Even if we wholeheartedly believe that the Christian faith is true, it is not always easy to grasp all the details – or even the main lines. We all have unanswered questions. Some of these relate to apparent contradictions within the Bible, others are about the relationship between faith and natural sciences, or about the Bible’s position towards other religions. Throughout history, Christians have tried to think through these tough questions and to prove the doctrines of their faith, both to strengthen the faith of believers and to defend Christianity against critical outsiders. This is called “apologetics”.
Apologetics in the Bible
In a way, the whole Bible is a great apology. In the Scriptures, God shows that He is the only real God, not to be confused with idols. This theme is frequently addressed in God’s commandments, in narratives, and in prophetic texts. Moreover, God shows what humanity’s problems are (of which the most profound is sin), and the solution He offers.
Naturally, people are blind to these truths, they even resist them. This is for example seen in people’s response to the preaching of the Gospel, as recorded in the book of Acts. Religious leaders are annoyed and arrest the preaching Christians (e.g. Acts 4:1-3), some believers are even imprisoned and killed (e.g. Acts 7). God’s message about sin and forgiveness is often questioned and rejected. And yet, the apostles state that “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Being filled with the Holy Spirit, they cannot help but defend their faith and share it with others. That is no surprise, given the fact that the Holy Spirit himself is a kind of apologetic: “He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8).
Jesus promises that this Spirit will help us to find the right words if we are to defend our faith: “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11-12)
The goal of apologetics
Apologetics is concerned with the defense of Christian doctrines. Because we love God above everything else, we can’t bear it when He is being ridiculed! We want to defend God’s honor. As Psalm 96:7-9 exclaims:
“Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name;
bring an offering, and come into His courts!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before Him, all the earth!”
But there is more. Since Christians are deeply convinced that belief in God is of central importance, they try to show others the relevance of the Christian faith as well. Their goal is not just to prove that they are right, but to lead others to Jesus so that they may find eternal life and escape continual punishment in hell. Having a restored and personal relationship with God is so great that we want others to share in the same blessing.
How can I defend my faith?
How this can be done is dependent on the cultural and social context. In academic circles, scientific reasoning might be appropriate to show that faith in God is not “stupid” or outdated. For your neighbors, your way of life may be as powerful a testimony as words can be. And with a good friend, you might have the chance to talk about life issues from a biblical perspective. The key is that we should always be prepared “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).