by Aaron Callahan
I remember sitting with a couple of fellow servers one night after a shift at the restaurant where I worked. As we were sitting there eating, one of my coworkers, a fairly intelligent fellow, asked me why I believed in God. Many reasons started to pour out of me and many questions continued to pour out of him. The nature of his questions ranged from believing in something you cannot see, to “did Jesus really exist?”, to “how do you know he rose from the dead?”, and more.
For two hours we discussed in-depth his skepticism and my faith. At several points along the way he admitted that he had never discussed this with someone who was able to give such solid and thought-provoking answers to his questions (not tooting my own horn—will get to why I mention that in a moment). Finally, after two hours of answering every question he had, I was able present him with the gospel and invite him to be born again.
As he sat there, after having every single one of his questions for the last two hours answered—adequately, by his own admission—his reply to the gospel was simple: “I’m glad that works for you, but it’s not for me.”
We will come back to this story in a minute, but before we do let’s talk about “Apologetics” for a moment. The word “Apologetics” comes from the Greek word “Apologia” which means “a reason or defense.” When we talk about “Apologetics” in the Christian circle, we mean an understanding of the variable and many reasons for why you believe what you believe. More so, it is understanding the times and being able to answer the numerous arguments today (science, philosophy, culture) that array themselves against the doctrines of the Christian faith.
Peter tells us in the Word, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)
But what does this mean for us? Why is it important?
To answer these two questions, let’s go back to my story. As I mentioned, I spent two hours answering my friend’s questions and oppositions against the faith: that’s Apologetics.
Then I delivered the gospel.
“…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord
as holy, always being prepared to make a
defense to anyone who asks you…”
1 Peter 3:15
It’s important to understand that Apologetics is not the gospel; rather, it is a tool to get to the gospel.
Think of Apologetics like a bulldozer that is able clear away all the clutter in front of the heart to give you a clear shot with the gospel, as was the case in my story. It took two hours to reach the point where we were able to get to my friend’s heart. In the end, the use of Apologetics sorted out all the questions to make plain his heart and what really was there: “not interested.”
At the end of the day, as C.S. Lewis points out above, Apologetics is simply being assured of what you believe and having the ability to articulate that to others. There are certainly shallow and deep ends of this pool, and it is my belief that we, as believers, ought to be as far toward the deep end as possible.
How do we do this?
For many years I had issues with my own faith. In fact, I was able to have the lengthy conversation with the gentleman I mentioned because of that—because I had studied Apologetics for myself for years prior. I did so out of a desire to satisfy my own questions. I wanted to know that what I believed was true. Yes, my heart was already there, but I wanted my head there as much as possible too.
So, studying Apologetics is quite simple: we start asking tough questions, questions that those outside the faith are asking, and we go about seeking the answers.
“Apologetics is not the gospel; rather, it is a tool to get to the gospel.”
Where do we find the answers?
We find the answers in God’s Word, seasoned men of faith, numerous books, and much help from the Holy Spirit. This is where faith comes into play: I have faith in the Son of God, even if I don’t have all the answers; however, there are plenty of answers and God is faithful to help us see them as we grow in faith.
There are so many great books out there on Apologetics. For starters, check out Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis or The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. These are just two examples that will get you on your way.
As The Fellowship at Bend team continues developing this blog, we will also be making an effort to briefly examine common Apologetics questions, in each case providing you with good places to start for further education.
The bottom line is that if you keep asking the tough questions, you will find a very real and true God who is able to answer them, your faith will grow, and you will end up with a great tool for leading others to the Lord.
To make an apt answer is a joy to a man,
and a word in season, how good it is! Proverbs 15:23