In Part 1 of this series I answered the question “What is Apologetics?” Now, you are probably thinking to yourself, “So what? Who cares?” I’m so glad you asked! I will give you five reasons you need to care about apologetics if you are serious about your faith.
1. You can argue someone into the kingdom.
Whenever the topic of apologetics comes up there is always someone who throws out the old line “You can’t argue anybody into the Kingdom.” In a certain sense, this is true. It is the Holy Spirit that brings people into the Kingdom, not arguments. But in this same sense, there is nothing we can do to bring people into the Kingdom. We can’t love people into the Kingdom, we can’t serve people into the Kingdom, we can’t preach people into the Kingdom. Yet, the Spirit can use all these things – arguments included – to draw people to Christ.
When I use the word “argument” here I am not talking about fighting, or being argumentative. Arguments here refer to logical or evidential reasoning; an argument for the existence of God or the resurrection of Christ, as examples.
There are plenty of stories of people coming to Christ after hearing apologetic arguments. In Acts 17, it is said that Paul regularly used reasoning and proofs in the synagogue and people were persuaded. There are several examples of well-known Christians today whose consideration of apologetic arguments factored heavily into their conversion to Christianity, including Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, and even C.S. Lewis.
If you don’t believe that God can use arguments, evidence, and reason to bring people into the Kingdom, then perhaps your God is too small.
2. An intellectual approach to Christianity is not a hindrance to true faith.
Churches have a tendency to be anti-intellectual a lot of the time. The reasons given most often for this is that (1) intellectualism leads to pride and that (2) intellectuals will likely end up with mere head knowledge rather than heart faith.
Regarding (1), it certainly is possible to become prideful over one’s intellectual pursuits. However, I would contend that, within the Church, spiritual pride happens at least just as often as intellectual pride. Humans are inherently prideful, and it will always be a danger whenever we are particularly gifted in some way. There is no reason to single out intellectualism as a chief offender in the vice of pridefulness.
The objection to intellectualism from point (2) stems from confusing our need for a childlike faith (an attitude of trust) with childish thinking. The Bible points to no conflict between knowledge and faith. Instead, Paul encourages the early Christians in Ephesus to “no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine…”. He is concerned that Christians be clear-thinkers, test the ideas that surround them, and guard their faith from “deceitful schemes”.
Indeed, intellectualism can be a great bolster to our faith. There will be times in our lives when we find ourselves in turbulent emotional waters, and our faith may be thrown to and fro by the waves. Our knowledge and intellectual understanding can be a strong anchor in those times as a guard against doubt and uncertainty.
3. The culture needs to take Christianity seriously.
One of the consequences of the Church’s anti-intellectualism has been the gradual decline of Christian influence among the intellectual elite. Christian ideals are being regulated to the sideline in some of the most import battles in the war of ideas that are being fought in our culture today. The ripple effects are being felt throughout the culture in nearly every social sector.
Christians have a reputation of being less intelligent, unreasonable, and more cognitively dense than their nonreligious counterparts. All the while the Church remains reluctant to train its members to speak the intellectual language of our culture and equip them to defend the Christian ideals that are being left in the dust in the public square.
If we are to be the salt and light of the world, then our world needs to take us seriously! We’ve seen that arguments and evidence can be effective for bringing individuals to Christ, but they are essential for saving our collective culture.
Paul says in Corinthians 10, that we should “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God”. In order to regain a seat at the table, we will need to be trained in reason, logic, and argumentation, to show that we can hold our own while we battle in the war of ideas.
4. God is glorified when we think and reason well about him.
Worship is often seen as a mostly emotional endeavor. We sing, we open ourselves to feel God’s presence and offer our hearts to Him. This is the beginning and end of what a lot of Christians think about worship. However, Jesus says we are not only supposed to love God with our hearts but with our minds, as well.
Worship is about making much of God, and there is no better way to make much of God with our minds than devoting ourselves to studying, reasoning, and thinking about Him. You are saying that He is worthy of being known to the fullest extent. When we think about arguments for God as creator, we are not solely trying to convince others or bolster our own faith, we are also worshiping (attributing worth to) that aspect of God’s character.
Personally, I often find myself feeling a deeper connection to God during my apologetic study than I feel during Sunday morning praise and worship. It is just an aspect of my personality that the studying drives home for me the praiseworthy aspects of God way better than lights, fog machines, and impassioned song lyrics. I don’t believe my awe of God would be nearly as full as it is without the time I devote to apologetics.
5. The Scriptures command all believers to be able to give a reason for their hope.
If all the other reasons I have given to you haven’t convinced you, then this one should certainly seal the deal. 1 Peter 3:15 “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”
This is the gold standard of apologetic verses. It is clear as day. It is the only reason for apologetics that anyone really needs. There is no good excuse to not do apologetics. If you are not prepared to be able to defend your faith in truth and love, then you are, frankly, in disobedience to the Word of God.
These are just five of the biggest reasons that every Christian should care about apologetics. Christians should be seeking out ways to study and learn apologetics and churches should be intentional about promoting and providing avenues for their members to do so. But knowing what apologetics is and why we should do it isn’t enough. We also need to to know how we should go about apologetics. That is what the third and final part of this series will address.