I look at living a life in the service and worship of Jesus Christ as being comprised of three primary endeavors. First, we must continuously advance our own understanding of the Scripture, as with each session of Biblical immersion we find new questions and answers about how we’re supposed to live our lives. Second, we should follow the Great Commission to varying degrees and learn to evangelize to those who need the strength of faith in their lives, which is everyone. Third, we must be fluent in apologetics to face a world that wants to be skeptical, and a people who want to live carefree through their lives without true spiritual meaning.
All three of these endeavors are tightly interwoven. Depending on where we are in our own walk in the faith, we should spend varying amounts of time and energy on each of these activities. That means those who are new or returning to the faith should spend the bulk of their time on the first endeavor of understanding the Scripture itself. Those who have read the Bible many times and feel comfortable with their understanding should spend more time on the second and third endeavors. That’s not to say we should abandon any of the three at any point; even someone new to the faith can evangelize or offer answers to those who ask through their grasp of apologetics. Conversely, someone who has read the Bible cover to cover a dozen times must not relinquish their responsibility to continue reading through scripture and praying always.
I’d like to focus on this third endeavor, apologetics, because it seems to be the one that gets the least attention from many Christians. Some say it’s the hardest of the three but I disagree. All three are as hard or as easy as we make them. Our burden is light, even though we often make it seem heavier than it is.
This won’t be a comprehensive discussion of how to study and commit to apologetics. For now, I just want to make sure people understand why it’s important. The go-to verses for this is 1 Peter 3:15-16:
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:
16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
Some rightly acknowledge that this is both a call to evangelize for the Gospel and defend the faith through apologetics. The difference isn’t with us but with the audience itself. If someone is open to hearing the Gospel, it’s time to evangelize even if they’re skeptical. If someone is challenging the validity of the Gospel or the entirety of the Bible, it’s time for apologetics.
Sometimes, it’s necessary to mix both disciplines when talking to someone with questions. Their hearts may be open but their minds may be closed, in which case we need to be ready for all of their concerns. Evangelism is necessary to show them the path while apologetics is necessary to push them towards it.
There are so many pitfalls that Christians often plummet down when defending the faith, which is probably the biggest reason many choose not to pursue the endeavor in the first place. One of the most important things to understand is that apologetics is not a discipline for defending the Bible. It’s about defending our belief in it.
The Bible needs no defense, as Voddie Baucham, dean of the seminary at African Christian University in Lusaka, Zambia, often points out in his teaching on why he chooses to believe the Bible.
In it, he breaks down a statement he’s crafted that he and others can use when asked why they choose to believe in the Bible instead of other religious teachings. He says:
“The Bible is a reliable collection of historical documents written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report supernatural events that took place in the fulfillment of specific prophecies and claimed that their writings are divine rather than human in origin.”
It’s an extremely powerful statement to make, but it requires an understand of where he pulls each component of the statement from the Bible. I strongly recommend watching at least one of his various videos on the topic. I’ll link one in the description below.
Are there people we cannot reach? Absolutely. I’m not one who believes that every soul could be brought into an understanding and belief of the faith through man’s intervention alone. But I’m also not willing to abandon anyone until I’ve exhausted my attempts to sway them.
One of the things that worries people about apologetics is that we may not always have the right answers for people. This is a legitimate concern. It pains me whenever I learn of a verse or teaching that could have helped me sway someone in the past. It’s not just a missed opportunity. When we offer a poor answer to a skeptic’s question, we may have done more harm to them than had we not answered at all. It’s a very risky proposition. After all, we’re talking about the eternal souls of our fellow men and women. That’s a lot of responsibility, which is why it’s imperative that we’re constantly learning what to say and how to say it through a Biblical lens. I’ve seen many attempts to convince people of the validity of the Bible through poor logic statements or misinterpreted science.
One famous example was when Ray Comfort put out a video claiming the shape of a banana was proof of creation. It was widely mocked as observers pointed out bananas were cultivated into the shape they currently have. Before, they didn’t fit perfectly into our hands. Comfort, who I believe has done wonderful evangelism and apologetics throughout his life, made a mistake that may have pushed some skeptics even further away from understanding the truth.
I’m not going to go into the right or wrong methods of apologetics at this point. It’s up to you to research the various teachings and arguments, then decide for yourself through prayer which way to go. But I want to encourage all believers to spend more time and effort learning how to do it. We’re outnumbered and false teachings are rife on the internet today.
We have the free will to engage in our faith as we feel led. I fear many may be ignoring the call to make themselves ready to answer anyone who asks about the hope that’s within us. When the opportunity to teach is in front of us, we must be willing to do our part.