Many Christians who are interested in evangelism and apologetics make the common mistake of thinking that they don’t need to know more than the basic plan of salvation to be a good evangelist. They believe that knowing just a little about Jesus is enough. They may even think that too much knowledge will be a hindrance to effective outreach. As a result they proclaim a message about Jesus without knowing very many of the details. Consequently, they don’t know how to deal with objections to the Christian faith because they are relatively ignorant of the faith they are defending. They are easy prey for an unbeliever who knows even a little of the doctrinal content of the Christian faith and its complexities.
It is no surprise, then, that many Christians avoid interaction with unbelievers because either they have had an unpleasant encounter in which they could not give an answer for an objection raised by an unbeliever, or because they know that they really don’t know what they believe. Even worse, they may have serious doubts about some of what they have been taught, because they haven’t given the time to study their faith.
Surprisingly, the key to becoming an effective evangelist and apologist is to know the Scriptures and sound doctrine! Knowing what you believe thoroughly provides a sure foundation to confronting the worldviews of others who reject the truth of the gospel. Instead of rushing off to evangelize before they even know what they are proclaiming, Christians would be better served if they would take the time and effort to gain a systematic understanding of their beliefs and the Scriptures on which they are based.
The Relationship between Apologetics and Theology
Theology is, at its heart, the study of God. The word theology is the combination of two Greek words, theos (God) and logos (a word about, or the study of). Christian theology studies all that God has revealed about himself, his creation, and his divine plan. While theology can be understood in its basic form even by children, because it is the study of the infinite, eternal, divine God, it can also occupy the greatest minds with its complexity, depth, and beauty.
Apologetics is primarily a biblical and theological endeavor. This surprises many people who think of it first as a philosophical enterprise. While apologetics often deals with the same questions posed by philosophers, and at times incorporates contributions from philosophy, it is not primarily a philosophical activity. Philosophy rejects divine revelation; therefore, it can never provide a true picture of reality or a solution for the redemption of all creation.
Our apologetics, then, must be in agreement with our theology. If our theology tells us that the Fall corrupted man completely, so that even his intellect is damaged and his heart totally depraved, we cannot develop an apologetic method that counts on the objectivity and goodness of humanity. By knowing sound doctrine thoroughly, therefore, we will possess more powerful intellectual arguments against unbelief.
Our doctrinal convictions begin with a faithful study of the Bible. We should move from the text of Scripture to our theological system to our apologetic methodology. This has the benefit of making us logically consistent, which is important since we aim to reveal the logical inconsistency and contradiction of the unbeliever’s worldview. The more we know Scripture, the stronger our theological conclusions will be, which in turn will make our defense of the faith more robust.
In the next post we will begin to look at some of the key Christian beliefs about the Bible that serve as the foundation for our apologetics.