By Chaseton Hahn (with Joel Settecase) / 22-minute read
Our culture and its guiding ideas are constantly changing. Apologetics helps the church build discernment—an essential skill that must be cultivated in order for Christians to be fully prepared to give account of their hope in Christ when the culture comes demanding an answer. The definitive purpose for including apologetics in your church is that it points to and glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Challenge Ahead
The ever-increasing secularization of Western culture has been accompanied by a rapid decline of esteem for Christian morality and ethics. Followers of Jesus in the United States must come to grips with a rather unfortunate reality: we are living in a post-Christian nation.
Because of this, the need for the prophetic voice of the Church in the world has never been needed with greater urgency. In days gone by, church attendance and Christian nominalism and virtue reigned supreme; this is hardly the case anymore. In fact, in a 2016 research study Barna Group identified Generation Z as the “first truly post-Christian generation,” in which the percentage of atheists doubles that of the Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers, or Elders generations.
How are believers to respond? Should we hang our heads in defeat? Absolutely not! Jesus said in John 4:35, “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest,” and his words are just as true today. The increasing expression of godlessness is clear. The work ahead is difficult. The opposition is fierce. Churches must be more willing than ever to equip their membership with the tools to make Christ shine brightly before a spiritually dark world. Enter apologetics.
The focus of this article is to show 10 benefits of incorporating apologetics training into your church’s discipleship programs.
1: It Is Faithful to Scripture
The call to join in the field of apologetics is found first upon the pages of the Bible itself. Apologetics simply means to give a rational defense of the Christian worldview, and the Bible contains many examples to follow. Peter the Apostle, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, directs believers to “…always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15b).
Among the numerous examples in the New Testament of people confidently defending the faith is none other than the Great Apologist, Jesus Christ. Jesus being the Divine Logos is a master of logic and rhetoric, often turning the accusations of his opponents on their ear with silky smooth repose.
Not only is Jesus a skilled apologist, but in Luke 12:11-12 he promised his disciples that they too would be empowered by the Holy Spirit to defend themselves before, “the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities….”
You also have instances recorded such as Peter and John boldly standing before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4, and Stephen making a courageous charge against the Jewish council before his martyrdom in Acts 7. Then there is Paul who famously addresses the Epicureans on Mars Hill in Acts 17 and later makes his case to Roman Procurator Felix in Acts 24. These are a few of the many occasions of apologetics documented in Scripture for us to emulate. Because the church itself is a Scriptural organization, anything that makes the church more in line with Scripture may rightly be called a benefit!
2: It Guards the Trustworthiness, Sufficiency, and Authority of Scripture.
Along with its scientific and technological advances, the Modern era brought a new wave of skepticism, specifically toward the claims of the Bible.
At every turn, there seems to be a new attempt to smother the truth of Scripture, relegating it to the ash heap of history as baseless, ancient mythological nonsense. Where the Bible was once respected, it is now counted irrelevant and unreliable. The church must therefore be furnished with Christians who are ready to face such indictments upon the Word of God. The rise of secularism with its control of the media and its grip upon the academy poses a serious threat to the faith of those who are not trained to stand in defense of the truth of Scripture.
Scripture testifies unabashedly to its enduring truth. Take heed of the Psalmist who proudly proclaims, “Forever, O Lord, your Word is settled in heaven” (Ps. 119:89). Or take for instance the Prophet Isaiah: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Is. 40:8). Jesus himself upheld its authority when he said, “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail” (Lk. 16:17). The Apostle Paul describes all Scripture as being “breathed out by God” and sufficient for “every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Sure, the Bible says these things, but then there exist textual critics and liberal scholars asserting that these words should not be trusted at all.
Therefore, one of the primary aims of apologetics is to defend against such arguments and uphold the biblical testimony. Indeed, the foundation of Christianity rests upon the truthfulness of Scripture in which believers must be confident.
3: It Strengthens the Faith of Individual Christians
When I was a freshman in college, I encountered a challenge against my belief in the Bible for the first-time . The class was Western Civilizations, taught by a man named Dr. Baldwin. He had reputation around campus of being especially militant in his atheism – even causing people to renounce their belief in God! Being the stubborn 18-year-old that I was, I enrolled without a second thought, thinking to myself, “He can’t be that bad.” The first day of class, I sat down for the lecture and Dr. Baldwin immediately opened with a booming voice, “Alright class! Since we will be learning about the emergence of Western civilization, it is important we talk about Christianity.” He continued, “But first, let’s talk about all the contradictions in the Bible.” The murmurs and whispers of the other students almost instantly came to a halt as we all sat in wide-eyed shock from what we just heard.
At the end of the presentation, my head was spinning. The information I had just ingested was tremendously confusing and troublesome. I thought to myself, “Is everything I believe really just a child’s fairy tale?” This is what many of our young people face today in secular academia. What the professor unknowingly did was spur me to study the Word of God with greater intensity, digging deeper than I ever had before. I decided, if I am going to be a Christian, I must be completely sure that it is true.
During that time, I came across various apologetics ministries that provided the resources to satisfy the very questions that Dr. Baldwin raised; my faith was inevitably strengthened. I was shown that the Word of God is true even when put under intense scrutiny.
Many people seem to characterize faith as believing in something without evidence. This is not how Scripture describes faith at all. In the biblical sense, faith should not be blind or irrational. Instead it is a confident trust in the promises of God. Faith is a trust that is graduated from knowledge about the word of God! Apologetics aids in the discovery of answers to the hardest questions pointed against our belief in Christ.
When these problems are shown to have solutions, a greater trust in the promises of God is the result, so we may say along with the psalmist: “The entirety of your word is truth, each of your righteous judgments endures forever” (Ps. 119:160).
4: It Helps the Church Love God with all her Mind
Many Christians seem to hold to the opinion that since the matters of religion are mostly concerned with the spiritual, then the worship of God should be confined to the emotional and experiential. The emergence of revivalism through the Second Great Awakening and its overemphasis of spiritual encounters (seen notably in the ministry of Charles Finney) gave rise to the rampant anti-intellectualism that is alive in many sectors of the church today, leaving the people of God unable to shield themselves from the criticisms by the secular elements of the culture.
Unfortunately, skeptical members of our society have therefore concluded that Christians do not care about knowledge and thus that belief in God requires low intelligence. This is not how Scripture teaches believers to approach their faith.
Jesus, as he details the Greatest Commandment, says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…soul…and mind” (Mt. 22:37 emphasis added). To be educated apologetically is to sharpen the mind – the cognitive faculty of reason and understanding.
Believers should know not only what they believe, but why they believe—and how to articulate this with confidence. Indeed, to pursue godly wisdom is to be more like our Creator, whose image we bear (Gen. 1:26-28). God, the supreme intellect, himself possesses a rational mind. God is the one who crafted science and mathematics. From the inconceivably complex composition of DNA to the immense structure of the Milky Way Galaxy, all of creation displays his intelligence. Therefore, we should desire to learn with and exercise our minds for the good pleasure of our Creator - especially in the mastery of his Word.
5: It Corrects Doctrinal Error
Apologetics is not only effective in defending against arguments from unbelievers outside of the church; it is useful for correcting error within the church. False teachers are running rampant, leading many millions of people into apostasy. Indeed, apologetics training aids Christians to cultivate their knowledge of the truth so that they may reach maturity of faith; able to “distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:14).
Consider the numerous cultural and social philosophies that war against the teachings of Scripture, even seeping into the lives of the membership. Apologetics is vital in preserving fidelity to the biblical message, protecting the sheep from falling prey to the destructive doctrines of the world.
Numerous passages warn of false prophets and false teachers who will appear among the saints seeking to lead them into destructive doctrines and heresy (2 Pet. 2:1; Mt. 24:24; 2 Tim. 4:3-4; Acts 20:28-30).
Look for example at many of the popular “evangelists” that are featured on major television networks. Many meet the qualifications of what is being warned about in the Bible, yet unsuspecting Christians fall right into their trap. Apologetics helps prevent such tragedies, keeping the believers sober-minded, and able to clearly spot heterodoxy and warn others about it.
If or when someone begins to teach doctrinal error in your church, you will be able to defend biblical truth and drive out any error before it takes root in the congregation.
6: It Strengthens Unity around Truth
Having a singular focus upon a clear objective is fundamental for success of any movement, whether it be a sports team or a board of directors of a major corporation. This is no less true for the body of Christ. While the goal of the church is not collecting championship rings or sustaining financial growth, it shares in common in the pursuit of an important principle: unity. The truth of the Gospel is the unifying principle of the church. Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi was especially concerned with the cohesion of the believers around the message of Jesus Christ:
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.” (Phil. 1:27-28).
Apologetics assists the church to be so oriented, that the believers have an impenetrable resilience based in the core doctrines of the faith.
Undeniably, with a constantly shifting culture it is critical that the church be prepared for any objection or affront to the Gospel. When believers become more mature in their knowledge of Christ, they will no longer be susceptible to “every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14). It is when members of the church are confident in their knowledge of biblical truth that spiritual flourishing will happen.
Wherever Christians are unified in truth, there the Gospel message can be propelled with all fervency and conviction. The church unified becomes an unstoppable machine, individuals acting as cogs and wheels mutually rotating for the glory and honor of Christ.
This solidarity among the saints cultivates such fellowship, whereby every act is one of worship and celebration of the truths of God in his word, the very foundation for Christian faith and practice (2 Tim. 3:16-17). A community of believers who encamp around the truth of Christ ultimately fosters a bond of love in fulfillment of the prayer of our Lord: “That they may all be one…so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn. 17:21).
7: It Injects Enthusiasm into the Church
When I was first exposed to apologetics and how it helped find satisfying answers to the objections against my faith, I was simply ecstatic. This is the testimony that many others report when they too discover that the Bible and what it teaches can stand against the daunting opposition of our unbelieving culture.
Apologetics should be exciting. What we believe is true, and that is worthy of rejoicing over! The wonderful mysteries of God have been revealed to us, and learning that these can stand against the staunchest opposition, that not even the Devil or the flames of Hell can overcome them, should cause your heart to race with excitement.
Not only this, but the principles of apologetics is for all believers to enjoy, not just the academics or intellectuals. Young and old, men and women of any social standing, can all enjoy the confidence that is cultivated through the learning and wielding of God’s Word through apologetic training.
8: It Reaches the Lost
The purpose of apologetics is never to win an argument or to make yourself appear more intelligent. Instead, apologetics should be viewed as an evangelistic tool for the spreading of the Gospel.
Whenever you share the message of Christ with an unbelieving individual, it is almost guaranteed that there will be objections or questions about what and why you believe, even if these interactions are completely amicable. Apologetics arms the believer with the proper instruments to give an adequate rebuttal to most concerns that are raised. For instance, take Paul when he addressed the Athenians and the philosophers at the Areopagus as recorded in Acts 17. Paul was provoked by the Holy Spirit because he, “saw the city was full of idols.” So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there” (vv. 16-17).
The Epicurean and Stoic philosophers approached him because he was preaching the resurrection; something very foreign to their minds. Paul was not bent on humiliating these men for their beliefs (remember, principles of gentleness and respect are vital for apologetics according to 1 Pet. 3:15b), but he was interested in persuading them to believe the Gospel.
If you examine this discourse given at the Areopagus, you see that Paul deconstructs the worldview of the philosophers, exposing their flawed perspective of God. The result of the speech was that “some mocked,” however, some were inspired and, “…joined him and believed” (vv. 32-34). The response will not always be favorable, but the interaction may prove to remove roadblocks that have been preventing the person from believing the Gospel!
You see, the point in evangelistic apologetics is to give a rational defense for the Christian worldview, showing that faith in Christ is satisfying, not only spiritually but also intellectually.
Through apologetics, the church can demonstrate to the unbelieving world that Christianity is the only thing that can make reasonable sense of the universe in which we live. Indeed, there are several notable people who, through their encounters with the claims about Christ, have turned from stark skepticism to Christian faith when they finally realized the claims of the Bible were in accord with real history! C.S. Lewis and Lee Strobel come to mind, and there have been many others.
Reason #9: It Answers the Demands of a Changing Culture
The culture of our time is organic. It is living, breathing, growing, and constantly changing. What was publicly despised 30 years ago seems be venerated today. The rapid exchange of information with the advent of the internet allows minority viewpoints and philosophies to be exposed to a much larger audience. Now, this can be a great thing! The sharing of ideas through instant methods of communication has revolutionized science and technology, resulting in mass innovations in nearly every area of life. For the Christian, sharing the Gospel with people across the globe has never been easier. However, there is a great downside as well, because false and even harmful ideologies travel and spread just as effortlessly.
Apologetics is essential in our age where culture is moving in greater and greater rebellion against the unchanging Word of God. We see issues of shifting sexual ethics, where that which God forbids is now the societal norm. Postmodernism has permeated into every area, resulting in the questioning of everything that was generally considered settled, objective, knowledge. In addition to this, religious pluralism is running rampant, all claiming equal share of the truth. How in the world do Christians answer such cultural mandates? Thankfully, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).
Apologetics helps believers grapple with and topple the beliefs that stand against the Word of God. Your church needs to be primed and ready to take on the battle that is being waged in our culture today. Apologetics helps shield the flock, while arming them with the sword of the Spirit (Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:17), to slay the dragon of the prevailing customs which are under the rule of Satan (Eph. 2:2, 6:12), capturing and crushing them into submission before the King of Glory (2 Cor. 10:5).
Reason #10: It Glorifies Jesus Christ
As we have demonstrated, incorporating apologetics into your church’s ministry functions is internally beneficial for facilitating spiritual maturity, and it is externally beneficial by aiding in the proclamation of the Gospel. Yet we should recognize that the ultimate reason to participate in apologetics is simply that it glorifies Jesus Christ.
In the foundational verse for apologetics, the Apostle Peter writes, “… but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you …” (1 Pet. 3:15). The most important aspect of this verse is right at the beginning: “honor Christ the Lord as holy.” This is the true heart of apologetics.
You see, many people seem to believe that the objective is to give arguments that humiliate the opponent by eviscerating their worldview. This is not the case at all. What Peter encapsulates here is the attitude all should bring to any discussion involving our hope in Christ and the Gospel.
It is when we contemplate upon Christ’s loveliness, his goodness, perfections, and holiness, that we cannot help but honor him in everything we say and do. We are to move the eyes of those whom we come across from us and our works or eloquent speech upward,helping them instead to fix their gaze upon the glorious face of Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for many (Mk. 10:45).
Apologetics is much more than a participation in a formal or scholarly debate. Instead, believers should see it as a necessary discipline for standard church ministry. Every Christian should be trained as an apologist because of the examples given in Scripture, including that of Jesus Christ, the Great Apologist, who regularly incorporated apologetic principles in his earthly ministry.
It is through apologetics that believers can sharpen their knowledge of Scripture, as well as learn how to answer the numerous objections raised against its truthfulness, which ultimately builds faith in the promises of God!
Learning apologetics will help your congregation correct and defend against doctrinal errors that ever attempt to trickle in.
Apologetics is valuable in evangelism by providing answers to doubts or skepticism, removing barriers that may be preventing people from believing the Gospel.
Our culture is constantly changing and finding new opportunities to rebel against the objective truth of God’s word. Apologetics helps build discernment—an essential skill that must be cultivated, that the Christian can be thoroughly prepared to give account of their hope in Christ when the culture comes demanding an answer.
The definitive purpose for including apologetics in your church is that it points to and glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything that we do in faith and zeal should be done, not that others see us, but to see Jesus more clearly.