Should Christians apologize for their faith?
William Lane Craig & Sean McDowell on why we must be ready to defend our beliefs.
Should Christians apologize for their faith? Absolutely!
Now, you might be thinking, “Wait a minute, where does the Bible say we’re supposed to say we’re sorry for our beliefs?” It doesn’t, but that is not what we mean by apologizing for the faith. We have something entirely different in mind. Let us explain.
The Apostle Peter said,
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, 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.
In the original language of the New Testament (Greek), the word translated here as “defense” is apologia. This is where we get the term “apologetics,” which means providing a reasoned defense for what we believe.
In this sense, all Christians are supposed to apologize for their faith! As you can see, this has nothing to do with being sorry for our beliefs. Rather, it means providing good arguments for our beliefs as well as responding to the tough questions others raise about our faith.
The Bible and apologetics
The main reason Christians should care about apologetics is because the Bible emphasizes it. In fact, the Bible is filled with passages that call Christians to contend for the faith with good reasoning. Faith is not blind, as many people think, but built upon good reason. This is different from Buddhism, for instance. Buddha reportedly said, “By this you shall know that a man is not my disciple - that he tries to work a miracle” (Huston Smith, The World’s Religions, 1991, p. 97). Jesus said and did just the exact opposite! Jesus did miracles so that people would know he was God’s Son (e.g. Mark 2:1-10). Unlike Buddha, Jesus gave evidence so people would have a confident faith in him.
Defending the faith is not a spiritual gift just for pastors, teachers, and parents; it is a command for all believers (including students!). Here are a couple biblical passages that make this clear:
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (Corinthians 10:5)
Ready with an answer
There is another pressing reason why students should care about apologetics - we live in a culture in which Christian ideas are increasingly under attack.
Are you prepared for the challenges?
Can you defend God’s existence?
Do you know why the Bible is true?
Can you offer a reason for why God allows horrific acts of evil?
You may be feeling the heat of these questions right now or you may not. But all of you will soon be confronted with deeper challenges to your faith than you can presently imagine.
We both regularly get letters from young people who have experienced a crisis of faith. And many times it is brought on by unanticipated intellectual challenges. They left the safety of their home and church but were crushed by a college professor who undermined their beliefs. For example, Sean recently received the following Facebook message:
I’m a sophomore at a public university now and am currently taking both biology and philosophy classes. These classes have caused me to think about why I believe in God—what are my reasons for believing in an omnipotent, all-good God. This question is what is bothering me…Do you have any references or writings that would make me feel justified in believing in what seems like a story book?
How would you respond? While we certainly don’t have all the answers, we love questions like this! In our combined years of writing, speaking, and debating non-believers we have both learned that there are great reasons for the Christian faith. As Christians, we have nothing to fear with tough questions. The truth can always stand up to challenges, if we are willing to seek for it.
Not only will apologetics help you have answers for tough questions, it will give you boldness in your faith. We have both seen many young people trained in apologetics who become lions of the faith! If you take the time to learn apologetics, we believe you will become a more confident Christian. That’s right - learning why you believe as you do, will help you become a bolder witness in your faith. It sure has for us.
This is why we are both partnering with Fervr to provide a series of short articles that provide compelling reasons to believe in the Christian faith. Come back over the next 5 days, as we look at some of the most compelling arguments for Christianity. We hope this will be just the beginning for you.
Are you ready to apologize for the faith? Let's go!
William Lane Craig and Sean McDowell are professors at Biola University. Discover more about Biola University today.