As a veteran believer, I’m going to give you my take on apologetics through my own personal experience. The story starts when I was young, real young. I accepted Jesus as a child. To the best of my memory, I was probably about three years old. I was presented with the gospel message in my before-bed Bible story time with my parents, I believed, and I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins. Obviously, I had not gone through levels of evidence or thoroughly weighed out the arguments of the leading apologists of the day. I accepted the testimony of someone I trusted. It was definitely a case of childlike faith (Matt 18:2-4).
However, that childlike faith was challenged along the way as I encountered the history of life as it was presented in my science classes. As a sciency kind of kid, I was forced to walk solely by faith for several years. I didn’t have answers to the assertions of the atheistic scientific community. I remember the confidence and strength I felt as I learned the evidence and counter-arguments to the nagging claims that had left me speechless in the past. I knew the tables had been turned in my favor and I would not be left speechless again. Perhaps the best part was that I felt like my faith had been vindicated and therefore strengthened for the future, knowing that even though it may not look like it for a time, God always turns out to be right in the end!
When considering apologetics, one thing that needs to be established is that faith does not need evidence. We know this because by definition,”… faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Apologetics is an attempt to make the conviction seen. We take the evidence, analyze it, put it into a logical argument and connect all the dots. In this sense, are we weakening faith with our work? I believe in some instances, this may be the case. We all need to keep this in mind when presenting our arguments. Not everyone needs this evidence because they have the gift of faith (1 Cor 12:9). Even though they have not seen (the evidence and arguments), they believe. These people have a special blessing (Jn 20:29) and we should not discount their lack of interest or look at them as ignorant Christians. In reality, these people are probably way ahead of us. They are walking by faith while we are relying on sight.
In most cases, though, I believe apologetic arguments strengthen faith. For those who have questions, we are providing the boost to faith necessary to keep them spiritually alive. Even Jesus provided this boost to Thomas when his faith was failing. He did this by giving him more evidence to the resurrection (A lot more!). This idea is further strengthened by scripture in Ephesians 4:7-16 which talks about “equipping of the saints for the work of service” so that “we are no longer… tossed here and there by…deceitful scheming”. If you have a bent toward apologetics, it could very well be a gift from Jesus (vv. 7-8), and it is to be used “in love” (v.15), “for the equipping of the saints”(v.12) so they “are no longer… tossed… by waves”(v.14). Through this work, we are “building up the body of Christ” (v.12) and giving that boost to faith keeping our brothers and sisters from spiritual peril. The apologist supports the work of the evangelist and also equips the pastor and the encourager who strengthen those who are falling into doubt.
Apologetic arguments are also used to carry out the instruction in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. They are used for “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God”. The world throws these “speculations” and “lofty things” (v.5) at Christians on a regular basis. They are the challenges to our “knowledge of God” (v.5) which we receive from scripture. If they take root, they give rise to doubts, which can pull the believer down and prevent the unbeliever from coming to faith. When we use apologetic arguments we are engaging in spiritual warfare by “destroying speculations” and taking thoughts “captive”. These arguments can be the “weapons of our warfare” and “divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses”. I believe “divinely powerful” refers to how the Holy Spirit uses the truth of the arguments to bring powerful conviction to people (Jn 16:13). It is exciting to think about the Holy Spirit working through you to destroy the devil’s “fortress” in someone’s life so that they can move on with their relationship with the Lord in peace.
As I said earlier, I remember not having a defense against the assertions of the atheistic scientific community. When we do not have an answer, sometimes people want to make us look stupid, but in those moments, we are being “persecuted” for our faith and have a reward in heaven (Matt 5:10-12). If you have ever felt that way, think about the reward and be careful how you act when the shoe is on the other foot and your antagonist doesn’t have an answer. As you learn more and more apologetic arguments, the shoe will be on the other foot most of the time. Your graciousness in these situations will do more than all the arguments in world in getting them to come to faith.
Many times I have been strengthened by the work of apologists. I am thankful for those who have labored to bring the truth to me. Let me now encourage you to continue on your mission destroying the enemy’s fortresses and equipping the saints so that the body of Christ will be built up with the truth you have been given.