Our response to unbelief is crucial. The world is watching. May our apologetics match the biblical model. And may we proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in a winsome and compelling way. For in the final analysis, all of God’s elect will hear and believe. “Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen” (Acts 28:28).
Unbelief is in the air. Unbelief is gaining ground in postmodern culture. Over 100 years ago, the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “I call Christianity the one great curse, the one great innermost corruption, the one great instinct of revenge, for which no means is poisonous, stealthy, subterranean, small enough – I call it the one immortal blemish of mankind.”
The bankrupt philosophy of the so-called four horsemen of atheism continues to gain in popularity. Why? Apparently, unbelief is in. Unbelief is hip. But the question that is burning a hole in the table for Christians is this: How shall we respond to unbelief? How shall we who have a heart for lost people answer when they malign the Christian faith and mock the very foundations of historic Christianity?
The apostle Peter instructs believers to respond rightly: “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” (1 Peter 3:15, ESV). In other words, we must develop the mindset of an apologist (ἀπολογία). John Frame’s definition of apologetics of helpful: Apologetics is “the discipline that teaches Christians how to give a reason for their hope … it is the application of Scripture to unbelief.” Cornelius Van Til writes, “Apologetics is the vindication of the Christian philosophy of life against the various forms of the non-Christian philosophy of life.” Tragically, the mandate to engage in apologetics often turns ugly. Well-meaning Christians have turned apologetics into a nasty slug fest. Nothing could be further from the truth. Notice six crucial principles of biblical apologetics.
1. Apologetics involves verbal proclamation
Christians are commanded to proclaim the good news. The Greek word, “proclaim” (κηρύσσω) means to announce or proclaim; to preach or publish.” St. Francis of Assisi was on to something when he quipped, “Preach the gospel and if necessary, use words.” The point: Make sure your life matches the gospel. However, actions alone cannot convert. Actions must be backed up with verbal proclamation. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17, ESV). Simply put, the gospel is meant to be published. The gospel must be proclaimed. Postmodern gurus and emergent sympathizers may be quick to downplay preaching and promote a “deeds not creeds” mentality. Jesus disagrees: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to the nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14, ESV). The first principle of apologetics involves verbal proclamation.
2. Apologetics involves bold proclamation
The New Testament apostles boldly proclaimed the truth. Paul prayed for an extraordinary boldness (Eph. 6:19). And Luke made it clear how bold proclamation characterized his ministry: “He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:30-31, ESV). We too, must boldly proclaim the Word of God without apology. Now is the time for bold and courageous proclamation.