This statement is based on questions frequently asked on the Bible Answer Man radio show hosted by CRI president Hank Hanegraaff. This question first appeared in the February 2001 issue of the Christian Research Report. For further information go to: http://www.equip.org.
Q: Why do you spend so much time focusing on apologetics? Can’t we just preach the gospel?
A: Most Christians are aware of their responsibility to reach a dying world with God’s message. No less of an authority than Jesus exhorts us to proclaim the gospel (Matt. 10:27) and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19). However, there is another dimension often neglected in evangelism; namely, the defense of the gospel. The very Bible exhorting us to preach the gospel urges us to contend for the faith as well (Jude 3), just as the first Christians consistently offered reasoned defenses of their faith before unbelievers (for example, see Stephen’s speech in Acts 7 and Paul’s address in Acts 17:16-34). Giving reasons for our faith (apologetics) is neither an option nor a late feature of the Christian faith. Rather, it is an essential element of the biblical Christian witness.
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). 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 (see Acts 14:8-18; cf. 17:2-3; 18:4, 19; Phil. 1:7, 16), charging others to do the same (2 Tim. 2:23-26).
The need for apologetics today is crucial. Believers must realize that we are living in a post-Christian era with a host of worldviews vying continuously for people’s commitments and, indeed, for their very lives. We must face these challenges head-on. Apologetics does not supplant faith, it supplements it. Nor does it replace the Spirit’s working. Rather, the Holy Spirit uses apologetic arguments as vehicles for clarifying the truth of God’s Word. The same verses commanding us to preach the gospel also instructs us to constantly be prepared to correct, rebuke, and encourage with great patience and careful instruction (2 Tim. 4:2).