Some cringe at the word because it implies studying. Some roll their eyes because they think philosophers are lunatics. And some say that they’ll never apologize for their faith. But a few, like me, become energized at the word. For a few people, their eyes brighten, their heart quickens, and they eagerly await what is about to be said.
But why is this energy for apologetics limited to a mere few?
The Lord’s Calling
I began to wonder about this when I first heard a comment from J. Warner Wallace in a podcast. He mentioned that all Christians are called to be apologists, not a mere few. This was particularly interested because he used the word called. When we think the Lord calling us, we typically associate that with our profession, ministry, or family life. We say things like “The Lord called me into missions. The Lord called me to become a doctor. The Lord called us to adopt.”
All of those instances are individual callings. Each time, the Lord wanted a specific person in a specific position performing a specific task. Scripture also tells us that the church is made up of many members, but we are all connected to one body. What would happen if the Lord called all Christians to be pastors? Or if he called us all to become doctors. Or if he called us all to singleness? If we all were called to be the same thing, then we would be a very dysfunctional body of Christ (at least, more so than we are now).
So how could everyone be called to be an apologist? Wouldn’t this disrupt the body of Christ?
And if it is true that everyone is called to be an apologist, then why do only a few people in the body of Christ take it seriously?
Asking Sunday School
I am one of two people in my church whose blood starts pumping thinking and talking apologetics. Our pastor, who typically teaches our adult Sunday school class, was taking a much needed (and much deserved) sabbatical. During his time away, I was asked to teach the class. And so I decided to teach the one thing I thought I had a fairly good grasp on: apologetics.
I began my lesson by asking this question and after some discussion, there was a surprising consensus: Yes, everyone is called to be an apologist. But everyone is an apologist to varying degrees.
1 Peter 3:15
The pride and joy verse of apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15 – to always be prepared to give a defense for the hope that is in you (paraphrase). I’ve heard apologists tout this verse all the time, but I’ve never heard a layperson mention it as one of their “life verses.” It probably doesn’t make the Top 10. Maybe not even the Top 100. A lot of people who call themselves Christians struggle to get out of bed on time on Sunday, let alone take the time to prepare themselves to give a defense for their faith.
But who is this verse written to? The introduction to 1 Peter says:
To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.
This isn’t the time or place to write about election and God’s foreknowledge. Maybe another post. But at the very least, the introduction makes it clear that this letter it is written to believers throughout the world who have put their faith in the work of Jesus Christ. This means that the entire letter is written to that group, including 3:15.
1 Peter 3:15 is actually only part of a much longer sentence. The whole sentence says. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you’ yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”
If the whole letter is written to the broad audience.Then this sentence is written to the broad audience. And not just part of the the sentence, but all of it.
So yes, everyone is called to be an apologist. More than that, everyone is commanded by Scripture to be one. You can blame Peter for that.
Apologist vs. Professional Apologist
Everyone is called to be an apologist, but not everyone is called to be one professionally. Everyone is required to defend their faith, but not everyone has been given the abilities to teach, debate, or write books defending Christianity.
But since the average Christian isn’t gifted with those abilities and skill sets, I think we have largely ignored taking any action to actively defend our faith. We’ve become content with going to church every Sunday, contributing to the occasional fundraiser, going on a few mission trips, and dropping a few dollars in the offering plate. After all, if we’re saved by faith alone, so everything else is just extra, right? If we don’t need to engage in apologetics, then why burden ourselves with it?
Missing Out on the Fullness of Christianity
When we’re content just sitting in the pew every Sunday, we’re missing out on the fullness of Christianity. What do I mean by that? To be sure, our salvation is completed in Christ, but that alone is not the entirety of Christianity.
J.D. Greear often says that the Gospel (good news of Christ) isn’t just the diving board that gets us into the pool, it’s also the pool itself. So when you’re saved by the work of Christ, you’re jumping into the pool of what Christianity, Christ, and his grace have to offer. But if you’re willing to explore the pool, you’ll find out just how deep and vast it is. Christianity isn’t merely a backyard pool that’s 4 inches deep—it’s bigger and deeper than anything you can imagine. You could spend the rest of your life exploring it, and you still won’t be able to fathom it’s size.
The more you explore it, the more you’ll be transformed by Christ’s overwhelming grace and love. So why do many people not want to explore it? Why are they content with just a sermon once a week?
Gary Habermas has said, “Christianity’s the only religion in the world that does what we call ‘apologetics’ the way we do it.” Why did he say that?
Christianity is the only religion that revolves around a historically verifiable event—Jesus’s resurrection. All other religions depend on teachings or revelations from its founder(s). Furthermore, the entire Bible is historically verifiable. Archeology can look to see if there is (or isn’t) evidence for everything the Bible speaks of. No other religion can make that claim.
Stop Acting Like Christianity is Like Every Other Religion
Unfortunately, I think that a lot of people have succumbed to the belief that Christianity is like every other religion. “It’s a leap of faith,” I’ve heard people say. Sure, Christianity requires faith, but it doesn’t only depend on faith. Just because faith is required doesn’t mean that faith has to be blind. Thinking that Christianity requires faith and faith alone is a horrible mistake. It lowers the bar. It brings it down to the level of every other religion. It’s true that salvation is by faith, and faith alone. But Christianity is so much more.
So it’s time to quit acting like Christian is just average. It’s not. But most people, especially Christians, don’t have a clue that Christianity stands alone.