What is Christian Apologetics and Why is it Important?
- Kendra Fletcher
- 2018 5 Dec
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is within you: yet do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
If you’ve been around church or church people for any length of time, you may have heard the term “apologetics” and wondered what it means. More importantly, you may have read the above verse from 1 Peter and wondered how the defense of your faith plays out in the real world.
The word “apologetics” stems from the Greek word “apologia”, which means defending one’s beliefs through proofs or reason. But what does it look like to “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason”? Will we have to be Biblical scholars or seminary graduates in order to engage in apologetics?
This is where our text from 1 Peter can be a very helpful guide. Let’s jump in and unpack the meaning of Christian apologetics together, as introduced in 1 Peter 3:15.
Most scholars believe that the Apostle Peter wrote the letters of 1 and 2 Peter, but for our purposes, what is most important is that it was written at a time when the Roman world was ruled by the despot Nero, and while Christians were being brutally persecuted under his reign. Being a believer at that time demanded gutsy faith in action coupled with courage and longsuffering. The church desperately needed the encouragement Peter was offering them.
The author begins with this:
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.
If any Christians across the span of human history knew what it meant to suffer, it was those to whom Peter was writing in his first letter to believers who had been scattered across the Roman Empire. Nero was literally using Christians as lampposts, binding them to his garden fenceposts and lighting them on fire. He infamously made sport of rounding up followers of Christ and feeding them to the lions.
At the beginning of the book of 1 Peter, the author writes, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” For those who persevered through such severe circumstances, the encouragement of promised blessing would have been welcomed with zeal.
Have no fear of them nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense (apologia) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is within you: yet do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
Doubtless, non-believers at the time of Peter’s letter would have been bewildered by the Christians they came in contact with. What on earth would compel someone to follow a faith that had such immediate and terrifying ramifications, if caught practicing what they believed?
Here, Peter is encouraging the church to be fearless and to stand up for what they believed in, ready to explain what they were willing to die for and why they had a hope that transcended the promises of the world in which they were living.
Although many of us do not live under such intense persecution, we can draw the same kind of encouragement from Peter’s letter to the early church. We, too, can give a reason for why we have a hope that compels us to live lives that are counter-cultural or go into places that the rest of the world wouldn’t step foot in for fear of losing what they think will bring them joy and fulfillment.
And while there are a number of ways to view different church doctrines and Christians around the world hold different convictions about how exactly our faith is lived out in our communities, the one constant and central belief is that of the simple gospel: God created the world, He loves us and sent a Redeemer to rescue us, that rescuer is Jesus Christ, He died for our sins, and He lives and reigns in heaven. We are forgiven and made right before God because of what Jesus did on our behalf.
This good news—this gospel—is the most beautiful and central of apologetics. It is the hub from which all other proofs radiate. It is the core of the belief that puts its faith in Christ.
To become believers who are prepared “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is within you”, we must first know the Word of God and understand for ourselves what beliefs are written in the Bible, and we must stay close to God, abide, or “hang out” with Him so that we learn to recognize the truth of His words and the voice of the Holy Spirit, left for us to give us the power that enables us to be a witness to “all the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Beyond our own firsthand knowledge of the life-changing good news of the gospel, we can study how Christianity informs our worldview; we can know and give a defense (an apologia) of the validity of Christianity based on its historical proofs and merits as well as its contributions to the life and health of communities.
As Christian apologists in a post-modern world, we will also likely be called to clarify our Christian beliefs and practices. This, too, is a component of apologetics. Many people in today’s world don’t really understand what Christianity believes, teaches, and practices, so apologetics would be a simple way of educating those who question us. When we remember Whose we are and What He’s done for us (the gospel) we can answer our critics with assurance and courage.
Even if our conversations do not result in instant converts to our faith, even if we cannot persuade the non-believer to our way of thinking, even if they reject us, scoff at us, or persecute us, we too can take heart from the words Peter wrote to the early church.
And if we enter our own seasons of doubt? Apologetics can be the tool that reminds us to see God from beginning to end. There is unspeakable beauty in reminding ourselves of the hope within us when we have doubt. Remember, the core of apologetics is the simple gospel: God created the world, He loves us and sent a Redeemer to rescue us, that rescuer is Jesus Christ, He died for our sins, and He lives and reigns in heaven. We are forgiven and made right before God because of what Jesus did on our behalf.
What a glorious defense indeed!
Kendra Fletcher is a mother of 8, speaker, author, and podcaster. She is the author of Lost and Found: Losing Religion, Finding Grace, and Leaving Legalism, and she regularly writes for Key Life Ministries. The Fletchers reside in California, where they play in the Pacific Ocean as often as possible. Find her here: www.kendrafletcher.com
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