POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

Finding God in Our Questions - An Intro to Christian Apologetics - Part 2

continued from part 1

Far from being an exercise in saying that you are sorry, the term apologetics is derived from an ancient Greek word which means to give a reasoned defense of something.[1] Plato’s ancient account of the trial of Socrates before the leaders of Athens was simple entitled “The Apology of Socrates.”[2] It recounts the old philosopher’s defense of himself and his work against charges levied against him of atheism and the corruption of the youth.[3] This well-traveled Greek term is the word we find as we come to the New Testament writings which describe the work of the early Christian community. The Bible both demonstrates that the early church gave a reasoned defense of the gospel as well as an exhortation for us to do so as well.  We will first look at Apologetics in the New Testament and then the robust witness in church history of Christians working for the proclamation and defense of the gospel.

Apologetics in the New Testament

In the New Testament of the Holy Bible the same term is used by two of the preeminent leaders of the early Christian movement. First, a teacher of the faith named Paul told his friends in a church in the city of Philippi that his work had been for the “defense and confirmation” of the gospel (Philippians 1:7). He goes on to say that he had been put in jail precisely due to this defense. The word he uses for defense in this chapter is the word from which we derive our term apologetics. Furthermore, the apostle Peter exhorted the early church to do several things in 1 Peter 3:15. They are to first set apart Christ as Lord in their own hearts. Second, they are to always be prepared to give a defense, an apologia, when asked for the reason they have for the hope that is within them. Finally, they are to do this in a manner that is gentle and respectful towards their friends. Openly advocating and defending the truth of the gospel was both the habit of Paul and the exhortation of Peter.

In addition to the clear New Testament witness of Peter and Paul we also have the writings of the gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts.  This two part work was compiled by a follower of Jesus named Luke who was the traveling companion of Paul and a leader in first century Christianity.  At the beginning of Luke and Acts he writes the following:

Luke 1:1-4 1Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Acts 1:1-3 1In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

Here we see Luke, a physician by training, seeking to explain clearly the truth about Jesus in his gospel and then confirm the truth of Jesus’ resurrection and ministry carried on through his church. His concern was that a new follower of Jesus would have “certainty concerning the things he had been taught” and then understand all God had done through the apostles to expand the gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the book of Luke we see all Jesus taught and did and in the book of Acts we see what his leaders were about in following his commission for their lives after he was gone. In Acts we see Peter and Paul proclaiming the gospel and giving explanations of the gospel to various audiences and contexts in the ancient world. Ajith Fernando, Sri Lankan Christian leader and Scholar, describes the messages proclaimed in Acts as all having a strong apologetic context.[4] Indeed the early church was proclaiming the good news of Jesus (evangelism) and defending the gospel as people inquired into the message they preached (apologetics). Commending and defending the gospel is the biblical model so we must maintain this intricate connection.

Continued in Part 3 - Apologetics in Church History


[1] See ἀπολογία in Walter Bauer and others, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000).

[2] Louis Markos, Apologetics for the 21st Century (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 17.

[3] Atheism in that he did not advocate for the pantheon of ancient Greece and corruption in that his method was seen as deconstructive in that he questioned everything.

[4] Ajith Fernando, Acts, the Niv Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 30.