What is Apologetics?

We’ve met with several ministers and lay leaders to discuss apologetics in the past two weeks. We are specifically seeking to understand how Reasonable Faith Houston can most effectively serve the local community. One of the most important reoccurring questions in the past couple of weeks has been “what is apologetics?”

In Acts 26 we find Paul in Caesarea speaking to King Agrippa, Bernice, Festus, commanders of the Roman Legion, and all the prominent men of Caesarea, but mostly you will see he is talking directly to King Agrippa (Acts 26:23-27). Paul described himself as being fortunate, we can only imagine that he was happy for the opportunity to speak on his own behalf and in defense of his actions and beliefs. After all, he had been locked up for weeks and was standing before the audience in chains. After Paul spoke a while in his defense, King Agrippa replied to Paul (v. 28), “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” Paul responded (v. 29) “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am, except for these chains.”

In the original Greek of the New Testament, the word “apologia” means “a defense” and was used to describe Paul’s speech before Agrippa. Apologia is the root word of apologetics we use today. It is a branch of Christian theology that seeks to provide a rational justification for the truth claims of the Christian faith. It is not training in the art of answering questions, or debating, or evangelism.

Apologetics is an expression of love for God with all our minds, much like the rest of theology. Apologetics specifically serves to:

  • Show unbelievers the truth of the Christian faith
  • Affirm the truth of the Christian faith to believers
  • Reveal and explore the connections between Christian doctrine and other truths

Here are some of the most popular concerns, questions, and topics that apologetic thinkers seek to address:

  • How do you know Christianity is true?
  • Who created God?
  • If God is all-powerful can he crush himself with a rock?
  • Is the Bible reliable? Isn’t the Bible filled with errors and contradictions?
  • Aren’t there really many gods and the God of Christianity is just one of them?
  • Aren’t the Muslim God, Allah, and the Christian God, Yahweh, the same God, just translated or transliterated differently?
  • Doesn’t the death in Canaan commanded by God show that the Christian God is not moral?
  • Did the universe have a beginning?

How about some more difficult questions:

  • Why does anything exist at all?
  • If God is good why doesn’t He stomp out suffering and evil?
  • Does God exist? Is there evidence for the existence of God?
  • Is God real? How can I know for sure that God is real?
  • Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?
  • How could a loving God send people to Hell for eternity?
  • Isn’t everything true or relative?
  • How can the Bible be infallible if it is written by fallible humans?

Apologetics is a discipline that seeks to untangle the theological, scientific, and philosophical challenges that Christians face, and tries to answer the question “What rational warrant can be given for Christian faith?”

Reasonable Faith Houston is spending some time trying to understand how answers to this question can be used to strengthen and grow the local Christian community. If you’re a local church leader, apologist, Christian, or skeptic, we would be very interested in hearing how you and your community might benefit from apologetics. How can RFH serve you?

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