Apologetics is a branch of Christian theology that helps give reasons for the truthfulness of the Christian faith/worldview. The word “Apologia” means “to give reasons, make a legal defense” (Acts 26:2; 2 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet 3:15). The apostles approach to spreading the message of the Gospel is characterized by such terms as “apologeomai/apologia” which means “to give reasons, make a legal defense” (Acts 26:2; 2 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet 3:15); “dialegomai” which means “to reason, speak boldly” (Acts 17:2; 17; 18:4; 19:8), “peíthō” which means to persuade, argue persuasively” (Acts 18:4; 19:8), and “bebaioō ” which means “to confirm, establish,” (Phil 1:7; Heb. 2:3). 
Over the years, I have the privilege to collaborate with many others who are involved in the apologetic endeavor. One thing is for sure: Most of the opposition to apologetics comes from within the Church itself. But why is this? After all, though Jesus didn’t run around calling Himself an apologist, he did offer reasons and evidence for His Messiahship. As I just said, Paul and the apostles did apologetics on several occasions. I have written about more about here. Recently, I sent an email out to several ministry leaders about the need for apologetics in the local congregation. Keep in mind, the list had about 100 people on it. I did get one response which led to a radio interview. Robin Schumacher discusses a story about his friend who sent a similar letter to ministry leaders.
So having said all this, let me offer some reasons as to why there is so much opposition in the Church itself:
- Ignorance about apologetics in the Bible: I have taught on many occasions where we see apologetics in the Bible. In many cases, Christians have never read the Bible apologetically.
- Seminaries: Sure, pastors and ministry leaders are taught to exegete the text. That’s important. But in the end, they probably go to a seminary that doesn’t even offer a class on apologetics. This makes no sense. So they end up doing a lot to equip the people to know and study the Bible correctly. But is it not true that most if not all of our churches start with a set of presuppositions that a fairly large part of our culture rejects?3. The Impact of Postmodernism and Emergent Church: Space precludes me from going deeper on this topic. Paul Copan has two concise articles on the topic here and here. But I run across many false dichotomies in the Church such as the following:
- The Orthodoxy/Orthopraxy divide: This plays out in the following sayings: “We spend too much time on orthodoxy (right belief). Hence, what really matters is our orthopraxy (right practice).” This is a false dichotomy. After all, it is true a Christian needs to be loving, caring, and feed the poor and show good works. But can’t a Mormon, a Jew, or a Buddhist display good works as well? Sorry but the truth question can’t be left behind.
- Propositional Truth vs Personal Truth: The saying goes like this: “Truth is in a person (i.e., Jesus), and is not based on a set of propositions.” Once again, there doesn’t need to be a dichotomy here. Personal and propositional revelation work together! Hence, this gets really old.
- Faith vs Reason: The majority of the culture thinks the word “faith” is something that is just a private and subjective belief that is not grounded in any kind of knowledge. The problem is that this is the way many Christians define faith as well. My question is the following: How many pastors and ministry leaders teach on what the Bible teaches about faith? We could use a lot more sermons/teachings on this topic. When I ask my fellow Christians why they think Christianity is true, the average response I get is “It is true because I have faith.” So if this is the case, what would you say if a Muslim or Mormon said they know Islam or Mormonism is true because they have faith? I guess that makes Islam or Mormonism true! Case closed!To read more on this, see our post called Why So Many People Misunderstand the Word “Faith”
4. Christians Being Spoon Fed By Their Pastors: Many Christians won’t take the initiative to learn anything unless their pastor tells them to. This is tragic and shows the problem with the clergy/laity divide. See the article Laypeople and the Mission of God, part 1 — Killing the Clergy-Laity Caste System. I was recently asked by a Christian how to get an apologetics programs started in their Church. They were shocked to learn how many resources are out there.
5. Christians are not sharing their faith: I think this is one of the largest obstacles to apologetics in the Church. I recently taught a class on religious pluralism. I asked people to raise their hand as to how many times they have been asked “How can you say Jesus is the only way to God?” Out of 40 people, two people raised their hand. I was baffled by this one. I assumed everyone had heard this objection. Hence, if people aren’t sharing the Gospel, they aren’t getting challenged!
Let me close by saying this: We are here to help. I know myself and others love the people of God and desire to see our fellow brethren equipped to engage the culture around us. I am not saying apologetics is all that matters. It is ONE BRICK in our foundation. I hope ministry leaders will see the need for this brick in the local congregation.
1. Garrett J. Deweese, Doing Philosophy as a Christian (Downers Grove, ILL: IVP Publishers, 2012), 78-79.