You are an “average” Christian. Perhaps you are not a philosopher, scientist, theologian, pastor, or lawyer. But you try to stay informed about the Faith, and you know that Christianity, if it is true at all, must be true for all. Its truth pervades every area of life. The Christian story, as it is recorded in Scripture, runs from Genesis through Revelation. It is a continuous account that tells of the creation of all things by God, the creation of humankind, the problem of sin, the promise of redemption and its accomplishment, and the consummation of creation at the end of time. But the story doesn’t end there. Christians through the centuries have lived out the Gospel and its implications from the time Christ established His church. Millions of lives have been transformed by the power of the Gospel (Romans 1:16-17. All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version).
But not all share this conviction. So when you tune in the television, visit your bookstore, or surf the net, you become aware of a highly organised, literate, and sophisticated attack against your faith. You may feel overwhelmed by the seemingly endless barrage of arguments, reasons, and evidences against the beliefs you have held since coming to know Christ. The onslaught is methodical, thorough, and relentless. Many of the charges against faith come from well educated sources. As North American culture turns from a traditionally Christian worldview to a decidedly pagan one, you find that your beliefs are increasingly at odds with your neighbours, co-workers, and even family members.
Welcome to the world of apologetics. “Apologetics” as a discipline of theology means “to make a defence” or, to “give an answer.” It sounds like our English word, “apologise,” because it is the origin of that term. It is important, however, not to think that when we engage in apologetics that we are “apologising” for anything. Words change meaning over time, and when we speak of apologetics we use it in its older sense, “to defend the faith.” Since the beginning of the church, God has used apologetics to answer critics of the faith, and to encourage believers. Many of our brothers and sisters abroad have had to defend their faith for many years. Today Western Christians are on the defence too.
In 1 Peter 3:15, we read, “. . . but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” This verse has much to teach us about apologetics: First, it is written to all Christians in general—the task of apologetics is not only a job for specialists, but for all believers. Second, it tells us what the apologist must first accept as fact: Christ is Lord. Third, apologetics requires preparation. Fourth, it tells us that we have hope and that we will be asked why (if no one is asking we need to be asking, “why not?”). Fifth, it also tells us of our attitude toward those who ask: we must show gentleness and respect.
How then, do you answer these: “Isn’t the Bible full of errors?” “People don’t come back from the dead, so I can’t believe in the resurrection.” “Hasn’t science disproved creation and all the miracles of the Bible?” “Isn’t it bigoted to say that Jesus is the only way to be saved? What about other sincere believers of other faiths?” “That’s fine if the Bible is true for you, but it isn’t true for me.” “Wasn’t Jesus simply a good teacher?” You have probably of heard these and many others.
First, remember that Christ is Lord. We don’t believe that the Gospel might be true, or that God may exist. The Christian affirms that the Bible is true whether or not others believe it to be so. God is God of the facts. Unbelief does not change reality.
Second, the Christian must know what the Bible teaches. Much opposition to the Bible is against matters that are not even in Scripture. Stay with the facts, which is to say, “Stay with the Bible.” I heard once that when bank tellers are taught to identify counterfeit currency, most of their training is to identify the true currency. Just as the techniques of counterfeiters constantly changes, so do forms of misinterpretation, misapplication, and misrepresentation of the Bible and Christianity. It is better be become so well acquainted with the Bible that error is plainly evident, than to become an expert in a cult or philosophy that will be gone tomorrow.
Third, is there a question you can’t answer? Certainly! Does the entire Faith collapse because you don’t know an answer? Certainly not! “I don’t know, but I shall try to find out for you” is always a good answer. Consider this: after 2000 years of opposition to the Gospel, it is very unlikely that you will encounter an impossible question.
Fourth, know the usual questions (such as the examples above), and prepare answers to them. There are scores of books available which can help you formulate answers, whether they deal directly with the Bible, or with philosophical doubt, science, etc. As a good starting point, I recommend Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict (Nashville: Nelson, 1999). The point is, you must give an answer. It is up to you to prepare.
As he faces the task of defending the Faith, the Christian may feel inundated by the varieties of unbelief. We now face the “new” atheism, scientism, political correctness, world religions, cults, the culture wars, neo-Gnosticism, new ancient texts that purport to tell the “real” story of Jesus, theological liberalism, denials of Christ’s atonement, and the “prosperity gospel,” to name a few. Still, God is God and His Word stands. The Christian must determine to know Scripture, and to learn how to answer those who oppose it.
In the West, it seems that Christianity is being singled out for criticism and disdain. While others may offer historical, sociological, or political reasons for this disapproval, the real answer is found in Scripture: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth (Romans 1:18),” and “as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God’” (Romans 3:10, 11). Christianity is rejected because it is true! The doubting began in the garden, when Satan asked Eve, “Did God actually say . . . ?” (Genesis 3:1)
We are charged with the responsibility of passing the Faith on to the next generation. This will happen only when it is a lived experience and its truth understood by the believer.