Context: evangelism, theology

Apologetics is the branch of theology dealing with a systematic and argumentative defence of Christian doctrine in general, and with its truth claims (e.g. Jesus' divinity and the resurrction) in particular. The word comes from the Greek apologia (used in the New Testament in 2 Tim 4:16), which is rhetorical jargon for "defence", and is the dual of kategoria. The theological motivation of apologetics lies with 1 Pet 3:15, where Christians are exhorted to "always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you" (ESV).

While apologetics is not evangelism in the strict sense, it is frequently used as a complement of evangelism. The gospel makes certain truth claims, and these need to be defended. Apologetics seeds to establish and defend the credibility of these truth claims.

Apologetics can be classified into two branches:

Evidential Apologetics

Evidential apologetics tends to deal with the objective facts in the set of Christian doctrine. Certain truth claims are precise and historical in nature, and thus can be defended in this way. Examples of this type of truth claims would include:

  • The authenticity and reliability of the Scriptures
  • The accuracy and reliability of the accounts of Jesus in the four Gospels.
  • The existence of Jesus as a historical character in first-century Palestine.
  • Jesus' death as a historical event.
  • Circmstances surrounding Jesus' resurrection: Did the resurrection occur? What has happened to the empty tomb? Where did the body go? Were the apostles lying? Who has seen him alive?

Evidential apologists would appeal to historical-scientific evidence in the defence of the above truth claims:

  • The number of scriptural manuscripts found in archeological surveys, and the accuracy in which the manuscripts have been copied.
  • The geopolitical situation of first-centry Palestine under Roman rule.
  • The lack of motivation for the early apostles to lie.
  • The corroboration of details described in New Testament scripture, particularly in Luke-Acts.
  • The corroboration of general events described in New Testament scripture through non-scriptural documents.
  • The medical diagnosis of Jesus' condition at his death, as described by the gospel accounts.
  • The nature of Roman military operations and its guarding of the tomb.
  • The empty tomb.

Presuppositional Apologetics

Presuppositional apologetics aims to "destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against knowledge of God" (2 Cor 10:5 ESV). It does so by firstly defending the Christian worldview as a valid, credible system that withstands scrutiny; and secondly by showing how other worldviews are incomplete, flawed, or otherwise lacking in its explanation of the current and future state of humanity and the world. Examples of truth claims that would be covered through presuppositional apologetics would include:

  • Truth exists.
  • The absolute exists. In particular, there are things that are absolutely right, and there are things that are absolutely wrong, regardless of culture. Morality is not under the determination of the culture of the day, rather, it is established by the moral God.
  • Time is linear. It does not move in cycles. It begins somewhere (i.e. creation) and heads in a linear direction. This implies that history is meaningful and important, and the metanarrative (particularly the Christian metanarrative in biblical theology) is valid.

A*pol`o*get"ics (#), n.

That branch of theology which defends the Holy Scriptures, and sets forth the evidence of their divine authority.


© Webster 1913.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.