What is Christian Apologetics?

What is Christian ApologeticsTo understand what is Christian apologetics, we must first understand the definition of the term ‘apologetics’. ‘Apologetics’ comes from the Greek word apologia, which means “a defense.” The kind of defense implied here refers to a rational defense, such as a defense made in a court of law. Paul uses apologia this way in Acts 26:2 when he is defending his own innocence before a Roman court. Thus, to practice apologetics is to give a rational defense for the truth of something.

To practice Christian apologetics, then, is to give a rational defense for the truth of Christianity. It involves making a case for the truth of the Christian faith, providing rational justification for its truth claims. Providing a rational justification for the truth claims of Christianity itself involves giving positive arguments for those claims, and responding to opposing arguments purporting to show that those claims are false.

What is an argument?

The term ‘argument’ is used here in a philosophical sense. It does not refer to the everyday use of ‘argument’, which often involves connotations of fighting or quarreling. Rather, the philosophical sense of an ‘argument’ merely refers to the giving of reasons to believe that some conclusion is true. As such, arguments need not always be presented in a hostile or angry way. Arguments can be presented in a kind and respectful manner as well.

And this is the way in which the Bible calls us to give arguments. As 2 Tim. 2:24-25 states, the “Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone…correcting his opponents with gentleness.” Thus, while we are called to argue with our opponents, we are to do so in a way that is not quarrelsome but kind. 1 Peter 3:15, the standard verse on apologetics, is especially clear on this point:

…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense [apologia] to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

As Peter says here, we are to give reasons to those who want to know why we hold to our Christian faith. In other words, we are to provide arguments for the conclusion that the Christian faith is rational. But we must do so in a way that is gentle and shows respect to those with whom we are conversing, not in a way that is angry or quarrelsome.

We thus come to our final definition of Christian apologetics: Christian apologetics is the practice of giving a rational and respectful defense of the truth claims of Christianity.

The Basics of Apologetics

This article represents the first in a series of four lessons in our Apologetics Basics series. This introductory series introduces the discipline of apologetics in an accessible way, shows how the study of it is both biblical and practically beneficial, and then outlines the basic topics covered in Christian apologetics. Check out the other lessons in this series here:

Lesson 2: What Does the Bible Say about Defending the Faith? – See how the study of apologetics is biblically supported.

Lesson 3: The Benefits of Studying Apologetics – Discover the benefits apologetics brings to ourselves, non-Christians, and the culture in which we live.

Lesson 4: A Basic Introduction to the Types of Apologetics – Get some direction going forward by getting a basic overview of the topics that apologetics covers.

Explore Christian Apologetics Training

Once you are ready to learn more about defending your faith, we encourage you to explore the various other features of this site. From recommended resources to apologetics articles produced directly by Christian Apologetics Training on a wide array of topics, our hope is that you receive a well-rounded training here. We encourage you to check out some of the following resources:

Best Christian Apologetics Books – Here you will find our master list of recommended books, with links to reviews by Christian Apologetics Training. If you consider yourself a beginner, check out our top five books for beginners.

Arguments – This menu contains a continually updating collection of our own apologetics articles. Popular articles include our advice for resolving all kinds of Bible difficulties, and our Evidence for the Resurrection series.

Current Events – This menu contains articles featuring reasoned Christian approaches to various current events.

Many of the insights of this article were gained from the following resources:
Love Your God with All Your Mind – J. P. Moreland
On Guard – William Lane Craig

See our reviews of resources like these here.

Be sure to leave any thoughts or questions you have about apologetics in the comments section below!

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15 Commentsto What is Christian Apologetics?

  1. Tar says:

    Hello Kiefer. I am a Muslim and I respect and agree with what you point on rational arguments.

    I guess it all goes down to different opinions and beliefs. I mean, some would be critical, resulting criticisms.

    For me, well someone thinks in a certain way that forms that particular belief, I respect that.

    The most important thing to me is to strongly stick to the belief that you’re been brought up, firmly.

    Great post, buddy. – Tar

    • Kiefer says:

      Thanks for sharing your position, Tar. The Christian and Muslim traditions actually share some apologetic traditions in common, especially regarding a version of the cosmological argument called the Kalam cosmological argument. I plan to get into that later on in the site’s development.

      I’m inclined to push back a little on your point at the end that the most important thing for us is to strongly stick to the beliefs we’ve been brought up affirming. It seems to me, rather, that we should only firmly hold to our beliefs if we have good rational grounds for thinking that they are more plausibly true than false. And isn’t it possible, after all, that some of our beliefs formed in the past could turn out to be not well supported?

      But perhaps what you said is consistent with what I said. Feel free to clarify what you meant or further support your position!


      – Kiefer

  2. Marvin says:

    Kiefer, thank you for this detailed and informative explanation of Christian apologetics. I am a Christian, and I have often seen that term used, but never really understood what it meant. It seemed to me to sound as though someone was “apologizing” for Christianity. Now, thanks to this article, I realize it is a well-thought out argument in defense of the faith. Well done, and much appreciated!

    • Kiefer says:

      Ah, Marvin, I see people mistake apologetics for “apologizing” for being a Christian all the time! Glad I helped to clarify the distinction for you.

  3. Michel says:

    Hi Kiefer, interesting post on Christian Apologetics. I haven’t heard of this before, but I enjoyed reading your post.

    It would be great if all issues were resolved in this manner, with gentle and rational explaining, backing up with facts learned from the bible.

    If more people did this, then I am sure the world would be a far less aggressive place to live in.

    • Kiefer says:

      Glad you found the article helpful, Michel! I agree that a rational and respectful attitude is helpful for all issues of disagreement.

  4. Mike says:

    “Christian apologetics is the practice of giving a rational and respectful defense of the truth claims of Christianity.” Thanks so much for this post Kiefer! Great reminder that practicing “apologetics” isn’t something that’s only for educated theologians, but really for all Christians to know and understand what they claim to believe. I saw your list of recommended books at the top, but is there one book you might recommend as a “starter” apologetics book for an average Christian like me? Thanks again, looking forward to more content in the future.

    • Kiefer says:

      Hey Mike, good question. I think the best starter apologetics book for you depends on what area of apologetics you’re most interested in. But either way, Lee Strobel’s “The Case for…” series is a good place to start.

      So if you want to learn about reasons to believe that Jesus was who he claimed to be, and that he rose from the dead, The Case for Christ is a great resource. If you’re interested in reasons to believe that God exists, take a look at The Case for a Creator. And if you’re wanting good answers to objections to Christianity, The Case for Faith addresses those very well.

      But if you can’t choose between those and want one resource that deals a little bit with each of them, then I’d pick up William Lane Craig’s book On Guard. Hope this helps!

      – Kiefer

      • Mike says:

        I’ve heard of “The Case for…” series before, but have never actually picked one up. Maybe today’s the day! Thanks again!

  5. Rawl says:

    Hi Kiefer. I read the article from beginning to end including one of the comments from Tar. I’m a Christian, although, I say that with hesitation because I think being a Christian is misunderstood and/or seen as something negative. I also don’t like to say I’m spiritual because that is also seen as a cop out to those who call themselves Christians. So let’s just say I’m a Christian whose in the process of serious study to determine whether I want to label myself as a Christian.

    Regarding Christian Apologetics. I didn’t realize Christ needed defending or that I needed to defend my faith. I understand explaining and giving reasons for why I believe what I believe based on what the bible says; but, I don’t see the necessity for Christian Apologetics when there are many other things to be concerned about. Could you explain this? Thanks.

    • Kiefer says:

      Hi Rawl, thanks so much for your comments! I think the next few lessons in the Apologetics Basics series will represent some of what I would say in light of your concerns. But let me simply say here that I don’t think Christ needs defending in the sense that, without such a defense, he will fail in his efforts to draw people to himself. In other words, you don’t need to be able to defend your faith in order to have a saving faith.

      However, the Bible does call us to defend our faith for other reasons, a primary one being that doing so is a big component of sharing our faith with others, something that Christ clearly intends for us to do. I’d suggest that apologetics has other practical benefits for our spiritual lives as well. Again, I explain these in more detail in later lessons in this series.

      Best wishes for your future deliberations regarding whether you want to label yourself as a Christian. And of course let me know if you have any other questions!

  6. craigandkat says:

    Hi Kiefer,
    We have heard of Christian Apologetics before but never really understood what it meant. You have a well written easily understood article. Thank you for explaining the subject.. We are both Christians and were always taught to treat others the way we wanted to be treated. We would like to learn more on the subject. I noticed you recommended 5 books for beginners, What order would you recommend reading them in to get the best understanding ? Thank you for your time and have a Blessed Day

    • Kiefer says:

      Hi Craig and Kat! I appreciate your question and I am happy to play a role in introducing you to this great area of the faith. I outline each of these books in this article, and there you will find them listed in order from one to five. I ordered them that way deliberately, as I think that is the best order in which to read them. So I’d start with Lee Strobel’s books, then move onto On Guard by William Lane Craig, and then finish with Tactics by Greg Koukl.

      At the same time, I hope that you’d feel the freedom to go wherever your interests take you. So, for instance, if you are very much interested in science, you may be inclined to read The Case for a Creator before The Case for Christ, which is totally fine. Hope this helps!

  7. Craig and Kat says:

    Hi Kiefer,
    Thanks for your reply, we thought that might be the way you had them, just wanted to make sure we read them in the best order. Thank you again, we may be back with questions
    Have a Blessed Day
    Craig and Kat

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