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Monday, July 2, 2012

Apologetics and Evangelism

Both words raise suspicious eyebrows in casual conversation.  When I speak of evangelism, I mean something very specific: sharing the good news that Jesus is Lord and Salvation from sin and death can be found in him.  Sharing that news, inviting others to faith in Jesus, showing that his eternal Kingdom was permanently established at his death & resurrection, and letting all know that at the final judgment, Heaven and Earth will be reconciled and be forever in the bodily presence of God – that’s what I mean by evangelism.  It is not voting republican, attending Liberty University, advocating for Israel, or being a patriotic American.  Evangelism is announcing the inevitable in-breaking of the Kingdom of God.

            My understanding of apologetics is explanation/defense. defines it as the defense or proof of Christianity.  I have always been a bit suspicious of “proofs.”  When Jesus walked the earth, his miracles led to confrontations with religious leaders and ultimately, he was crucified even though people saw 5000 fed with a few loaves, and the dead raised (Lazarus in John 11).  The “proofs” did not lead to faith then, so why do great thinkers in Christian history since the resurrection think that their reasoning will lead doubters to faith? 

            Can evangelism and apologetics work together not just to defend Christianity (as if God’s truth needed defending), but also to enlighten skeptics to the point that they would be open to giving their hearts to Jesus and submitting to Him as Lord?  In the end conversion and transformation are works of the Holy Spirit, but God invites us to play a role.  We know how missions/works of compassion and social justice open the hearts of doubters.  We know many come to faith when a friend invites them to church.  Can evangelism and apologetics team-up and be bridges from unbelief to faith?

            The answer is … I don’t know.  I will seek this out in my own reading, and I would love to hear your feedback on this.  What do you think?  You can email me (, or contact me on Facebook, twitter, or comment on my blog (


  1. Rob, interesting post. First, evangelism is telling lost man of God's love and the saving sacrifice of His Son for our salvation's sake. But our witness, mostly, is based on what the Bible says. Now, if your audience questions the authority of your witness and scripture, apologetics becomes the solution. In the sceptical world we live in, apologetics is imperative, if we hope to make full proof of our evangelism drive.
    As a para-apologist, I argue in my book The Lamb's Epistle, that we must, using apololegics, declare the voice of God and the verdict of His word against the spate of secular-humanist thought.

    Maurice Suwa

    1. Maurice, I appreciate your comments. Your definition of evangelism is concise. In the early church, the essential evangelical confession was "Jesus is Lord." That has to be the centerpiece of any statement about Jesus. He is Lord and at his coming, death, and resurrection, the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God had begun to be completed at the last judgment. As you said, and I agree, evangelism also is telling people of salvation that is offered in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

      I don't see apologetics as the solution to skeptics. It can be one solution, but for someone, those not inclined to listen anyway, I think apologetics might be an exercise in frustration. The apologist builds an argument that is sound, supported by scripture, and logical, but the other person still ignores it.

      In some cases, many cases, another approach is needed, and I don't know that there is just one other approach, but probably many. Some will come to Jesus because of a convincing argument. Others come because they see the church compassionately reach out to those in need, providing food, material needs, and love. Others come when they see Christians extend real forgiveness. There many ways someone comes to Jesus. And the Holy Spirit must be guiding all of them.

      Again, Maurice, I appreciate your feedback. I hope your book does well.