Is apologetics relevant to today’s Church?

Is there a place for Christian apologetics in the contemporary church? Is apologetics a leftover from a previous era and no longer relevant to this postmodern world? Should we just focus on creating community and facilitating worship services where people can experience God?

While those who have what Gary Thomas calls the intellectual pathway for connecting with God may see apologetics as important, it would be nice to have some hard evidence for the value of Christian apologetics.

We now have such evidence.

The Pew Research Centre recently did a study of why the ‘nones’ no longer attend church. These ‘nones’ are those who indicate no religion when asked about religious affiliation. They are not necessarily atheists, although some are. Rather, they are those who refuse to affiliate with any one organized religion. They are also the fastest growing group in the most recent religion surveys.

Pew discovered that many of these ‘nones’ (78%) were raised as members of a religious group before leaving it as an adult. While there are various reasons why they left their religion, the biggest reason (49%) was that of a lack of belief.

Michael Lipka makes the following observation about the results in an article on the Pew website.

About half of current religious “nones” who were raised in a religion (49%) indicate that a lack of belief led them to move away from religion. This includes many respondents who mention “science” as the reason they do not believe in religious teachings, including one who said “I’m a scientist now, and I don’t believe in miracles.” Others reference “common sense,” “logic” or a “lack of evidence” – or simply say they do not believe in God.

These are exactly the type of issues that Christian apologists have been seeking to address.

Those in the church who object to apologetics often have a narrow and simplistic idea of what apologetics is. They imagine an angry Christian attempting to bully a seeker into faith with a barrage of intellectual apologetics.

While a small minority of apologists may be like that, many more are seeking to facilitate discussions in which seekers, skeptics and Christians can discuss the difficult questions in a respectful and reasonable manner.

Even if a pastor or other church leaders does not naturally connect with the apologetic approach, the research numbers cannot be ignored. If almost half of those who will become ‘nones’ are struggling with intellectual questions, the church has a duty to create a culture where these questions can be addressed and not dismissed.

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About the author

ChristianWeek Columnist

Stephen J. Bedard is an author, blogger and speaker. He is interested in discipleship, apologetics and disability advocacy. He co-wrote the award-winning book, Unmasking the Pagan Christ, which was also made into a documentary. He is the director of Hope’s Reason Ministry and editor of Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics. Additional writing can be found on his website

  • ScienceRules

    So, where’s the proof your God is real? And, no, the bible isn’t going to cut it. It’s a book. Nothing more. And, no, nature is not going to cut it either. Nature is indifferent to us at best and all of it can be understood by science. And, no, just because you believe your God is real doesn’t make Him so.

    So, prove it or go away and leave the rest of us alone.

  • ScienceRules

    Typical Christian site censoring anything that demonstrates their religion is shite!

  • ksed11

    Apologetics is both commanded in the New Testament and is done by people in the N.T. When there is double justification for a certain activity found in Scripture, it’s probably something that should be done. The early church was the beneficiary of apologists defending Christianity in the midst of
    pagan religions and imperial persecution.

    Some people think apologetics is a waste of time because it doesn’t convince everyone. But so what?
    Simply sharing the gospel doesn’t convince everyone either. Does this mean we should abandon sharing the gospel as well? Or they’ll say the mere existence of counter arguments to pro-Christian arguments makes apologetics effete. But if we carry this logic out to its conclusion, ANY argument that can be countered ought to be abandoned, including those arguments opposed to apologetics. This objection would apply to arguments in any area including law, politics, economics, science, etc.

    But more important, based on the surveys such as those instanced in the OP, the church needs apologetics to provide answers to Christians (whether young or old) who are in danger of leaving the church. It’s especially important in a culture that is hostile to the Christian message. It is quite curious that some Christians are critical of apologetics at the very time when the apologetic resources available to us are overflowing. Any religion or worldview worth believing ought to be open to having its central claims be critically examined. And given the abundance of apologetic resources available, Christians are in a good position to respond to critical examination.

    Obviously apologetics isn’t the ultimate goal of Christian life. It is just one tool that the church has in fostering a vital Christian walk. And every tool in one’s toolkit is important.