What is Apologetics?

21 September 2020

What is Christian apologetics? The word 'apologetics' originates from the Greek word apologia, which literally means to make a formal defence of one’s belief. The noun apologia and its verb apologeomai are used several times in the Bible.[1] Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words defines the word as follows:

Apologeomai means 'to defend something or someone, including oneself, through speech.' The word bears the sense of advocacy and defense, which our word 'apologetics' still retains; [apologeoma ] often occurs in a legal context.[2]

Accordingly, Christian apologetics is defined today as the branch of theology that offers a reasoned defence and justification in favour of Christianity.

Apologetics has two main roles. Its first role is to respond to objections raised against Christianity, such as the problem of suffering, which asks 'Why would an all-powerful and all-loving God allow such terrible suffering?' This role is called defensive apologetics.

The second role of apologetics, which is called offensive apologetics, is to put forward arguments in support of Christianity; it is to show that Christianity is true.

Now, it is important to note that when we talk about an apologetic 'argument', we do not mean a quarrel or a heated fight. Rather, by the word 'argument' we mean logical reasoning in support of some view. Consider, for example, the following argument:

  1. If it is Sunday, then the library is closed.
  2. It is Sunday.
  3. Therefore, the library is closed.
This is a logical or rational argument, and not an emotional argument. The first two lines are called premises, and the last line is called the conclusion. We say that this argument is logically valid because both of its premises are true. In other words, an argument is logically valid if its conclusion logically follows from its premises. This, then, is what we have in mind when we talk about apologetic arguments.


NOTES

  1. E.g., Luke 12:11; 21:14; Acts 24:10; 25:8; 26:1-2, 24; 2 Corinthians 12:19; 1 Peter 3:15.
  2. William D. Mounce, ed., Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2006), 164.