This guest post was written by Joel Settecase, President of the Think Institute and host of the Worldview Legacy Podcast. Joel holds a BA in History (from Grove City College) and an MA in Philosophy of Religion (from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School).
Apologetics is the discipline of defending the truth of the Christian message. If theology is articulating what we believe, apologetics is answering why we believe it.
Now, there are a few common misconceptions Christians may have about apologetics.
One such misconception is that we should not even “waste our time” preparing how to defend the faith. The idea is that doing so somehow limits the power of the Holy Spirit. This erroneous concept is based on a misunderstanding of Luke 12:11–12:
Whenever they bring you before synagogues and rulers and authorities, don’t worry about how you should defend yourselves or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what must be said.
Some Christians read the above verses and assume that, since the Lord said not to worry, that means we should not even think about what we will say. This idea comes up short. While Jesus is reassuring His followers that the Holy Spirit will guide us, He is not telling us not to give any thought to our response beforehand.
Preparing in advance—even rehearsing responses to common objections—can be strategically wise. In fact, Scripture actually tells us to do this.
1 Peter 3:15 is often called the “charter verse of Christian apologetics.” Notice the command in this verse:
“But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone….”
The word Peter uses is “ready,” which connotes preparing ahead of time. It turns out that studying apologetics is not just strategically smart, it is a command from God!
Is Apologetics Just for Pastors, PhDs and Full-time Apologists?
Another misconception is that apologetics is only for the “elite” Christians—pastors, professors, those who have been to seminary or who have their PhDs in Philosophy. “Sure,” we think, apologetics is God’s idea, but He doesn’t expect me to do it!”
Au contraire! Remember our apologetics “charter verse?” Go back and see whom Peter is writing to, and you will not be able to avoid the conclusion that apologetics is mandated for every Christian.
In Chapter One of 1 Peter, we see that Peter is writing to Christians chosen by God in the areas of Pontus, Galatia, and other regions, who have been born again and guarded by God’s power (1 Peter 1:1, 3, 5). These are the ones he instructs in Chapter Three to be ready to give a defense (1 Peter 3:15).
Peter is not speaking to those with any special title or degree, but to “everyday” believers. The implication is clear: if you are a Christian, then you will face challenges to your faith, and you must be ready to defend it.
No, we should not worry about how to respond (cf. Luke 12:11), but we ought to approach it thoughtfully. All Christians should seek to have a solid, working knowledge of how to answer objections and defend biblical truth. If you are a Christian, then apologetics is for you.
What If You Don’t Feel “Wired” for Apologetics?
The command to be ready to engage in apologetics is going to hit different Christians differently.
The Lord has not wired us all the same way. Some of us have a greater predilection toward debating; others avoid debates at any cost. Yet, as we have just seen, the call to engage in apologetics is for us all. So our motivation must be rooted in something deeper than our feelings or preferences.
What should motivate our apologetics? Motivation is a matter of the heart, and 1 Peter 3:15 tells us what should be in our hearts:
“But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense….”
Before we even begin to prepare to defend the reason for our hope, we are to honor Christ, our Holy Lord, in our hearts. This is a source of motivation that applies to every Christian.
When we engage in apologetics, we are not defending our own honor. We are honoring Jesus, our Lord! Viewed this way, apologetics becomes part of how we worship Jesus. Talk about a motivation we can all get behind! When we engage in apologetics, we are not defending our own honor. We are honoring Jesus, our Lord! Click To Tweet
We have seen that the true motivation for apologetics is nothing less than the honor and Lordship of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus is Lord of every Christian, apologetics is for every Christian.
We should not worry about how to respond to challenges, but we should do our best to be prepared. So, how will you get ready? However you do it, make sure you keep it about Jesus. That way, learning to articulate why you believe will never be a waste of time.