By Andy Wrasman
Objections, doubts, and questions are often raised against the inerrancy of the Bible. This is the teaching that the Bible is without error in all of its verses, including those concerning salvation, history, and even science. Every Christian encounters attacks on the reliability of the Bible’s message through various situations, but we are all called to be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in Christ.
The term apologetics (a theological discipline and study) comes from the Greek word, apologia, which means — to make a defense. Building a case for, or defending a certain position of thought or belief, is called apologetics, and the person who supplies the defense is called an apologist.
Every religion can have its own apologetics and apologists. A Muslim apologist would most likely defend the Qur’an message and the morality of the life of Muhammad. A Christian apologist, on the other hand, would focus on defending the truthfulness of the Bible and the historicity of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins.
An agnostic student at University California Irvine who denied the truthfulness of the Bible recently sat with a Christian evangelist and shared that the resurrection would be the one event that would prove if Christianity was true or false. This student knew that the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection lay largely with the Gospel biographies Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the first four books of the New Testament. However, he was skeptical of the truthfulness of the Gospel biographies. He thought that they were written a couple of centuries removed from the life of Jesus of Nazareth, written down only after many legends and myths had crept into the narratives through a lengthy time span of oral transmission. Fortunately the evangelist had prepared to address such objections and he was able to leave the young man with many reasons to trust that the Gospel biographies of Jesus of Nazareth.
Agnostic – a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.
Unfortunately, even within Christian circles, claims are being made that the Bible contains legends and myths within its historical narratives. These claims aren’t just appearing amongst uneducated laypeople who are being swayed by the latest rhetoric from the vocal skeptic community. These claims are emerging from, and being defended by, seminary professors who are influencing and raising up the next generation of pastors who will then spread such skepticism of the Bible’s historical authenticity to their congregations. This means that defending the truthfulness of the Bible, all the more, is a necessary task that falls upon all Christians.
Apologetics is a difficult branch of Christian study. It requires a working knowledge of many branches of Christian theology (“the study of God’s Word”). For example, before a defense for the Christian faith can be given, the apologist would need to know Systematic Theology (the study of Christian doctrine), in order to know if the objection being raised against Christianity is even against a true teaching found within the Bible. The apologist would then need to be able to correct the misunderstanding in biblical teaching from the Scriptures in a way that the objector will understand. Other times the misunderstanding might arise from a lack of knowing the cultural context, historical context, literary type, or the Biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek, which would require Exegetical Theology, a branch of Christian theology that strives to draw out the true meaning of a given passage of Scripture.
The Apologist would need to know Historical Theology, which deals with the history of the church and church movements. This might be necessary to know in order to answer objections to the church’s involvement in the Crusades, or objections that there isn’t satisfactory archeological proof to back up the Bible’s claims.
It’s important to remember that apologetics does not save a person’s soul. God saves people, all three persons of the Trinity – the Father through sending his Son and accepting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Jesus in offering himself as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, and the Holy Spirit through creating faith in the hearts of men. Christians should never lose sight of this, so that we remain ever humble and in prayer through all apologetic efforts, trusting that it is the Spirit at work in us to bring others into faith in Christ.
Finally, no Christian is off the hook when it comes to apologetics. It is commanded in Peter’s first letter, when he wrote, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer [apologia – a defense] to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV). Just don’t fret! No one person can be prepared to answer every single question that arises, but through prayer and intentional study, we can all grow in baby steps towards building better answers to the objections that arise from non-Christian communities, and to address the doubts that arise within the Christian Church.
Defending The Faith