Every Christian an Apologist

Last week, I mentioned the U.S. Marine Corps’ legacy of “Every Marine a rifleman.”

In my research on the phrase, I came upon one Marine’s explanation of what that means:

It means if needed any Marine regardless of job can stand a post such as convoy escort, guard duty, etc.
It means if your position were overrun by the enemy, you could stand up and defend yourself and your position without being completely lost.[1]

Here’s the thing…

As with theology, apologetics is a discipline in which every Christian should have some training. Christian apologetics is the personal discipline of giving a reasonable defense of the Christian faith. We are called on by Scripture–and by necessity at times–to defend our post, and to always be ready to do so.

Every Christian to one degree or another ought to be an apologist.

Why?

Why should every Christian study apologetics? Why should we all be apologists?

1. To Obey Scripture

The work of apologetics–in fact, the term itself–is derived straight from the New Testament.

The most famous directive is found in 1 Peter 3:15:

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

The phrase “to give an answer” is translated from the Greek word apologia. Notice that the command is not simply to do apologetics, per se. The command is to be ready to do apologetics whenever necessary. Apologetics is not a discipline reserved for an elite class of Christian scholars. It is an obligation of every believer to be ready with an answer to everyone who asks.

Not only is apologetics essential on a personal level, it is also charged by Scripture on a corporate level. Apologetics is needed to protect the church from unbiblical teaching. Jude explains because false teachers were creeping into the church, “it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3)

The Apostle Paul describes his ministry as being “set for the defense of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:7 & 16) We see a clear demonstration of what that looks like in his speech to the Greeks on Mars Hill (Acts 17). Additionally, Paul calls on his pastoral proteges in their preaching “to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” (Titus 1:9; see also 2 Timothy 2:24-25, 4:1-4)

In my opinion, the greatest call to apologetics in the New Testament is given in 2 Corinthians 10:1-6 when Paul describes exactly what we are up against. He tells us that our war is not a physical war and our weapons are not physical weapons, because our enemy is not a physical enemy. Our war is fought in the hearts and minds of people because our war is for the hearts and minds of people. Our war consists of “pulling down of strongholds” and “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” Further, this work is “mighty through God”!

Apologetics is only as good as it is Biblical.

2. To Encourage Believers

Many believers have the misconception that apologetics is a vague academic debate that turns a dynamic Christian faith into a cold intellectual pursuit. But, what is the alternative? Should Christian faith be just an emotional feeling?

Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.” (Luke 10:27) If we learn anything from Jesus’ words, it must be that our love for God must involve our emotion and our intellect. Feeling and thinking are not mutually exclusive; they are directly connected! One fuels the other. We do not fully love God until we love him with our hearts and our minds.

Can apologetics deteriorate into esoteric bickering? Of course. However, emotions can only carry a Christian so far. Furthermore, the solution to overthinking is not underthinking. The value of apologetics far outweighs the risks of misuse.

This is particularly true for Christian young people. Of course, they need to be taught spiritual disciplines like reading their Bible and praying daily, going to church, and serving others. However, it can be a devastating thing for a Christian young person to be thrown into the battlefield of ideas unprepared. Like a soldier who is thrown into combat with little more than a rucksack full of MREs and a first aid kit, they will survive only so long as no one challenges them in that survival. But, there are challenges—countless challenges.

Apologetics presents the offensive and defensive training Christians need. The Bible defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Apologetics demonstrates how substantial our hope is and displays the evidence for that which remains hidden to our physical sight. Apologetics strengthens our faith.

Apologetics is only as good as it is personal.

3. To Convince Unbelievers

Gresham Machen once wrote that “it would be a great mistake to suppose that all men are equally well prepared to receive the gospel.”[2] While he affirmed in no uncertain terms “that the decisive thing is the regenerative power of God,” he stressed an important point: “False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel.” In the spirit of Paul (1 Corinthians 10:1-11), he confirmed, “Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is to destroy the obstacle at its root.”

Not only is apologetics valuable in removing obstacles to belief, it also provides reasons to believe. Timothy Massaro clarifies, “Apologetics explains Christianity to a modern audience.” Citing Acts 17, he continues, “The Holy Spirit uses historical arguments and evidences for Christianity in real discussions to bring people to faith in Christ.”[3]

It is true that apologetics has never converted anyone. However, it has convinced many. When apologetics is done right, Biblically that is, there is as much potential for the Holy Spirit to work through the argument of an apologist as there is through the sermon of a preacher. In fact, in this postmodern world, it is becoming increasingly necessary for preachers to ingrate apologetics into their sermons, lest they fall on skeptical ears.

Many Christian do not share their faith for fear of being asked difficult questions about it. Unfortunately, the go-to tactic for many believers is simply to give their personal experience of how much Christ means to them and how much Christianity works for them. But, what happens when what the unbeliever clings to is every bit as meaningful and seems to be working just fine?

Apologetics demonstrates to unbelievers that we are Christians, not simply because it works, but because it is true. Apologetics calls the unbeliever to come to Christ, not because Christianity is a better way, but because it is the only way.

Apologetics is only as good as it is evangelistic.

How?

So, how do we go about doing apologetics? While that is a conversation that could (and has) fill volumes, here are a few suggestions.

Study Up

Let’s cut right to the chase. This work of apologetics is just that, work. However, make no mistake, it is work of eternal value. So, let’s get to work. God has gifted the church with scores of brilliant thinkers and skilled writers to equip us with an abundance of resources. Every Christian needs an apologetics book or two on their bookshelf–or Kindle. Perhaps not as light reading before bed, but at least as a resource. You don’t need a formal degree to be an effective witness, but you will need to study. Apologetics is not about expertise; it is about evangelism. We do not study to win arguments; we study to win people. And, that is a far greater motivation than any degree.

(Check out the Recommended Resources page for my suggestions.)

Dig In

Whether you know it or not, God has given you talents and interests that can be of particular use in apologetics. Are you a science geek? You should explore the fine-tuning argument for the existence of God. Are you a history nerd? You should investigate the minimal facts case for the resurrection of Christ. For the artists among us, there is cultural apologetics. For the philosophers among us, there is philosophical apologetics. For everyone else, there is conversational apologetics. The bottom line: find what God has tooled you for and dig in.

Reach Out

Meet people where they are, not where you think they should be. Answer the questions they have, not the ones you think they should be asking. Don’t talk past people, assuming they know what you are talking about. Consider their culture, their worldview, their perspective. William Lane Craig explains why these considerations are so important, “Simply because the Gospel is never heard in isolation. It is always heard against the background of the cultural milieu in which one lives.”[4] We can’t take Christ to people if we have no idea where they are.


Apologetics is not about defending God or the Bible as though they needed defending. It is giving people reasons to believe God in what he reveals in the Bible.

It is not about knowing all the answers, so faith is no longer needed. It is removing obstacles in people’s minds so that the truth of the Gospel can reach their heart.

It is not about arguing people into the faith. It is about being faithful in our calling to preach the gospel to every creature.

[1] https://futurejarheads.org/everymarinearifleman.htm

[2] J. Gresham Machen, “Christianity and Culture,” Princeton Theological Review 11 (1913): p. 7.

[3] Timothy W. Massaro, “3 Reasons You Need Apologetics in a Secular Age” (https://corechristianity.com/resource-library/articles/3-reasons-why-you-need-apologetics)

[4] William Lane Craig, “Christian Apologetics: Who Needs It?” (https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/popular-writings/apologetics/christian-apologetics-who-needs-it/)


Thanks for reading!

What advice would you give to someone interested in studying apologetics?
What resources would you recommend? 

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