What is Apologetics?
“In the beginning…God.” The first words of the Bible (see Gn 1:1) affirm an essential teaching of the Christian faith: Before all else, God is. It’s a reality that seems obvious to most Christians, yet many people doubt or deny it.
Challenges are often issued to other articles of the Christian faith as well, such as the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and to specifically Catholic beliefs, such as the unique authority of the pope. For this reason, Christian—and Catholic Christians in particular—often find themselves defending their beliefs in conversations with non-believers
The Greek word for “defense” is apologia. Our English word “apology” is derived from it. In its classical definition, “apology” did not mean an admission of wrong, as the modern English word suggests. Rather, an apology was a defense or justification of a belief. For example, students of philosophy or the classics are familiar with Plato’s Apology: an account of Socrates’ defense of his teaching.
In the present context, then, “apologetics” refers to the reasonable defense of the Christian faith. It is one aspect of what our Lord Jesus talked about when he urged us to love God with all our mind (see Lk 10:27). Faith is not opposed to reason; in fact, reason, rightly understood, is a support to faith.
The foundations of Christian apologetics were laid by our Lord himself when he presented “many proofs” of his resurrection (see Acts 1:3), including his appearance to skeptical, hard-nosed, “doubting” Thomas and the other apostles (see Jn 20:24-29). The resulting apostolic proclamation of the gospel included eyewitness (legal or scientific) testimony as a central feature (see, e.g. Lk 1:1-4; Acts 2:32).
St Paul likewise engaged in apologetics, trying to persuade both Jews and Greeks of the truth of Christianity. His reasoned style of evangelization is demonstrated in his sermon of the Areopagus, Mars Hill, in philosophy-dominated Athens (see Acts 17:22-34) and in his determination to “become all things to all, to save at least some” (1 Cor 9:22). The apostle’s approach to sharing and defending his faith should encourage Catholics today to follow his example.
Other related scriptures: Gn 1:1; Lk 1:1-4; 10:27; Jn 20:24-29; Acts 1:3; 2:32; 17:22-34; 1 Cor 9:22; Acts 17:22-34; 1 Cor 9:19-23; 1 Pt 3:15; Jude 3; Acts 22:1; 25:16; 1 Cor 9:3; Phil 1:7, 16; Acts 17:2, 17; 18:4, 19; 19: 8-10; Mk 12:28; Acts 9:29; 15:7.
Catechism of the Catholic Church: 31-49; 156-159
*Quoted from The New Catholic Answer Bible: A-1. Wichita, Kansas, Fireside Catholic Publishing, 2005. www.firesidecatholic.com
Additional insights at: www.catholic.com
COMMENTARY: I have spent many years sharing and defending the Catholic faith. This website is an attempt to do so in a fairly comprehensive way. It presents a systematic approach which covers most topics and strives to present a consistent orthodox view.