What Is Apologetics?

Greg Bahnsen liked to say that the task of Christian apologetics is to "shut the mouths" of unbelievers.  He points to Titus 1:10-11 - "there are many insubordinate... whose mouths must be stopped."  I agree with the pre-suppositional approach to apologetics in that we need to expose inconsistent assumptions that unbelievers have.  Tearing down arguments is an important means of getting people to re-think their beliefs (1 Corinthians 10:5).

But there is a way to run with this that is very unhelpful.  First, the Titus connection isn't exactly an apologetic context.  Paul is dealing with false teachers in the church, whom Titus needs to deal firmly with.  This isn't the same situation as talking with your friend on campus about Christianity.  Some pre-suppositional ideologues can see only the "tearing down" and "shutting up" aspect of apologetics.

But 1 Peter 3:15 shows us another important angle:
"always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,"
The word "defense" is the Greek apologia, so no fair limiting apologetics to tearing down unbelief.  Apologetics also gives a positive answer.  I have hope and joy in my life because God is real, He spoke in His Word, His Son died for me and is alive.

And constructive apologetics gives an answer with meekness or gentleness, with respect or fear.  We are not allowed to be hostile or disrespectful to the unbeliever who is also made in the image of God.  Their stubborn unbelief may disgust us at times, but we cannot give in to that, but must always be ready to show them why we have hope and faith.

So two cheers for Bahnsen.  He shows us very well what's going on under the surface and how to debate formally.  But I wouldn't try taking his method to the street or with your friends, as Sye Ten Bruggencate does.  Bad ju-ju.  Sye's pugnacious method is better suited to the Titus 1, false teacher context.  With a world that sees Christians as judgmental, wouldn't it be better to focus on a positive answer for our own faith first?  Then, if they are willing to keep listening, show them the holes in their reasoning, and the great leap of faith every secularist makes.

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