What is "Christian Apologetics” (and why do it)?
Because “the carnal mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7), ever since the Garden of Eden there has been a war between Truth and error, between God and the world. While the fundamental tenants of the Bible and of Christianity must be accepted by faith, as a gift from God and applied by the Holy Spirit, this faith is a reasoning faith. The faith which comes from God believes in truth, and truth is consistent—not only with God’s Word in the Bible—but also with the realities of life, of true science, and of objective experience.
For this reason, it is profitable to reason with the sincere inquirer as to whether Christianity is tenable and believable.
This reasonable answer, which is commanded of believers in 1 Peter 3:15, is known as Christian Apologetics (from the Greek apologia, “making a defense”).
Throughout the Bible we find numerous examples of reasonable answers to sincere questions about the Word of God: Jesus offered Thomas empirical evidence of His identity; God provided Pharaoh with proof that Moses was a divine messenger; God furnished proof of His Word to both Hezekiah and Gideon when they needed it; and Paul constantly reasoned with the Jews in their synagogues. Christian Apologetics is as old as the Bible itself (for instance, Galatia fighting Judaizers and Colosse battling the Gnostics); but after the early Jewish writers (such as the 1st century historian Josephus) and Church fathers defended the Bible’s historicity and accuracy for several centuries, they were followed by a great dearth of true, reasonable defense because of the bloody, involuntary enforcement of religion by Roman Catholicism for over a thousand years. However, once their reign diminished, the wicked thinkers proliferated just as quickly as the godly ones.
While voices on both sides have taken various approaches and had different emphases at times, the battle for the inspiration of Scripture in the face of higher criticism and evolutionary theories has dominated a great part of the apologetic landscape over the past two centuries. In spite of the various approaches to and emphases of Christian Apologetics in different generations, there remains a single purpose behind the overall effort: for the sake of the genuine inquirer to refute accusations against the Bible, while also demonstrating sufficient proof of the veracity and dependability of its claims.
There are extremes among those who respond to this endeavor of the Christian apologist: some skeptically believe it to be an impossible task, either because they think the Bible has errors or because they think faith should need no assistance; others believe it to be the answer to every problem, because they believe reason to be the means to—or at least the beginning of—all apprehension of truth and faith in it. Neither of these views is balanced or correct.
The purpose and benefit of Christian Apologetics is to remove barriers of misunderstanding for those reasonable individuals, including ourselves, who sometimes have their faith tested by the many attacks against the Bible. Thus, we must trust to the Holy Spirit for direction and application, while sympathetically and charitably presenting the genuine agreement of truth and reality, of science and God’s Word.