In part 1 of this series, we noted that Apologia Sophia (Gk: ἀπολογία σοφία) transliterates the Greek word endings and roughly translates to “apologetics wisdom.” In this second (of six) installment, I hope to offer more apologetics wisdom for our noble task. Here are three points that apply equally to both professional and lay Christian apologists. These points relate to connecting apologetics to Christian foundations.
- Recognize that apologetics is a branch of Christian theology.
In church history the enterprise of apologetics was viewed as a branch of Christian theology. Since one was called to defend or contend for the truth of historic Christianity, then theology was considered the queen of the sciences. As such, other disciplines like philosophy, science, history, literature, etc. serve theology. Thus, apologists with backgrounds in various fields should work to be sophisticated in Christian theology. A basic familiarity with the different areas within theology (biblical, systematic, historical, philosophical, practical) can be very helpful to the Christian apologist.
2. Frame your apologetic in accord with authoritative sources of historic Christianity.
Ensure that your basic apologetics approach is in accord with the final Christian authority of sacred Scripture. But also inform your defense of the faith by utilizing sound sources of Christian tradition such as the ecumenical creeds, church councils, and Christendom’s finest orthodox theologians. Consider defending a classical or historic Christianity that is affirmed by all of conservative Christendom before moving to a defense of one’s specific branch or denomination within the faith.
3. Conjoin the rational defense of the faith with the practice of Christian devotion and values.
Rational and nonrational factors influence persuasion. Thus, Christians would do well to present cogent reasoning for the truth of the faith that reflects a Christian moral conscience, is accompanied by prayer, and is presented in a winsome, loving manner. The Christian apologetics enterprise functions best when its presenters reflect the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.
The apostle Paul utilizes what many New Testament scholars consider an ancient Christian creed that dates from the earliest period of the Christian era:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
This “death, burial, resurrection, and personal appearance” strategy is instructive. Paul defends a historic Christianity that should influence how we frame our apologetic endeavors today.
- I engage in apologetics in two of my books, Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions and 7 Truths That Changed the World: Discovering Christianity’s Most Dangerous Ideas.
- For more about apologetics within the context of the Christian worldview, see my book, A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test.