But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. –1 Peter 3:15-16 (NKJV)
If you have ever heard of Christian apologetics then you have probably heard of this verse (if you haven’t then don’t worry we will get into that later on). Mostly, when this verse is brought up the focus is on the phrase “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you”. We will be looking at that in a moment as well, but first lets take a look at the context of that phrase before and after.
Sanctify the Lord God in your Hearts
You cannot practice apologetics rightly until first God has been sanctified in your heart as Lord. The context for doing so is during times of suffering and persecution (1 Pet. 3:14). This seems obvious enough, but there are a lot of Christians who are ready to argue who have not yet truly made God Lord of their hearts. To sanctify means “to separate from profane things and dedicate to God, to consecrate…” (Greek Lexicon, G37). The word Lord here is part of the title and name of God, but also it carries with the the connotations of a master to whom a servant belongs.
To properly practice Christian apologetics God must be Lord and master of your heart. If you have not fully surrendered your heart to the Lord, if you have not completely set it apart from being lorded over by things of the world, then you will not make a great Christian apologist. The reason for this becomes clear in verse 16.
Putting to Shame those who Revile your Good Conduct
Our conduct is just as important as our answers. In fact, more than anything it will probably be your conduct (despite suffering or persecution) that will be accomplishing more than your reasons ever will. It says here to give your answers with “meekness and fear”. To be meek means to have “mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit, meekness” and to fear carries with it in this context more of the sense of “reverence for one’s husband” (Greek Lexicon, G4340, G5401).
Sometimes apologetics has a bitter taste to it because we think of the prideful Christian yelling and screaming, angry and unpleasant, debating an equally disposed atheist. Yet, Peter exhorts us in that when we engage in giving reasons for the hope within us we are to do so with mildness, gentleness, meekness and reverence for the other person (the same kind of reverence that a wife shows to her husband).
This is key. How you say something is often more important than what you say. And even if you “lose” the debate you can still win through your attitude.
An Apologetic for Apologetics without Apologies
That said, lets get to the nitty gritty of this verse. We are told first to “always be ready”. How can you always be ready? Well, that means preparation. You need to know what you believe and why you believe it ahead of time, and be always ready to communicate that to any number of different types of people. Often times in the context of apologetics only the rational side is focused on in always being ready. They will tell you to study ahead of time. I agree with them, but you should also have prayed ahead of time as well. Know your Bible. Know your testimony and how to convey it quickly. Then, once you know those things you can begin to study more rational arguments as well.
The word “defense” there is the Greek word apologia from which we get the term apologetics. It is not an apology like it has come to mean in English, but rather a “verbal defence, speech in defence, or a reasoned statement or argument” (Greek Lexicon, G627).
If that wasn’t clear enough Peter then goes on to state that this defense is to be given to those who ask (By the way note the word ask. If someone doesn’t want to talk to you then they would be best left alone) for a reason. The apologist Charlie Campbell comments on this stating,
There are good reasons why a person should believe that God exists, that the Bible is trustworthy, that Jesus rose from the dead, etc. The Christian ambassador should be familiar with these reasons and be able to articulate them to those who have questions. (Campbell)
Heres some further verses to study in regards to the Biblical case for apologetics: Jude v. 1-4, 2 Cor. 10:1-5, Jer. 1:9, 10b. Then by Paul’s example: Phil. 1:3-7, Philippians 1:16-17, Acts 19:8. And examples by Christ: John 2:18-22, John 20:25-28, Matthew 11:2-6, Isaiah 35:5-6, Acts 1:1-3, 1 Cor. 15:6, Acts 1:3 (Campbell).
Ok, so what exactly is apologetics then as practice by Christians today?
Campell defines it thus, “apologetics is the branch of Christian theology that is concerned with making a defense, or case, for the truth claims of the Christian faith”.
The different types of Apologetics are Classical, Evidential, Historical, Presuppositional, Experiential, and a few other new forms. Each of these systems are closely related one to another since they all have the same goal of defending Christianity to a skeptical and unbelieving world (Hindson, Caner. 2008).
At this point we could go into the different types and methods of apologetics, but I think it would be much more beneficial to simply hold off until the following posts and give specific apologetics for specific objections to Christianity by the skeptic. That way you can learn about the different types of apologetics through their applications (a much more interesting and fun way if you ask me).
Greek Lexicon :: G37 (NKJV). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G37&t=NKJV
Greek Lexicon :: G4240 (NKJV). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4240&t=NKJV
Greek Lexicon :: G5401 (NKJV). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5401&t=NKJV
Greek Lexicon :: G627 (NKJV). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G627&t=NKJV
Campbell, Charlie. Introduction to Christian Apologetics. Retrieved from http://www.alwaysbeready.com/apologetics-introduction?id=95
Campbell, Charlie. 2014. Apologetics Definition. Retrieved from http://www.alwaysbeready.com/apologetics-introduction?id=184
Hindson, E. Caner, E. 2008. The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers.