by Matt Slick
Apologetics is the branch of Christian theology that deals with the defense and establishment of the Christian faith. This means that those who defend Christianity must use logic, evidence, scripture, and wisdom when answering objections and challenges. We see this evidenced in the Bible.
- Acts 17:16–17, "Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. 17 So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present."
- 2 Corinthians 10:5, "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ."
- 1 Peter 3:15, "but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence."
Doing apologetics well can require a lot of knowledge in a multitude of topics such as philosophy, logical fallacies, Scripture, cults, false religions, and biblical theology. When applying the knowledge gained in these areas, it means that apologists are often correcting other people. Sometimes such corrections can be numerous and apologists can appear arrogant. They are sometimes accused of being heresy hunters who only want to judge people.
But, an accusation of arrogance doesn't mean it's true. Sometimes people just don't like being challenged and they respond by attacking. Nevertheless, we apologists need to be careful and fall into an attitude of superiority. As Christians, we need to try and be humble when presenting the truth of God's Word. After all, knowledge can make us arrogant.
- 1 Corinthians 8:1, "Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies."
So, let me list some of the danger areas of apologetics
- Putting Christ second and apologetics first.
- Arrogance that is built on knowledge and is not matched with humility
- Causing strife among people when it is not necessary
- Critical and condemning attitude
- Developing an argumentative lifestyle instead of being considerate and patient
- Seeing unbelievers as opponents instead of lost souls, thereby forgetting compassion.
- Seeing Christians as opponents when they don't agree with you over debatable issues
- Isolation where a person rejects the company of those who disagree with him
- The desire for victory over the conversion of souls
- Seeing technical accuracy over loving correction
Now, I do not need to expand on each of these ten things. They are self-explanatory. Our goal as Christians is to present our faith and its defense with gentleness and respect. This isn't always easy to do, especially in light of some of the severe hostility that we face as Christians. Nevertheless, let's take a look at what Scripture says regarding our interaction with those who are against Christianity.
- Colossians 4:5–6, "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person."
- 2 Timothy 2:24–25, "The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth."
Is there a time for harsh words?
Is there a time for being strong and not gentle when dealing with unbelievers? Yes there is. Jesus himself said many harsh things to people.
- Matt. 15:7, "You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, 8 ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me." 9 ‘But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”
- Matt. 23:16-17, "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obligated.’ 17 “You fools and blind men; which is more important, the gold, or the temple that sanctified the gold?"
- Mark 12:38-40, "Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, 39 and chief seats in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets, 40 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation."
- Luke 11:43, "Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the front seats in the synagogues, and the respectful greetings in the market places. 44 “Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it."
- Luke 11:52, "Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered."
- John 8:44, "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father..."
- John 8:55, "and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I shall be a liar like you, but I do know Him, and keep His word."
As you can see from the words of Christ, there is a time for being harsh. However, notice that Jesus was addressing the false religious leaders who were leading others astray. His condemnation was just. We too can make similar judgments, but we must ensure that we accurately understand the Word of God in light of any potential proclamations of heresy. For the most part, we are to be gentle, but there is a time to be strong. Our strength should be in Christ and according to the Word of God.
The danger of apologetics, in the context of Christians, is one of the heart. After all, what we believe and what is in our heart leads to actions and words. Therefore, we should seek to be humble, patient, and kind when addressing people so that we might bring glory to God in all of our witnessing encounters.