Last week I was taking questions during an “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist” seminar on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University. One question challenged the legitimacy of Christian Apologetics. It was half question, half critique and it went something like, “Why are you trying to prove Christianity? We just need to love one another!” It sounds like something from the “emergent church” people. Here is my response:
- It’s a false choice– we can and should do both. We ought to show people why Christianity is true and love them as well. The two are not mutually exclusive but complementary. In fact, the Bible tells us to do both, which is my second point . . .
- Christian apologetics is commanded. The greatest commandment contains both: “Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37). 1 Pet. 3:15 tells us to “always be ready to give an answer but to do this with gentleness and respect.” Apologetics is not an option for Christians, and we don’t get brownie points for being stupid. We are commanded to know what we believe and why we believe it. We are commanded to “demolish arguments” and “take every thought captive to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
- Atheists have their own apologetics. We’re losing 75% of our young adults from the church partially because they are the victims of atheistic apologetics in college. Christian apologetics needs to exist if for no other reason than to counter the false arguments that atheists and apologists from other worldviews are making– and they are making those claims aggressively. CrossExamined.org exists to counter those false claims with the truth.
- It works. While some people believe without knowing why, others need evidence before they can believe. I know several people, myself included, who came to faith through apologetics.
- There’s a difference between belief that and belief in. I am not suggesting that apologetics alone gets someone saved. But it does provide evidence that Christianity is true so people can put their trust in Christ. Knowing that Christ is savior is not the same as trusting in him. Even the demons know that Christ is savior but they don’t put their trust in him (James 2:19). Yet, both belief that and belief in are necessary.
- It equips you to be better ambassador. Even if you don’t sense a need for apologetics for your own edification, you may need it to edify others. We are called to be God’s ambassadors to minister to others. In fact, God makes his appeal through us (2 Cor. 5:20). We can’t answer the questions of others without apologetics. That’s why Paul tells us to study to show ourselves approved (2 Tim 2:15).
- It’s self-defeating to give an apologetic against apologetics. Why do people give me reasons to stop using reasons?