What is Apologetics? Why Should Christians Apologize?? #139 HOW Do You Defend the Faith?
Hello friends and happy Saturday to you! I am back home in Salinas, California, and back in the podcasting saddle after taking off three nights in a row for the first time this year. (The last few episodes were pre-recorded.) I had a wonderful adventure heading to Colorado and back with my eldest daughter Chloe and am happy to be back home with Phoebe, Kassidy, John Caedmon and….Abbey…whom I am funning with, because she is the child who listens to this podcast the most, and believes I don’t shout her out enough. She is an amazing and talented daughter and will probably be famous one day. I could do a whole podcast on my cross country trip – 2200 miles of driving in just four days, the beautiful mountains of Colorado, the deserts of Utah, and the massive blowout that almost killed us as we drove through the Mojave desert were the highlights, but you didn’t sign up for a travel podcast, so let’s get into the Bible stuff! One more thing, before we do, though. I need to shoutout the guy in Rochester New York who downloaded 145 episodes of the podcast in a single day yesterday. Brother (or sister), that’s incredible! Was it an accident? I have so many questions. Do you really plan on listening to all of them? That would literally be about 65-70 hours of content! That’s a lot. Also: shoutout to our Danish friend in Hovedstaden (probably Copenhagen), who is one of the most consistent downloaders out there, and our brother in Harare, Zimbabwe, who has downloaded over a hundred episodes – no small feat in some parts of Harare! Anway, we’ve got some great listeners – In Frankfurt, Ghana, Gabon, Victoria, NSW, Northern Ireland, Alberta, Ontario, Varmland, Sweden, Auckland, New Zealand, and all across the U.K. and U.S. I’d love to hear from all of you sometime – comment on the Biblereading podcast site, or send me a message, or tweet or whatever.
Today’s Bible readings include a very challenging Numbers 25, Psalms 68, Isaiah 15 and 1 Peter 3, our focus passage. Today’s question is all about apologetics, or defending the faith, and here is our key passage in 1 Peter 3:
8 Finally, all of you be like-minded and sympathetic, love one another, and be compassionate and humble, 9 not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you may inherit a blessing.
10 For the one who wants to love life
and to see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit,
11 and let him turn away from evil
and do what is good.
Let him seek peace and pursue it,
12 because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against
those who do what is evil.
13 Who then will harm you if you are devoted to what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear them or be intimidated, 15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16 Yet do this with gentleness and reverence, keeping a clear conscience, so that when you are accused, those who disparage your good conduct in Christ will be put to shame.
1 Peter 3:8-16
We get the word ‘apologetics’ from the Greek word translated as ‘defense,’ in 1 Peter 3:15, “ἀπολογία apología.” The word is often translated as either ‘answer,’ or ‘defense,’ or something similar in most modern translations, and that is because both senses are intended in this word – an apologia is an answer or defense of one’s self or an answer or defense of one’s opinion, argument or belief. An apologia is therefore something of a reasoned explanation – here is why I did what I did (if you are giving an apologia in court) or here is why I believe what I believe, if you are giving an apologia in a debate, or in answer to a question. In other words, the Word of God is telling Christians to have an answer/defense/reason/explanation for WHY we believe in the Bible and in Jesus. Why we are Christians. This is a command, in the Bible, written directly to Jesus-followers, telling you and I to always be READY to give an answer as to why we have hope. To be clear, an apologia is not an apology – I know that is somewhat confusing, but apologetics is not about being sorry for being a Christian, but rather giving an answer/defense/explanation as to WHY we are Christians. If you are curious as to how apology went from meaning defense/answer to something you say when you are sorry you did wrong, then Etymology Online has a great answer:
early 15c., “defense, justification,” from Late Latin apologia, from Greek apologia “a speech in defense,” from apologeisthai “to speak in one’s defense,” from apologos “an account, story,” from apo “away from, off” (see apo-) + logos “speech” (see Logos).
In classical Greek, “a well-reasoned reply; a ‘thought-out response’ to the accusations made,” as that of Socrates. The original English sense of “self-justification” yielded a meaning “frank expression of regret for wrong done,” first recorded 1590s, but this was not the main sense until 18c. Johnson’s dictionary defines it as “Defence; excuse,” and adds, “Apology generally signifies rather excuse than vindication, and tends rather to extenuate the fault, than prove innocence,” which might indicate the path of the sense shift. The old sense has tended to shift to the Latin form apologia (1784), known from early Christian writings in defense of the faith.
The bottom line is that apology used to mean defense/answer, and beginning in the 1400s, the meaning shifted to where it currently is now. Words do that. Christians aren’t being commanded to be sorry they are Christians, or to explain the sorry behavior of some who erroneously refer to themselves as Christians. Rather, Peter is saying that Christians must be ready to give a bang-up answer to the question of why we have hope in Jesus. This presupposes, I think, that Christians should somehow radiate the fact that we do indeed have hope. I think that means we should be obviously hopeful people – even in times of pandemic and trouble. You don’t have to be a sunshine-pumping Pollyanna as a Christian, but I think being a dour pessimist is incompatible with Christian hope, honestly. Imagine this conversation:
Sally: “Hi Bill, why are you so negative and complaining all the time?”
Bill: “Well, Sally – it’s because I’m a Christian, and I follow Jesus!
Sally, “I’m confused, shouldn’t that give you hope??”
Bill, “You make an excellent point, Sally – I apologize!”
(Note the modern usage of apology in this amazing dialog that I wrote on the spot in less the 70 seconds)
So – you are exuding hope – even in times of pandemic and quarantine and fear – because you are a Christian, and you know the Gospel and you know that Jesus is coming again. And you are asked about why you are so hopeful – what do you do? How do you give an answer? Must you know every doctrine and verse? Not necessarily – this isn’t a call to know every bit of Bible trivia and all deep theological issues that there are. You aren’t being commanded to offer a cogent response to a question about infralapsarianism vs. supralapsarianism. If 1 Peter 3:15 isn’t a command to know everything about the Bible, then what is it? How do we give a good answer to people who ask us about our hope? I want to answer our main question two different ways, practically, and spiritually.
Practically speaking, I don’t believe that every Christian must be a theologian and have a deep grasp of all of the big and small theological issues brought up by the Bible. If you aren’t really sure about what was decided at the Synod of Dort, or what the Fourth Lateran Council had to say about heresy, then you can still fulfill 1 Peter 3:15. (Though I don’t want to excuse Bible laziness – know the Word!) I think a Christian – anybody that has been in the faith for more than a year or so – should be a virtual expert on two different things: #1 The resurrection of Jesus and #2 The reliability of the Bible. You should be able to explain why you believe Jesus rose from the dead, and you should go further than “I believe it in my heart,” or “my momma told me so.” You should be able to explain why you believe the Bible is God’s Word, why you believe it is reliable, and you should be able to answer some basic questions from skeptics. In a world of social media, hobbies, binge-watching, reality tv and other frivolous things, you, dear Christian, have time you can carve out of your schedule to learn about the reliability of God’s Word and the resurrection. You don’t have to know everything, but know those two things! As I think about it, you should also know the good news/gospel of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, and you should be able to tell somebody the good news in a minute or two.
Here’s some great books to get you started:
The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel
Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
The Reason for God, Tim Keller
Cold Case Christianity, J. Warner Wallace
Reasonable Faith, William Lane Craig (fairly advanced)
Momma Bear Apologetics, Hillary Morgan
The Case for the Resurrection, Gary Habermas
I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, Norman Geisler
Get one of those books and read it!
Second question: HOW do we defend the faith/answer questions? We’ve got to look smart minded, right? We need to be tough and aggressive, or those evil and rude atheists will steamroll us, right?! Actually, this isn’t about being the fiercest debater, or the toughest guy – you don’t have to WIN the argument with your superior intellect and incisive reasoning. This isn’t you vs. Captain Atheist in a no-holds battle of worldviews. It’s not about you being able to defeat your opponent with your knowledge. Yes, know a lot. Yes, give a good answer. Yes, engage well and with passion…BUT – this isn’t a fight. According to Peter – previously known as HOTHEAD Peter…our answers must be given with gentleness and respect/reverence. In other words, you CAN’T be a jerk, no matter how badly you are treated. Consider just a few verses earlier, Peter said, “9 not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you may inherit a blessing.”
So, in sum we answer questions about the hope that we should radiate by focusing on the Gospel and the resurrection and the reliability of God’s Word, and we give our answers/defenses/reasons to believe/explanations with respect and gentleness so that nobody can point to our behavior or bad attitude as a reason not to believe.