Pure Apologetics


We get our English word apologetics from transliterating the Greek word apologeia, which means to provide an explanation or give an answer. The Christian concept of apologetics comes from the instruction found in 1 Peter 3:15–16.

I would like to draw a distinction between what I am going to call “pure apologetics” and “expanded apologetics.” I’m not sure if this distinction has been drawn before or if the terms I chose have previously been used for something else. Nevertheless, I feel that it is an important distinction to make.

It seems to me that the majority of what we typically call “apologetics” would in reality be better described as “expanded apologetics”—it goes beyond the “pure apologetics” instructed by Peter. Let’s take a look at the verses in question.

But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you. (1 Peter 3:15–16, NET)

This answer comes in the form of a defense for your own belief. It does not need to be an argument crafted to persuade others. It’s not about winning debates or convincing people, it’s just about giving an answer.

With that in mind, such an answer should not be expected to account for every question that could possibly be raised from the Bible. It doesn’t require any advanced scholarship or education. It’s simply a personal answer to the question, “Why do you believe what you believe?”

Expanded apologetics goes beyond these basic instructions. It is an attempt to defend all aspects of the Christian faith.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, expanded apologetics can be very good and helpful, both for strengthening the faith of believers and for pointing unbelievers toward the truth.

So please don’t think I’m speaking against expanded apologetics. I’m just saying that expanded apologetics is not what Peter had in mind.

All believers should know why we believe what we believe, and we should be ready to explain that to others—pure apologetics. But not all believers are called to the advanced scholarship of expanded apologetics.

And whether we are dealing with pure or expanded apologetics, it is essential to maintain “courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience.” No matter how accurate or convincing our answers may be, if we present them with pride or arrogance, they mean nothing.

“Why I Believe” Series