Over the weekend, my husband Mike and I were privileged to attend Ligonier Ministries‘ west coast “Defending the Faith” apologetics conference in Redmond, WA. It was the first conference of that type we had ever attended. Mike often listens to audio from Christian conferences after they occur; a habit I have picked up as well.
I thought it appropriate to attempt to put down a few thoughts about what I learned. I often find that writing is how I process things. Without taking the time to write, it is just a series of jumbled information that I cannot fully articulate.
Granted, I should admit upfront that culling two packed full days of lectures into one brief blog post is not possible. I have eight full pages of notes. Even the most dedicated reader probably wouldn’t want to power through the unabridged version of my notes. So I will attempt to make a few brief points.
To start, I will cite the most common biblical call to apologetics (defending our faith), found in 1 Peter 3:15:
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
The command for Christ-followers is stated plainly. If you didn’t read the verse above, do yourself a favor and read it. If you did read it, read it again.
“Sanctify” is the only potentially unclear word in that verse. Put differently, sanctify could mean, set apart, honor, or revere. Read one of those words into it if that helps.
As Christians, we are expected to live out this verse just like the rest of the commands in Scripture that apply to the new covenant. So as a means of breaking this down as the heart of apologetics, I’ll use the standard analytical tool of identifying the five Ws. Or in this case, four Ws and one H. When, who, what, how, and why.
The Case for Apologetics
When: At what time should we defend the faith? Always. Not just when you are fresh from a retreat or time in the word when your faith is resilient and strong. Not just when you feel like it. Always.
Ouch. I’m guilty of failing the always test. What does it take to always be ready? For one, it takes knowing what you believe. For another, it means studying the word, day in and day out, being “diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
Who: To whom should we defend the faith? Everyone. “Everyone who asks you to give an account…” That means people who ask sincerely, as well as people that ask with sneering, sarcasm, and disbelief. Even those who are in a position to do us harm (loss of job, friends, etc.) if they don’t like our answer.
What: Hope. The idea of the gospel as hope is simple, yet profoundly powerful. As those who have escaped the wrath of God through the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23), our hope is unquenchable. We should be able to succinctly, confidently explain it to others who are curious.
How: With gentleness and respect. Most of us may be able to point to a time or two when we’ve seen the gospel shared with harshness or disrespect. Maybe we’ve even been guilty of being the ones doing the verbal (or written, or online) bludgeoning. Thankfully, the Lord is merciful to forgive us (1 John 1:9) when we fail and misrepresent Him. But we need to do better. That is where the constant reading of the word comes in and helps shape our character, as we learn more about God through His word.
Why: This is a big one. Why does all this matter? Well, as we covered above, God commands it. He commands it because the gospel itself is at stake.
Just as Jesus’ disciples, after being eyewitnesses of His resurrection, received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and went on to spread the hope of the gospel throughout the known world, we too, as benefactors of His amazing grace, and the continuance of God’s redemptive work in the world, are obligated to share the hope we have that has so transformed our lives.
Obviously, there is much more that could be and had been said about the topic of defending the faith. I only summarized one session of many from the conference here. This lays a groundwork for the method and motive of the wonderful work which God has entrusted us through Jesus Christ.
It is my prayer that this will encourage you to examine where you stand and honestly evaluate if you are being faithful to honor God in this way. I pray the Lord would increase my opportunities and yours, to share of the glorious hope we have in Him.
Thank you for reading! I always welcome comments and questions.