What is Apologetics?
The thing that throws most people off about the word “apologetics” is that it sounds and looks so much like the word “apology.” They’ve been told perhaps that is means “to defend the faith” but still the word throws them off.
A bit of basic Greek word-root awareness may be helpful.
The Greek word roots “ap,” or “apo” carry the meaning of something “away from,” “separate,” or “at the farthest point.” We see it in English words like “apogee” (at the highest point), or “apostate” (away from the faith).
The Greek word roots “log,” “logo,” or “ology” denote the idea of “word,” “study,” or some aspects of “speech.” In English we find this word root in terms like – “prologue” (the words going before), “dialogue” (words between two or more people), and “zoology” (the study of animals).
The American Heritage Dictionary defines “apologetics” [apo+log] as the “formal argumentation in defense of something, such as a position or system.” i.e., in apologetics you are speaking words away from, or against, the words spoken against you by skeptics, heretics, or slanderers. [As an aside, I suppose in the case of an apology you are speaking words away from, or against, the words you yourself perhaps rashly said (or deeds you perhaps rashly did).]
Ravi Zecharias Ministries states: “We use the word ‘apology’ in the sense that we give a defense of the Christian faith. We answer people’s questions about the truth of the gospel. To the questions of the skeptic and the believer we offer an apologetic – we give an answer – to the counterclaims of secularism and other worldviews. We try to demonstrate that the claims of Jesus are true, make sense intellectually, and offer the best picture of our world and of reality.”
We see this word in scripture: Peter urges Christians in his letter, “…Always be prepared to make a defense (apologia) to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Peter 3:15).
The Greek word “ἀπολογία,” transliterated “apologia,” means “verbal defence, speech in defence, a reasoned statement or argument.” (Thayer).
When you think about it, every believer is an “apologist.” RZIM cites C. S. Lewis, “The question is not as a Christian whether you do apologetics or not, but the question is whether you do it well or not.”
For this reason Paul urges young Timothy: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15).
Good counsel for us all.
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