Why Apologetics?

What exactly is apologetics, and what does it have to do with raising children? In our current cultural moment, everything. Prior to the 1960s when the thin veneer of Christian civilization in the West blew up, parenting with an apologetics orientation was not likely as necessary, although I would argue it has always been necessary to some degree. But now that we live in a culture that is positively hostile to the Christian faith, it is absolutely necessary.

Apologetics simply means a defense of Christian truth claims. In his first epistle, the Apostle Peters says the following:

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect . . .

The word for “answer” in Greek is ἀπολογία (apologia), which means a defense. Ancient Greek lawyers used apologia when defending a client in court. The point Peter is making is that we can defend our faith, and that we can give answers because there are answers. I’ve always seen the “everyone” Peter speaks of as those outside the faith, non-believers with whom I have some kind of apologetic encounter. That’s of course true, but now I see it as applying primarily to my children, and only then to others. My kids must know not only what we believe, but why we believe it.

Apologetics has been part of the Christian religion from day one. Did Jesus really come back from the dead? In his book, Christianity & Liberalism, J. Gresham Machen states that “Christianity depends, not upon a complex of ideas, but upon the narration of an event.” Either that event happened, or it did not. If there is not enough evidence that it did, don’t waste your time. If there is enough evidence, and it did happen, then there is nothing as important in all of history and in our lives.

After thinking the idea of resurrection inconceivable,  Jesus’ followers came to believe it, and many gave their lives affirming it as an historical fact. in I Corinthians 15 the Apostle Paul said that if Jesus didn’t raise from the dead our faith is useless. Peter said that Jesus’ followers didn’t  “follow cleverly devised stories,” but “were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” The Apostle John declares:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

The first three to four hundred years of the Church was lived in a culture much like our own. The Roman Empire was religiously pluralistic, and most people despised this strange religion that claimed to be the only way to God. Faced with harsh criticism, ἀπολογία became a central part of the early Christian faith. Church fathers such as Justin Martyr (cir. 100-165), Irenaeus of Lyons (cir. 135-202), Tertullian (cir. 155–230), and Clement of Alexandria (cir. 150-215) argued vigorously for the exclusive truth claims of Christianity.

In the early 5th Century Augustine wrote one of the most famous apologetic tomes of all time, The City of God. Pagans had alleged that Rome’s decline, including the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in 410, was the fault of Christians who had encouraged the rejection of traditional Roman religion. However, as the West became completely Christianized apologetics became less and less necessary. That is until the Enlightenment in the 18th Century began to turn Western cultural elites against Christianity and it’s book, the Bible. It took several hundred years for the skepticism and unbelief of these elites to trickle down to the wider Western culture, but once it did the forces of secularization took over with a vengeance.

Thus the need for a book like Keeping Your Kids Christian. And the need for the multitude of apologetics resources available to Christians today. The website that has been the most helpful to me as I’ve learned how to defend my faith over the last six-plus years is Apologetics315. Much of what you’ll read in the book comes from resources I’ve mined that I first found there. Now it’s your turn.