Christian apologetics, put simply, means a defense of Christian belief. The word apologetics is from the Greek word "apologia" which means "a defense". Actually, Christians routinely defend their faith using many different approaches. What the believer says to unbelievers is dependent on what questions the unbeliever has. If the believer is well-versed in his or her beliefs, the conversation should proceed smoothly, and a good defense of the faith will be vocalized. Christian apologetics in this meaning and setting is very basic and down-to-earth. If someone wishes to learn in great detail about apologetics, which may include epistemology (man's existence) or metaphysics, the person can get great insight into a believer's basis for faith through prominent Christian writers.
Apologetics in the Bible is actually a discourse or discussion of questions of faith between two people. The Apostle Paul had discussions of Bible apologetics when preaching to Roman philosophers. Usually people engaging in these types of discussions are interested in discovering how the facts of worldviews compare with those of Christian beliefs. The person wants to find out the evidence for faith or belief. One can say non-Christians are looking for proofs that the faith is real.
When someone discusses the faith in this way, Christian apologetics can provide a platform to persuade the non-believer into a relationship with the Lord. Other discussions may focus on showing how other beliefs that are not Christian are not true. This would be a refutation of the non-believer's viewpoints in an effort to bring them closer to accepting the believer's point of view. Finally, when a person attacks a believer's position of faith, many times the non-believer has heard others viewpoints which are incorrect, or have been distorted. When this happens, the believer will defend the faith to the unbeliever or to the seeker so that points of misunderstanding can be cleared up.
Often believers will shy away from apologetics, thinking that a long on-going study of the works of Plato, Zarathustra or other ancient writings are necessary before an ability is gained to defend the faith to non-believers. This is not necessary. A careful study of the scriptures will yield many examples of conversations between the apostles and unbelievers about their faith which were successful in assisting those people on to a faith in Jesus. Therefore, on the most basic level, Bible apologetics can also be considered to be friendship evangelism. The process of getting to know others, understand what beliefs are being vocalized and speaking truth to people is an apologetic act.
Let us look at supporting scriptures mainly in the Old Testament that are prophetic. Prophetic scriptures about Christ's sacrifice on the cross can be very convincing when discussing the faith with those who do not believe. This approach is particularly effective with those of the Jewish faith, because this faith does not have the New Testament. Providing these scriptures is putting forth a defense of the existence, purpose and deity of Christ, written four-hundred years before Christ was even born. For example in Isaiah Chapter 50 verse 6, it says "I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting" (KJV). This verse is showing a prophecy of Christ's derision and torture by the Roman soldiers just prior to His crucifixion. Also read Psalms chapter 69 verse 21 as well as Isaiah chapter 53 verses 7. No one can say, after reading these passages of scripture, that these verses are not descriptive of Jesus' experiences on the cross. These are very convincing passages of scripture, the events of which did not take place until well into the New Testament times. Citing scriptures such as these to a person who is not of faith is called defending the scriptures, and is Christian apologetics in action.
Paul the apostle was particularly adept at Bible apologetics, because of his formerly rigid stance as an unbeliever. Paul persecuted the Christians while a Roman soldier, and did it heartily, even a participating at Stephen's stoning. God blinded Paul and brought him to faith. After his experience, he was able to expound the truth to others because he understood how they thought. I refer to "they" as those who were Roman citizens and believed Caesar was their only God. In fact, it was the law. God sent Paul to the Gentiles as well. Paul was the very first apostle to preach the Word to them, and had to convince the other apostles that the Gentiles were to receive it, since the Jews had rejected Him.
God uses believers in miraculous ways when someone needs instruction in finding the truth. The book of Acts tells the story of an Ethiopian who was reading the Word, but did not understand all of it. An angel came to Philip and told him to go to Gaza, and to a chariot. When Philip arrived, the Ethiopian in the chariot was reading the book of Isaiah. Philip asked the Ethiopian if he understood what he was reading, and the answer was 'no'. Therefore, Philip expounded the truth of that scripture to him. The particular scripture was speaking about Jesus (the sheep) being led to the slaughter, and He was silent. The Ethiopian indicated he indeed did not understand, and Philip began preaching to him about Jesus. Apparently, according to the story, the two were traveling along in the chariot together when they came to some water. At this point, the Eunuch said he wanted to be baptized, and so Philip proceeded to do so. The entire story is an example of Christian apologetics in action. Philip obeyed the Lord by going to the Ethiopian and preaching truth to him. Any time a Christian goes to an unbeliever and assists them in understanding truth, they are exercising Bible apologetics. It is an easy thing to do - all one needs to do is reach out.
Early Christian ChurchThe early Christian church encompasses the history of the New Testament and the continuation by the early church fathers. When referencing the men who make up the Fathers of the early church, the New Testament accounts are not usually included, but rather viewed as the origins of Christianity. The early Christian churches of the New Testament were made up of autonomous groups of local believers and encompassed the three centuries that occur between the time of Jesus' crucifixion to the First Council of Nicaea. These self-governing congregations did not have a specific person designated as a pastor or overseer of any kind. Rather, the believers would meet in homes, or other locations based on the number of members. The history of the early church can be found in the book of Acts in the Bible. The congregation had mutual goals that included evangelism, as they sought to carry out the command of Jesus, "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). They also believed in baptism by immersion.
The Apostles who had been with Jesus before His ascension into the clouds, were the leaders of the early Christian church. The Apostles instructed the congregations in the ways of the Lord. The Twelve Apostles were the Fathers of the early Christian church of the New Testament. The Apostles by name were, Peter, James the son of Zebedee, John the brother of James, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddeus, Simon, and Judas Iscariot. These men were all appointed by Jesus and personally instructed by Him during the time He was on the earth. Although not originally one of the twelve, Paul of Tarsus, later renamed Saul, was one of the most influential of the Apostles. Paul persecuted Christians but following a Glorious Encounter on the road to Damascus, he became one of the chief mouthpieces of the Lord and led many to the Savior. He also is believed to have written about fifteen of the epistles found in the New Testament.
Following the work of Jesus' Apostles are those known as the early Church Fathers are the men, whose writings and influences shaped the first five centuries of the early Christian church. The early Church Fathers were made up of writers and theologians. They can be broken down into roughly four groups, the apostolic fathers, Greek, Latin, and Apologetic. The first group, Apostolic, are so named because they are believed to be among the first after the Apostles of Jesus Christ. St. Clement of Rome was one of the first early Church Fathers and wrote an epistle to the congregation at Corinth. The letter is believed to be among the earliest Christian writings since the New Testament. Ignatius of Antioch was martyred, but before his death he wrote texts which became vital to the theology of the early Christians. Polycarp was believed to be another of John's disciples, and is known for his efforts in trying to get the West to celebrate Easter on the fourteenth of Nissan. However, Polycarp's efforts proved to be in vain and led to his death.
The Greek fathers are so called because they wrote in the Greek language. The most well known in this group includes St. Irenaeus of Lyons who is remembered as a saint, disciple of Polycarp, and among the first Christian Apologists. Clement of Alexandria combined the doctrine of Christianity with Greek traditions abdicated that communion should be for everyone. The Cappaddocian Fathers were three men, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Peter. These men led a monastic lifestyle of sorts. They believed that Christians should be able to hold their own discussions and debates with others, and helped to bring attention to the idea of the Trinity and contributed to the Nicene Creed. Another in the group of Greek fathers was Origen, an Egyptian and an early scholar. Origen is most remembered for the production of a corrected copy of the Septuagint, a Greek version of the Hebrew Bible.
The Latin Fathers include well-known names such as Tertullian, St. Jerome, St. Gregory the Great and St. Augustine of Hippo just to name a few. Tertullian is known for work as a writer and was labeled by many as being heretical due to the fact that he denounced Christianity. Before his death began to believe in some of what he was against, and is remembered as the Father of the Latin Church due to the writings of Latin Christianity. The saint is credited with coining the terms of 'vetus testamentum' and 'novum testamentum', old and New Testament. St. Jerome is remembered as the man who translated the Greek and Hebrew Bible into Latin, forming what is known as the Latin Vulgate. St. Augustine is believed to be one of the most important figures who contributed to the development of western Christianity. He is credited with presenting the ideas of original sin, and the bodies of believers as being the City of God. Gregory the Great is known as a Doctor of the Church and had more influence on the early church than any other pope.
There are more groups of early Church Fathers encompassing the Apologetics and others, all of who made contributions to the historical progressions of the church. The Apostles of the New Testament and the men who continued on after them can be credited with setting up the foundations of Christianity. The history encompassing the time following Christ's ascension has taken sundry paths and included many men, all who helped set in motion the foundations which have become cornerstones for the beliefs of many throughout the centuries.