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 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
- The authenticity and reliability of the Scriptures
- The accuracy and reliability of the accounts of Jesus in the four
- The existence of Jesus as a historical character in first-century
- 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
- The lack of motivation for the early apostles to lie.
- The corroboration of details described in New Testament scripture, particularly
- The corroboration of general events described in New Testament scripture through
- The medical diagnosis of Jesus' condition at his death, as described by the
- The nature of Roman military operations and its guarding of the tomb.
- The empty tomb.
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.