Apologetics as Concentric Circles

he believer’s personal apologetic can be illustrated with concentric circles[1]. A person’s testimony is the first circle in their personal apologetics. Like a pebble dropped in a pond, there will be additional circles expanding outwards. While a person’s account of the “hope within them” is where their apologetic begins, it should not be where it ends. Love for God and love for neighbor will require them to be able to explain, clarify, and defend an increasing amount of intellectual, philosophical, and historical real estate. Ignorance and inaction are not options for faithful Christians.

While apologetics begins with a person’s articulation of the gospel, it will need to grow to include other biblical matters to address the concerns of friends, family members, coworkers, and neighbors. The list could easily include things like the trustworthiness and sufficiency of Scripture, the divinity and humanity of Christ, the “omni” attributes of God, gender roles as explained in Scripture, the biblical basis for the doctrine of the Trinity, the historicity of the resurrection, et cetera.

In other words, the concentric circles must expand. But like concentric circles in a pond, though they grow larger, they actually diminish in strength the further they are from the center. This is a helpful illustration that the apologist’s power is found in the gospel and not in supplemental arguments (Romans 1:16).

Believers are called to contend for the faith (Jude 1:3), give an answer for their faith (1 Peter 3:15), destroy arguments and lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:5), correct those who oppose the word (Titus 1:9), be prepared in season and out of season to preach the word (2 Tim. 4:2), defend the gospel (Phil. 1:16), and never be ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16). Growing in apologetics is not peripheral to Christian maturity. It is truly at the heart of gospel ministry.

Therefore, one’s apologetic should begin and end with the gospel as defined by the Bible. The gospel is the first, final, and only lasting apologetic for humanity. Moreover, because the Christian hope is grounded in biblical revelation, believers must respond to modern challenges with biblical fidelity. Bereft of the biblical gospel, all apologetic attempts are meaningless. It is not a litany of philosophical syllogisms and historical evidences that serve as the power of God unto salvation, but the simple gospel outlined in the Scriptures. Of this gospel, Christians should never be ashamed.

[1]    I was first introduced to this concept through an apologetics presentation given at Southern Seminary by the director of Fixed Point, an apologetics organization based out of Birmingham, Alabama.