter to the senior pastors in Antioch or Jerusalem? No. Was it a letter to some sort of super intellectual theologians? No.
Look at verse 1…
“Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ...”
Look at that again. That means you. This short epistle (written by our Lord’s brother Jude) was written to the church at large. It was written for you and me. The Bible here exhorts us, as believers, “to contend earnestly for the faith.” That word “contend” (there in v.3) means “to fight.” The word “earnestly” means “seriously or intensely.” The Holy Spirit is saying through the pen of Jude that it is the responsibility of the whole church to put up a strong intense fight for the Christian faith.
Notice the next verse, v. 4. Jude tells his original listeners why they must contend for the faith.
“For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The faith of the people in the church was being undermined by the false teachings of deceitful, ungodly men. And Jude’s message to the church was, in effect: “Don’t just sit there! Contend earnestly for the faith!!!”
God does not want you to sit idly by as the Christian faith is attacked and undermined by critics of the faith.
• For some it means raising your hand to challenge your teacher in your university class
• For others that means writing an article for your blog
• For some, maybe just posting a link to a good apologetics article, audio teaching, video, or book on Facebook or Twitter
• For some it means incorporating some apologetics into your home fellowship
• For some that means reading up on a particular topic so that you can answer the questions your friend has
• For others that means submitting an article to the local paper’s editorial section
• For some that means writing a book like Lee Strobel (e.g. The Case for Faith)
God desires that we tackle the challenges and objections that skeptics and critics of Christianity have and tear them down. Tear them down? Yes.
Not the person but…
• the ideas
• the lies
• the misinformation
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says we are to be:
"...pulling down [overthrowing, destroying] strongholds, casting down arguments [the NASB says “speculations”] and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God...”
God told Jeremiah in...
Jeremiah 1:9, 10b
“Behold, I have put My words in your mouth…..to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant.”
Our primary task as ambassadors is to preach the gospel and to make disciples. But sometimes before a person receives the gospel, we must be involved in what we might call “spiritual demolition," demolishing lies and misconceptions about the Christian faith.
As God used Jeremiah, so too He wants to use us for the rooting out, pulling down (not of people) but of…
• the ideas
• the philosophies
• the lies
…that keep a person back from truly knowing God.
So yes, we preach the gospel, but we also are to be ready to defend the truth and attack error.
Some people have asked, “If apologetics is so important, why don’t we see people in the Bible giving reasons and evidence in defense of the faith?"
Well, we do see apologetics being used in the Bible! Let’s look at a couple of examples.
The first example: The apostle Paul
Look at Philippians, chapter 1.
3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.”
Paul realized that he was not only called to preach the gospel, but there was a responsibility to defend the truth of that message as well. Skip down to v. 16.
"The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel."
Acts 19:8 says Paul...
"went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.”
Again we see Paul, not only proclaiming the gospel, be seeking to “reason” with people and “persuade” them to believe.
The second example: Jesus
Look at John chapter 2.
So the Jews answered and said to Him [to Jesus], “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” Jesus answered and said to them, [“You must just have faith,” oops. I misread that. Jesus said…] “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.
In other words, Jesus said, ‘This will be a sign to you, an evidence, a reason, why you should accept my word as authoritative—My resurrection from the dead.'
He didn’t just call upon them to believe the gospel; He offered evidence and signs that confirmed that the gospel was actually true. Look at John 20...
The other disciples therefore said to him [Thomas], “We have seen the Lord.” [After His resurrection] So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” [Thomas had some doubts as to whether Jesus really rose from the dead] And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, [“you must just believe.” I’m sorry, that’s not what it says.] “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
Jesus gave doubting Thomas evidence that He really had risen from the dead. And that was effective. Verse 28 says, “And Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!'”
That was all Thomas needed––good reason to believe. And church history records for us that he laid down his life preaching the gospel in India.
Look at Matthew 11. John the Baptist was locked away in prison for challenging Herod. And there in the dungeon he begins to wonder and, it appears, even doubt whether Jesus was the Messiah. (Even great men of faith, can have times of doubting, and questioning their faith.) So what did John do? Look at verse two.
And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John [“you must just have faith John! Suppress your doubts!” I’m sorry. I keep misreading what the Bible actually says. Let’s read that again…]
Jesus answered and said to them...
“Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: [Notice here, Jesus lays out numerous reasons and evidence that He was the Messiah] The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
These things were exactly what the Old Testament prophesied would mark the ministry of the Messiah in Isaiah 35:5-6.
Jesus pointed to these things (the miraculous signs, the fulfillment of prophecy) as evidence to John that He was the Messiah. God Himself, Jesus in the flesh, engaged in apologetics, giving reasons and evidence to people to believe.
Look at Acts, chapter 1.
The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom 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 did not just rise from the dead, make a single appearance, and tell His disciples to tell the others that He rose. No, He spent 40 days, appearing to over 500 of His disciples (1 Cor. 15:6) giving them what?
• “many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3)
• or the NAS version says “many convincing proofs” (See Acts 2:22 and Mark 2:10-11, John 3:2)
So we see Paul and Jesus engaging in apologetics. And there are more examples. Moses before Pharaoh, Elijah on Mt. Carmel, etc.
But I think that Paul and Jesus will suffice as adequate examples.
THE ATTITUDE OF THE AMBASSADOR
Now having said this, it is important to know and have the attitude that God desires we have as His ambassadors, as defenders of the faith.
If you recall the verse that we looked at in 1 Peter 3:15, it says that we are to give a defense or reasons for our hope with “gentleness and respect.” The ambassador of Christ should never be rude or hostile, but rather gentle and humble.
Our goal is defending the faith is not to win arguments. It is to win people. To be winsome, you must also be gentle and respectful. If you rudely shoot down a belief that somebody has, chances are very unlikely that they will be attracted to your Savior.
Look at Colossians 4.
“Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside [speaking of unbelievers], redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”
We need to be wise (v.5) when we are talking with those who are “outside.”
We need to be gracious in our “speech.”
We need to listen to them, and acknowledge the merit of their good points, or questions, or concerns. Turn over to 2 Timothy.
2 Timothy 2:24-26
“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”
“Be merciful to those who doubt;” (or the NASU: “And have mercy on some, who are doubting;”)
One of the things that may help you to be merciful, gentle and patient with those who are “in opposition” to the gospel is to remember that they have (2 Tim. 2:26) “been taken captive” by the devil.
Those people who reject Christianity have been deceived.
2 Corinthians 4:4 says:
“...the god of this world [speaking of Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel...”
The people you engage in dialogue concerning matters of eternal consequence are real people the Lord loves and even died for.
Remember that. And be patient with them. Pray for them.
is the founder of the ABR Apologetics Ministry (AlwaysBeReady.com) and a popular guest speaker at churches and conferences all over North America. He is the author of several articles, books, and DVDs, some of which include:
• The Bible's Scientific Accuracy and Foresight
• Scrolls & Stones: Compelling Evidence the Bible Can Be Trusted
• Evidence for God
• One Minute Answers to Skeptics
• Archaeological Evidence for the Bible
• The Case for the Resurrection
• If God is Loving, Why is there Evil and Suffering?
• Homosexuality and the Bible
• The End Times: Ten Upcoming Events in Bible Prophecy
• Teaching and Preaching God's Word
• Apologetics Quotes
His resources have been endorsed by Norman Geisler, Charles Colson, Chuck Smith, Ed Hindson, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Jeremy Camp, and many others. His doctrinal beliefs are outlined here. You can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.