What is Apologetics?

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Dr. Kenneth Boa is president of Reflections Ministries, Omnibus Media Ministries, and Trinity House Publishers. Ken holds a B.S. from Case Institute of Technology, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, a Ph.D. from New York University, and a D.Phil. from the University of Oxford in England. He is author or editor of over 70 books.

Apologetics may be simply defined as the defense of the Christian faith. The simplicity of this definition, however, masks the complexity of the problem of defining apologetics. It turns out that a diversity of approaches has been taken in defining the meaning, scope, and purpose of apologetics.

The word “apologetics” derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used as a speech of defense. In ancient Athens, it referred to a defense made in the courtroom as part of the normal judicial procedure. After the accusation, the defendant was allowed to refute the charges with a defense (apologia). The classic example of an apologia was Socrates’s defense against the charge of preaching strange gods, a defense retold by his most famous pupil, Plato, in a dialogue called The Apology.

The word apologia appears 17 times in noun or verb form in the NT, and can be translated “defense” or “vindication” in every case. The idea of offering a reasoned defense of the faith is evident in Php 1:7, 16, and especially 1 Pt 3:15, but no specific theory of apologetics is outlined in the NT.

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In the second century, this general word for “defense” began taking on a narrower sense to refer to a group of writers who defended the beliefs and practices of Christianity against various attacks. These men were known the apologists because of the titles of some of their treatises, but apparently not until 1794 was apologetics used to designate a specific theological discipline.

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It has become customary to use the term apology to refer to a specific effort or work in defense of the faith. An apology might be a written document, a speech, or even a film. Apologists develop their defenses of the Christian faith in relation to scientific, historical, philosophical, ethical, religious, theological, or cultural issues.

We may distinguish four functions of apologetics, though not everyone agrees that apologetics involves all four. Such opinions notwithstanding, all four functions have historically been important in apologetics, and each has been championed by great Christian apologists throughout church history.

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The first function may be called vindication or proof, and involves marshaling philosophical arguments as well as scientific and historical evidences for the Christian faith. The goal of this function is to develop a positive case for Christianity as a belief system that should be accepted. Philosophically, this means drawing out the logical implications of the Christian worldview so that they can be clearly seen and contrasted with alternate worldviews.

is-the-quran-the-word-of-god UNDERSTANDING ISLAM AND TERRORISM THE GUIDE TO ANSWERING ISLAM.png

The second function is defense. This function is closest to the NT and early Christian use of the word apologia, defending Christianity against the plethora of attacks made against it in every generation by critics of varying belief systems. This function involves clarifying the Christian position in light of misunderstandings and misrepresentations; answering objections, criticisms, or questions from non-Christians; and in general clearing away any intellectual difficulties that nonbelievers claim stand in the way of their coming to faith.

The third function is refutation of opposing beliefs. This function focuses on answering the arguments non-Christians give in support of their own beliefs. Most apologists agree that refutation cannot stand alone, since proving a non-Christian religion or philosophy to be false does not prove that Christianity is true. Nevertheless, it is an essential function of apologetics.

The fourth function is persuasion. By this we do not mean merely convincing people that Christianity is true but persuading them to apply its truth to their life. This function focuses on bringing non-Christians to the point of commitment. The apologist’s intent is not merely to win an intellectual argument, but to persuade people to commit their lives and eternal futures into the trust of the Son of God who died for them.

By Kenneth D. Boa

Can Bible Translator, Textual Scholars, Bible Commentators and Other Bible Scholars Be Christian Apologists too

EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 160 books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

Some textual scholars have said that Christian apologists attempt to bend or cherry-pick their work to present Christianity’s more favorable message (or make it clearer, transparent, or precise). For example, P52, one of the earliest New Testament fragment manuscripts written on sheets of papyri, dates to about 100-150 A.D. by most textual scholars and papyrologists. Some Christian apologists have mentioned P52 and only say 100, 110, or 125 A.D. Do commentators, Bible translators, textual scholars, and others ignore data, information that could not be as beneficial to their views because they are thinking with the apologetic side of their mind?

What is Biased Fallacy?

Fallacies are mistakes of reasoning, as opposed to making mistakes that are of a factual nature. Biases are persistent and widespread psychological tendencies that can be detrimental to objectivity and rationality. Being aware of them can help us avoid their influence. Therefore, many Bible scholars are aware of biases, for it is taught repeatedly in almost all seminaries. Nevertheless, it does not always hold true that the scholar will not let his biases get the better of him. A translator may follow the grammar rule ten times in a particular Bible book. Still, he ignores it on the eleventh because it will render a verse that is significant theologically. The textual scholar on a translation will follow the weightiest manuscript evidence every time until it will render a verse that is significant theologically. The same can be said of lexicographers, commentators, publishing houses, and others. However, just because something can happen does not mean that it will happen, and these examples are exceptions in the extreme when it comes to conservative scholars. The old say is, trust but verify. Or as Jesus said, “be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16) Just because some Christian apologists may have at times put their finger on the scale in how they mention things, all Bible scholars need to be apologetic-minded. Christians are commanded to be apologetic-minded. And one textual scholar can give you a paragraph of information but does not in any way alter the data and the facts, while the other scholar does the same, but one sounds uncertain, skeptical, and pessimistic. You need not sound like you are giving a funeral dirge as you write your textual studies book or article. 

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