I’m an unlikely advocate of apologetics.
I don’t have a period of atheism to recount or a radical conversion story to tell.
But I have experienced the collapse of the church in which I grew up due to Progressive Christianity. I have witnessed my once active church leaders and close family friends whom I love so much—denounce God. Mock him. Claim their truth matters more than his. Argue God is not good and the resurrection a myth.
As a Christian teenager, these experiences shook my faith. Yet by God’s grace, they shaped me for the best. Growing up in an incredibly loving and Christ-centered environment, I read a handful of apologetics books, always serving as great discussions for the kitchen table. But eventually, the need for apologetics crept too close to home. The “new exodus” of the church wasn’t a mere statistic I skimmed through on Barna anymore. Instead, it was the painful and confusing reality I confronted in conversation with childhood friends.
I realized apologetics may have started humbly for me at the kitchen table or in my tattered copy of Mere Christianity. But it couldn’t stay there. I had to keep digging, challenging myself, and climbing out of my comfortable life. Apologetics was no longer an option. Its dire need became apparent for me not only in culture at large, but in my life—and in the lives of my peers.
So I study apologetics with students in mind, often the terrified or seriously perplexed Christian student, like me at age 15. But also the non-Christian like my childhood friends, buried beneath the weight of secular academia and cultural ideology. I want to encourage students. To equip them. To assure them they’re not alone; their questions are valid. To help lift their eyes to the truth, beauty, and goodness of Christ in a culture currently disenchanted by postmodernism.
Your story may look different. You may have the awesome conversion story, and for that I praise God. You may relate to me and the havoc progressive Christianity has wrecked upon many lives. You may be a long-time Christian but honestly have no idea what I’m talking about or why you should care to begin with (if that’s you, you’re in the right place).
What’s Apologetics? Whose an Apologist?
Apologetics derives from the Greek word apologia, which means “reasoned defense.” Contrary to common assumptions, it does not imply apologizing for your Christianity nor angrily attacking people because they think differently. Simply put, it is the art and science of defending the Christian faith, presenting logical arguments and reasonable evidence for the truth claims of Christianity, such as the existence of God, the reliability of the Bible, and the validity of Christ’s resurrection.
The title ‘apologist’ is not reserved for charismatic conference speakers. An apologist is simply a Christian who studies and practices apologetics. If you’re a Christian, apologetics is for you. Even still, why should you study and practice it? On the DC podcast, one question we often ask interviewees at the end of each episode is, “Can you give us an apologetic for apologetics?” Well, here’s my lengthy answer.
1. God commands apologetics in Scripture
1 Peter 3:14-15
1n 1 Peter 3:14-15, Peter writes to Christians facing the threat of Roman control. He exhorts them to be prepared to defend their hope rather than fearing impending persecution. Peter writes, “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Here, Peter not only defends the purpose of apologetics, but also details how we ought to approach it: with a heart in reverence to Christ and conduct exuding gentleness and respect to others. By writing to the dispersed Christians, he also implies that apologetics is for every Christian—man or woman, young or old.
As recorded in Acts, the NT church used reason and evidence to articulate the Gospel and relate it to culture. Acts 17:1-3 records Paul in a synagogue with Jews, reasoning with the Jews from the Scriptures, “explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ” (Acts 17:3). In the same chapter, Paul observes a theme in culture, strategically finds common ground with his audience, reasons from general revelation, and from there makes the case that Jesus rose from the dead (Acts 17:22-34). I encourage you to re-read the book of Acts, noting the instances Paul engages Gospel conversations or presentations with reason and evidence. Here are some to get you started: Acts 9:22; Acts 13:15-39; Acts 19:8-10; Acts 28:23.
2. Doing apologetics can show your neighbor love
Apologetics can point unbelievers and believers alike to the truth and beauty of Chrisitianity. In this way, apologetics enables you to better love your neighbor—whether your parent, atheist friend, or sibling. By thoughtfully and lovingly sharing reasons for the Christian faith, you may provide a lifeline for a seeking or doubting friend. Doing apologetics is not only an act of courage for Christ’s sake but also love. Apologetics done well is motivated by love for Christ, the church, and our neighbor. Look around you. If you knew the reasons, arguments, and evidence of the Christian faith – and could articulate them clearly – who might you be able to serve in your sphere of influence?
3. Trains our minds in the love and wisdom of God
Apologetics rigorously disciplines the mind in the love and wisdom of God. As you read, think, listen to debates, and engage conversation–all for the glory of God–you are loving God. Through apologetics, you get to know God better. As your understanding of the complexity and wonder of the Chrisitan faith deepens, so can your love for God. Nancy Pearcey writes that worldview thinking “is a deepening of our spiritual character and the character of our lives. It begins with submission of our lives to the Lord of the universe…the driving force in worldview studies should be a commitment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind”[i]. The same can be said of our study in apologetics, which of course involves worldview thinking. Yet it goes beyond that—into logic, history, and textual criticism. This article further expands on loving God with the mind if you’re interested in learning more.
4. Apologetics equips you to equip the next generation
If you’re a student, you will likely get married and raise a family one day. Imagine your 11-year-old asks you during family devotional time one day, “Mom, Dad, how can we know the resurrection really happened?”
Could you answer that question strategically and gently, showing your child that you value them as a person and recognize the validity of their question? Could you answer that question if a high-school student at your church asked you it?
Whether or not you raise children in the future, you still play a vital role in raising the next generation. You may mentor them in some capacity in the future or perhaps you work with them now. Apologetics can equip you to think logically through their questions and give them an answer appropriate to their level of understanding.
If the future does not convince you enough to study apologetics, then take notice of present trends. Recent data supports that “Most young people abandon their faith while they are still at home with their parents. Today, incoming college freshmen, when surveyed before they enter college, are three times more likely to report that they are religiously unaffiliated than freshmen who entered college in 1986.” [ii]
Furthermore, Sean McDowell and J. Warner Wallace note, “Gen Z has become the embodiment of an important (and disturbing trend). Recent surveys and studies reveal that Gen Z is the least religious of all generations in America.”
If you’re a college student, think of the Christian friends with whom you attended church. If you’re a youth pastor, think of the teenagers you have been entrusted by God to lead. If you’re a parent, think of your children; if you’re a grandparent, aunt, or uncle—think of the children, teenagers, and young adults you love. Recall their names.
Statistically, many of them will – or already have – abandoned the faith.
But not all is hopeless. Young people who leave Christianity do not always leave God. Statistics reveal that 80 percent of Americans report believing in some kind of God, higher power, or spiritual force, even if that is not the God the the Bible. As Mcdowell and Wallace emphasize, “Young people who leave the church are still interested in spiritual things. They’re not lost causes. They are willing to listen if we will listen.”
If you commit to studying apologetics, the harvest is ripe to build meaningful relationships with young people, teach them to think through hard questions, and train them to be faithful apologists who thoughtfully engage culture for Christ.
5. It’s fun!
Learning something new is invigorating. Apologetics presents countless opportunities to learn, grow, and be intellectually challenged. I get excited learning new topics and sharing them with others. It’s a lot of fun! As Alisa Childers recently exclaimed on the podcast, “Join the party.” Apologetics is a joyful endeavor and calling.
Begin your Apologetics Journey
Through apologetics, the Lord continues to grow me in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, deepen my love for him, maximize the ways in which I can serve my local church, and equip me for conversations with my unbelieving friends. I wish I could further compel you to commit to studying apologetics, but I can only do so much. In the end, you know what God’s Word says. You know the needs of the culture, the next generation, and your sphere of influence. The choice is yours now. Is apologetics worth your pursuit and effort?
I pray your answer to that question is a resounding yes and that you and your ministry–whether on your campus, at your job, in your church, or in your home—reap God-glorifying fruit by walking in obedience to his Word. Here are some resources to start you off strong on your apologetics journey:
- The Best Apologetic Books for Beginners: https://defendingchristianityblog.org/blog/
- Essentials of Christian Apologetics, Free Online Class by Professor Ronald Nash: https://www.biblicaltraining.org/essentials-christian-apologetics/ronald-nash
- Apologetics Basics, Free Online Class by Professor David Frees: https://odbu.org/courses/ca101/
- Think Biblically Podcast by Talbot School of Theology
- For Parents/Youth Workers: So the Next Generation Will Know by Sean McDowell and J. Warner Wallace
We’re here for you at Defending Christianity if you have any questions or need further recommendations, so please don’t hesitate to reach out!
[i] Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth
[ii] Sean McDowell and J Warner Wallace, So the Next Generation Will Know
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