If someone asks you to explain your spiritual beliefs, could you do it? What if they ask you to defend your view that Jesus was (and is) God? Would you know where to turn in the Bible so you could demonstrate why you believe this? What if they question you about Christianity’s ‘intolerance’ of other religions, or if they challenge your belief in the existence of God? Would you know how to respond? What if they wanted to know how they could receive God’s forgiveness? Could you explain how to receive salvation and support your claims using Scripture? In 1 Peter 3:15, we are told: ‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.’
This verse assumes that Jesus makes such a positive difference in our lifestyle that people notice and inquire about it, which should motivate reflection on how our words, actions, and attitude impact those around us. But I specifically want to highlight Peter’s admonition to ‘be prepared to give an answer.’ In Greek, the word in for ‘give an answer’ is apologia. This word means ‘to give a defense’ or ‘to explain yourself.’ Peter makes it clear that we should all be ready to explain what we believe and why we believe it.
When I became a Christian in college, I was blessed to be surrounded by mature Christians who were passionate about ‘apologetics’ – knowing how to reason about the Christian faith. Six months after I came to faith in Christ, I jumped into an Apologetics study led by a Christian student majoring in philosophy. It definitely stretched my thinking. One of the reading assignments was a chapter called The Taming of Truth: The Hermeneutical Morass; I knew I was in for a challenge when I had to use a dictionary to understand the title! The reading in that study was hard work, but I got through it, and over time, I learned how to ‘love my God with all my mind’ (Matthew 22:37). I began reading books on apologetics, digging into Scripture on my own, and regularly discussing spiritual topics with others.
This provided such a valuable foundation for my faith. Let me give you a few examples of how it has helped to know (and be able to explain) what I believe and why I believe it. Senior Pastor By Brandon Lemons • When I have doubts about God, knowing why I believe what I believe keeps me grounded rather than ‘being blown here and there by every wind of teaching’ (Ephesians 4:14). • I’ve found apologetics to be invaluable when talking with those who have errant views of Christianity. For several months in college, I talked extensively with Mormon missionaries. I already had a decent biblical basis for my faith, and talking with the Mormons forced me to study more about the Trinity, salvation, heaven, etc. Since my mind was already primed to know what I believe and why I believe it, I was ready to dig deeper. This has also helped in recent months as I’ve been conversing regularly with a few Jehovah’s Witnesses.
My understanding of what and why I believe enables us to have very engaging, Bible-based conversations. • Our culture is becoming increasingly skeptical and secular, which means that Christianity is frequently disregarded and even mocked. However, I have found that being able to speak cogently about the scientific and historical basis of Christianity leads to thoughtful conversations that gives skeptics genuine ‘foodfor-thought’ rather than validating their opinion that ‘Christians are gullible and out-of-touch.’ • Many young people are abandoning church and God. While there are myriad reasons for this, a big factor is the perception that Christianity is anti-science, repressive, and irrelevent. Fostering environments, at home and at church, where people humbly dig into what and why they believe goes a long way toward helping young people remain faithful to Christ throughout their lives. We don’t need to be intimidated by is topic.
(For reference, that Apologetics study was quite advanced; its philosophical nature still makes my head spin.) Here are reasonable places to start building your grasp of what and why you believe: • Read your Bible on a consistent basis, and join a Huddle or Bible study where you can study Scripture with other Christians. • Gotquestions.org is a trustworthy resource for all kinds of biblical topics. • Read books about apologetics and theology, such as: The Reason for God by Timothy Keller Know What You Believe and Know Why You Believe by Paul Little • In our OUT section of Sunday-morning classes, we frequently have at least one apologetics class. It’s important to remember that, according to 1 Peter 3:15, we should ‘be prepared to give an answer…with gentleness and respect.’ We can’t argue someone into God’s Kingdom, but knowing what and why we believe goes a long way!
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