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Apologetics is the practice of defending Christianity against derogatory and false claims aiming to show its truth. Apologists are people who defend Christianity. In the first few centuries of Christianity, the Apologists played a significant role in counteracting unorthodox and heretical teachings.

Scripture encourages each believer to be an apologist

[But] in your hearts regard 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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Some contrast apologetics with polemics as referring to the practice of challenging and refuting doctrinal errors within the religion. In this view, apologetics may be viewed as dialogue to defend Christianity to non-Christians and polemics as dialogue internal to Christianity to refute error or provide correctives.

The early church fathers are sometimes categorized as either polemicists or apologists based on the thrust of their writings.

There are some important considerations for a Christian apologetic of today.

(1) Credibility (true-ness, believability)

Credibility is the part that answers questions like:

  • Is it true?
  • How real is it?
  • Does this make sense?
  • Does it add up to anything, or take us anywhere?
  • What contradicts it?
  • How useful is it at explaining the way this world is?

These are the big Truth questions. Dealing with these means you have to do a lot of thinking, reading, and researching. There are lots of sources to draw from, because there have been people dealing with these questions since before there was recorded history. The Bible is still the most trusted source on such matters, but is no longer seen by most people as the authority on them. The whole point of an apologetic is to get the non-believer to change their thinking. To do that, we must deal with people as they are, not as if they think like we do. Apologists must remember that the Bible doesn't 'seal the deal' on anything to non-believers.

(2) Laudability (or 'praise-worthiness')

Laudability is not about truth as much as it is about value. To laud something or someone means to praise them, usually about some specific action or stance or accomplishment. Laudability addresses questions like these :

  • Would this make me a better person? In what ways can it make me better?
  • Would it make my children better than they would otherwise be?
  • Can it make the society I live in better than it is?
  • Does it bring about a good culture with good values?
  • Would it bring about peace, stability, civility, and respect for freedom?

(3) Viability

Viability is not about truth or values. If something is viable, it means that it can be done or lived-out on an ongoing basis. It's the "get real" factor, on whether it's "doable". Think here as a non-believer : I can believe something is true, and even think highly of it as an ideal, but I'm unlikely to live my life according to it if I don't think it can be done in a day-to-day way. It becomes nothing more than a utopian dream. Pie-in-the-sky, by-and-by does me no good by itself; I need something I can do reasonably well right here where I live. Is it logical to believe that Christianity is the real way to follow the real God if it has nothing much to do with living in the real world which that real God has made? Viability asks these kind of questions:

  • Can I live this way?
  • Can I envision what my life would be like if I lived in this faith?
  • Will lack of success at it mean that I'm a failure at life?
  • Does this play into my addictions and psychological problems, and the lies I tell myself? Can other aspects of this faith help me overcome them?
  • Can my family live this way, and can I still do so if they choose not to?
  • Are there costs in it that I can't, or don't want, to pay?
  • Would I have to live this way alone, or is there a real community of others that can help me live it?

This is where it helps to share about your own faith experience, which is your own 'viability apologetic'. It helps to see someone else who is actually dealing with the things that I'd have a hard time dealing with. The best logical evidence that it can be done is that there is someone who is doing it.

Just like a theology or a tradition or an ideology, an apologetic ultimately stands or falls on the power of the Holy Spirit, especially as it is lived by the community of followers of Christ in that Spirit, and of the apologists as part of that community. There is certainly a time for polemics within an apologetic, but when fighting words are the main course it leaves people wondering : 'Where is the love Jesus spoke so often about?' According to Jesus Himself, love is how we are known as His.


Van Til's Apologetic: Reading and Analysis, pages 27 and 28

Christians in the ancient world knew what it was to have accusations and ridicule directed at them for their religious convictions and practices. The report of Jesus' resurrection was taken as an idle tale (Luke 24:11), a lie (Matthew 28:13,14,15) and an impossibility (Acts 26:8). For preaching it, believers were arrest by the Jews (Acts 4:20-23) and mocked by the Greek philosophers (Acts 17:32). On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were accused of being drunk (Acts 2:13). Stephen was accused of opposing previous revelation (Acts 6:11-14). Paul was accused of introducing new gods (Acts 17:18,19,20). The church was accused of political insurrection (Acts 17:6,7). Experts openly contradicted what the Christians taught (Acts 13:45) and prejudicially vilified their persons (Acts 14:2). So, on the one hand, the Christian message a stumbling block to the Jews and utter foolishness to Greek (1 Corinthians 1:23). On the other hand, the early Chrisitians had to guard against the wrong kind of positive acceptance of what they proclaimed. The apostles were confused for gods by advocated of pagan religion (Acts 14:11,12,13), given unwelcome commendation by sooth-sayers (Acts 16:16,17,18) and had their message absorbed by heretical legalists (Acts 15:1,5). 21st century believers can sympathize with their brothers in the ancient world. Our Christian faith continues to see the same variety of attempts to oppose and undermine it.


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