“Apolo-what?” Misunderstandings about Apologetics

I love meeting new people, hearing where they come from and what they do. I get excited to learn about their passions, and in turn share with them about who I am and what gets me excited in life. I’ve started to notice a trend though. Usually when I share my passion for Christian apologetics I get a blank or quizzical stare. What exactly is Christian apologetics? Why is it important and why should anyone care? As I’ve interacted with these questions, and the people who are asking them, I’ve experienced that many people have assumptions about apologetics that need clarification.

Four Misunderstandings about Apologetics

  1. Apologetics is saying “sorry” for being a Christian. It cannot be denied that great evil has occurred in the name of Christianity that Christians need to apologize for. Yet apologetics is not saying “I’m sorry” for believing in Jesus Christ or the Bible’s reliability.
  2. Apologetics is only about debating. Once when I explained to an individual my passion for apologetics I was immediately asked, “So you like to debate people?” He assumed that apologetics consisted of debating scientists or people of other faiths to prove that Christianity is right and they are wrong. While debates have their right and healthy place in apologetics, to equate the two unequivocally is to miss the apologetic mark.
  3. Apologetics is a waste of time. I have come across this opinion from both followers and non-followers of Jesus. The thought is that there are more important things to do with our time than to discuss if certain parts of the Bible are reliable, to discern if the major world religions are compatible or contradictory, or to contemplate the relationship between faith and reason. Yet the questions apologetics deal with regard life’s greatest issues of meaning, purpose, and future happiness or despair. These issues are hardly a waste of time and deserve serious thought.
  4. Apologetics is for “smart” people. This is perhaps the biggest misunderstanding I’ve come across. Many assume that apologetics is not for everyday life among ordinary people. It’s reserved for the universities, pastors, theologians, and philosophers whose job is to have deep conversations, write books, and act smart. This assumption forgets that your neighbor could be questioning the goodness of God, your child wondering where evil came from, and you’re questioning your value and purpose in the world. Far from being reserved for academic élite, apologetics is for everyone in every walk of life.

What is Apologetics?

Technically speaking, apologetics is giving a reasoned defense for a belief or an idea. When you tell your friend to avoid a certain restaurant, explaining that if they eat there they’ll get food poisoning, you’re giving a reasoned defense for your claim. Similarly, when a child attempts to reason with her parents why she wants to date a certain boy, she’s giving an apologetic for her belief. Christian apologetics is giving a defense based upon reason for the truthfulness and reliability of the Christian faith. Yet it is much more than this. Alister McGrath notes that Christian apologetics does not simply rely upon defending the Christian message from attack.  It communicates the beauty and relevance of Christianity to a world hungry for meaning and healing. And it translates the message of Christianity in language that makes sense to those who are listening. [1]

The Purpose of Apologetics

The purpose of Christian apologetics is not to win arguments or to disregard the beliefs of others. Rather, its purpose and goal is to introduce people to the beauty of Jesus Christ, the liberating life He offers through his death and resurrection, and the joy of a relationship with Him. Christian apologetics acknowledges that life is full of hard questions and difficult days. Yet in the midst of this there is a reason for assured hope. The reason is Jesus.

Learning More

If you wish to learn more about  the Christian message, it’s reliability, and the hope it offers, a wealth of excellent resources are available. The list is large, but here are a few personal recommendations to get you started.

  • Books
    • Mere Apologetics by Alister McGrath. This is one of the best books out there for an easy, biblical understanding of apologetics’ application, purpose, and how it answers life’s key questions.
    • Jesus Among Other Gods by Ravi Zacharias. This is an excellent book that demonstrates the uniqueness of the Christian message and claims of Jesus in a world that embraces pluralism.
    • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. No apologetic resource list is complete without Lewis. Read this book and you’ll understand why.
    • The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. This book looks at hard questions surrounding the New Testament accounts of the life of Jesus and demonstrates the historical reliability of the his life and claims.
    • Is Believing in God Irrational? By Amy Orr-Ewing. This book addresses key questions and objections about God, showing the trustworthiness of God and his claims. It’s a must read!
  • Websites
    • www.rzim.org and www.rzim.eu Both these Ravi Zacharias International Ministry sites contain excellent articles and resources surrounding the major apologetic questions and challenges of the day.
    • www.apologetics315.com An excellent site about all things apologetic. Whether you’re new to apologetics or a veteran, you’ll find helpful information here and will never get bored.
    • www.thepoachedegg.net A great resource “where Christian apologetics, history, philosophy, science, theology, and pop culture collide.”

[1] Alister McGrath, Mere Apologetics, chapter 1

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5 thoughts on ““Apolo-what?” Misunderstandings about Apologetics

    • Thanks Greg! I’m very grateful for The Poached Egg as a resource and ministry. I can’t imagine the amount of work it takes. So thanks for all you do!

  1. Just stumbled upon your site now Sarah. I really appreciate your thoughtful approach to your faith and well written posts. I wonder also if you have had a look at William Lane Craig’s ‘Reasonable Faith’ website. There are some great resources there also that you may be interested in. God Bless, keep up the good work:)

    • Thanks for the encouragement! Yes, I’m familiar with Craig’s site. It’s an excellent resource and definitely one that could have or should have been added. The number of quality apologetic websites is growing!

  2. Pingback: “Apolo-what?” Misunderstandings about Apologetics | Patricia's Blog

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