For those of us in the subculture of Christian apologetics (that is, defending one's system of beliefs usually using logic, evidence, etc.) we are often looked down upon by some members of the Church. Much of this has to do with the perception that one should not rely on logical argumentation and evidence as this is seen to diminish the role of the Holy Spirit in a person's coming to faith in Christ.
The main problem with this line of thinking is that it is actually highly unbiblical. If you are one of the people who believe that apologetics diminishes the power of the Holy Spirit (and if you are, I'm a little surprised you're reading this to begin with, but please keep an open mind), that statement is probably going to sound somewhat offensive.
I certainly do not intend to be offensive in any way, but upon looking at the New Testament, it seems to me that there was a great deal of logical argumentation and evidence being used, particularly by Paul in the book of Acts, but even by Jesus and the apostle John. In addition to that, the very term "apologetics" is derived from the apostle Peter when it is used in what has become the "war cry" verse of apologists, 1 Peter 3:15:
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense [apologia] to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence
In the Gospel of John, chapter 20, John states that the entire reason for writing his book was "so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God..." (John 20:31). In Matthew 11, John the Baptist sends messengers to Jesus to ask Him if He is the Christ "or shall we look for someone else?" (Matt 11:3) Jesus responds in verses 4 and 5 not by simply answering John's question, but presenting evidence ("the blind recieve sight, the lame walk...").
In the book of Acts, I'm not even sure how many times Luke writes that Paul "reasoned with them from the scriptures" and "as was his habit." Paul was in the synagogues every week presenting logical arguments, evidence and even using pagan societies' own writings and mythology to bring them the Gospel. Paul was a consummate apologist.
I could go on and on with regards to showing apologetics being used in the New Testament, but I think a more important question to be answered is not so much just "Should we use apologetics?" but a better question to me would be "Why should we use apologetics?" Of course, the first and most immediate answer is, as I have demonstrated, because it is biblical to do so.
There is more to it than that, however. There are a couple more practical reasons that are perhaps even more pressing today, particularly in light of the direction our society is going and how we are becoming so much more radically secularized.
The first reason I believe we should all be trained to do apologetics is because it helps us strengthen our own faith. With people like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennet, Sam Harris, the late Christopher Hitchens, Lawrence Kraus, Peter Atkins, etc., Christianity and the Christian world-view are under serious attack. If you were to listen to any of these men just mentioned, they are not only militantly opposed to Christianity (or any religion, for that matter) but they are very intelligent in their fields and tend to have a very powerful rhetorical approach that can delude people into thinking that they are correct about God's non-existence.
Learning to see the problems with the arguments presented by these "new atheists," as they are often referred to, helps to protect people from falling into the trap of their rhetoric because you are able to more clearly see the logical fallacies under which their arguments fail. Without such training, their arguments sound convincing and compelling and can lure people away from their faith.
Apologetics training also helps us when, rather than passively running across written statements by men such as the list above, we run into someone who starts asking us tough questions face-to-face about our beliefs. Perhaps this has never happened to you. Perhaps it never will. Though if you are a parent of someone about to go to college, your student will almost certainly run into this. How can we help them combat such attacks if we don't know how to do so?
What happens when someone reads a book by Bart Ehrman and starts arguing that the Bible is corrupt and it's been changed and is unreliable? How do you respond? What about if they ask you how a good, loving, all-powerful God could allow so much of the pain and suffering we see in the world? What do you say then? Or, when someone takes great pains to show you that dead people simply do not rise from the dead or that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence?"
If you are not prepared to respond to these and other challenges, you could find yourself being drawn away from, and perhaps even hostile to, Christianity. And if it doesn't happen to you, it may happen to your children.
This brings up one of the last reasons that I believe apologetics training is necessary. That is, it impacts our ability to evangelize. You remember the Great Commission, right?
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
We are supposed to tell people about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we do that a couple of times and people start asking us questions that we cannot answer, how do you suppose that will impact whether or not we continue to share our faith? I submit that it will not help very much.
People do not like to feel stupid. If you go out and share your faith with non-believers and they ask you how you can trust the Bible or who was Cain's wife or tell you that the Bible condones slavery, polygamy, genocide, etc., how many more times do you think you're going to open your mouth about Jesus? For most people, probably not very often.
If, on the other hand, you have the proper training to handle and respond to these questions "with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15b), you will have effectively removed this hurdle so that you can more freely share your faith and talk to people about the Gospel. This by no means diminishes or devalues the role of the Holy Spirit, but merely presents yourself and your training as yet another means by which the Holy Spirit can draw people to Himself.
So, how does one go about getting this apologetics training? Well, there are quite a number of resources. There are an increasing number of Christian colleges and universities offering courses specializing in apologetics; BIOLA University, Southern Evangelical Seminary, Houston Baptist University, etc. There are also a plethora of books, blogs and other resources available for anyone who wants to begin what I believe to be essential training to defend, and indeed strengthen, the Christian world view.
- The Case for Christ - Lee Strobel
- I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist - Geisler and Turek
- On Guard - William Lane Craig
- Cold Case Christianity - J. Warner Wallace
- Why Do You Believe That? - Mary Jo Sharp