I went back and forth for a few days on how best to begin the first blog post I’ve ever written. Especially when it involves a topic that I am most passionate about, and wish to use to help others walk a way of life that can be very difficult at times. Ironically, that is the thrust of Apologetics, and, in having my internal argument regarding the level of captivation my introduction needed, this first post seemed to write itself.
See, Apologetics is often viewed in various ways. In its simplest form, it is viewed as argumentation. Sometimes, the word ‘apologetic’ is taken literally, and is believed to be experienced by apologizing for wrongs done in the name of religion. On a more informed level, the Greek word apologia, meaning “a defense,” is seen as a Christian mechanism to thwart various other world-religious views. Similarly, others will take it to mean a logical invitation into proof that God exists, and as such, a conversion point that moves someone from non-believing into the Christian faith. Ipso facto, all of these are merely a facet of Apologetics, each deserving its own educated, explanatory exposition. Yet still, another very important facet has yet to be mentioned; one which has become this writer’s grateful revelation.
Since Christianity’s beginning, a myriad of challenges has contended to “take down” one of the world’s largest known religions, both from within and from without. Due to these confrontations, if you will, Christian apologists arose to contend for the truth of the Christian faith. For example, the Apostle Paul can be seen regularly engaging in reasoning for, or defending, the Christian tenets, doctrines, and beliefs (Acts 17-19; 2 Cor. 10; Phil. 1; Titus 1). One of the most quoted passages for the purpose of Apologetics shows Paul explaining his apologetic strategy: “We demolish arguments and every pretensionthat sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thoughtto make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Another, read in 1 Peter 3:15, shows Peter expressing the need for apologetics, where it reads: “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.” Finally, even Jude, the brother of Jesus writes: “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faiththat was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). All of these instances are calling for a ready defense of the faith within, a defense of the hope that separates Christianity from all other world religions: hope in Jesus Christ.
So, what makes Apologetics so important? Why would its preparation be spoken of multiple times in the New Testament expressly, and its practice performed by Jesus himself (Matt. 4:1-11)? Because again, there is another facet that has yet to be mentioned, and in this writer’s purest, most humble opinion, it is the most important. To provide you a brief, miniscule road map to our ultimate destination, consider the words of Fr. Avery Dulles:
The goals and methods of apologetics have frequently shifted. The earliest apologists were primarily concerned with obtaining civil toleration for the Christian community – to prove that Christians were not malefactors deserving the death penalty. Gradually through the early centuries the apologies for Christianity became less defensive. Assuming the counteroffensive, they aimed to win converts from other groups. Some were addressed to pagans, others to Jews. Subsequently apologetics turned its attention to Moslems, then to atheists, agnostics, and religious indifferentists. Finally, apologists came to recognize that every Christian harbors within themselves a secret infidel. At this point apologetics became, to some extent, a dialogue between the believer and the unbeliever in the heart of the Christians themselves. In speaking to their unregenerate self, the apologist assumed – quite correctly – that they would best be able to reach others similarly situated.
The unmentioned facet can now be defined: each of us, as Christians, need reasons, or answers, that are purposed for strengthening his or her own faith. As life becomes difficult, and as we are put in varying situations involving a multitude of different types of people, ideas, and actions, or as we experience joy, a faith that is not “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14) will forever be a bastion of light, a shining fortress that is immoveable and unshakeable because it is grounded in the firm foundation of the hope in Jesus Christ.
Thus, this section of the blog, with its Apologetic focus, will absolutely tackle difficult topics. The Christian messages and doctrines discussed will be articulated for understanding and then given a defense (strategies for actual discussion will be included), so that you do not need to affirm them out of blind faith. There will be evidence, logic, and reasoning that will aid in affirming their importance. However, insofar as evidence and arguments are helpful toolsin reasoning, even within one’s own heart and mind, they do not in-and-of themselves change the heart. My prayer for this blog, and for you the reader, is that all of what will eventually transpire on this site will be used as simply that: tools. In no way should any of these apologetics surmount the work of the Holy Spirit. Logic and reasoning, evidences and arguments can be powerful tools for removing strongholds or breaking through barriers in both unbelievers and believers alike. Yet, never forget that God’s work in the individual is what ultimately saves and transforms. It is my prayer that you would use this to further the Kingdom, that it would be an effective means of removing hindrances to faith in Jesus Christ, and that it would be utilized to bolster the faith held deep within your own heart. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20a).
Written by Justin Wendorf
Avery Dulles, A History of Apologetics (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1971), xvi.