Not too long ago, I was chatting with a friend who loves apologetics. Actually, he loves presuppositional apologetics and cares little for the other schools of apology. Evidential, classical, cumulative case, reformed epistemological, and all the different apologetic camps are not as exciting for my friend, I guess. After our conversation, it struck me that the various discussions about apologetics have a lot in common with the extensive debates about evangelism and discipleship, biblical counseling and pastoral care, missiology, church growth, worship, and every other topic where Christians tend to pitch camp.
So just as I do with so many other ministry methodologies, I started looking at modern-day apologetics through the lens of the Bible. Camp warfare often includes proof-texts that support each camp. When it comes to apologetics, I've heard a few. For example, "We have little need to provide evidence of God's existence because Romans 1 says people already have all they need" (Romans 1:18-25). Or, "The Holy Spirit will testify to the truth of God's Word; therefore, there is little need to provide anything other than the Bible" (Romans 8:16-17). And I especially love it when a camp quotes Proverbs 26:4 without Proverbs 26:5, or Proverbs 26:5 without Proverbs 26:4. That's awesome.
Too often, when we identify with an apologetic camp, we tend to toss out proper Kingdom tools that don't match our preferred gear. When we get too selective, we don't build a full tool-box, and that only hurts our efforts. As I teach with evangelism and discipleship, you might have your preferred tools in the top drawer of your toolbox, but it's okay to have other tools for the time you need them. You might not be as skilled with some tools, but why toss them out?
Also, I'm of the belief that the words in the prophets and the epistles are just as inspired as the words in the narratives. Seeing the methods of the biblical authors is just as important as reading the instruction they wrote, which is why one reason we have the narrative sections in our Bible. What did they do? What was Jesus' approach for showing or telling people who he is? With what methodology did the God-man engage? What was Peter's argument and approach when he stood up and explained the events of Pentecost? Paul, who told Timothy to be prepared to make a defense for his faith (or an 'apologia'), practiced what he preached. What did it look like? What did Paul do?
There are biblical arguments for positive and negative apologetics. (By positive I mean a constructive argument to build a case for the Christian faith, and by negative I mean an argument to dismantle other religions and worldviews.) We can find biblical examples of many different methodologies. We can even find various apologetic conversations directed at both believers and non-believers. After yet the most straightforward survey, we see that the New Testament offerers support for a wide range of avenues for these discussions.
The gospels themselves are a written apologetic work. So is the book of Acts. John and Luke said so. John writes, "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these were written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:30-31). Talk about a healthy positive apologetic! Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1 shows us that Luke was making an argument for faith to a person named Theophilus. It is easy to see that Matthew was appealing to Jewish people, most likely with the desire to win them to faith in Christ. Mark, it seems, is appealing to gentiles.
What did the apologetic look like between Nicodemus and Jesus? Jesus appealed to Scripture and evidence when John the Baptist sent messengers to ask if Jesus was the Christ. Jesus and Pilot? And the apologetic with the Pharisees? Samaritan women, how did Jesus discuss faith with them?
Acts, too, is loaded with apologetic examples. What a fun study! Paul makes a case before rulers on a few occasions. He also makes a case before a rioting crowd. Oh wow! And many of the epistles contain a defense of the faith, made to believers.
Anyone looking to engage in apologetic work should start with the methods presented to us in God's Word.