At the root of the term “apologetics” is “apology”. NO, we are not talking about saying “I’m sorry” here. Let’s take a closer look as to its actual meaning & origin.
“branch of theology which defends Christian belief,” 1733, from apologetic (which is attested from early 15c. as a noun meaning “formal defense”); also see -ics.
“early 15c., “defense, justification,” from Late Latin apologia, from Greek apologia “a speech in defense,” from apologeisthai “to speak in one’s defense,” from apologos “an account, story,” from apo “away from, off” (see apo-) + logos “speech” (see Logos).
In classical Greek, “a well-reasoned reply; a ‘thought-out response’ to the accusations made,” as that of Socrates. The original English sense of “self-justification” yielded a meaning “frank expression of regret for wrong done,” first recorded 1590s, but this was not the main sense until 18c. Johnson’s dictionary defines it as “Defence; excuse,” and adds, “Apology generally signifies rather excuse than vindication, and tends rather to extenuate the fault, than prove innocence,” which might indicate the path of the sense shift. The old sense has tended to shift to the Latin form apologia (1784), known from early Christian writings in defense of the faith.”
In Christianity we mean “apology” in the older sense of the word as is seen above from etymonline. As such, it is entirely focused on giving not only an accurate representation of the Christian faith, as seen in the Scriptures, but also communicating that message to those in and out of the faith. It can be easy to think that giving a defense is only against those easily seen as outside the faith, but it just as much includes defending against those who claim the faith (but are actually in heresy) or are simply in error and still in the faith (thereby simply receiving correction).
Within apologetics includes two predominant schools of thought – presuppositionalism and classical apologetics – which define effectively two different approaches to apologetics. Of course, there are various other named areas of apologetics (like moral apologetics) but these can easily be connected to the two approaches or describe “giving a defense” that isn’t connected to Christianity exclusively.
Apologetics, as you may have guessed, gets into the realm of philosophy despite its heavy use of the Scriptures. As such, it could be argued that there are other positions besides the two mentioned – and that’s fine. I’m not here to debate. I would say though that presuppositional & classical are the two I see most in my circles and what I hear debated most (a.k.a. whether to use one over the other).
You may be saying, well that’s all well and good – what are those positions? How/Where do they stand?
A good question. I would direct you to the following site. Here you will see presuppositional, classical, and a couple others. If you are looking for further reading on this topic, start there.
2 thoughts on “Apologetics”
Thanks for your well written article on Christian apologetics. We just had an excellent lesson yesterday pointing out the very strong basis for an apologetic for Christ’s resurrection. So thankful that the Bible gives rich meat for a strong apologetic for our faith and life. Incidentally, a friend in Christ recently shared what appears to be a good rendering of the meaning of LOGOS in the context of Scripture–“the reasoning for life.”
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