Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What is apologetics, and why should I care?

Why do we believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven?  How do I answer the question of a Muslim, who believes in Jesus as prophet, but not the Son of God? What do I say when I witness to someone and she responds immediately with "I don't believe in God"?  How do we answer these questions?

Apologetics is the field of study which helps us with such questions. An apologetic is a reasoned defense for a belief. Christian aplogetics is the defense as to why we as Christians believe what we do.

Why should this matter to me as a woman?  Isn't that something just for pastors and theologians?  No, it isn't.  At least, it shouldn't be.  As Christians, we are all called to be able to give an answer for the hope that lies in us (I Peter 3:13-15).  It isn't enough to say "I believe this because I had a conversion experience." We must be able to articulate our reasons for why we believe.  Recently, I read a book which addresses this issue as it relates specifically to women.  Defending the Faith is written by Mary Jo Sharp, who is Assistant Professor of Apologetics at Houston Baptist University.

We all have moments of doubt.  Doubt is not wrong; but we must not stay there. A woman who can address her doubts will have a very strong foundation. Sharp encourages women to know why they believe, how they have arrived at that belief, and from where their source of knowledge comes.  The first part of the book is an explanation of why she believes apologetics are necessary, and the second half provides some practical things we can do, including an excellent section about how to ask questions of people about their beliefs, and to listen as well.

The most compelling part of this book is Sharp's reminder that our beliefs are an issue of heart and mind, so a life of the mind is essential.  Sharp says:
Women can only live accordingly to what they truly believe, so to experience transformation, we must attend to the life of the mind with a renewed passion.
She continues:
Instead of digging deep into our theological and philosophical questions, we may be living out a bogus belief in Jesus that is all about personal comfort and peace.  It is not the truth about reality. If we want women's ministries to be effectual in aiding the transformation of people's lives, we must address some hard, fundamental issues.  This means we will have to stop behaving as though God exists to meet our emotional needs and personal goals, and to get serious about nourishing our minds and affirming that we exist to learn the truth about Him so that we can live for His glory.
One thing I experienced with my daughter as a young adult was questions I couldn't answer.  Young people are smart, and as more and more women enter into upper levels of education, including graduate studies, they, too will face difficult questions. As women, teaching our children how to defend their faith is part of our role as mothers. For those who don't have children, there are young women who could benefit from your help.

There is more than one approach to apologetics.  I refer you to Rebecca's Theological Term page, where you can read about two approaches, presuppositional apologetics and evidential apologetics. Judging from the generous list of resources that Sharp includes at the end of the book, she would not lean toward the presuppsitional view.  If you are someone who does, however, you can still benefit from her book.  This is not a book to train someone in apologetic methods per se, but rather an apologetic of its own, for the need to include apologetics in women's ministry. If you have no idea which approach you subscribe to, this is a good time to look into that.

If you are interested in other reading, Sarah Flashing of the  Center for Women of Faith in Culture,  in her book Preparing to Women to Walk Worthy of the Call (another good book), recommends Every Thought Captive for an introductory book.  Two books I have read on the subject are Reasons We Believe, by Nathan Busenitz, and Always Ready by Greg Bahnsen.  Bahnsen's book is not introductory, and is not a light read, but worth the effort, I think.

For the mother of young children who finds it difficult to get bible reading completed in the course of the day, the idea of pursuing the study of apologetics could seem overwhelming. This is where I see older women who have more time stepping up to help teach younger women.  Perhaps a weekly or bi-weekly study time to learn these things. There are times and seasons for us as women, and for those who have the opportunity to learn, being able to articulate why we believe can only help us be better witnesses for Christ.


  1. "It isn't enough to say "I believe this because I had a conversion experience." We must be able to articulate our reasons for why we believe."

    Yes and amen and what we need to pass on to subsequent generations. Great 2nd quote from the book. I'll be adding this my list.

  2. Great post, Kim. Thanks for the encouragement to dig deeper into the Word, and thanks for the recommendations.

    Love you, sister!