Have you ever been asked a question about Jesus or the Bible that you struggled to answer? Apologetics is the defence of the Christian faith, and every Christian—no matter how young or old—is called to defend his faith. We check out three books on apologetics that answer common questions posed by children, young adults, and grownups.
Apologetics is the theological discipline that deals with a rational defence of the Christian faith whether the challenges come from inside or outside the church. The word “apologetics” comes from the Greek word apologia—“apo” (away) and “logia” (speech)—which means to give a reason or defence.
Today, in part due to the proliferation of media, the Christian worldview is increasingly being challenged as the world searches for meaning and significance. As the secular world becomes less accepting of Christianity, it is essential for Christians to stay firm and rooted to defend their faith. This will not only validate the teachings provided in the Gospel (Philippians 1:7) and refute wrong arguments, but also encourage non-believers to learn the truth that Jesus is the Saviour of the world. For believers, apologetics helps strengthen their faith and foster a closer relationship with God.
Although most Christians understand the need for apologetics, they are uncertain how to set forth the truth of the Christian proclamation accurately. People of different generations—Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z—may have different spiritual concerns and are informed by different political, social, economic, and even church experiences, on top of the individual’s spiritual maturity. Hence, they may develop diverse and distinct ideologies.
These three books feature unique questions from three different generations, answered for each of these cohorts.
Question: Why do Christians need to bear witness to others about Jesus?
Answer from the book: “People need to believe in Jesus to be saved. And before they can believe, they need to hear about Him, so someone must tell them. And who will tell them if not Christians? Jesus said, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to everyone’ (Mark 16:15) What good news? The good news that Jesus can save and help them every day.”
Strauss provides simple answers to complex questions such as this one. He adds that non-believers want to observe how Christians behave to be completely convinced that Jesus exists. Thus, it is vital to act righteously to be the salt and light to the world. (Matthew 5:15-16) This does not mean striving for perfection, but instead being truthful in actions and words; kind- hearted, forgiving and repentful.
The author advises young Christians not to portray a false image of “being good” as fatigue will slowly creep in, rather to place their trust in Jesus Christ and do the things that pleases Him all the time. Obeying Him is imperative as ultimately, He looks at the inner souls and hearts instead of the outer appearances (Ephesians 6:6).
Strauss concludes that the Christian life can be a living testament to how Jesus works in and through His ambassadors, representing Him and standing firm in the faith. “But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witness for me.” (Acts 1:8) Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Christians can portray themselves as image-bearers of Christ, and be the channels that God exists.
Other interesting questions that this book answers include: “Why should I fear God if ‘God is love’?”, “How can Jesus live in my heart?” and “What does it mean to be ‘born again’?”
FOR YOUTHS: THE BIBLE’S ANSWERS TO 100 OF LIFE’S BIGGEST QUESTIONS BY NORMAN L. GEISLER AND JASON JIMINEZ
Question: “How can I defend my faith against attacks?”
Answer from the book: “Apologetics is giving a verbal defense for the Christian faith. Defending the faith, however, is not always about winning an argument. Apologetics is effective when the character of the apologist does not contradict but complements the clear teachings of the bible. The aim is to offer a reasonable defense of Christianity and to give an opportunity for people to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.”
In 1 Peter 3:15-16, the apostle Peter offered his insights on how to defend the Christian faith, and authors Geisler and Jimenez have captured key qualities of a fervent defender of Christ in an acrostic, “APOLOGIST”:
“Always being prepared to make a defense” (1 Peter 3:15)
“Put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14)
“Obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29)
“Let love be without hypocrisy” (Romans 12:9)
“Obedient in all things” (2 Corinthians 2:9)
“Give thanks to God always” (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
“Imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1)
“Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15)
“Test all things, hold fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
Geisler and Jimenez also encourage young people that, in uncertain times, it is essential not to lose hope or be afraid of opposition; instead, they must stay faithful to the Lord, preaching the word courageously, just like the prophet Ezekiel who was not daunted by evil threats he received when he spoke to a rebellious nation. (Ezekiel 2:6)
Other compelling questions the book tackles include: “What is the ‘filling’ of the Holy Spirit?”, “How do I share my faith?” and “Why does God allows trials in my life?”
Question: How did Jesus use apologetics?
Answer: “Because Jesus made extraordinary claims about Himself, including His claim to be the Son of God, apologetics was an essential part of His ministry. He did ask or expect people to simply offer blind faith based on His unique message alone. He, more than anyone else, understood that if His words were to have the desired force and effect on His hearers, He would need to offer compelling reasons and actions in their support.”
The answerer, Dr Patrick Zukeran, director of Evidence And Answers ministry, rightly observed that Jesus was the greatest apologist ever lived, one who provided a substantial model for all His disciples to follow. Jesus, more than anyone else, understood that if His words were to have the desired force and effect on His hearers, He would require compelling reasons and actions to support His claims. Zukeran raised numerous apologetics approaches taken by Jesus such as the use of reason, witnesses, miracles, prophecy, and His resurrection.
Use of reason: Employing a rational approach is essential to enabling one’s audience to understand one’s intended message logically and coherently. Jesus was the greatest thinker, speaking the ultimate truth and defending His faith powerfully (Matthew 22:46). Christian philosopher Dallas Willard remarked, “Jesus constantly uses the power of logical insight to enable people to come to the truth about themselves and God from the inside of their own heart and mind.”
Use of witnesses: In John 5, Jesus healed the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda on Sabbath, violating the Jewish tradition. However, He provided expert witnesses (God, His miracles, the Scripture, John, and Moses) to support and validate His actions.
Use of miracles: Jesus is undoubtedly omnipotent, displaying His sovereignty and authority over all creation except to God alone. He performed many remarkable miracles, serving and blessing His people, hence setting a perfect living testimony to them.
Use of prophecy: Jesus has a unique prophetic legacy that no other religious leader can match, one that accurately predicted that He was the long- awaited Messiah. He not only fulfilled dozens of Old Testament prophecies, but also proclaimed His own prophecies regarding future events, emphasising His claims of deity.
Use of resurrection: Jesus’s resurrection fulfilled His own prophecy and is a strong indication of His supremacy, confirming His claim as the Son of God. Possessing the authority of God, He is the only one who can save mankind.
Zukeran concludes that Jesus is the most effective defender of the faith as He repeatedly provided compelling evidence supporting His claim to be the Son of God.
Other thought-provoking questions covered in this book are “How can we make apologetics culturally relevant?”, “What is the Holy Spirit’s role in apologetics?” and “What is Conversational Apologetics?”.
One of the greatest apologists of the 20th century, CS Lewis once said, “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” Christians must be fully aware that Christianity deserves to be fortified against various threats, and that they have the responsibility to increase their efforts in defending the faith.