In this quick intro to apologetics, T. J. Gentry, PhD, PhD, DMin, gives four characteristics we must have if we are to defend the Christian faith faithfully.
As a father of five, an oft-used line in my parenting when my kids are settling down after an argument is, “Are you ready to apologize?” Sometimes they are; sometimes they’re not. One of my parenting goals, though, is to make sure they know how to apologize when the time comes.
As a pastor, one of my goals also has to do with helping others learn to apologize. However, in this instance the apology has nothing to do with saying, “I’m sorry” and everything to do with explaining “Here’s why I believe the Christian message is true.”
What I’m talking about is apologetics, the defense of the faith.
Before you tune out or think, “Yeah, I’m glad there are those trained to do that stuff,” I want to help you see that every believer is called to be an apologist. Sure, we have different levels of knowledge and ability, different contexts, different audiences. But all of us share the same calling to “sanctify the Lord God in [our] hearts, and always be ready to give a defense [Greek: apologia] to everyone who asks [us] a reason for the hope that is in [us]” (1 Peter 3:15 NKJV).
“Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.”
So, I’m going to ask you what may be one of the most important questions you will hear. Are you ready to apologize?
What Does It Mean to Give a Defense of the Faith?
To help answer this question, let’s consider what an apology is in the context of our faith. In doing so, we will draw on four key points from the words I just quoted from 1 Peter 3:15. Here they are again, reminding us to “sanctify the Lord God in [our] hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks [us] a reason for the hope that is in [us].”
First, we are to be ready.
Peter tells us to “always be ready.” To get a sense of what it means to “be ready,” think of a runner in the starting blocks of a race. She is in position, feet in the blocks, eyes forward, ears open, hands down to push off the ground as soon as the starting pistol fires. She’s ready. That’s how we must be as we think of defending our faith, poised to begin at any time.
“…poised to begin at any time…”
Peter goes on to speak of how often we are to “be ready.” He says “always,” which means there is never a time when we should not be, as it were, in the starting blocks with our faith in hand like the baton held by the first runner in a relay. Our faith is the baton, and we are always to be ready to put it into action as we make our apology. As the old saying goes, “there’s no time like the present.” Always ready means always ready.
Second, we are to be reasonable.
Peter teaches that our apologetics should be reasonable, which is to say we should be well thought out and clear in what we are saying and how to say it. If called to explain why we believe the Bible is dependable, we must have our reasons ready. When skeptics question the account of Christ’s resurrection, we know the evidence and what to do with it. When someone talks about morality, our response is to point them to the divine Source of morality with clarity and passion. Our apologetics demand our reason because our faith is reasonable.
Third, we are to be righteous.
Peter’s command to “sanctify the Lord God in [our] hearts” speaks to the surrender we must daily make to the direction of Jesus. A good apologist is a holy apologist. There is no amount of readiness and reason that will make up for a lack of devotion to the One we make apology for. To be clear, our apology is not about being sorry for Jesus but it is about being submitted to Him. As has been said, the mission we have is to make the faith attractive by our holy living. We have more than facts on our side; we have transformation and changed lives. We must be righteous in our apologetics.
Fourth, we are to be relational.
Notice that Peter speaks of those “who ask [us] a reason for the hope” that we have. If we are relational, which is to say if we are personable and engaged with those in our circles of influence, we have a natural audience and opportunity to share our hope and why it makes sense.
“If someone is going to ask us about our hope, they will need to see it in action.”
Being relational is also about being vulnerable. How so? Well, if someone is going to ask us about our hope, they will need to see it in action. We show hope when we persevere through suffering, when we forgive, when we love. Hope is contagious, something that spreads to those around us and prompts questions of how and why. When we listen to those asking how and why, we can respond with the truth of our faith. We speak and show our hope through our relationships as apologists, and God is pleased to use us as we do so.
My friends, it’s time to be ready, reasonable, righteous, and relational with the good news of God’s love for the world. It’s time to give a reason for our hope. Are you ready to apologize?
For more from T. J., check out tjgentry.com.