A few years ago I heard on the radio the president of a small Bible college say that, although he thought he understood apologetics, he would never have a course in apologetics at his Bible college. In fact, there are many Christian leaders who ignore or even speak against the practice of apologetics. The arguments they use do need to be addressed. Some even raise good points concerning improper uses of apologetics. Therefore, before I actually start writing out my apologetic ideas, I will address the issue of using apologetics.
I have noticed that many who do object or downplay the use of apologetics have seen bad apologetics or, even more often, read material aimed at atheists and have not understood the thinking and philosophy that led to that writing and so misunderstood the thinking of the apologists. Others misunderstand the relationship between the use of apologetics and the preaching of the gospel. Still others think that the Bible itself teaches against the use of apologetics. It will take a few blog posts to cover these objections after which I will give my arguments for the use of apologetics.
I have also noted that those who do not support apologetics yet give a strong apologetic approach in defending a biblical view of social issues or a version of the Bible or certain standards of appearance. These areas are not essential parts of the gospel. If they think we ought to rigorously defend these issues, why not rigorously defend that which was even more basic and essential?
I will begin by addressing the idea that apologetics cannot lead anyone to a saving faith. This objection completely misunderstands the relationship between the gospel and apologetics. I know of no apologist who would claim that they could argue someone into salvation or that apologetics save souls on its own. The Bible clearly states that salvation comes by repentance from sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 55:6, 7; Acts 20:20, 21) But clearly, this includes the death, burial and bodily resurrection of Jesus the Messiah (Romans 10:9, 10; I Corinthians 15:3, 4) in which He bore our sins in our place receiving the just wrath of the Father in our place (Isaiah 53:4-6; II Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 2:24). However, all of these facts must be believed for anyone to be saved. It is the proper realm of apologetics to deal with objections raised against the veracity of the events of the gospel. Certainly the Holy Spirit can and must impress the reality of the facts of the gospel to individuals. In fact, that is the essence of revelational apologetics. The Holy Spirit can, and does do so directly in the heart; but the Holy Spirit also does so through means. For instance, the Holy Spirit uses the presentation of the gospel by humans (Romans 10:13-17). As we shall see in more detail in future blog posts (Lord willing), the human authors of Scripture and our Lord Himself, did not demand blind faith in the elements of the gospel, but exhibited evidences to support the facts of the gospel (Acts 1:1-3; I Corinthians 15:1-20; II Peter 1:16-21; I John 1:1-3). Therefore, we would conclude that apologetics plays a main supporting role in the preaching of the gospel. In fact, many leading theistic apologist credit apologetics as essential in their coming to Christianity (William Ramsay, Josh McDowell, Dean Kenyon, and Lee Strobel for instance not to mention Alister McGrath who was a leading atheistic voice at one time).
Yes, we are to preach the gospel which is indeed the power of God unto salvation, but apologetics is very important to help souls accept the facts of the gospel to the point they could actually put their trust in Jesus to be saved. Apologetics therefore is not contrary to the gospel, but needed to help others believe the gospel. As our society becomes more and more under the influence of atheistic thought and Muslim teaching, etc. the more important Christian apologetics becomes and the more we need to be able to point people to the self-revelation of God and His glorious gospel.