What Is a Christian Apologist?


Christian Apologists have been around for 2,000 years. Some of the first followers of Jesus Christ became apologists. What’s more, is that there are still Christian apologists today. People can find them in churches, universities, and online, especially on YouTube. Yet, there are a lot of people who aren’t familiar with what a Christian apologist is and what they do.

A Christian apologist is someone who offers a defense of the Christian faith. Apologists defend Christianity from people attacking its beliefs, values, and worldview. Apologists also make arguments that challenge the beliefs, values, and worldviews of others.

What beliefs and values do Christian apologists defend? What doctrines and topics do they common debate? What does the New Testament teach about apologetics? Who are some examples of well-known apologists in Christian history, including today? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.

Bible apologetics
Was the Apostle Paul a Christian apologist? See below

What beliefs and values do Christian apologists defend?

Apologetics is a popular topic in theological and biblical studies, especially online. The word “apologist” comes from the word “apology,” which most understand as “an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Yet, someone saying they are sorry for something isn’t the purpose of Christian apologetics.

The second definition for the word describes the efforts of a Christian apologist: “something that is said or written to defend something that other people criticize” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). [1] In other words, Christian apologetics doesn’t consist of someone expressing regret about a mistake. The same is true for Muslim apologetics, atheist apologetics, and other belief systems that articulate defenses.

Paul’s defense of the gospel

The terms “apology” and “apologetics come from the Greek word apologia, which means “to provide a defense.” Apologia was a word people used in the context of law where it referred to making an argument using reason, citing evidence, and offering compelling truth.

Greek wordἀπολογία
Part of speechnoun
Transliterationapologia
Pronunciationap-ol-og-ee’-ah
Definitiona speech in defense

The Apostle Paul uses the word in Philippians to describe his defense of the gospel: “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:15-16, ESV). The New Living Translation translates Paul’s word as “I have been appointed to defend the Good News.”

apologetics
What common topics do Christian apologists defend? See below

What beliefs do Christian apologists argue for besides the gospel?

In the early church, Christian leaders had to constantly defend the beliefs and values of the Church against Roman authorities who misunderstood it or were hostile to it. In the 2,000 years since, wherever Christianity has spread, it has also been attacked. Wherever people have attacked it, Christians have defended it.

Today, some non-Christians attack the Christian faith in many ways and on various issues. Some Christian apologists seek to defend the entire faith from attacks, while others focus on one particular topic related to their expertise or area of interest. Topics include:

  • The reliability and trustworthiness of the Bible
  • The supernatural creation of the universe, including the earth, plants, animals, and people
  • The virgin birth of Jesus, including his sinlessness and moral perfection
  • The historical event of Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead
  • The possibility and reality of miracles
  • The existence of God and his intervention in the world throughout history
  • The nature of God’s omnipotence (all-powerful) and omnibenevolence (all-good)
  • Reasons, explanations, and hope amid sin, evil, and suffering
defending the faith
How is the word apologia used in the New Testament? See below

Apologia in the New Testament

The word apologia in any form (noun, verb, or adjective) appears 20 times in the New Testament, mainly in Luke and Paul’s writings. As a verb, it occurs ten times; as a noun, it occurs eight times; and as an adjective, it appears twice. In most contexts, the word refers to a court of law. Please see the examples below.

Apologia used as a verb

  • Luke 12:11, “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say.”
  • Luke 21:14, “Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer” (ESV; NIV: “how you will defend yourself.”)
  • Acts 24:10, “And when the governor had nodded to him to speak, Paul replied: ‘Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense.'” (ESV)

Apologia used as a noun

  • 1 Peter 3:15, “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 Corinthians 9:3, “This is my defense to those who would examine me.”
  • 2 Timothy 4:16, “At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them!”

Apologia used as a adjective

  • Romans 1:20, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
  • Romans 2:1, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.”

“Apologetics is about knowing what we believe, why we believe it and being able to communicate that to others in a winsome and effective way. Once we understand that we realize that all of us are not only called to apologetics, but all of us are equipped to be apologists.” – Voddie Baucham

Who are some well-known Christian apologists?

The German Reformer Martin Luther once wrote, “Christendom must have men who are able to floor their adversaries and take armor and equipment from the devil, putting him to shame. But this calls for strong warriors who have complete control of Scripture, can refute a false interpretation, know how to wrest the sword they wield, that is their Bible passages, from the hands of the adversaries and beat them back with them.”

Early Church
Justin Martyr
Tertullian
Jerome
Medieval and Reformation Era
Thomas Aquinas
Blaise Pascal
William Paley
20th century
G. K. Chesterton
C. S. Lewis
Bernard Ramm
Cornelius Van Til
Malcolm Muggeridge
21st century
Lee Strobel
J. Warner Wallace
Josh McDowell
William Lane Craig
Douglas Groothius
Peter Kreft
Alister McGrath
Paul Copan
J.P. Moreland
Richard Swinburne

References:
[1] Source

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see the About page for details.

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