"The apologists — I'm telling you they could make falling off a stool difficult. You'd have to go to college to learn how to fall off a stool if you were an apologist.... So, I'm not impressed with the apologist any longer. And I may as well get it out — I used to be one! And God forgive me, and I promise not to ever do it again."
So said prominent televangelist John Avanzini during TBN's annual Fall "Praise-a-thon." During a time when apologetics — the defense of the faith — is more important than ever before, Avanzini represents a growing number of Christian leaders who attack apologetics as being irrelevant and even divisive. In sharp contrast to Avanzini, Dr. Walter Martin believed that the apologetics ministry of CRI would be more important in the decade of the 1990s than it was when he originally founded it thirty years ago.
How relevant is apologetics today? How big a role should apologetics play in a Christian's witness? And, above all, is apologetics biblical? Let us briefly consider these questions.
To see just how relevant apologetics is today, we need only take a quick survey of the world around us. Whether we look at the world on a global scale or merely peek into our own little "neck of the woods," it certainly doesn't take long to realize that we are literally being inundated with a plethora of beliefs and ideologies. From secular humanism to New Age mysticism, people everywhere are being bombarded with an onslaught of false ideas and worldviews. (A "worldview" is simply an interpretive framework through which or by which one interprets the world around him.)
What makes these false worldviews so appealing is their apparent capacity to make sense of the universe in which we live. Each respective worldview purports to give the correct account of reality, thereby giving people some point of reference by which to order their lives. And it's fair to say that worldviews affect practically every aspect of a person's life.
Consider, for example, a person with a humanistic/atheistic worldview. Since such a person considers mankind to be "the measure of all things," he or she generally believes that we need only turn to human ingenuity and wisdom to supply every needed answer. Transcendentally important issues dealing with the purpose and meaning of life are relegated purely to human thoughts on the matter; ethical and moral dilemmas are consigned to mere individual or cultural opinions; and the absolute foundation of truth is reduced to a rubble of relativism. Now, while some may hold this worldview to be reasonably sound and personally satisfying, the fact remains that it is ultimately a road leading to eternal destruction (Proverbs 14:12).
What is the Christian's responsibility in the face of these competing worldviews? Certainly most Christians are aware of their responsibility to reach a dying world with God's message. No less an authority than Jesus exhorts us to proclaim the Good News (Matthew 10:27) and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). However, the same Bible that compels us to preach the Good News urges us to contend for the faith as well (Jude 1:3). Apologetics is thus not a mere option left to the believer. Rather, it should be an essential element of the believer's life.
Writing in a world steeped in mystery cults, the apostle Peter admonished believers to "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have...with gentleness and respect" (1 Pet. 3:15 NIV). Only by meeting honest objections with biblical answers can we "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). It was in this spirit that Paul vigorously defended the gospel (Acts 26:1-2; Phil. 1:7, 16), charging Timothy and Titus to do the same (2 Tim. 2:23-26; 4:2-5; Titus 1:9-14).