Why Should Christians Study Apologetics?
Pastor Jay Stillinger
As we look at the world around us, there is little doubt that our culture has changed dramatically in the last several years. When I first attended Bible school back in 1979, the training I received was fine for that day but there was no way of knowing what significant changes would take place in our world in the more than thirty years following. Due to this cultural shift, it is imperative that pastors and ministers continue to learn how to minister to this increasingly post-modern and pluralistic society. In order to be equipped for this present environment, it is both Scriptural and imperative that every Christian be trained in a branch of theology called apologetics. I realize there are some ministers who don’t believe this area of theology is important or even biblical. I shall never forget the young, Word of Faith pastor, who opposed me in a discussion along these lines, his argument was basically that all we need to do is preach the Gospel and heal the sick. If you feel this way, I would like to encourage you to read on and discover how the Gospel, healing the sick and apologetics do not in any way conflict with each other but, rather, complement one another and are all techniques used by the early apostles.
The word “apologetics,” comes from the Greek word apologia and literally means, “a verbal defense” or “speech in defense.” It should be noted that one can be an apologist, or a defender, of any system of belief, but obviously we’re dealing with Christian apologetics. Christian philosopher, William Lane Craig defines apologetics as “…that branch of Christian theology which seeks to provide a rational justification for the truth claims of the Christian faith.” From this, it’s important for every believer to know that there is rational support for believing in the truths of Christianity. This faith of ours is not a “blind faith” which is to be accepted unquestionably without reasonable consideration. In fact, the more we understand the powerful reasons Christianity is true and why it is far more worth believing than any other religious belief, philosophy or ideology, our faith becomes fortified and immovable. It’s the lack of this kind of rational faith that many argue is the reason we’re losing so many Christian young people to the world. According to a study conducted by the Assemblies of God, at least half and possibly over two-thirds of Christian young people will step away from the Christian faith while attending a non-Christian college or university. Between 50% and 66.7% of Assemblies of God young people who attend a non-Christian public or private university will have left the faith four years after entering college. The Southern Baptist Convention has also concluded, “We are losing our children. Research indicates that 70% of teens who are involved in a church youth group will stop attending church within two years of their high school graduation.” I think most people would agree that these statistics are staggering.
Even though we believe God’s Word and can trust Him for better than this, it is vital that we don’t ignore these facts. It’s wise to ask why this is happening and do whatever is necessary to turn this around. One reason for these statistics is due to the many university professors who lean toward a secular humanistic viewpoint. Granted, students who go on to Christian universities fare much better, but not all can do this. The church, in general, has not prepared our young people to give an answer to the opposition they will encounter in the world. The church has taught them what to believe but not taught them why the Christian faith is superior in every way to every other belief system. Apologetics addresses these types of issues.
In addition to the statistics given above, I want to present two more excellent reasons to study and prepare yourself and others for defending the faith (apologetics). Please realize, however, there are several additional reasons.
First, the Bible commands us to do so. In one of the most classic passages for this, Peter exhorts:
1 Peter 3:15
“But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord. Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully.”
The word “defense” here is the Greek word apologia which, as stated earlier, is the word we get the word “apologetics” from. Please note that this is not given as an option or a suggestion but is in the form of a command. Also note that the words “logical defense” are used here. This indicates that there actually are rational, logical reasons to believe in Christianity. Other Scriptures which allude to the practice of apologetics without actually using the word apologia are:
Titus 1:9 (Amplified Bible – Emphasis Added)
“He must hold fast to the sure and trustworthy Word of God as he was taught it, so that he may be able both to give stimulating instruction and encouragement in sound (wholesome) doctrine and TO REFUTE AND CONVICT THOSE WHO CONTRADICT AND OPPOSE IT [SHOWING THE WAYWARD THEIR ERROR].”
Jude 3-4 (New Living Translation – Emphasis Added)
“Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, URGING YOU TO DEFEND THE FAITH that God has entrusted once for all time to His holy people. I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
The second reason we need to be equipped in defending the faith is because the apostles engaged in it, and it follows if we’re going to have results like they had, we need to do what they did. The best example of this is in the ministry of the Apostle Paul. Note the following passages:
Acts 9:22 (Amplified Bible – Emphasis Added)
“But Saul increased all the more in strength, and continued to confound and put to confusion the Jews who lived in Damascus by COMPARING AND EXAMINING EVIDENCE AND PROVING THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST (THE MESSIAH).”
Acts 17:2-4 (New King James – Emphasis Added)
“Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths REASONED with them from the Scriptures, EXPLAINING and DEMONSTRATING that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.’ And some of them were PERSUADED; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.”
Later on in this same chapter, we find the Apostle Paul reasoning with some of the Greek philosophers of his day:
Acts 17:18-21 (New King James)
“Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, ‘What does this babbler want to say?’ Others said, ‘He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,’ because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, ‘May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.’ For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.”
It’s worth bringing out here that Paul had knowledge of the Greek worldviews of both the Epicureans and the Stoics. A very basic explanation of these two philosophies is that the Epicureans were similar to deists today who, though they believed in the gods, they didn’t see them as involved in everyday life, they were far away and uninvolved with humans. The Stoics, on the other hand, would be similar in some ways to modern day pantheists. Pantheism basically believes that there is no Creator beyond the universe. God is the universe and the universe is God. Modern day versions of pantheism would be certain forms of Hinduism, Zen Buddhism, Christian Science and most New Age religions. Paul used his knowledge of these philosophies in order to minister the truth to them about the real Creator of the universe. In contrast to how he ministered to the Jews, instead of using Scripture, he referred to their own religious ideas and even quoted one of their own poets in order to share with them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This, at the very least, infers that ministers of the Gospel should have a working knowledge of the predominant false religions and philosophies existing in their culture, in order to effectively refute them.
In verses 22-34, the Scripture records the basic message Paul brought to these individuals. In the end, verse 34 states, “However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.” Sometimes people argue something like, “See, Paul only won ‘some’ to the Lord there. He didn’t have great results.” I would argue, however, that even if one person comes to Christ through the reasonable defense of the Gospel, it is worth it. Why not use every tool God has provided to win people to Christ? An example of a former atheist coming to Christ because of the use of apologetics is Lee Strobel. Strobel states the following:
“In light of the convincing facts I had learned during my investigation, in the face of this overwhelming avalanche of evidence in the case for Christ, the great irony was this: it would require much more faith for me to maintain my atheism than to trust in Jesus of Nazareth!” 
Anyone who is familiar with Strobel’s ministry knows that the Lord has also used him in the ministry of apologetics to influence and win others to Christ. Dr. William Lane Craig gives Strobel and others as examples of apologetics being used effectively to reach others for Christ. Craig states:
“In any case, the general conclusion that apologetics is ineffective in evangelism is hasty. Lee Strobel recently remarked to me that he has lost count of the number of people who have come to Christ through his books ‘The Case for Christ’ and ‘The Case for Faith’. Speakers such as Josh McDowell and Ravi Zacharias have brought thousands to Christ through apologetically-oriented evangelism.” 
The truth is, it is often important and necessary that people get their questions answered about certain things before they are ready to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is often where the ministry of apologetics comes in and is why many refer to apologetics as “pre-evangelism.” Doubts expressed by unbelievers such as, why the Bible is worth believing, the problem of evil in the world today, the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ and many other topics, are all able to be answered powerfully and effectively when a believer has been equipped to give credible answers.
As mentioned, Paul was an apologist of the Christian faith. To further support this fact, the apostle uses the Greek word, apologia (“defense”) as he states very clearly to the Philippians that his calling included the defending of the Gospel:
Philippians 1:7 (New King James – Emphasis Added)
“…just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in THE DEFENSE AND CONFIRMATION OF THE GOSPEL, you all are partakers with me of grace.”
In verse 17, Paul asserts:
Philippians 1:17 (New King James – Emphasis Added)
“…but the latter out of love, KNOWING THAT I AM APPOINTED FOR THE DEFENSE OF THE GOSPEL.”
As mentioned before, there are other reasons for studying and equipping others to defend the faith of Christianity, but these will have to suffice for now. Hopefully, as you’ve read this article, you’ve gotten a glimpse as to how important and Biblical, apologetics really is. If we’re ever going to turn the tide of losing our young people to secular humanism and other religions, we’re going to have to get back to Christianity as it was intended to be, including the effective and powerful discipline of apologetics. If we’re ever going to strengthen the hearts of all believers so they are not moved by the increased persecution we see happening today, we’re going to have to equip them with the many reasons why Christianity is true, teaching them why it’s worth believing not just teaching them what to believe. We need to do as the Holy Spirit through Peter commanded, as we saw in I Peter 3:15; “…Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you.” Obviously, in all of this, we need to keep in mind that as we do our part, God will do His. I’m sure no one would doubt that the Holy Spirit was ministering alongside of Paul’s defense of the Gospel to bring conviction to the hearts of the unbelievers and certainly we can expect the same.
I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek
The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
When God goes to Starbucks by Paul Copan
The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Mike Licona
Is God a Moral Monster by Paul Copan
Evidence for God edited by William Dembski and Michael Licona
The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell
 Joseph H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1977), 65.
 William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith : Christian Truth and Apologetics, Third ed. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 15.
 Dayton A. Kingsriter, editor, Is the Low Cost Worth the High Price: Should you attend an AG College or University? http://bit.ly/1NMNfjV, (accessed May 20, 2015).
 T.C. Pinckney, We Are Losing Our Children, http://www.schoolandstate.org/SBC/Pinckney-WeAreLosingOurChildren.htm, (accesses May 20, 2015).
 Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ; A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence of Jesus, (Grand Rapids, MI:, 1998), 265.
 William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 22.