I used to believe apologetics was primarily for evangelism. I’ve changed my mind. Defending the faith has become and is becoming an increasingly important element of discipleship. The Christian philosopher William Lane Craig made this point by drawing a strong connection between apologetics and parenthood in his recent talk “Christian Apologetics: Who Needs It?”:
“In high school and college Christian teenagers are intellectually assaulted with every manner of non-Christian worldview coupled with an overwhelming relativism. If parents are not intellectually engaged with their faith and do not have sound arguments for Christian theism and good answers to their children’s questions, then we are in real danger of losing our youth. It’s no longer enough to teach our children simply Bible stories; they need doctrine and apologetics. It’s hard to understand how people today can risk parenthood without having studied apologetics.”
I agree with Craig. Apologetics is a tool parents cannot afford to ignore. That’s not because Christianity is somehow becoming less defendable. It’s not. It is important because of an accelerated and often aggressive secularism in the educational system, which is pronounced, but not limited to, university campuses. High schools, middle schools, and even elementary schools can also be heavily influenced by a naturalistic bias in the curriculum.
Teaching young believers to defend their faith is not a discipleship option in our contemporary moment. In our day, discipleship requires apologetics. Teaching others to defend their faith is critical to help them grow in the faith.
There’s a great example of this in Scripture. In Acts 18 the disciple named Apollos, after being taught “the way of God more accurately,” became a stronger public witness. This, in turn, encouraged other believers. “When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed,” Luke writes, “for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus” (Acts 18:27-28 ESV).
Discipleship exists for evangelism and evangelism exists for discipleship. The two cannot be separated. We disciple believers so that they might become, among other things, active participants in spreading the good news. And when we share our faith, our hope, and our end game, is a converted soul who will, to use a split infinitive from Star Trek, “boldly go where no one has gone before.”
And in my experience, teaching people how to answer questions about Christianity and defend the faith once for all delivered to the saints is a critical part of this process.