dichotomyChristian apologetics is an intellectual discipline that offers a rational justification for Christianity.  One would think Christians would heartily embrace a discipline whose aim is to show the intellectual viability and superiority of the Christian worldview.  Ironically, Christian apologists often face opposition from both unbelievers and believers alike.

Many Christians think apologetics is either unnecessary, or detrimental to faith.  The latter understand faith to be commitment of the will in the absence of reason, rather than trust based on good reasons.  Having reasons to believe, then, leaves no room for faith.  This understanding of faith has no basis in Scripture.  Indeed, God, Jesus, and the apostles all provided reasons for others to take their claims seriously.  And they did so for good reason: beliefs are caused by reasons.  If they weren’t, we would be unable to control what we believe.  Beliefs would just pop in and out of our minds inexplicably.  A Christian could be in church worshipping Jesus, when suddenly, for no reason at all he stops believing in Jesus and starts believing in Buddha.  A man could be walking his dog when suddenly, for no reason at all, he begins to believe he is walking a cat.  No, such is not possible because beliefs are caused by reasons.  Beliefs are something that happen to us given sufficient epistemic conditions.  We cannot just will to believe something.  To demonstrate, stop believing in God right now.  Don’t just think the thought, “I don’t believe in God,” but make yourself believe that God really doesn’t exist.  You can’t do it, because genuine belief requires reasons, and you have good reasons to believe God exists, and no good reasons to think He doesn’t.

Those who think apologetics is unnecessary often claim the Spirit’s work is all we need for conversion.  While it’s true that the Spirit’s work in our hearts is necessary for conversion, it is not sufficient.  Indeed, if the work of the Spirit was sufficient in itself for conversion, then why do we need to present the Gospel to them?  It’s because faith is contingent on knowledge.  A person cannot believe in Jesus if they do not know about Jesus.  God’s Spirit works together with our presentation of the Gospel to bring about conversion.  Now here’s the rub.  If faith requires knowledge, and apologetics delivers knowledge, why oppose the use of apologetics in evangelism?  Apologetics serve to help remove intellectual barriers to the faith, so that one can submit to the working of the Spirit in their hearts.  As such, it is vitally important to evangelism, and should be embraced by Christians.

Indeed, Peter himself thought so.  He told us to “be prepared to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15).  Paul understood evangelism to consist of both the “defense and verification of the Gospel” (Phil 1:7), and instructed us to “make the most of every opportunity,” knowing how we “should answer everyone” (Col 4:5-6).  Apologetics is not just a nice add-on to Christianity, but a Bible-based discipline integral to our evangelistic efforts.