Apologetics — Should We Even Be Doing This?
“The Bible needs no defense.” “God’s Word will take care of itself. So who are we to think that our puny efforts and inadequate reasoning could help defend God’s almighty Word?” On the other hand, since God also promises to give us our daily bread, should I therefore say, “Since what God says will always come to pass, who am I to think that the Lord needs me to provide for my family?” Or even: “Why evangelize? Does God need me to preach His Word when He could have the rocks cry out if He so chose?” (Luke 19:40)
The problem with the above lines of reasoning is the assumption that God ordains the end but doesn’t implement the means to those ends. Such thinking confuses what God does or doesn’t need with what God has called us to do. God wants all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and He has called us to “Go and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19). He gives us daily bread even without our asking and He has told us to provide for our families (1 Timothy 5:8). His Word stands alone and He has told us to be ready always to defend the faith to anyone who asks us the reason for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15).
Throughout the book of Acts we see the Apostle Paul in his God-given responsibilities—to preach the gospel, to work, and then to defend. Thus, he went on three extended missionary journeys to preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23). He worked as a tentmaker to provide for his daily bread (Acts 18:1-3), and he defended God’s Word when he entered synagogues (Acts 17:1-2), marketplaces (Acts 17:17), the courts of philosophers (Acts 17:22), and even went before government officials (Acts 26:2). He reasoned with them (Acts 17:2), tried to persuade them (Acts 18:4), and spoke true and rational words (Acts 26:25). He confounded them by proving that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 9:22).
What was the foundation of Paul’s efforts? When he reasoned with them from the Scriptures (Acts 17:2), he did not tell his opponents that they have things mostly correct. We do not hear him say that people have done pretty well for themselves and they need only add a little Christianity to the mix. Instead, he calls for a complete turn around. Repentance is called for because the day is coming when God will judge the world. We are assured of this because God has raised Christ from the dead (Acts 17:30-31).
With God’s Word as our cornerstone, we too, with Paul, can ask, “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20) We will not be held captive by philosophies according to the traditions of men (Colossians 2:8). Instead, we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). We do not walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds (Ephesians 4:17). We have been renewed in the spirit of our minds and have put on the new self that is created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:23-24).
We do not count ourselves wise and then work our way up to belief in God. Rather, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7). Before telling us to always be ready to defend the hope that we have, Peter calls upon us to “in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord” (1 Peter 3:15). Fearing the Lord and honoring Christ will give the ability to answer both every-day challenges (the neighbor across the backyard fence) and scholarly ones (the local university professor). God has commanded that we always be ready to defend the hope that we have. We are earthen vessels through whom God chooses to glorify Himself and to defend His truth. Thus, as occasion provides, it becomes the privileged responsibility of believers to engage in Apologetics.