Apologetics an introduction the defending the Faith by Jack Kettler
In this study we will look at the general call of the believer to defend the faith. In another study the differing methods of apologetics will be covered. Briefly, regarding the differing approaches to apologetics, there are several recognized methodologies. They are classical apologetics (Thomistic), evidential apologetics (John W. Montgomery), and presuppositional apologetics (Cornelius Van Til). Note: I have only listed one advocate of each methodology for brevity’s sake.
Definition of apologetics:
Apologetics is the theological discipline concerned with explaining and defending the truthfulness of the Christian faith. *
The word “apologetics” is derived from the Greek word “apologia,” which means to make a defense. It has come to mean defense of the faith. Apologetics covers many areas: who Jesus is, the reliability of the Bible, refuting cults, biblical evidences in the history and archeology, answering objections, etc. In short, it deals with giving reasons for Christianity being the true religion. We are called by God to give an apologia, a defense: “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). **
Apologetics although closely related to the call to evangelize, it is a distinct theological discipline.
How can evangelism be defined?
Is the sharing with non-Christians the message of what Jesus has done to save sinners, and calling them to repent and believe; the faithful delivery of the message of the gospel. *
The following Scriptures are the basis for the call to evangelize:
“Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38)
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” (John 10:16)
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
“For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:11-15)
In this next selection of Scriptures, we get to the reason for apologetics. This idea is one of methodology. There will be two commentary entries from two passages of Scripture that inform the believer of apologetic methodology.
Scriptural reasons to defend the faith, and how it should be done:
“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.” (Proverbs 26:4-5)
From the Pulpit Commentary we read an explanation of this seemingly contradictory command:
Verse 4. - Answer not a fool according to his folly. Do not lower yourself to the fool's level by answering his silly questions or arguing with him as if he were a sensible man. Lest thou also be like unto him; lest you be led to utter folly yourself or to side with him in his opinions and practices. Our blessed Saviour never responded to foolish and captious questions in the way that the questioner hoped and desired, he put them by or gave an unexpected turn to them which silenced the adversary. Instances may be seen in Matthew 21:23, etc.; Matthew 22:21, 22; Luke 13:23, etc.; John 21:21, etc.
Verse 5. - Answer a fool according to his folly. This maxim at first sight seems absolutely antagonistic to the purport of the preceding verse; but it is not so really. The words, "according to his folly," in this verse mean, as his folly deserves, in so plain a way as is expose it, and shame him, and bring him to a better mind. Lest he be wise in his own conceit; thinking, it may be, that he has said something worth hearing, or put you to silence by his superior intelligence. (1)
The next passage that we will look at will be followed with a selection by a recognized commentary:
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” (1 Peter 3:15-16)
Consulting Matthew Poole's Commentary we find:
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; exalt him in your hearts, and give him the honour of all his glorious perfections, power, wisdom, goodness, faithfulness, &c., by believing them, and depending upon his promises for defence and assistance against all the evils your enemies may threaten you with.
And be ready always; prepared to answer when duly called to it.
To give an answer; or, to make an apology or defence, viz. of the faith ye profess; the word is used, Acts 22:1 1 Corinthians 9:3.
To every man that asketh you; either that hath authority to examine you, and take an account of your religion; or, that asks with modesty, and a desire to be satisfied, and learn of you.
A reason of the hope that is in you; i.e. faith, for which hope is frequently used in Scipture, which is built upon faith: the sense is: Whereas unbelievers, your persecutors especially, may scoff at your hope of future glory, as vain and groundless, and at yourselves, as mad or foolish, for venturing the loss of all in this world, and exposing yourselves to so many sufferings, in expectation of ye know not what uncertainties in the other; do ye therefore be always ready to defend and justify your faith against all objectors, and to show how reasonable your hope of salvation is, and on how sure a foundation it is built.
With meekness and fear; either with meekness in relation to men, in opposition to passion and intemperate zeal, (your confession of the faith must be with courage, but yet with a spirit of meekness and modesty), and fear or reverence in relation to God, which, where it prevails, overcomes the fierceness of men’s spirits, and makes them speak modestly of the things of God, and give due respect to men; or, fear may be set in opposition to pride, and presumption of a man’s own wisdom or strength; q.d. Make confession of your faith humbly, with fear and trembling, not in confidence of your own strength, or gifts, or abilities.
Having a good conscience; this may be read either:
1. Indicatively, and joined (as by some it is) to the former verse; and then the sense is: If ye be always ready to answer every one that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, ye shall have a good conscience: or rather:
2. Imperatively (which our translation favours); q.d. Not only be ready to make confession of your faith, but let your life and practice be correspondent to it, in keeping yourselves pure from sin, and exercising yourselves unto godliness, from whence a good conscience proceeds; here therefore the effect is put for the cause, a good conscience for a good life, Acts 23:1.
That whereas they speak evil of you, &c.; the sense is, that whereas they speak evil of you, as of evil-doers, your good conversation may bear witness for you, confute their calumnies, and make them ashamed, when it appears that their accusations are false, and that they have nothing to charge upon you but your being followers of Christ.
Your good conversation in Christ; i.e. that good conversation which ye lead as being in Christ; viz. according to his doctrine and example, and by the influence of his Spirit. (2)
Now going on to other pertinent Scriptural passages that are relevant to apologetic methodology:
“The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things.” (Proverbs 15:28)
“Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Colossians 4:6)
“In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” (2 Timothy 2:25)
When you do evangelism, you are speaking the gospel. In most cases you will begin a dialog with the unbeliever. When mentioning methodology, this involves your point of contact with the unbeliever. As listed above, there different strategies or methodologies in making contact with the non-believer. Since this study is general or an introduction to apologetics, what can we learn from the Scriptures thus far? The takeaway from these passages is to be wise, gentle, winsome, and using soft answers to turn away wrath.
The concluding summary of this overview or introduction to apologetics will be a real delight. The author that we will look at was such an extraordinary world-class apologist, and I will list some of his credentials first.
Greg L. Bahnsen was the scholar-in-residence at the Southern California Center for Christian Studies and an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Southern California, specializing in the field of epistemology (theory of Knowledge). He also received M.Div. and Th.M. degrees from Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. Dr. Bahnsen was the author of numerous books and published articles and was a popular conference speaker. He was also a renowned public debater as evidenced in his interchanges with Muslims, Roman Catholics, Jews, and atheists. A complete list of his over 1,700 audio tapes, videos, articles, and books is available from the Covenant Media Foundation. (See link below)
It will be helpful to get instructions from the book Always Ready by Greg Bahnsen:
18: Summary On Apologetic Method: Chapters 13-17
From the preceding section of studies on apologetic procedure we can now summarize the way in which we ought to go about defending the Christian hope within us:
The Nature of the Apologetic Situation:
1. The controversy between the believer and unbeliever is in principle an antithesis between two complete systems of thought involving ultimate commitments and assumptions.
2. Even laws of thought and method, along with factual evidence, will be accepted and evaluated in light of one’s governing presuppositions.
3. All chains of argumentation, especially over matters of ultimate personal importance, trace back to and depend upon starting points which are taken to be self-evidencing; thus circularity in debate will be unavoidable. However, not all circles are intelligible or valid.
4. Thus appeals to logic, fact, and personality may be necessary, but they are not apologetically adequate; what is needed is not piecemeal replies, probabilities, or isolated evidences but rather an attack upon the underlying presuppositions of the unbeliever’s system of thought.
5. The unbeliever’s way of thinking is characterized as follows:
a. By nature the unbeliever is the image of God and, therefore, inescapably religious; his heart testifies continually, as does also the clear revelation of God around him, to God’s existence and character.
b. But the unbeliever exchanges the truth for a lie. He is a fool who refuses to begin his thinking with reverence for the Lord; he will not build upon Christ’s self-evidencing words and suppresses the unavoidable revelation of God in nature.
c. Because he delights not in understanding but chooses to serve the creature rather than the Creator, the unbeliever is self-confidently committed to his own ways of thought; being convinced that he could not be fundamentally wrong, he flaunts perverse thinking and challenges the self-attesting word of God.
d. Consequently, the unbeliever’s thinking results in ignorance; in his darkened futile mind he actually hates knowledge and can gain only a “knowledge” falsely so-called.
e. To the extent that he actually knows anything, it is due to his unacknowledged dependence upon the suppressed truth about God within him. This renders the unbeliever intellectually schizophrenic: by his espoused way of thinking he actually “opposes himself” and shows a need for a radical “change of mind” (repentance) unto a genuine knowledge of the truth.
f. The unbeliever’s ignorance is culpable because he is without excuse for his rebellion against God’s revelation; hence he is “without an apologetic” for his thoughts.
g. His unbelief does not stem from a lack of factual evidence but from his refusal to submit to the authoritative word of God from the beginning of his thinking.
The Requirements of the Apologist:
1. The apologist must have the proper attitude; he must not be arrogant or quarrelsome, but with humility and respect he must argue in a gentle and peaceable manner.
2. The apologist must have the proper starting point; he must take God’s word as his self-evidencing presupposition, thinking God’s thoughts after Him (rather than attempting to be neutral), and viewing God’s word as more sure than even his personal experience of the facts.
3. The apologist must have the proper method; working on the unbeliever’s unacknowledged presuppositions and being firmly grounded in his own, the apologist must aim to cast down every high imagination exalted against the knowledge of God by aiming to bring every thought (his own, as well as his opponent’s) captive to the obedience of Christ.
4. The apologist must have the proper goal: securing the unbeliever’s unconditional surrender without compromising one’s own fidelity.
a. The word of the cross must be used to expose the utter pseudo-wisdom of the world as destructive foolishness.
b. Christ must be set apart as Lord in one’s heart, thus acknowledging no higher authority than God’s word and refusing to suspend intellectual commitment to its truth.
The Procedure for Defending the Faith:
1. Realizing that the unbeliever is holding back the truth in unrighteousness, the apologist should reject the foolish presuppositions implicit in critical questions and attempt to educate his opponent.
2. This involves presenting the facts within the context of the Biblical philosophy of fact:
a. God is the sovereign determiner of possibility and impossibility.
b. A proper reception and understanding of the facts requires submission to the Lordship of Christ.
c. Thus the facts will be significant to the unbeliever only if he has a presuppositional change of mind from darkness to light.
d. Scripture has authority to declare what has happened in history and to interpret it correctly.
3. The unbeliever’s espoused presuppositions should be forcefully attacked, asking whether knowledge is possible, given them:
a. In order to show that God has made foolish the wisdom of the world the believer can place himself on the unbeliever’s position and answer him according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceits; that is, demonstrate the outcome of unbelieving thought with its assumptions.
b. The unbeliever’s claims should be reduced to impotence and impossibility by an internal critique of his system; that is, demonstrate the ignorance of unbelief by arguing from the impossibility of anything contrary to Christianity.
4. The apologist should appeal to the unbeliever as the image of God who has God’s clear and inescapable revelation, thus giving him an ineradicable knowledge of God; this knowledge can be exposed by indicating unwitting expressions or by pointing to the “borrowed capital” (un-admitted presuppositions) which can be found in the unbeliever’s position.
5. The apologist should declare the self-evidencing and authoritative truth of God as the precondition of intelligibility and man’s only way of salvation (from all the effects of sin, including ignorance and intellectual vanity):
a. Lest the apologist become like the unbeliever, he should not answer him according to his folly but according to God’s word.
b. The unbeliever can be invited to put himself on the Christian position in order to see that it provides the necessary grounds for intelligible experience and factual knowledge—thereby concluding that it alone is reasonable to hold and the very foundation for proving anything whatsoever.
c. The apologist can also explain that Scripture accounts for the unbeliever’s state of mind (hostility) and the failure of men to acknowledge the necessary truth of God’s revelation; moreover, Scripture provides the only escape from the effects of this hostility and failure (futility and damnation). (3)
In closing, some quotes to ponder on apologetics:
“While the Church has focused on making church more enjoyable and easier for seekers to transition into…Atheists and other skeptics have become predators of our weak members. They have intentionally sought to weaken and even destroy the faith of Christians. And it is working. While pastors have been avoiding apologetics because of the excuse of not being able to argue people into the kingdom, ill-equipped Christians are being picked off. It does not matter if you enjoy apologetics. You have to decide what you are going to do. You may be able to love people into the church but you cannot love doubt away. You need to do more than fill pews, you need to disciple and equip in such a way that your people will not fall at the first skeptical blog post, documentary or book.” - Stephen J. Bedard (from, Dear Pastor…)
“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 the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). Objections raised against Jesus must be demolished. But notice something. The Bible doesn’t say we demolish people. Rather we demolish 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.” - Bret Kunkle (From the article, What Is Apologetics: Arguing Evangelism)
“Some Christians might be put off by the subject of apologetics, saying that Christianity is a matter of faith and not the intellect. Well, yes, it’s a matter of faith in the end, but we Christians are exhorted to love God with all of our minds, to acquire wisdom as described in the book of Proverbs and to always be prepared to give reasons for the faith and hope we have – provided it’s done with gentleness and respect. Contrary to the beliefs of some, faith in Christ is not blind faith and does not require us to suspend our intellectual faculties.” - David Limbaugh (from, why I wrote ‘Jesus on Trial’)
“The average Christian in the pew is not reading books by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, but their neighbors and coworkers are. I think congregations are putting pressure on churches to equip them better, educate them more and give them opportunities to grow in this area. Churches that have relied in the past on a lifestyle evangelistic approach that lacks intentionality need to be a little more intentional in reaching people and bringing answers to their questions. I’m all for lifestyle evangelism, but I’m also in favor of intentionality, where we seek out opportunities for spiritual conversations and are equipped to explain the gospel and why we believe it.” - Lee Strobel
“Instead of addressing teens’ questions, most church youth groups focus on fun and food. The goal seems to be to create emotional attachment using loud music, silly skits, slapstick games -- and pizza. But the force of sheer emotional experience will not equip teens to address the ideas they will encounter when they leave home and face the world on their own. A study in Britain found that non-religious parents have a near 100 percent chance of passing on their views to their children, whereas religious parents have only about a 50/50 chance of passing on their views. Clearly, teaching young people to engage critically with secular worldviews is no longer an option. It is a necessary survival skill.” - Nancy Pearcey
“The greatest commandment contains both: “Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37). 1 Pet. 3:15 tells us to “always be ready to give an answer but to do this with gentleness and respect.” Apologetics is not an option for Christians, and we don’t get brownie points for being stupid. We are commanded to know what we believe and why we believe it. We are commanded to “demolish arguments” and “take every thought captive to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) - Frank Turek
“In an age in which infidelity abounds, do we observe parents carefully instructing their children in the principles of faith which they profess? Or do they furnish their children with arguments for the defense of that faith? ...it is not surprising to see them abandon a position which they are unable to defend.” - William Wiblerforce
“It's no understatement that the church has done a poor job in teaching our young people that reason and faith are not opposites, and that atheists are far from being on the side of reason…Many kids, however, who grow up huddled in a Christian environment find themselves in the university setting completely unequipped to defend the rationality of the Christian faith against the secular humanist worldview so prevalent on college campuses.” - Chuck Colson
The goal of this study is to help us magnify the Lord God for his marvelous grace that made us children of God through no merit of our own. It is my prayer that this goal has been attained.
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
1. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Proverbs, Vol. 9, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), pp. 498-499.
2. Matthew Poole, Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), p. 910.
3. Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready, (Atlanta, Georgia, American Vision), pp. 77-80.
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com
For more study:
* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes: http://www.rebecca-writes.com/theological-terms-in-ao/
** CARM theological dictionary
Covenant Media Foundation https://www.cmfnow.com/
Courtesy of Rebecca writes - Learn more:
- Theopedia: Apologetics
- John Frame: Apologetics
- John Lennox: What Is Apologetics? (video)
- Update: Jamin Hubner: Definitions of Apologetics
- Bob Passintino: The Golden Rule Apologetic
- Greg Bahnsen: Tools of Apologetics
Apologetics 315: https://apologetics315.com/