4. Why Do We Need Apologetics?
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It must be clearly stated that apologetics are not meant to convert people to Christianity. People respond to God through the work of the Holy Spirit, and seldom is faith simply a matter of deciding on the most logical worldview, like choosing between two answers to a math problem.
However, apologetics are important, to remove barriers to faith and bolster the faith of those who already believe.
Francis Shaeffer referred to apologetics as “pre-evangelism.” In Mere Apologetics, theologian Alistair McGrath writes, “Apologetics lays the ground for the invitation; evangelism extends it.” When the basic tenants on which Christian belief rests such as the existence of truth and God are considered unreasonable, it is difficult for a person, even if that person feels what might be the presence of God or wishes to believe in a greater hope, to believe in something that seems completely irrational. Thus, apologetics removes some of these barriers and opens minds to the possibility that since some tenants of Christian faith are rational, perhaps the whole might also be true.
Apologetics are just as helpful to the believer. Though an initial emotional experience might draw a person to Christ, a faith based on emotions is difficult, and, in fact, unhealthy, to maintain long term. A warm and fuzzy feeling will not necessarily hold up in the storms of life; a grounded reason to believe in an eternal, loving God offers quite a bit more solace.
Furthermore, apologetics is essential for believers to maintain faith in the midst of attacks from without. Apologetics is about defending oneself and disarming opponents; in a physical way, it would be like defending oneself against an attacker and disarming the person by taking away the knife. No attack is involved on the part of the believer, but apologetics, like in the case of a knife attack on a victim, is about the safety—in this case, in a spiritual sense—of the individual against false teaching and beliefs.
Some might say that there are plenty of people who get by on blind faith alone and live godly lives with no knowledge of apologetics. “This is the meaning of faith.” Granted, sometimes believers must simply trust God, even when they don’t understand what God is doing. But this blind faith is not so blind; it is based upon the belief that God is indeed good and has the best plan.
However, it is to be argued that picking a belief and sticking to it blindly with no supporting reasons or evidence is madness in the same vein as deciding to believe in the proverbial flying spaghetti monster with no evidence that such a creature has ever or will ever exist. Faith, however, is believing in what one knows to be true, rather than what one can discern in the current situation (Hebrews 11:1, 2 Corinthians 5:7).
Unlike this blind faith mentality, the Bible at no point advocates irrationality. The Old Testament is full of God’s prophets pointing out the foolishness of Israel’s idol worship. Notably, the prophets do not simply tell the people to worship God instead. They give reasons. Over and over, the prophets remind the people of the evidence, of what God has done. In Judges, in describing the chaotic spiral into sin and utter depravity, Judges 2:10-12 records:
After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. (emphasis added)
This account is directly followed by God handing Israel over to raiders, enemies, and defeat. Within a generation, the lack of knowledge was what led to the collapse of Israel.
Apologetics does not bring salvation, but it removes barriers between the unbeliever and faith as well as removes stumbling blocks from the path of those who believe.
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