Apologetics is often considered a buzzword in Christian circles, but few evangelicals genuinely understand the purpose and meaning of Christian apologetics.
Dr. Sam Welbaum, associate professor of Christian ministries, defined Christian apologetics.
“Apologetics itself is just the art of intellectually defending something, so Christian apologetics is the use of reason and persuasion in defending the truth of Christianity,” Welbaum said.
Welbaum explained that apologetics and evangelism go hand in hand.
Any gospel presentation should include some form of reasoned defense for the faith and highlight the inherent truth of scripture.
“The problems arise when someone wants to defend the truth of Christianity with no concern that the lost hear the gospel,” Welbaum said. “That’s just wanting to argue or wanting to be right, not defend Christianity.”
According to Welbaum, apologetics may attract three types of people: those who are insecure, prideful or humble.
“The insecure see it as a means of trying to help them drown out doubts, and they usually cover this in false confidence that eventually fails them,” Welbaum said. “The prideful see apologetics as a way for them to show how important and impressive they are.”
He explained both types of people are more concerned with themselves than with Christ.
“The Christ they are defending disappears, and the gospel becomes something of an idea or a postulate as opposed to historical and ontological fact,” Welbaum said. “The one who is confident and humble sees that God has gifted them to serve a particular role and that it is an honor to be able to serve God by using those intellectual gifts to clear the way for the gospel message.”
Welbaum shared how apologetics is an effective evangelistic tool and highly effective in discipleship.
“The more firmly a person believes what they believe, the more likely they are to live it out,” Welbaum said.
Welbaum explained that all areas of study can be used to support apologetic pursuits.
“Since God made everything in the cosmos, everything in the cosmos points to him,” Welbaum said. “Philosophical, scientific, literary and more recently the behavioral science categories get the most attention.”
Welbaum said that even our character and behavior as Christians is, in many ways, a form of apologetics because it testifies to the goodness of God.
Adrian Jacobs, CBU alumna and double major in English and philosophy, shared some insight on the use of apologetics.
She said that apologetics can be very helpful in building confidence in believers and strengthening their faith, as well as bringing individuals to faith in Christ.
“[Apologetics] can be one of our best tools as we share the gospel, especially in a world that is skeptical of those who support objective morality and a true faith in Christ as the only way to heaven,” Jacobs said. “When individuals have questions about belief in God, being ready to answer those questions can be extremely important.”
Jacobs stressed that when using apologetics, believers ought to approach people where they are and be aware of what evangelism tools and methods would best suit that individual.
“Apologetics research can be done in a variety of ways. I would recommend seeking out leaders in the local church and asking their advice,” Jacobs said. “Classic books like ‘Mere Christianity’ and ‘The Case for Christ’ can be great starting points.”
Noah Gauderman, senior applied theology major, explained the purpose and intention behind apologetics.
“The Book of Acts described how Paul reasoned with people in the synagogue in and through the Scriptures,” Gauderman said. “The effectiveness of this tool stands on the foundation of love. As reason is not the only faculty humans possess, so should reason not be the only faculty we address in evangelism, but the whole person — emotions, will, conscience.”
Gauderman explained that sharing apologetics and the gospel is the foundation for every genuine presentation of apologetic facts.
However, bringing people to salvation should not be a burden that falls on the shoulders of humans, rather, it is a work of God, performed by the use of faithful vessels.
“Different types of apologetic styles [minister to] different types of personalities,” Gauderman said. “Some may not care at all about the probability of our universe being constructed the way it is as having a near zero probability; others may find a direct correlation between that truth and the powerful work of God. Others may prefer hearing the testimony or experience of Christians throughout history or modern-day Christians, while others may listen to it completely unbothered.”
Gauderman said the main source of our apologetics and evangelistic efforts should be the word of God — the foundation of all reason, logic and defense of our faith and salvation.