Both apologetics and evangelism have the same goal. Both witness to the truth of God’s word in Scripture to unbelievers. Both the evangelist and the apologist desire to be an instrument through which God powerfully draws a non-Christian to see and savor his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, in distinction from evangelism, apologetics seeks to defend Christianity against various attacks from unbelieving thought, whether religious or secular. Apologetics is a term derived from the Greek word apologia. This word refers to a defense, a reason for holding some conviction. In 1 Peter 3:15 the Apostle states, “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” An ever-present danger in this field of study is that of defending or ‘proving’ the existence of a generically defined God, what I’ll call ‘theism in general.’
We need to allow the conclusions drawn from biblical study and exegesis to set the parameters of how we go about defending our faith. We must present to those whom we wish to evangelize God as He testifies to Himself in the Bible. God has given us valuable, life-giving, information, and we shouldn’t edit his word. Any God other than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is an idol. So, if the Bible teaches a Trinitarian God, then we should settle for nothing less than persuading our listeners of that conviction.
In this introduction of apologetics we should cut the ‘apologetic pie’ into at least two pieces: defensive and offensive apologetics. Defensive apologetics is the apologist’s attempt to respond to attacks against the truth or/and rationality of the Christian faith. Offensive apologetics seeks to demonstrate the rationality, coherence, beauty, and truth of the biblical worldview. It presents positive reasons, and not simply defenses, why our listeners should adopt the Christian worldview as opposed to all the other philosophies of life available to them.
In summary, we’ve quickly looked at three things. First, apologetics is the form of Christian witness that seeks to engage in both rational defense as well as present rational proof for the truth of Christianity. Second, Christian apologetics, in order for it to be worth its salt, needs to defend Christianity as it’s presented in Scripture, not a generic, or possibly watered-down fashion that makes it easier for the unbeliever to accept. And last, the practice of apologetics can take one of two forms, defensive and offensive apologetics. The former “blocks” attacks against the faith, and the latter constructively builds a case for the Christian worldview.
The message of the apologist
Now that we’ve drawn a quick sketch of the discipline of apologetics, let’s take a quick look at what Scripture says about “the big picture.” After all, we need to know what it is that we’re called upon to present and defend. Here are a couple of notable points:
The ultimate purpose of God in history is to display His own beauty, majesty, and glory throughout the nations for His own exaltation and the good of His people. While mankind was created morally upright and pleasing to God, the sin of our first parents (Adam and Eve) has destroyed the fellowship that was enjoyed in the Garden of Eden. When our first parents rebelled they lost, and therefore could not pass on to us, that which would promote peace and joy with God, that crucial aspect of divine-human interaction, namely spiritual life. The results of the Fall had cosmic repercussions. Sickness, decay, ‘natural’ disasters, and death have affected us all in one way or another. On the individual level sin has ravaged us at our very core, the image of God that we bear. Since in one way or another we reflect who God is in everything we are (this is what is means to be created in God’s image), a defacing of this image likewise taints every aspect of our being. Our mind, will, and emotions are all effected in such a fashion that we now are quite comfortable in exalting just about anything to the status of godhood, whether that be self, money, image, sex, or power.
God is not pleased. We were created in order to reflect and echo His beauty, to “love God and enjoy him forever.” As rebels against His purposes, slandering His character and using His image to misrepresent Him, we must be punished; and rightly so. Since God is an infinite being, the very fountainhead and supreme standard for goodness and love, then to despise, revile, and reject Him is an equally infinite crime; it is cosmic treason!
Yet (thankfully!) God has not left us in this dismal state. God chiefly asks but one thing of us, obedient childlike trust. As the One who created both us and the universe around us God knows exactly what it is that we need. We can liken God to a doctor who knows just what ails us and provides life to all who would follow His prescription. Unfortunately mankind has decided either 1) we’re not really diseased, or 2) we’re not really that diseased and can help ourselves. We can’t follow either one of these paths. We trust not only in God’s diagnosis but also His cure. We look to the perfect life, which demonstrated the truth of God’s supreme value and worth, and to the punishment-absorbing death of Jesus Christ, the Jewish Carpenter who walked the dusty roads of Palestine two thousand years ago.
It is our firm belief that in the Bible, God speaks to us of only one way of connecting our cancer to His cure, namely a loving and trusting reliance upon the completed work and guidance of God’s only unique Son, Jesus Christ.