Apologetics is derived from the Greek word απολογία (apología) meaning "defense" or "answer." Apologists take on the particular task of defending a particular idea or belief system and answering its critics. The origin of the concept of apologetics lies in the beginnings of Christianity. Between the second and fourth centuries, a number of Christian teachers wrote defenses of Christianity against pagan critics. Since the development of the theory of evolution in the 19th century, creation science has become an extremely important Biblical apologetic.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 1Peter 3:15-16
"I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints". Jude 1:3b
For those who hold to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, Biblical apologetics is an important branch of theology involved with the defense of the history and teachings given within. Loss of faith is often associated with challenges to the historical content of the Bible by atheistic scientists and philosophers, and one goal of apologetics is to provide answers to these questions.
I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? John 3:12
- Main Article: Creation Apologetics
Creation apologetics are the defenses used to substantiate the belief that the universe and/or life on Earth were creation by a supernatural deity. While logic alone has historically been deemed sufficient by many, creation science has risen in modern times to be the principal source of information used by those engaged in defending creationism. The overwhelming reliance upon science to support beliefs in an otherwise theological field of investigation is due to the fact that attacks upon the truth of the creation stem almost exclusively from the scientific community, which is now overwhelmingly dominated by an atheistic majority.
There are a spectrum of creationist views with two main schools of thought known as religious creationism and intelligent design. While both rely heavily upon creation science to substantiate their views, they are distinguished by the simple fact that the former uses historical religious texts (i.e. Bible, Qur'an) when forming theories regarding the act of creation or the age of the Earth.
- Main Article: Biblical Apologetics
Biblical apologists primarily concern themselves with the following areas: authorship and date of biblical books, Biblical canon, historicity of the Bible, defense of Bible prophecy, and Biblical inerrancy.
Though the Bible places great stress upon faith and belief, and though it condemns deliberate skepticism and unbelief, The Bible does not speak against reason and investigation. The Bible encourages sincere use of reason and investigation as an aid to honest inquiry. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament furnish ample evidence of inquiry through reason and investigation. God Himself used reason and inquiry in numerous places to lead people into faith.
When God commanded Moses to go to Pharaoh, God gave two signs to Moses to verify that it was God who sent him. Whether Pharaoh believed or not is a different subject. God provided demonstrations that He was the true God. Gideon requested signs and God also granted both of Daniel’s requests. Hezekiah was given a choice of signs to confirm that the Lord had spoken. The experimental approach, where a decision is made on the basis of investigation, was exemplified when Daniel and his friends suggested to the steward in charge that the steward should "prove" (investigate and conclude) them for ten days.
Jesus and his biographers repeatedly stressed that the primary purpose of the miracles performed by Jesus were to demonstrate who He was, not merely to bring health to the world. Paul and others also stressed that the purpose of miracles in the New Testament were to attest that God was behind the miracles. Though Jesus chided "doubting Thomas" for his skepticism, He did not refuse to give proof. Rather, He invited Thomas and even other disciples to examine Him physically and conclude that He had risen.
The Bible has given ample evidence of the necessity and the importance of apologetics for Christians as well as non-Christians. Though the Bible condemns unbelief, the Bible encourages sincere inquiry in which apologetics plays an important role.
- Main Article: Christian Apologetics
Christian apologetics answers the question "is Christianity believable". In the past four centuries, many religious and spiritual beliefs have come under intense attack by radical philosophers and critics. The Christian faith has received a major portion of the attacks due to a number of historical reasons covered later. Criticisms against the Christian faith have received so much media coverage that even well-informed non-Christians are aware of major charges against the Christian faith. Interestingly, books published against the Christian faith and sold from secular shops have become bestsellers even in countries where the buyers are not Christians. Such is the result of all this adverse publicity.
Today a widespread atmosphere of criticism of Biblical teaching pervades college campuses. The Christian student faces criticism from other students in various forms. Commonly, even the Christian college student is challenged by questions against the Christian faith. Questions may occur with such high frequency that the Christian student is at a loss to answer. Often the Christian student has not previously encountered these questions and does not know what to think or how to answer. The Christian student may fall into the trap of thinking that if he does not know the answer, then correct or satisfactory answers do not exist.
No person can ever hope to answer all questions, but every Christian should definitely know something about what godly men are doing in the field of Christian apologetics. Today, Christian society has numerous highly qualified and dedicated men of all disciplines of study who are searching the Scriptures to answer every question that has been hurled against the Bible. Naturally individuals become fearful of anti-Christian attacks, but can have confidence that the pursuit of Christian apologetics has answered and will continue to seek out answers to questions. In fact, today scholars around the world are publishing conclusions in defense of the Christian faith through hundreds of professional journals and popular magazines. The information is accessible to anyone.
Apologetics and Polemics
An important companion of apologetics is polemics. While apologetics is a defense of the faith in response to attacks originating from outside, polemics deals with attacks originating from within. Many readers may be surprised that attacks arise from "within" the Church. However, people have always existed within the Jewish and the Christian faith who have attacked the Old and the New Testaments.
Christian polemic attacks arise in two forms. First, in the form of distorted Bible interpretation, and second, through false cults claiming that they are Christian. Polemic attacks on the Bible perverted doctrines. Examples from the era of the early church include the Ebionites, Pelagians, Montanists, Nestorians, Arians, and many others. Examples from the dawn of the twenty-first century include radicals, ecumenists, and Christian New Agers. Also included are attacks on the person of Christ (Smithism/Poonenism) and Hinduized Christian doctrines (Prajapati Proponents, Christian Vedantists), etc.
Some of the major groups claiming to be Christian but denying trinitarian doctrine are the Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons. The number of small new religious groups is growing constantly, and the leaven of the erroneous teachings of many of them is also spreading.
Though apologetics and polemics are two different activities, their essence is the same: to refute error and to establish truth. Until a few decades ago Christian apologetics and polemics could be separated. Perhaps in the past, study of either apologetics or polemics was adequate. But no more! Attacks against the Christian faith now borrow insights from both apologetics and polemics, making necessary the knowledge of both.
- A Christian Thinktank by Glenn Miller
- Classic Works of Apologetics Tekton Apologetic Ministries
- Evidence for the Resurrection by Josh McDowell
- Jesus' Resurrection and Contemporary Criticism: An Apologetic (Part I) by Gary Habermas
- Jesus' Resurrection and Contemporary Criticism: An Apologetic (Part II) by Gary Habermas
- Christian Apologetics Lion of Judah: Christian Apologetics
- On the Reliability of the Old Testament by Kenneth Kitchen, Grand Rapids and Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003. ISBN 0802849601
- The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ by Gary Habermas, College Press: Joplin, MI, 1996
- The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas, Gary Licona, Kregel, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1994. ISBN 0825427886
- The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus by Lee Strobel, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1998. ISBN 0310209307
- New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell, Thomas Nelson, Inc, Publishers, 1999. ISBN 0785242198
- Darwin on Trial by Phillip Johnson, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, 1991.
- Evolution: The Fossils Still Say No! by Duane Gish, El Cajon: ICR, 1995.