Updated: Oct 18
Every Christian should delight in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6).
Strongholds are false ideas that set themselves against the knowledge of God. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
Defending the truth is the basic function of apologetics.
Therefore, ALL believers are apologists.
It's unavoidable if you love the truth.
Hence our ministry name change to ENGAGE TRUTH Ministries.
Also, a common misnomer: "apologetics can only be utilized by the super intellectual."
Yes, there are varying degrees of depth to apologetics, but there are super simple apologetic/truth defending arguments that are unavoidable if you believe the Bible to be true and the gospel to be the only hope for mankind.
The most basic form of apologetics is that of our love for one another in the body of Christ (John 11:35).
To further add to this point, the late apologist Francis Schaeffer once said, “Let us be careful, indeed, to spend a lifetime studying to give honest answers…But after we have done our best to communicate to a lost world, still we must never forget that the final apologetic which Jesus gave is the observable love of true Christians for true Christians.”
I recently had someone say to me, "I'm not an intellectual but I have benefitted from apologetics greatly. If I had been exposed to apologetics when I was younger I wouldn't have walked away from the church for several years."
Church leaders: Please listen to this believer mentioned above. Praise God this believer is now walking faithfully with the Lord, but many are not and it's a discipleship issue.
If you have read my review of Alisa Childers book, Another Gospel?, You would know that I was crippled in my faith by progressive teachings as well. It wasn't just "a heart issue"- I had been fed lies about the trustworthiness of God's Word, His Mission and the gospel itself.
Sadly, the large majority of my peers now reject the historic Christian message. It began to strike me as very odd when I kept seeing them apologetically argue against Christian apologetics and for "just loving people"- meanwhile they embraced homosexuality, rejected inerrancy, castigated missions that preaches the exclusivity of Christ as 'colonialism,' denied a historical Adam and rejected the substitutionary atonement. These doctrines make up a basic Christian worldview. Oddly, my friends were apologetic about their defense against Christian orthodoxy, yet against the practice of apologetics itself.
The irony was thick.
Apologetics is unavoidable. The question is really just: what are you going to defend as worth living and dying for with your money, time, words?
When 65% of Americans claim to be Christian and only 6% have a Biblical Worldview (see pic below), it is pertinent that the American Church sees the giant disconnect and need.
Pragmatism (what gets results is right) has driven our evangelism so much that we have produced anti-intellect believers that claim the name of Christ, yet have not been discipled in a Biblical worldview.
The realty is that pragmatism that may "get results" or "decisions" doesn't actually produce Biblical results that makes disciples according to the Word of God.
Church leaders: We must understand that effective Biblical discipleship will fuel MORE effective evangelism and fruitful believers. I'll give evidence to support my claim from some students in our worldview Academy. These students are receiving training in Biblical apologetics and are frequently going out to talk with people in evangelism in our city. Theology, prayer, worship, Worldview and Biblical apologetics training FUELS confidence and effectiveness in evangelism. We aren't just sitting around debating the finer points of theology, we are taking students out to go ENGAGE with the lost!
"The most important thing I have learned in the Academy is how trustworthy the Bible is. It has been amazing learning how the gospels fit together. God doesn't just make us believe with no evidence for our faith. He has given us the ability to search His Word and find that everything he says is true....going to UTEP [for evangelism] really challenged me. It may me want to learn more so that I could have better conversations with people..." Rebekah, Engage Worldview Academy student
"The most significant thing I have learned is about evangelism. Even though I had done it before, I always struggled to engage in a conversation with a stranger and learning more about how to expose the gospel to others." Ruth, Engage Worldview Academy Student
Thus, our definition for discipleship must include teaching the new believer how to obey all that Jesus has commanded, modeling (1 Cor. 11:1) the humility and love of Christ from a more mature believer, grounded in the Word and prayer (2 Tim 3:15-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17), serving together, and biblical worldview formation. It must include biblical worldview formation because it's simply learning how to take captive every thought to the Lord Jesus and think Biblically about all things (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
If Scripture is the very Word's of God, God-breathed, then it is the sole infallible rule of faith and the ultimate authority in a believers life. Thus, the highest form of defending and explaining the truth (apologetics) is ALSO expository teaching and preaching. It's getting to the heart and God's intended message as given to us in his Word.
In Short, faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17) and "God's Word is living and active and sharper than a two-edged short, piercing to the division of the soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of men" (Hebrews 4:12).
My aim to point others to Christ, to trust in His Word and live and die by the all sufficient and authoritative Word.
Before moving on, I should clarify how I define apologetics and how I think about the uses and functions of apologetics (see graphic below). A good summary of apologetics and why every believer should care is from my apologetics professor, Dr. Timothy Paul Jones at SBTS.
"A definition of apologetics: Apologetics is the church’s reverent, reasonable, and humble defense through Spirit-empowered words and lives- of the hope we have in the risen Christ, as this hope has been revealed in God’s word and God’s world.
It's humility 1 Peter 3:15; reverence, 3:16; Rationality, 3:15; Hope in Risen and Returning Christ, 1:3; 1:13; Clean Conscience and Holy Life 3:16;1:16; 2:1-12; Using Special and General Revelation).
The earliest apologists saw the church itself as a living apologetic for the truth of the gospel. The practice of apologetics should be inseparable from the power of the gospel and presence of the Spirit (Romans 1:6; Luke 21:14; John 16:11-13). Apologetics is a means that God uses, but “the gospel….is God’s power for salvation.” The power is not in your evidence or your proclamation, but the power is in the gospel."
Dr. Timothy Paul Jones, Christian Apologetics class, SBTS
The Four functions of apologetics:
(1) defending the truth (defensive apologetics and in evangelism and discipleship)
(2) making the case for the Christian worldview (offensive/positive apologetics)
(3) The case for Christian morality in the public sphere and why Christian views are good for society (tolerance)- Early Christians frequently made the case for why Christianity should be tolerated in society and why Biblical moral are good for society.
(4) glory- leading others to "glorify" the Lord (taking captive every thought) are all subservient to the ultimate message: expositing the Word of God.
Since I care about the four categories listed above (as all Christians should), sometimes people think that because I give evidences for the veracity of Christianity, then the simple exposition and teaching of scripture might not be as important to me.
Sadly, that would be nothing further from the truth.
It's missing the key breakdown of various categories of thought that results in some believers dismissing the value of the four categories above.
Defending, explaining and pointing people to truth in line with God's Word FLOWS out of a mind and heart that is set aflame with honoring the Lord with EVERY thought (2 Cor 10:3-5; Luke 10:27).
Honestly, it shouldn't even be seen as "intellectual Christianity" to approach subjects this way. It should just be seen as "thinking Biblically about everything." Basic Christian living and thinking. Nothing more and nothing less.
So, yes, sometimes I have taught certain classes that are more in-depth and that function more in the "discipleship and leading someone to stand in awe of the Lord's Work" realm (i.e. my Genesis classes or in-depth classes on the preservation of scripture).
However, one should also understand that there is a different purpose for each class and teaching.
This past weekend I did an evangelism training class that I think every believer can understand and apply. I utilize David Platt's gospel threads and how to explain and ask specific questions to point people the truth of the gospel and lead others to Christ.
Sadly, when people don't understand my full thinking on apologetics, discipleship and evangelism training, they may end up misunderstanding me.
Sadly, if one hears me talk about the importance of defending the truth of God's Word, they may erroneously assume that "apologetics" is a very distant & separate category from Biblical exposition. That would be an unfortunate misunderstanding. Both of those categories are intertwined.
Yes, we can distinguish between evangelism, apologetics, Biblical exposition, and discipleship, but we should not separate these categories to our detriment.
If we do, we will see someone as "an apologetics focused Christian" vs. "a Biblical teaching Christian."
They are NOT mutually exclusive nor should they be.
When this happens we end up with someone like William Lane Craig, who needs to work on his theology and Biblical interpretation of Genesis to better inform his philosophy and approach to creation science issues. The different fields of philosophy and theology need to complement each other. WLC has horrible theology on genesis and I think that's because his ultimate authority on Genesis is Darwinist assumptions about earth history and geological evolution that he reads INTO the text.
As a result of the type of thinking separation & varying degrees of anti-intellectualism, I feel like people end of seeing those who attempt to just think biblically about everything as being "too intellectual." This group tends to view it almost as a vice and hindrance to the church and misunderstands "childlike faith" to mean "childish, immature and (as if) an anti-intellectual faith is a more mature faith.
Yes, everyone is NOT at the same level intellectually, but lets NOT act like it's a virtue to actively suppress honoring God with your mind.
Sure, some believers will pursue certain advanced studies in various fields (science, philosophy, theology) and not everyone is called to pursue advanced training. However, everyone is called to seek to love God with their mind to the best of their ability (keeping in mind their gifting, time, energy, personal and family needs, etc).
I am a Reformed Baptist. I hold to Sola Scriptura and that means I actually believe God's Word is sufficient to accomplish all that it promises to do (Hebrews 4:12; Isaiah 55:11). In fact, at the beginning of my recent evangelism training I said this:
"Always point people to the Word of God & His gospel: Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:14-17). Even in your reasoning with others (Acts 17:2), you want to point people to the Word, explain the Word, explain why only the Biblical worldview can account for reality and why Jesus and His Word is clear, authoritative and sufficient for life, salvation and godliness (2 Tim 3:15-17)."
Here's the deal: the gospel is so simple a child can understand it.
If you can speak, then can explain the gospel. If not, then you can probably draw it out.
It's so simple that you can just read or memorize scripture and explain those scriptures to someone and the Lord will grant faith to many through this method of pointing to scripture (2 Tim 2:24-27).
My personal connection with apologetics & evangelism & reflections on the importance of pastors being trained in apologetics:
My great desire is to eventually teach and preach more as a pastor again someday. I want to exposit the Word and shepherd more. Shepherd (protecting, leading, encouraging per 1 Tim 3) are WHY I do what I do: I want to see other believers standing firm in their faith (3 John 1:4).
Eventually I want to serve the body of Christ in this capacity again as a pastor.
When I preached in Mena, Arkansas last fall (2022) in re-ignited a passion in me to become a pastor again. I was grateful that I was told I can just preach on any text of scripture, but the expectation wasn't for me to give an apologetics lesson (I did that the day before).
I am also grateful because I believe Sunday morning worship should primarily be for the proclamation of the Word of God (2 Timothy 4:2-5) and not primarily for apologetics presentations (w/ perhaps rare exceptions). I obviously think apologetics training is important, but I firmly believe the regular diet of the church on Sunday morning should be the exposition of the Word of God (plus it's "expository apologetics" when done right!).
So, when I was in Mena, Arkansas I preached through James 1:19-27 and I later sensed how the Lord used the message greatly. I typically only preach about 1-2 times a year at various churches since starting Engage in 2018 and when I was last in a minster position in 2017. Yet since the fall of 2022 I have seriously started re-evaluating the possibility of pastoring again in the future. This was big for me as due to past church hurt I have been slow to consider pastoral ministry again.
As of today, I am probably clearer on articulating my desire to pastor again now than even a month ago. That's probably due to various factors, but one being that the burden to pastor keeps growing stronger as time goes by. It has been like a dim light that keeps growing stronger and brighter as time goes by.
Is a desire to pastor a departure from my passion for apologetics? By no means. They are intertwined. Every pastor is an apologist. Yes, a pastor is primarily a Shepherd and not an apologist, but we can't separate the role of defending the truth and protecting the flock (apologist) from the role of a Shepherd without great detriment to the health of the church.
Also, I should clarify that I'm not saying that every fulltime apologist (i.e. Creation scientists, professor, youtubers, apologetics ministry leader like myself) should all be a pastor as well, but I am saying that all pastors should be apologists.
It should become the NORM of the future Church for pastors to at least have a basic understanding of cultural issues and core apologetics.
When 37% of pastors in America have a Biblical worldview, I think that is in part because pastors weren't fully convinced that they should model and encourage their congregation to take captive EVERY thought to the Word of God and be able to refute false teaching (Titus 1:9). The pastor should be a theologian & expositor of the Word, Shepherd, apologist, encourager, prayer warrior and evangelist. (1-2 Timothy; 1 Peter 5).
Pastors must be biblically qualified and that involves being able to defend the truth. The church of the future must understand this to be "faithfully different" in our secular anti-Christian age.
Still don't believe me that apologetics is for everyone or that it's too advanced? I can give you a few super simple examples that even that alleged the "apologetics is unnecessary" person will utilize from time to time.
A few basic Examples of clarifying and defending the truth in evangelism
1. Basic argument for why to trust in Bible
"The Bible is God's Word.
I know because the Bible is so accurate to diagnose what's wrong with humanity and it speaks of a perfectly just God that takes evil so serious. No other so called god shows the qualities of true justice and goodness like the God of the Bible.
The Bible speaks of all humans as sinners. All have fallen short of God's standard of perfection. This is a self evident truth to the honest person- the heart of man is the problem."
It's an appeal to a self evident observation but can be effective because it is obvious that the world is broken because humans are sinful.
2. Super basic case for a creator:
Basic argument from common sense that I have seen believers that make a case against apologetics:
"There must be a creator because nothing creates nothing. It couldn't just happen!"
3. Why The resurrection of Jesus is true (basic argument)
"Why would most of the disciples die if Jesus didn't really rise again?"
4. Answering an objection
"I am good person and don't need Jesus."
"By what standard are you good? Are you good compared to God's standard? What does his Word say. Let's look at Romans 3 and 4" share the gospel and explain the text."
Apologetics is unavoidable.
Even the believer that says "some believers don't need apologetics" is making an apologetic against apologetics- thus refuting himself. Furthermore, this position tends to eventually show it's inconsistency cause I almost always see this same person employing some type of basic argument for why the gospel is true in evangelism (as mentioned above).
Anti intellectualism is not the answer.
Intellectuals are not needed to share the faith but we do need to all be willing to share the simple gospel (1 Corinthians 2:4) and give a basic explanation for why we know its true. (1 Peter 3:15)
Loving and speaking the truth is unavoidable for the believer. We must speak the truth of God's Word to others if we are to love them.
Because all believers are called to point to the TRUTH of God's Word and give an answer for the hope that we have.