What is Apologetics?

People often ask me, “Wait, what exactly is apologetics?”  when I tell them I sometimes write about it.  This would be a great time to clear up a little confusion, and everyone else can share this if they aren’t quite sure of how to explain apologetics.

To understand apologetics, it’s necessary to understand its roots.  The word derives from the Greek “apologia” which literally means to defend a position through systematic use of information.  In the case of Socrates, delivering an apologia meant making a formal rebuttal to another’s criticisms.  The modern word “apology” comes from apologia, because it can literally mean speaking in defense of a relationship.

Apologetics is the use of apologia in a religious context.  Plainly, it is the use of reason and logic to create a systematic defense of faith, and appropriate rebuttal against accusations.  Christian apologetics is a huge branch of theology, spanning all the way back to Paul of Tarsus (who used apologetics in most of his epistles).  But apologists (those who practice apologetics) can be found in any worldview; the atheistic equivalent is often called a militant atheist.

What is really worth noting is that apologetics is not interested in using scare tactics or emotions; rather, it uses sound philosophical and existential principles to arrive at logical conclusions.  Of course, not every person agrees with the conclusions, hence why we as a society promote debates.  Apologetics itself branches into many specialties including: history, philosophy, biology, literary, etc.  In fact, for nearly every academic discipline, there is an apologetics component.  Apologists have based their defense of Christianity on historical evidence, philosophical arguments, scientific investigation, and arguments from other faiths.  I would encourage looking through Dr. William Lane Craig’s work which focuses on philosophical arguments.

It is all too common for Christians to be unequipped for dealing with tough questions. Apologetics is another field of study to not only answer questions that may be raised, but to give a believer a deeper appreciation and understanding of their faith.  Jesus said we are to  “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Luke 10:27).  Mind is included in there.  Many people (I’ve been guilty of this as well) just try to leave deep thinking out of their faith, because it makes it seem “too real.”  And that’s the point.  With apologetics, the faith really does become real.

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