“Come on, you really believe that stuff? Some old man in the sky smiting people and demanding worship all the time?”
“Everyone knows that Jesus didn’t really exist. He is just a copy from a bunch of Greek myths.”
“The Bible was written by men a long time ago, and has been changed and rewritten hundreds of times. We don’t even know what the originals said anymore.”
“How could a good God exist when there is so much pain and suffering in the world?”
You may have heard these sorts of objections to Christianity come up from time to time. Maybe one of your coworkers made a comment when you invited them to church. Perhaps an old college friend posted a diatribe against organized religion on his or her Facebook feed. Chances are if you’ve been a Christian long enough, you’ve had someone in your life question your beliefs. What have you said in return? How have you reacted? Did it cause you to doubt? Did you know where to go for answers?
The art of dealing with these situations is broadly known as apologetics. The word sounds kind of like “apology”, but don’t worry. It doesn’t mean you need to be sorry you are a Christian! The word comes from the Greek word apologia, which simply means “to make a defense”. If it makes it easier, whenever you hear the word apologetics, just substitute in the phrase “answering questions” or “making a case”. When I talk about “doing apologetics” I just mean engaging in the task of answering objections to Christianity and/or building positive arguments for it.
Since there are many different types of objections to Christianity (scientific, historical, textual, philosophical) to have a complete apologetic strategy for dealing with the majority of objections will require knowledge across several fields. You will likely find some of these fields more interesting than the others, but that is OK. Most apologists specialize in one field over the others. William Lane Craig, for example, is more of a philosopher than a scientist. However, many of his philosophical arguments contain premises (logical steps in an argument) that are scientific in nature.
So, you can see how studying apologetics is something that can be encapsulated in the study of whatever field that interests you. If you like science, then there is a way to do apologetics within your study of science. Same with history, philosophy, math, literature, social studies, etc. In this way, it is easy to get started studying apologetics, because it is broad enough that you can usually find a hook into it from other interests. You just have to look.
There is one field that is a requirement for apologetics and that field is theology. Theology is the study of God. What is God like? How does God interact with the physical world? How can we know things about God? It can also include topics like doctrine and particular elements of religion, such as sin, salvation, or spirituality. Why is theology a requirement for apologetics? If you want to defend something – it helps to know what precisely what that thing is. Theology is the “what” of apologetics. It’s the stuff that’s being put on trial, so to speak. The more we know about what we are defending the easier we will be able to diagnose problems with objections against it. Many objections can be refuted by showing how the argument misrepresents God, or Jesus, or some aspect of the faith.
So what is apologetics? It’s Christian case-making. It’s science, philosophy, history, literature, math, and social studies. It’s theology. It’s learning, studying and knowing more about our faith. It’s also a missing ingredient in a lot of churches. In the next part of this series, I will give you five reasons why apologetics should be a part of every Christian’s walk.