Apologetics is the art of defending the Christian faith from objection, criticism, and scrutiny. As followers of Christ, Peter gives us wonderful counsel on every believer’s participation in apologetics.
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” – 1Pe 3:15
For the concept of ‘giving an answer’ in this passage Peter chooses the word apologia. And it means just that – to give an answer or to make a defense. The defense we make is for Christianity’s place as the only salvation–providing faith, Jesus’ place as the only messiah and savior, and why there is only one God.
Have you ever been told by someone that Jesus is not the only means of salvation or that other ways besides Jesus exist to connect with God? What was your response? If you responded by defending Jesus’ rightful position as the one and only mediator between God and humanity, you made an apologetic argument. You made a defense.
So how do we use apologetics biblically? We simply need to remember three words – always, answer, anyone. In so many words, Peter summarizes the concept of apologia as ‘always answer anyone.’ These are the Three A’s of Apologetics; always being the time, answer being the method, and anyone being the target audience.
“Always be prepared…”
There is never a time when it is okay to be unprepared, unwilling, or disinclined to defend the person and work of Jesus. Defending the faith is for all seasons and times. This is why Peter says we should always be prepared. The liberation in this is that we do not have to attend Bible college, seminary, or read apologetics blogs to be ready to defend the faith. Although these things are good, they aren’t necessary.
Additionally, the idea that a person needs a seminary degree to engage in apologetics sometimes causes Christians to shy away from it. Peter tears down any wall built by the lie that Christians must be highly educated individuals to participate in apologetic evangelism. Always means just that – always.
Regardless of our life, education, intelligence, social standing, or maturity in Christ, we should always be ready to defend the gospel. Now, if we are called to always defend the gospel, how is it we are supposed to go about defending it?
…to give an answer…”
As Christians defending the faith we are called to always answer questions or objections about Jesus. It is important to realize that when Peter tells us we must answer for the hope that is in us, this implies that people will ask. As Christians, people will inevitably ask about what we believe and why we believe it, which is the hope that is in us. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when.
If our life is bearing spiritual fruit, people are going to ask who the gardener is. Followers of Jesus are like cities on hills in the night. People are going to ask what makes our life different from theirs. That’s the opportunity of evangelism we live for. When they ask, we need to be ready. And as Peter suggests, that seems to be always.
“…to everyone (anyone) who asks…”
The door of apologetics is open to anyone. The type of people we defend the Christian faith against do not necessarily need to be anarchist street punks with a copy of a New Atheist’s latest dribble about how they didn’t like church services as an 8–year–old kid and there were Crusades. They can be everyone and anyone.
Perhaps a Christian friend of yours needs encouragement by hearing a good, solid argument for the deity of Christ. But of course, on the opposite side of the table, apologetics might be used to provide information to unbelievers to further convict the conscience and guide the person to Jesus. It can truly be anyone.
It is good to remember as well that anyone can mean we will be sharing the gospel with people from all different cultures, backgrounds, and presuppositions. This is especially true with members of other religions. Therefore, it’s important to accommodate our conversations to their needs, not ours.
Listen to what they believe, ask them why they believe it, and then present them with the gospel based on their background. Never make assumptions about what they believe and why they believe it. Anyone is just about as wide as a demographic can get, so we must be careful not to lock ourselves into evangelizing based on our own stereotypes.
Kyle Beshears (@kylebeshears) is a pastor at the People of Mars Hill in Mobile, Alabama. He is the author of Robot Jesus and Three Other Jesuses You Never Knew and blogs at Dear Ephesus on church issues and apologetics.