The Legitimacy of Christian Apologetics

For many Christians in America, the journey to faith in Jesus Christ began as a small child. Born into a Christian home to parents who took great interest in passing their faith on to their children, believing in Jesus Christ and in the Scriptures that reveal Him to us, is as natural as the physical progression that takes them from childhood to a mature adult.

Many others, however, are not as blessed. Born into a home that is either neutral to the Christian faith, hostile to any faith at all, or committed a false god or religion, the journey to faith for these people filled with questions and searching for answers. It is this search for understanding that gives cause to the apologist. At the same time, there are also critics of the Christian faith that must be answered. Therefore, this, in essence, is the dual need for apologetics, to perform the necessary work of pre-evangelism to those seeking reasonable answers and to provide a strong defense to critics of the Christian faith.

As believers, God has given us the incredible privilege of being a witness for our Lord Jesus Christ. In addition to being ready with the gospel message, however, we are also commanded to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).

Apologetics is defined as:

the discipline that deals with a rational defense of Christian faith. It comes from the Greek word apologia which means to give a reason or defense.[1]

C. Stephen Evans provides a scope and nature of apologetics:

Historically, apologetic arguments of various types have been given: philosophical arguments for the existence of God; arguments that the existence of God is compatible with suffering and evil; historical arguments, such as arguments from miracles and fulfilled prophecies; and arguments from religious experience, including mystical experience. Some distinguish positive apologetics, which attempts to argue for the truth of Christianity, from negative apologetics, which merely attempts to remove barriers to faith by responding to critical attacks.[2]

Norman L. Geisler, in the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, provides three reasons why apologetics is important:

1. God Commands It. Several New Testament Scriptures instruct the believer to be ready with a solid defense of the Christian Faith. These include 1 Peter 3:15, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Philippians 1:7; 16, Jude 3, Titus 1:9, and 2 Timothy 2:24-25. These verses, written by the Apostles to the first century church, can be summarized as follows: be ready and contend for the faith.

2. Reason Demands It. “God created humans to reason as part of his image (Gen. 1:27; cf. Col. 3:10). God calls upon his people to use reason (Isa. 1:18) to discern truth from error (1 John 4:6) and right from wrong (Heb. 5:14).”[3]

3. The World Needs It. “People rightly refuse to believe without evidence. Since God created humans as rational beings, he expects them to live rationally, to look before they leap. This does not mean there is no room for faith. But God wants us to take a step of faith in the light of evidence, rather than to leap in the dark.”[4]

Some argue, however, that apologetics are not necessary. Geisler gives 12 general objections, and then answers each charge:

1. The Bible does not need to be defended. No Christian would accept a Muslim’s statement that “the Qur’an is alive and powerful and sharper than a two-edged sword.” We would demand evidence….[W]ithout evidence to establish one’s claim to authority, there is no good reason to accept that authority.[5]

2. God can’t be known by human reason. [E]ven though humankind knows clearly through human reason that God exists, he “suppresses” or “holds down” this truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18). It is not because mankind cannot know God by reason, rather, it is human depravity and foolish rejection of the message of the cross.[6]

3. Natural humanity can’t understand. “Paul insisted that “the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:14). What use, then, is apologetics? In response to this argument against apologetics, it should be observed that Paul does not say that natural persons cannot perceive truth about God, but that they do not receive (Gk. δεκομαι, “welcome”) it.”[7]

4. Without faith one cannot please God. “God does call upon us to use our reason (1 Peter 3:15). Indeed, he has given “clear” (Rom. 1:20) and “infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3 NKJV). Second, this text in Hebrews does not exclude “evidence” but actually implies it. Faith is said to be “the evidence” of things we do not see (Heb. 11:1NKJV).”[8]

5. Jesus refused to give signs for evil men. “This does not mean that Jesus did not desire people to look at the evidence before they believed. Even in this passage Jesus went on to offer the miracle of his resurrection as a sign of who he was, saying no signs would be given, “except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matt. 12:39–40; cf. Luke 16:31).”[9]

6. Do not answer a fool according to his folly. “Don’t just argue with someone who will not listen to reason, or you will be just as foolish as he is. But if you are able to show a person the error of his thinking in a way that he can understand, perhaps he will seek God’s wisdom rather than relying on his own.”[10]

7. Apologetics is not used in the Bible. “But apologetics is used in the Bible. Even those familiar with it don’t recognize it, since they don’t realize that what they are looking at is really apologetics.” From Moses to Jesus to Paul, “apologetics was done in the Bible whenever the truth claims of Judaism or Christianity came in conflict with unbelief.”[11] Perhaps the best illustration of this is found in the Gospel of John. In defining his purpose for his Gospel, John declares: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (20:31). “John selected the signs he used with the apologetic purpose of creating intellectual (“that you may believe”) and spiritual (“that believing you may have life”) conviction about the Son of God.”[12]

8. Logic can’t tell us anything about God. “This objection is self-defeating. It says that logic doesn’t apply to this issue. But the statement itself is a statement claiming logical thinking about God. It appeals to logic because it claims to be true while its opposite is false. That claim, called the law of noncontradiction.”[13]

9. Logic cannot “prove” the existence of anything. “While mere logic cannot prove the existence of anything, we have undeniable knowledge that something exists. And once we know that something exists, then logic can help us determine whether it is finite or infinite. And if it is finite, logic can help us determine whether there is also an infinite being.”[14]

10. Reason is useless in religious matters. “[I] n Scripture God calls on us to use reason (Isa. 1:18; Matt. 22:36–37; 1 Peter 3:15). God is a rational being, and he created us to be rational beings. God would not insult the reason he gave us by asking us to ignore it in such important matters as our beliefs about him.”[15]

11. You can’t prove God by reason. This is, perhaps, the most difficult objection. As Geisler observes, “If ‘prove’ means to demonstrate with mathematical certainty, then most theists would agree that God’s existence cannot be proven. This is because mathematical certainty deals only with the abstract, and the existence of God (or anything else) is a matter of the concrete.” [16] Geisler continues, “The reason one cannot prove God by logical necessity is that formal logic, like mathematics, deals with the abstract. Unless one begins with something that exists, he can never get out of the purely theoretical realm….Unless we know something exists, then logic cannot help us to know whether God exists. And logic by itself cannot tell us whether anything exists.”[17]

12. No one is converted through apologetics. “If this implies that the Holy Spirit never uses apologetic evidence to bring people to Christ, this is clearly false. God has used evidence and reason in some way to reach virtually all adults who come to Christ.”[18]

My personal position on this issue.

Clearly, while the objections to apologetics outnumber the reasons for, the balance tips in favor of the reasons and need for apologetics. As a believer, one reason alone justifies our need to be a defender of the faith: the Lord whom we worship commands it! It is true that belief in Jesus Christ requires a simple faith, and that many spiritual concepts are nothing but foolishness to the unbeliever and skeptic. The Bible is clear, however, that God created us to reason and question, and that He has given us a solid body of evidence to answer these questions. As a Christian, I want to be ready to give a solid defense for my faith in the sincere hope that my response will ultimate lead another to follow Christ and believe in Him.


[1]Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker reference library (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1999), 37.

[2]C. Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 12.

[3]Geisler, 38.

[4]Ibid.

[5]Ibid.

[6]Ibid.

[7]Ibid.

[8]Ibid., 39.

[9]Ibid.

[10]Ibid.

[11]Ibid.

[12]Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa, Talk Thru the Bible (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1983), 337.

[13]Ibid., 40.

[14]Ibid.

[15]Ibid.

[16]Ibid.

[17]Ibid., 41.

[18]Ibid.

    Chris Eller is a Christ Follower, Husband, Father, Pastor, Geek, Writer, Photographer, and Church Technology Consultant.

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