Christian Apologetics is the art of defending the Christian faith. Apologetics can be done in 2 different forms; offensive and defensive. Offensive apologetics involves giving a positive case for the Christian faith. It involves providing rational arguments and evidence that establish that Christianity is true (like when I give The Kalam Cosmological Argument or The Fine Tuning Argument in conversations with skeptics). Defensive apologetics involves responding to objections to Christianity from skeptics such as the problem of suffering and the argument that God is unjust to send people to Hell. Apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia which literally means defense. For example, a lawyer defending his client in a court of law is giving an apologia (defense) for his client’s innocence. He gives the jury arguments for his client’s innocence based on the evidence available in the court. In the same way, Christian Apologists give arguments for The Bible’s truth based on the evidence available to them.
Apologetics has had a long history in The Church and the arguments have changed over time as a result of the evidence available becoming different (like we didn’t always have The Big Bang and the fine tuning to argue for God’s existence), and as the criticisms against Christianity have changed.
One criticism of Christian Apologetics by those within the church has been that you can’t argue people into faith “No one comes to faith through argumentation”, or “You can’t argue someone into the kingdom”, or “Just preach the gospel and let The Holy Spirit work” are ways this objection is usually phrased. But I don’t think that’s true. I think God has used apologetics to draw many people to Himself. Here are just a few of them.
1: Lee Strobel
Lee Strobel was a journalist for The Chicago Tribune back in the 70s and 80s. He became a convinced atheist after seeing the Urey Miller experiment performed in his high school class room, which was that given a mixture of gas, methane, and ammonia in a flask of liquid, amino acids would form as a result. Strobel thought this was the first step to explaining the origin of life naturalistically and thought “God was out of a job.” Further teaching from Darwinian Evolution in school convinced him that God was not needed to explain the origin of life or the development of the immense diversity of life we have on this planet. But when his wife Leslie – who was an agnostic at the time he married her – converted to Christianity, things changed. At first, Lee was upset. He said that his wife would be “…some sexually repressed prude serving the poor on skid row all the time”. He said that the first word that went through his mind was “divorce”. But he decided to stick around, and he said that he saw Leslie’s character and values begin to change for the better. After one church service Leslie dragged Lee too, Lee said he realized that if Christianity were true, it would have major implications on his life.
Lee decided to spend two years investigating the evidence for the Christian faith by interviewing scholars (scientists, philosophers, and historians) and listening to their arguments for Christianity while responding to his objections. He also read many books for and against Christianity by Christian Apologists and atheists respectively. After 2 years of study, Strobel became convinced that Christianity was true.
Lee Strobel has recounted his journey from skepticism to faith in his books The Case For Christ, The Case For A Creator, The Case For Faith, and The Case For The Real Jesus. In these books, Lee interviews scholars asking the same questions that bogged him down when he was an atheist, giving the same evidence that convinced him to become a Christian. Lee Strobel is one atheist who was argued into the kingdom. Lee Strobel is one atheist who was converted because of Christian Apologetics. God used apologetics to draw Lee to himself.
2: J. Warner Wallace
James Warner Wallace was a cold case detective in New York City back in the late 1900s. He was a hardened atheist for most of his life like his father was. One day Wallace decided to investigate the gospels using the same procedures that he used to investigate his cold cases. He decided to treat the gospels not as divinely inspired scripture, but merely as ancient documents which claimed to be able to tell us about a man named Jesus from Nazareth. This is the same treatment Strobel gave to the gospels; treating them just as you would any historical document. In 1996, after years of investigative study, Wallace gave his life to Christ.
J. Warner Wallace wrote about the evidence and arguments that convinced him to become a Christian in his two books Cold Case Christianity and God’s Crime Scene.
3: C.S Lewis
C.S Lewis was a Christian Apologist and the author of The Chronicles Of Narnia book series. C.S Lewis was not always a Christian however. Like Strobel and Wallace, Lewis was a hardened atheist. One evening in September, Lewis had a long talk on Christianity with J.R.R. Tolkien (a devout Roman Catholic) and Hugo Dyson as they took a walk through a park. Lewis credits this conversation with pushing him over into Christianity, but he had been reading books arguing for Christianity’s truth prior to this event. A couple of the authors C.S Lewis had read were G.K Chesterton and George MacDonald.
In 1929, C.S. Lewis surrendered and admitted that “God was God, and knelt and prayed.” Within two years “the most reluctant convert in all of England” admitted that Jesus Christ is the Son of God—God Incarnate. With this revelation the Oxford don became a communicant in the Church of England.
4: Josh McDowell
Josh McDowell was an agnostic in his teens until one of his friends at school challenged him to prove that the resurrection of Jesus had never occurred. Josh investigated the issue from a historical angle with the bent on proving that Jesus of Nazareth never rose from the dead and that Christianity was founded on a falsehood. Josh found that he could not do it. He could not disprove the resurrection! The more he studied, the more the historical evidence seemed to weigh in Christianity’s favor. Eventually, he was convinced that historical evidence establishes that Jesus died on a cross and rose from the dead, and that Christianity is therefore true. He decided to give his life to Jesus.
Josh Mcdowell has been an influential Christian Apologist ever since that moment. He talks about the evidence that convinced him in his books Evidence The Demands A Verdict, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, and in Evidence For The Resurrection which he co-authored with his son Sean McDowell.
5: Frank Morrison
Frank Morrison was a skeptic who, like Josh McDowell, tried to refute the resurrection of Christ, but the more he studied and investigated, the more he found that the evidence pointed toward not away from the resurrection. Frank goes into the historical evidence that convinced him in his book Who Moved The Stone? A Skeptic Looks At The Death and Resurrection Of Christ.
And Now The One Who Stayed: My Story
I didn’t come to Christ through arguments or evidence. I came to Christ like most people do, through being broken. Nevertheless, a year after my regeneration, (in the summer of 2010), I started to have serious doubts about God. It all started when I tried to share my faith with my first atheist. He bombarded me with questions and arguments that I didn’t know how to answer. One of the ones that stuck with me was how I knew The Bible’s God was real instead of any other god or gods in the various religions and mythologies of the world. To be honest, it wasn’t a reason to disbelieve that through me into a spiral of doubt. Rather, it was the realization that I had no positive reason TO believe. It was a lack of reasons to believe rather than reasons to disbelieve. Over the next few weeks, I felt those gnawing doubts growing and growing. I was sliding into agnosticism. I was very alarmed and even surprised that such a thing could happen to me. After all, I had a radical experience of God that changed my life completely upside down (for the better). However, that religious experience that I previously used as a confirmation of the truth of my faith became inadequate as I wondered whether it could be explained by some neurological phenomenon. I never mentioned my doubts to my parents or friends because I was worried that I might infect them with the same doubts that I was having.
I knew I had to do something. I knelt by my bed and prayed for God to help me with my doubts. I remembered an account from the gospel of Mark (chapter 9) in which a man brings his child to Jesus’ disciples to cast a demon out of him. However, the disciples are unable to do it. The man then brings his son to Jesus and asks if He is able to do it. Jesus said “Anything is possible for those who believe” and the man responded “Lord, I believe. Help me with my unbelief” (Mark 9:26). With what little faith I had left, I asked God, if He existed, to help me absolve the growing unbelief in me. I knew that if The Bible were true, God wanted me saved (the scriptures I had in mind were 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Timothy 2:4 which states that God wants all humankind to come to salvation), and if I didn’t believe in Him, I would go to Hell since that what John 3:18 among other passages, say. Given what 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Timothy 2:4 say, I knew that if God existed, He wouldn’t want me to slide into unbelief. He would help me overcome this.
My prayers were answered when, in August, a Facebook friend of mine had posted a link to a YouTube video. It was the film adaption of Lee Strobel’s book “The Case For A Creator”. In the film, Lee Strobel went into how he went from being an atheist to being a Christian. Many of the commentators in the film were credentialed scientists and philosophers who were giving powerful scientific arguments for the existence of a Creator of the universe and life. I was shocked! I had no idea that there was actually scientific evidence for God’s existence! I had never been taught about reasons to believe in God in church. My parents never told me about this stuff (because they were just as unaware of it as I was because they were never taught it in church). I always thought that if you believed, you either did because of some religious experience or blind faith. I never knew one could have a faith founded on evidence and good reasons. I went on Amazon.com and bought Lee’s books. I read them over and over, being fascinated by the scientific and historical evidence under girding the claims of The Bible. My doubts were absolved. But that’s not the end of my story. I decided to read Strobel’s books repetitively so that I could master the arguments laid out in them. I wanted to reach out to skeptics and doubters with the good reasons to believe in God. I wanted to be able to resolve their doubts in the same way that God, through Lee, absolved mine. In Strobel’s books, he interviews other apologists and scholars and briefly mentions their books. So I bought books from these people as well. I bought books like On Guard: Defending Your Faith With Reason and Precision by William Lane Craig, I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler, Who Is Agent X: Proving Science And Logic Show It’s More Rational To Think God Exists by Neil Mammen, and The Holman Quicksource Guide To Christian Apologetics by Doug Powell. These were the books that I started on.
It took me a good 2 years before I could adequately defend my faith in the arena with an atheist, but I continued to study so that I could get better and better at the art of defending the faith. I’ve been studying Christian Apologetics for 5 years on my own time, and I’ve debated plenty of skeptics both on social media and in recorded debates. I now know beyond a reasonable doubt that The Bible is true.
I answer the question that injected that seed of doubt in me in my upcoming book Inference To The One True God: Why I Believe In Jesus Instead Of Other Gods. I hope that whether you’re a Christian like me who just wants to learn how to better witness to skeptics or whether you’re a skeptic yourself, that you will buy my book and read it.
So while I didn’t convert on the basis of Christian Apologetics, I did persevere in my faith on that basis. I did not become a Christian through apologetics, I stayed a Christian through apologetics. God used apologetics in my life to keep me from apostatizing, and I praise Him for it.
It’s just not true what some in the church say. God has indeed used Christian Apologetics to bring people into faith. And there have been many others, like myself, who, although we didn’t come to faith through rational argumentation, we stayed in the faith because of rational argumentation. Therefore, I urge all Christians to study apologetics so that you can witness to people who have nagging doubts. The church really needs to get on board, and start obeying the command of 1 Peter 3:15 to “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for the reason for the hope that you have.”