What is Apologetics?
First Peter 3:15 says Christians must “always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. Simply put, that’s apologetics. But in this short description, we discover three important details.
Doing apologetics means playing defense. The Greek word for “defense” is apologia, from which we get the word apologetics. Think about a football game. At any time during the game, one team is trying to score (the offense) while the other is trying to stop them (the defense). If your team has a really bad defense, you’ll get blown away. Similarly, maybe you’ve been roughed up by some really tough objections to Christianity. You’ve heard the challenge before: “How can a good God allow suffering?” “The Bible is full of errors”. “Jesus can’t be the only way to God”. Apologetics helps us defend Christianity against tough questions like these.
Doing Apologetics means playing offense. Back to the football analogy. A good defense is vital, but you can't win if you don’t score. The offense must advance the ball to score points. In the same way, apologetics attempts to give a reason for our hope by advancing arguments in favor of Christianity. We offer evidence for God’s existence, reasons to trust the Bible, and arguments for the bodily resurrection of Jesus. By playing offense, we give non-believers good reasons to decide that Christianity is true.
Doing apologetics means giving hope. For what are you defending and giving evidence? “The hope that is in you”. Ultimately, apologetics points people to our hope, Jesus Himself. That’s why “we demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ”. (2Co 10:4-5). Objections raised against Jesus must be demolished. But notice something. The Bible doesn’t say we demolish people. Rather, we demolish false arguments. Belittling others is not our goal. Merely winning arguments is not enough. Instead, we remove obstacles of doubt to Christianity so people can take a serious look at Christ, the only source of hope for this world. True apologetics is hopeful.
Further illustrating this point, notice that our earlier quote of 1 Peter 3:15 is sandwiched between two important sentences. Peter starts the verse with a challenge: “Honor the Messiah as LORD in your hearts”. Apologetics should be done amidst a certain kind of life, one where we surrender more and more to Christ. When we do this, He transforms us. So a transformed life is the beginning point for our apologetics. What will this kind of apologetic look like? Defense doesn’t mean being defensive, and offense doesn’t mean being offensive. Rather, verse 16 tells us our defense is made “with gentleness and respect”. Doing apologetics with Jesus as LORD and Master of our lives means our encounters will be marked by humility, warmth, grace, and love even when we stand boldly for the truth. By doing so, we follow in the way of Jesus, who was “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).
This article can be found in "Apologetics Study Bible for Students", page 1355.
Please also see our comprehensive study for the book of 1 Peter that includes commentary from www.enduringword.com.