Saturday, June 11, 2011

Apologetics By Any Other Name

"What's apologetics?" That may be the first question you hear from people who are not familiar with the discipline of giving a rational defense of the Christian faith.

And even if someone does understand the meaning of the word, the actual word "apologetics" may carry with it some negative baggage. For instance, some equate apologetics with being argumentative, being overly intellectual, or being too philosophical.

For this reason, it's often useful to simply bypass the word altogether. Why start with a stumbling block? Instead, apologetics can be referred to as defending the faith. Or maybe giving good reasons. Or answering tough questions. The list goes on...

And so here's a growing list of alternative words or phrases for apologetics. Feel free to offer your suggestions in the comments below.
  • defending Christianity
  • the defense of the faith
  • thinking through the issues
  • being thoughtful about your convictions
  • being thoughtful about the faith
  • critically examining Christian truth
  • contending for the faith
  • answering the tough questions
  • examining worldviews
  • studying Christian defenses
  • handling tough issues
  • answering skeptics
  • discussing your convictions
  • pre-evangelism
  • persuasive evangelism
  • showing Christianity is true
  • giving good answers
  • asking the big questions
  • evaluating the evidence
  • answering questions; questioning answers
  • making the case for faith
  • defending and confirming the Gospel
  • showing why Christianity is true
  • reasoning with unbelievers
  • searching for truth
Perhaps some combination of these sorts of words or phrases are more self-explanatory and helpful for those who are unfamiliar with apologetics as a discipline. Share your tips!


Jason Engwer said...

In addition to what Brian has mentioned, I'd suggest using qualifiers such as "like the apostles did", "like the Biblical authors did", or "like the early Christians did". That sort of qualifier will communicate a few things. It will communicate the fact that Christianity itself is concerned with things like reason and evidence. It's not just a concern of some Christians. It also motivates people who consider themselves Christians to ask themselves whether they're as concerned with things like reason and evidence as they ought to be. If the Old Testament prophets and their original audience were so concerned about the evidence of fulfilled prophecy, the apostles and their original audience were so concerned about the evidence of eyewitness testimony, etc., then shouldn't Christians today have a similar concern? Christianity is built on a foundation of reasoning and evidential concepts, like fulfilled prophecy and eyewitness testimony. The concept of Christ's fulfillment of the Old Testament is an evidential concept. The highest church office, the office of apostle, requires its holders to be eyewitnesses in a highly evidential context. You can't understand some of the most basic elements of Christianity, and live out the Christian life consistently, without thinking in such evidential categories. Though it's appropriate for some people to be more involved in apologetics than others, it's important to communicate to people that apologetics should be a concern for Christians, as well as non-Christians, in general.

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