For the Christian, it is essential to see that Christian apologetics is biblical with biblical usage and a biblical interpretation. As with much of the Greek used in New Testament times (Koine), it finds usage in Classical Greek first. Perhaps it was Plato who popularized the term in his Apology, Socrates’ defense. Socrates who was Plato’s mentor was accused of corrupting young people, refusing to worship the gods, and promoting “new” gods. Plato’s Apology is Socrates’ defense of his actions at his trial.
Our word “apology” comes from this fine Greek word apologia. In English usage, the word apology normally means saying, “I’m sorry.” This is the proper usage of the word, just not the only one. Apologizing is not only saying your sorry; it is also giving reasons for your actions. In the Biblical sense, apologizing is to give a defense for your faith. In fact, 1 Peter 3:15 says, “ . . . always be ready to make a defense for the hope within your heart . .”
However, when we understand apologetics to be in context, and the setting is rhetoric, apologetics is also about being proactive. Remember apologetics is not in a vacuum by itself. It is both part of evangelism and role of the way of presenting evidence. As part of rhetoric, it is about persuading through evidence. Keep this in mind as we look at the Scriptures that use either the word apologia or the action of apologetics.
Along with Peter, Luke and Paul all use the word in their writings. Luke quotes Paul’s use of the word in Acts 22 and 25. Both times Luke quotes Paul using the term to describe his “apology” for his actions. In Acts 22:1 Paul is accused of bringing Gentiles into the temple. When seized by Roman guards he asks to speak to the people and begins by saying, “Brethren and fathers, hear my defense (apologia) which I now offer to you.” Clearly, Paul intended to defend his actions.
In Acts 25 Paul is brought before Festus, the Roman Governor of Judea. Explaining why he was there Paul recites Roman law about the accused having the right to face his accuser and then goes on to say “and has an opportunity to make his defense (apologia) against the charges.” Again, it is clear that Paul intended to state his reasons for his actions. Also, keep in mind Paul was seeking to move them from an unfavorable position to a favorable one.
In 1 Corinthians 9:3, Paul states, “My defense (apologia) to those who examine me is this:” Also, in 2 Corinthians 7:11 Paul uses apologia to applaud the Corinthians’ behavior. Here the word apologia is translated “vindication,” which could be a successful apology.
In 2 Timothy 4:16, Paul refers to another formal trial he was in. This time before Caesar and he says, “At my first defense . . .” Here again, the term apologia is used in a courtroom as a legal term. In this case, it is the whole trial that is a “defense.”
It is in Philippians that Paul uses the term apologia in an indirect reference to the gospel. Both times he uses the word in Chapter 1. Verse 7 Paul is expressing his love for the Philippian Church because they are with him in partaking of the grace of God both in his imprisonment and for the confirmation and defense of the gospel. We will discuss this idea of “confirmation of the gospel” in a later section. In this case, Paul is referring to his ministry. He was called to both “confirm and defend” the gospel.
In verse 16, he declares that he has been “appointed for the defense of the gospel.” Paul understood that the world is hostile territory and that ministry involves defending the gospel. This is no “light” statement. His appointment was to defend the gospel because of the challenges that face it. Today, this challenge is no less, and the need may be more significant. That is, there may be a greater need for some to know they are appointed for the defense of the gospel.
1 Peter 3:15 is probably the best-known verse concerning apologetics. It is here that Peter uses the term in the context of sharing your faith by giving a reason for the hope within your heart. The verse states
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
The context of this verse is about trials and perhaps persecution. Because of your positive response, while undergoing a test of your faith, Peter tells us how a Christian ought to respond. First, “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.” What does this mean? It means to acknowledge Christ’s lordship in your life. The heart has many functions ascribed to it, but most likely when Peter refers to it, it means the “center of your being.” It refers to your true self, who you really are as opposed to what you may like people to believe about you, or another pretentious image. Peter is urging the person to settle down and get a grip on Christ being Lord of your life. This perhaps ought to be a daily exercise and sometimes moment by moment. Sanctifying Christ as Lord acknowledges he is the ruler of the universe, King of Kings, Lord of Lords. More than that, he is my Lord. I must bow to him, outwardly and inwardly.
“Always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you. . .” Readiness is an essential aspect of this command. This will be dealt with in a chapter later on in this book. For now, make a defense to everyone, is our concern.
Reasons for our faith is a necessity. From personal experience to the objective truth about God, his character, the Resurrection of Christ and his immanence in your life are all reasons for the hope within. As stated earlier, everyone ought to know not only what they believe but why they believe it. This requires some work of investigation, research, and study. Make no mistake, this is hard work - heavy lifting.
Remembering that this is a defense as in a “legal defense.” It is giving reasons for the hope within. Giving reasonable accounts for not being troubled as others are troubled when they encounter trials. When asked, “How do you know Jesus is alive?” “How do you know God exists?” “How do you know God is with you?” You can answer, “My faith rests on personal confirmation, philosophical evidence, historical evidence, scientific evidence and archeological evidence.” It is reasonable to affirm faith in God when there is so much evidence for Him.
Another way apologia is used in the negative sense. In Romans 1:20, Paul wrote: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power, and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
Here the NAS translates an apologia, as “without excuse.” There is no defense for the actions of those who have clearly seen God’s invisible attributes, eternal power, and divine nature. They are without an apology, an argument. God made himself known to people through their conscience and their knowledge of reality, but they suppress this truth in unrighteousness. When it is God who provides the evidence, and the heart of man is unwilling to recognize it, they are without excuse - no argument, no apology.
Craig Keener writes this:
Stoic philosophers argued that the nature of God was evident in creation; Cicero at that time could even assert that no race of humanity was so uncivilized as to deny the existence of the gods, and along with others he argued that the human mind points to what God is like.
Jewish people scattered throughout the Greco-Roman world used this argument to persuade pagans to turn to the true God. Even the rabbis tell delightful stories about how Abraham reasoned back to the first cause and showed his fellow Gentiles that there was really only one true God. According to Jewish tradition, God had given seven laws to Noah, for which all humanity was responsible (including the prohibition of idolatry). But unlike Israel, who had to keep all 613 commandments in the law (according to rabbinic count), most Gentiles disobeyed even the seven laws of Noah.
Paul wasn’t saying something new about unbelievers. Both Jewish and Gentile had this knowledge. However, they suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
Look for the next post to continue a simple understanding of defending your faith.