Stephen Baker, Manchester
What does the word ‘apologetics’ mean?
Firstly, we need to define the term apologetics. One definition says it is ‘the branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines’. Another definition states that the word apologetics is from the Greek word apologia. The legal term apologetics means ‘defence’. This is the branch of theology concerned with the intelligent presentation and defence of the historical Christian faith.
Is it a scriptural term?
The answer is yes. In 1 Peter Chapter 3 verse 15 we are told to ‘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’. The expression ‘an answer’ is the Greek word apologia from which we get our word ‘apologetics’.
How does this affect me?
As believers we should be able to defend what we believe. This will not just happen, our readiness will be a result of time we use in preparation. Being in a ready state to defend what we believe means that we will have considered the problems people have with our beliefs. The issues in 2009 will be different to what they were in 1809 or 1989. It is our responsibility to be sufficiently aware of what is going on in the world so that we can get to the next stage – explaining what we do believe. After considering the questions people pose as a barrier to what we believe we need to get down to the hard work of finding the answers. What a Christian believes will be able to withstand opposition and questioning if it is based on the word of God and therefore true! The answer we give is our defence, a declaration of the truth that clearly rebuts the antagonist. Our answers must be firmly based on scripture. They cannot be merely the outcome of clever logic or else we will stand on the same shaky foundation as every other soul. However, if what we believe can be clearly demonstrated from scripture then we will be standing firm on the word of God
Are there any hints to help?
When looking at a verse in the Bible it is very important to understand it in the setting in which it is found. Before making the statement that we should ‘be ready’ the apostle teaches us that we should be ‘followers of good’, v. 13; that is the Christian is focused on living a life that is pleasing to God and zealous for what is good. You could suffer for living like this but you will be happy (not as the world calculates it) and we are told not to fear the world’s intimidation or to be troubled.
The next point that will prepare us for our ‘apologetic’ witness is that we should ‘sanctify the Lord God in our hearts’. The idea is that in the very centre of our being and personality (our heart, spiritually speaking, is the control room of our will, our ambitions and our affections) we give the Lord full control. He is sacred, He is special and He should be set apart in our hearts.
The final point made about being ‘ready always to give an answer’ is that we must take care about our attitude. It is not enough to be clever with words, persuasive with our arguments and triumphal and superior in our conclusions. The verse says that we should ‘give an answer’ with ‘meekness and fear’ to everyone who asks. Firstly, we have a responsibility to answer anyone who asks. Secondly, it means we should be gentle in our approach to others and reverent in our attitude to God. As believers we are privileged to have had our eyes opened so we should be respectful and selfcontrolled but strong in our presentation of the truth. We do not win souls by rudeness or by appearing to be smart and clever. Souls are won through the work of the Spirit of God but we could detract from that work by a wrong attitude to the people we are witnessing to and by a lack of reverence to the Lord. May the Lord give us the courage to make the gospel clear as it is our responsibility to do, Col. 4. 4.