Notes from Greg Bahnsen’s lecture, Seminary Apologetics: The Historical & Biblical Usage of The Term Apologetics.
The term “apologetics” comes from the Greek term, “apologia.” It means a defense someone would make in a court of law in response to an accusation made against them. This notion can be found in Plato’s dialogue “The Apology.” Plato wrote about the last days of Socrates. Socrates had disrupted the intellectual and social world of Athens, because he dared to cross-examine the claims of everyone. In the Greek world, the order of Athens was considered divine. To say anything contrary to the ways of Athens, was an insult against the founder of Athens, the goddess, Athena. As he cross-examined the order, many considered him to be impious and that he was corrupting the youth and introducing new gods. Socrates was then convicted, but in court he offered his apologetic. He said it is far more important than they have order in the state, than for Socrates to be executed. Socrates decided to drink the poisonous hemlock and he died.
400 years later, Paul was accused in introducing new deities of Jesus and his resurrection. Paul had defend himself and he offered in Acts 17, his apologetic for his claims. Historically, apologetics deals with offering answers in a court of law in response to an accusation. In Christian circles, when we speak of apologetics, we are talking about a situation in which we are in an airport, in the work lunch room or an informal setting with friends. The unbeliever will challenge us to give reasons for our Christian belief. We will then offer our defense from their objections.
Secondly, I would like to examine the word, “apologia” as it is found in the biblical context.
22 Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence (apologia) which I make now unto you.
2 (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,)
3 I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.
Paul’s apologetic turns out to be the story of his conversion. Apologetics includes our testimony that we are defending should be evident in our life.
16 To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him.
Paul faces his accusers and offers a defense.
Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:
2 I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:
3 Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.
4 My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;
5 Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God, unto our fathers:
7 Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.
Paul has given his testimony as part of his apologetic. Now his testimony is integrated into the history of the Jewish people and their hope.
8 Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?
9 I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
10 Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.
11 And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.
12 Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,
13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:
20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.
21 For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.
22 Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:
23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.
24 And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.
25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.
26 For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.
27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.
28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.
29 And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.
30 And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them:
31 And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds.
32 Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.
1. Paul uses the authority of Scripture as his foundation (v. 6, 7, 27)
2. The issue of possibility is crucial in Paul’s apologetic (v. 8). If God doesn’t exist, then anything can happen. If God does exist and is all-powerful, how can anyone say “Jesus could not have risen from the dead?”
3. The Lordship of Christ is crucial for his apologetic (v. 13-15, 19)
4. Unbelievers need to have a change of mind (v. 18, 20)
5. You must set forth what God’s Word says (v. 22)
6. There is plenty of evidence for the truth (v. 25, 26)
7 Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.
17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.
2 Timothy 4
16 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.
17 Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.