What Is Apologetics?

Paul Derengowski, ThM


Apologetics stems from the Greek word apologia, which means “defense” or “defend.” It is first seen in the Book of Acts where Luke records the apostle Paul stating to a crowd of hostile Jews at Jerusalem, just before he is shipped off to Rome to appeal to Caesar, “Brethren and fathers, hear my defense which I know offer to you” (Acts 22:1 cf. 2 Tim. 4:16). The word for defense is apologia.

Later, while rebutting the attempt of those same Jews to have Paul condemned to execution, the Roman official Festus cited Roman custom that it was not proper to condemn a man until that man had faced his accusers and had been provided an opportunity to defend (apologia) himself (Acts 25:16).

Several other references allude to the necessity of defense (apologia), including Paul’s defense of his apostleship (1 Cor. 9:3), Paul’s defense of the Corinthians amid their godly sorrow and repentance (2 Cor. 7:11), as well as his defense of the Philippians sharing in the gospel with him (Phil. 1:7) and those preaching the gospel out of a good will (Phil. 1:16).

The most often cited reference by Christian apologists which points out not only the command, but the necessity, for Christians to make an earnest defense of what it is that they claim is the hope that abides within them is seen in the apostle Peter’s statement, “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 Pet. 3:15).

Apologetics in a nutshell. therefore, is simply a reasonable defensive response that is given to those who either ask a question about the Christian faith, or by those who aggressively attack it. “Apologetics is an aspect of the philosophy of religion (broadly understood), which is the rational investigation of religious truth claims” (Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 26). It is activity that all Christians should be conscientiously involved in, yet very few actually are. It is my hope and goal to encourage Christians to not only be courageous in defending what they say they believe, but to do so in a way that is above the pious platitudes rooted in ignorance, superstition, and the occult that is such a large part of too many Christian settings today.

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