Apologetics as Concentric Circles
Several years ago I heard a speaker compare a Christian’s personal witness with concentric circles. Their 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. The circles of their witness need to expand.
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 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 ripple out beyond a personal testimony. 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 apologists 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.
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. And since 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’s 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. This is the epicenter of the believer’s witness, and, though their apologetics will expand, they must never neglect the simple truth that Christ died to save sinners.