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Apologetics – from the Greek “apologia,” a legal term meaning “defense” – is the branch of Christian theology concerned with the intelligent presentation and defense of the historical Christian faith.
[See also the definition for apologist]
The Bible says:
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 …
– Source: 1 Peter 3:15 NKJV
The word translated as ‘defense’ (some translations have ‘answer’) in that verse is the Greek apologia:
“Answer” is the Greek apologia, from which we get our word “apologetics,” meaning the careful, logical defense of the Christian faith against the attacks of its adversaries, showing its validity as the true saving gospel of God, our Creator and Savior.
In effect, Peter is admonishing believers to be always prepared to give an apologetic for the faith, especially when confronted by those who deny it and would destroy it if they could. This surely means that there is an effective apologetic that can be given, and it is each Christian’s responsibility to study (2 Timothy 2:15) and be ready to give it when needed.
In contrast, the unbeliever is “without excuse” (Romans 1:20), “without an apologetic.” His faith is strictly based on credulity and wishful thinking, not historical and scientific evidence like that for the Christian faith.
– Source: Defenders Study Bible
Apologetics deals with challenges from both outside and inside the Church.
Christianity is under attack today, and it must be defended.
There are attacks from within–from cults, sects, and heresies. And there are attacks from without–atheists, skeptics, and other religions. The discipline that deals with a rational defense of the Christian Faith is called apologetics. It comes from the Greek word apologia (cf. 1 Peter 3:15) which means to give a reason or defense.
– Source: The Need For Defending The Faith by Norman Geisler.
By studying the objections of unbelievers and preparing to reason with them, we take the high road of apologetics, the road of obedience to the direction of our Lord and Savior. His categorical claim was “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
The apologist responds to the objections of unbelievers in a way which sets forth the objective truth of Christianity and the exclusive character of the system. He or she offers reasons for belief, vindicating the Christian worldview over against competing systems of thought and living.
– Source: Anwering Objections by Greg Bahsen
Apologist: someone who engages in the study and practice of apologetics
An “apologist” is a person who engages regularly in the study and practice of “apologetics”. In turn, apologetics is the study and practice of the intellectual defense of a belief system — in our case, the Christian faith.
The words derive from the Greek apologia (“defense”) and apologeo (“to defend”). [Apologia Report] bears that name for this very reason. The word apologia is found in 1 Peter 3:15, commonly regarded as the classic text regarding apologetics.
The purpose of apologetics is to give reasons or arguments in support of Christian beliefs. These arguments may be either defensive, in which objections to Christian faith are answered (e.g., why does God permit evil?), or offensive, in which positive cases are made for Christian beliefs (e.g., the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus).
Anyone who takes the study and practice of apologetics seriously may be called an apologist.
Of course, some persons are especially gifted and equipped for this ministry, and in a narrower sense these are the people we mean when we speak of apologists. But in the broader sense, to paraphrase Moses, would that all of the Lord’s people were apologists!
– Source: Robert Bowman, Jr., author of A Biblical Guide to Orthodoxy and Heresy
Purpose: Evangelism and Boundary Maintenance
Apologetics ministry has a dual purpose:
By answering objections to Christianity apologists help people examine the Christian faith, making it easier for them to accept the message of the Gospel – the Good News that Jesus died for our sins, and rose from the death, thus enabling us to have peace with God.
- Boundary Maintenance:
The logical presentation and defense of the Christian faith includes defining which doctrines are central/essential to Christianity, and must therefore be adhered to in order for a group, movement or person to legitimately refer to itself or himself as “Christian.”
Five Approaches to Apologetics Ministry
The book, Five Views on Apologetics, edited by Steven B. Cowan, lets the reader compare and contrast different ways of “doing” apologetics:
The goal of apologetics is to persuasively answer honest objections that keep people from faith in Jesus Christ. But of several apologetics approaches, which is most effective?
Five Views on Apologetics examines the “how to” of apologetics, putting five prominent views under the microscope. Classical, Evidential, Presuppositional, Reformed Epistemology, and Cumulative Case. Offering a forum for presentation, critique and defense, this book allows the contributors for the different viewpoints to interact.
– Source: Back Cover, Five Views on Apologetics
On the following page you will find an excerpt of the book’s introductory chapter, outlining five prominent apologetics methodologies.