When it comes to appreciating the value of apologetics, I’ve never needed much convincing.
I’ve always had a curious mind and been interested in intellectual pursuits. And when I’ve had questions, I’ve sought out the answers until I found them. My parents have told me about how, when I was a kid, they felt rather on edge when it was time for all the little ones to go up front for the children’s story at church. There was no telling what I was going to say, or what crazy, out-of-left-field question I would ask the poor children’s leader!
All of this to say, the idea that faith should be well-reasoned and established on evidence just seemed obvious to me. In other words, I wasn’t raised to have blind faith only to find out later that the Christian worldview stands on a foundation of facts and reason. (Though this is the experience of many, unfortunately.) Rather, I naturally approached everything in life with critical thinking.
So, when I discovered the field of apologetics, I found it was what I had already been doing—and what my parents, pastors, and various other spiritual mentors in my life had been teaching me.
A Firm Foundation
It was with great enthusiasm, then, that I took to the study of apologetics when I discovered it.
Since I had a skeptical—and, at times, even cynical—disposition, one might think I’d be the first to scoff at the idea of God and the supernatural. That assumes, however, that there aren’t any good reasons to believe in them. But the foundation of historical, moral, experiential, philosophical, and other arguments that I had been shown growing up proved such skepticism false.
Not only had I been taught the rationality and soundness of the Christian worldview (positive apologetics), but I had also been shown why objections to the Christian faith fall flat, and why other systems of belief don’t pass muster (negative or defensive apologetics). In light of this, it would have been unreasonable for me to handwave God’s existence. It seemed to me that if I was to remain intellectually honest, I had to be a Christian.
Like the title of the popular apologetics book, I didn’t have enough faith to be an atheist.
An Argument that Really Matters
Among the various apologetics arguments I’ve heard throughout my life, one stands out as chief: the historicity of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There are two main reasons why I find this one most convincing:
1 – History and Real-World Events
Because arguments from history rely on real-world events for their evidence, they have a nearly self-evident value.
As I said before, I felt that, in light of the evidence, I needed to be a Christian. Now, this isn’t to say that I felt forced to be a Christian, or that intellectual evidence is the only basis of my faith. I believe in Jesus because He has given me a new heart of faith (Ezek. 36:26), and dwells within me, and I joyfully put my trust in Him (Rom. 15:13). Nevertheless, even if I wasn’t converted, the fact remains that Jesus really did die on the cross, and He really did rise from the dead.
Believe me, I love philosophy and the many classical arguments for God’s existence. But for many people, arguments that make use of fancy syllogisms and flowery or highly technical language just aren’t going to cut it, logically watertight as they may be. They may be too difficult to understand, or too abstract. Such people need something more down-to-earth and relatable.
Additionally, skeptics might come along and try to explain them away: “So what?” they may say. “I mean, that sounds good, but all that’s needed is for a smarter philosopher to point out some logical flaw that you overlooked, or some faulty assumptions you made, and then your argument will mean nothing. It happens all the time.”
On the other hand, I think everyone can agree that if God actually showed up in history, there would be no denying his existence. If we have credible eyewitness testimony that God stepped down into our world (and we do), the implications are obvious. There’s no argument necessary. There’s no need to understand the laws of logic. There are few to no assumptions to be invalidated. The eyewitnesses would simply say, “God exists because we met Him.” End of story.
2 – Jesus’ Incarnation and Ministry
The incarnation and work of Jesus Christ show us that God is personal and active in His creation.
Similar to the previous point, a person can agree that God is a logically necessary being, but still come away unconvinced and unconverted. This is often (though not always) because, while they see how the argument is sound, they don’t understand why it matters, especially to them personally. But to be shown that God Himself walked the earth, performed miracles, rose from the dead, and did so in order to give us the free gift of eternal life, and to have all of this proven beyond reasonable doubt? The significance of that is not so easily denied.
If God “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), this proves two very important things. First, God is personal, meaning He is self-aware, has a will, and can enter into relationship with us. Second, it proves that He is active, meaning that He wants to have such a relationship with us and cares about us in some way.
In short, not only does the historical argument prove that God exists, it proves that He has spoken to us and loves us.
Conclusion: Argue with Purpose
There are many more reasons I could cite for why I find this historical argument so convincing. However, I think the two reasons I shared above suffice to illustrate a fundamental principle for all aspiring apologists: making good arguments is only half the battle.
The key is to reveal the loving character of the God whose existence you’ve just proven. This is usually the point where people draw the line between evangelism and apologetics. However, an argument that does both these things—proving God’s existence and showing what kind of a God He is—can be an incredibly effective evangelistic tool when used properly.
Yes, we must be prepared to give “a reason for the hope that is in us” (1 Pet. 3:15). But what about when someone asks why they should share in that hope? To answer that question, we must present arguments that reveal the Christian worldview for what it is. Simply put, it’s not just a series of tenets to which we intellectually assent, but a comprehensive answer to the deepest, most difficult questions humanity has asked: What is my identity? What is my purpose? Why am I suffering? Is there more to life than this?
Every human being is racked with some or all such questions at some point in their life, and the latter often underpin intellectual objections to Christianity. It’s our job as Christians to listen closely, find out which questions they’re asking, and offer an answer accordingly (Col. 4:6).
As I was blessed to be taught growing up, that’s what apologetics is all about.
 Some of my favourites are Thomas Aquinas’ Five Ways, especially the fourth one, known as the henological argument, or the argument from degrees of perfection. He outlines these arguments in his Summa Theologica, I, q. 2, a. 3.