I’m taking this opportunity to clarify the meaning of three words I have often used in the foregoing articles.
Apologetics is an ongoing literary and theological endeavor to present a defense of the Christian faith to non-believers and atheists. Apologetics can also be helpful to those inside the church. Evangelization continues after one becomes a member of Christ’s body. Apologetics has both ancient and modern forms. It is always a relevant endeavor of the church in both more friendly and less friendly cultures.
Apology Early in the history of the church several writers defended Christianity in addresses to the Gentiles, the Jews, philosophers/intellectuals, and the Roman government. In the Book of Acts Paul presents defenses before people hostile to the faith. He proclaimed his defense to the Jewish people, Jewish leaders, and the Greeks if one includes Paul’s speech on and among the Areopagus in Athens (Areopagus is a location and a deliberative body of people). An apology can be a literary piece or the matter of a public speech to opponents or inquirers. It can also occur in personal encounters (I Peter). An apology is a defense and a witness to others about Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior. An apology or defense may be included in our witness if necessary. It is a part of much of witnessing; for, it involves a recital of faith and its compelling and true nature. Our English word often is used in the much weaker and different sense of “I’m sorry.” An apology in the Christian tradition is not an “I’m sorry.”
Witness Witness is a noun and a verb. Christians witness to Christ in words among the people. Deeds can also be a witness, but never the sole means of sharing the faith. Deeds do not replace the Word of God spoken to others. Witness describes Jesus’ call to the church to take the Gospel to all nations (see Matthew 28: 16ff). A martyr is a witness who has died for the faith. Martyr primarily means witness and secondarily witness unto death. Witness is the revelation of Christian belief to the non-Christian world. Its basic message is that the kingdom of God approaches and Jesus Christ, God and Lord, is its embodiment and the very means by which it becomes a reality through His death and resurrection. A defense of the faith (apology) is included in much of witnessing.
Christianity has an immense intellectual history that begins with the Bible. Many congregational members feel inadequate to the task of witness in light of the need for a solid background of knowledge that is required to respond adequately to the questions of those being witnessed to. One needs to know the faith well to serve as an adequate witness, but one does not need to be a professor of theology or the Holy Scriptures to serve. Most congregational members are qualified for the task. The problem is that often a Christian fears he will blunder in his witness to others.
These concerns can be addressed with some suggestions:
- Keep studying, especially the Scriptures.
- Join a good Bible study.
- Take with you a good orthodox tract or tracts to explain the faith to others (include a Catechism). It is not silly to carry these with you at all times. Ask your pastor for suggestions of what to use.
- Pray to the Lord for wisdom and insight as you witness.
- Refer people to your pastor for more in-depth answers. If you are unable to answer a question, you can get back to the seeker after doing some research. The range of questions can be large.
- Invite and accompany seekers to church and Sunday School (a very important aspect of witness) to increase your and their knowledge. Grow in the faith with them.
Michael G. Tavella
Henry Melchior Muhlenberg
October 7, 2023