Whereas the English word “apology” has come to refer to an expression of remorse for wrongdoing, the word “apologetics” (“apologia” or “απoλoγία” in Greek) maintains the traditional Greek meaning and refers to “speaking in defense.”
In New Testament times, after a prosecutor in the Greek legal system presented charges against a defendant, the defendant was given an opportunity to respond with an “apologia” — a speech replying to the charges made by the prosecutor. [See, Kenneth Boa, The Apologetics Study Bible, “What is Apologetics?”, pg. xxv (2007); see also, Wikipedia, “Apologetics”, accessed 6/19/09] In the context of Christianity, “apologetics”’ is now generally understood to refer to areas of study concerned with intellectual defense of Christian truth claims.
Use of the Word “Apologia” in the Bible
The New Testament, which was originally written mostly in Greek, uses the Greek word “apologia” appears in multiple verses of the New Testament (Acts 22:1, Acts 25:16, I Cor. 9:3, 2 Cor. 7:11, Phil. 1:7, Phil. 1:16, 2 Tim. 4:16. 1 Peter 3:15. Some of the more well-known passages include the following:
In this passage, the apostle Paul was arrested in Jerusalem after a group of Jews from Asia accused Paul (who was also a Jew) of speaking against the Jewish people and the laws of Moses. Before Paul was thrown into jail, the Roman commander allowed him to address the crowd and while standing on the steps of the jail barracks, Paul asked the crowd to listen to his defense — his “apologia.” He started by telling the crowd how he had grown up in Jerusalem and was thoroughly trained in the laws of Moses under the tutelage of Rabbi Gamaliel. Paul explained that, as a Jew, his passion for God was so great that after Jesus’ crucifixion, he had zealously hunted Christians down to have them arrested and executed. The apostle Paul then shared how his life had been completely transformed by his encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus.
In a letter sent by the apostle Paul to Christ-followers in Philippi, he told them even his imprisonment had served to advance the gospel because everyone knew he had been imprisoned for Christ. In verse 16, Paul specifically states: “I am put here for the defense (apologia) of the gospel.”
In this passage, Peter aka Cephas wrote to a group of Christ-followers being persecuted for their faith. Peter exhorted them not to fear suffering for the sake of Christ but, instead, to set Christ apart as Lord and be prepared “to make a defense (apologia)” of the gospel to anyone who asked them for a reason for their hope, but to do so with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience.
Christian apologists now distinguish between offensive and defensive apologetics. Defensively, Christian apologists seek to respond to objections raised against the Christian faith by clarifying distortions and exposing false allegations made against the faith. Offensively, Christian apologists rely on philosophic, scientific and historic evidence and arguments to show there is a rational basis for believing the claims of Christianity to be true and no good reason to believe they are false. [See, William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, pg. xvi (1994); Kenneth Boa, The Apologetics Study Bible, “What is Apologetics?”, pg. xxv (2007)]
In many foreign countries today, Christians are physically persecuted for their faith in the same way the Christ-followers Simon Peter wrote to in 1 Peter 3:13-17 were persecuted. [Learn more about Christian persecution around the world at www.persecution.com]
In America, the attack on Christianity is primarily verbal and intellectual. Every day on college campuses throughout the United States, Christian young people are openly mocked and ridiculed by professors and other skeptics for their belief in God and Christian truth claims.
“From the moment I entered my university campus, my faith was attacked from every direction. My professors scoffed at the idea that I considered the Bible to be historically trustworthy. My classmates declared Christianity to be the cause of all the problems in the world….I still get knots in my stomach when I recall the probing questions that were thrown at me day after day.” — Alison Thomas
Unfortunately, the statistical evidence demonstrates the attack on Christianity is taking its toll. Within two years of starting college, 70% – 90% of Christian young people disengage from their faith and it is now expected up to 51% of Christians will renounce their faith by the time they graduate. Many young people report becoming disillusioned with Christianity because they didn’t know how to respond to the intellectual challenges they were confronted with on the college campus and other secular arenas.
Christians now have the benefit of over 2,000 years of concentrated scientific, philosophic and historic investigation and study regarding Christian truth claims. Time has demonstrated that Christianity can withstand even the most vigorous intellectual challenge and it is simply imprudent for Christians to fail to educate themselves and their children about the sound rational foundations of the Christian faith.
One of the primary goals of FactsandFaith.com is to provide Christians with summaries of the well-reasoned arguments that have been developed in defense of the Christian faith so Christians, and especially young people, have the intellectual tools they need to competently and confidently respond to skeptics in the secular arena.
© 2012 by Andrina G. Hanson
Published: June 10, 2012 / Last Updated: July 14, 2017
SOURCES REFERENCED OR RELIED ON IN THIS ARTICLE
Kenneth D. Boa, The Apologetics Study Bible: Understand Why You Believe“”What is Apologetics?”, pg. xxv (Holman Bible Publishers, 2007)
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Slideshow Photo: Ca 1255-1266 illustration to the Summa Vitiorum (Treatise on the Vices) by William Peraldus depicting a knight protected by the shield of the Trinity preparing to do battle with the seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride). [Downloaded from wikimedia.org which states the image is in the This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.]