What is Apologetics?

Lee Strobel and President Donald Sweeting

Lee Strobel, Best-Selling Author of The Case for Christ and Founding Director of the Lee Strobel Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics at Colorado Christian University.

When I tell people that God used apologetics to change my life and eternity, some of them respond with a blank stare. They think “apologetics” means that someone is sorry for something. Actually, apologetics is quite different from that. In fact, it may very well be the key to sharing Jesus in our increasingly skeptical world.

The word “apologetics” comes from the Greek apologia, which means “reasoned defense.” Simply put, apologetics offers philosophical arguments and scientific and historical evidence for the truth of Christianity, while also providing good answers to tough questions that skeptics raise about the faith.

Both of these aspects of apologetics were crucial in my spiritual journey. I was an atheist, trained in journalism and law, who decided to investigate Christianity in order to disprove it and thus liberate my wife from her newfound faith in Christ. But during my two-year quest, I found a wealth of evidence for the truth of Christianity and solid responses to the spiritual objections that I had harbored. Ultimately, I reached my verdict in the case for Christ: Jesus is the unique Son of God, who proved his divinity by rising from the dead.

So for spiritual skeptics like I was – and their numbers are increasing in America and beyond – apologetics can help us get past the spiritual “sticking points” that hinder our journey to God. But that’s not all apologetics does. It also serves to deepen the faith of Christians, which makes them more confident and willing to reach out to others with the life-changing and eternity-altering message of Christ.

A theme verse for apologists is 1 Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts revere 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….”

So the Bible makes it clear that we have a mandate as Christians to be ready to give reasoned answers to everyone we encounter who has spiritual questions. But that last part of the verse suggests that how we answer the questions of skeptics can be every bit as important as what we say. Apologetics isn’t effective when Christians merely pontificate or try to force-feed information into unwilling recipients.

Instead, contemporary apologetics means we do more listening than talking; we respect the other person as being someone who’s valued by God; we welcome questions rather than be offended by them; and we seek to reflect God’s love to others. That way, we’re emulating Jesus, who came “full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). 

Atheist-turned-Christian, J. Warner Wallace said: “Evangelism in the 21st Century is spelled A-P-O-L-O-G-E-T-I-C-S.” That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but not much! More and more, people today want reasons to believe in Christ.

That’s why we recently launched the Lee Strobel Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics at Colorado Christian University – to equip churches, ministries, and individual Christians to be beacons of truth and grace. Our goal is ambitious: to spark spiritual renewal in America through trained spiritual leaders like you. Watch for our first courses to be offered online in the fall of 2020 – and consider whether you would like to be part of this exciting endeavor.

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