AskDefine | Define apologetics

Dictionary Definition

apologetics n : the branch of theology that is concerned with the defense of Christian doctrines

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The field of study concerned with the systematic defense of a position, or of religious or occult doctrines

Extensive Definition

Apologists are authors, writers, editors of scientific logs or academic journals, and leaders known for taking on the points in arguments, conflicts or positions that are either placed under popular scrutinies or viewed under persecutory examinations. The term comes from the Greek word apologia (απολογία), meaning a speaking in defense.

Notable apologists

Plato (Greek: Πλάτων, Plátōn) (428/427 BC[a] – 348/347 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher, the second of the great trio of ancient Greeks –succeeding Socrates and preceding Aristotle– who between them laid the philosophical foundations of Western culture.
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian, (ca.155230) was a church leader and was a notable early Christian apologist. He was born, lived and died in Carthage. He was the first great writer of Latin Christianity, thus sometimes known as the "Father of the Latin Church". He introduced the term Trinity (Latin trinitas) to the Christian vocabulary and also probably the formula "three Persons, one Substance" as the Latin "tres Personae, una Substantia" (itself from the Koine Greek "treis Hypostases, Homoousios"), and also the terms vetus testamentum ("old testament") and novum testamentum ("new testament").
In his Apologeticus, he was the first Latin author who qualified Christianity as the 'vera religio' ("true religion"), and symmetrically relegated the classical Empire religion and other accepted cults to the position of mere 'superstitions'.
Early uses of the term (in the first sense) include Plato's Apology (the defense speech of Socrates from his trial) and some works of early Christian apologists, such as St. Justin Martyr's two Apologies addressed to the emperor Marcus Aurelius.
John Henry Cardinal Newman, JHCN. (February 21 1801August 11 1890) was an English convert to Roman Catholicism, later made a cardinal, and in 1991 proclaimed 'Venerable'. In early life he was a major figure in the Oxford Movement to bring the Church of England back to its Catholic roots. Eventually his studies in history persuaded him to become a Roman Catholic. When John Henry Newman entitled his spiritual autobiography Apologia Pro Vita Sua in 1864 , he was playing upon both this connotation, and the more commonly understood meaning of an expression of contrition or regret.

Colloquial usage

Today the term "apologist" is colloquially applied in a general manner to include groups and individuals systematically promoting causes, justifying orthodoxies, or denying certain events, even of crimes. Apologists have been characterized as being deceptive, or "whitewashing" their cause, primarily through omission of negative facts (selective perception) and exaggeration of positive ones, techniques of classical rhetoric. When used in this context, the term often has a pejorative meaning.

Technical usages

The term apologetics etymologically derives from the Classical Greek word apologia. In the Classical Greek legal system two key technical terms were employed: the prosecution delivered the kategoria (κατηγορία), and the defendant replied with an apologia. To deliver an apologia then meant making a formal speech to reply and rebut the charges, as in the case of Socrates' defense.
This Classical Greek term appears in the Koine (i.e. common) Greek of the New Testament. The Apostle Paul employs the term apologia in his trial speech to Festus and Agrippa when he says "I make my defense" (Acts 26:2). A cognate term appears in Paul's Letter to the Philippians as he is "defending the gospel" (Philippians 1:7 & 16), and in 1 Peter 3:15 believers must be ready to give an "answer" for their faith. The word also appears in the negative in Romans 1:20: unbelievers are αναπολόγητοι (anapologētoi) (without excuse, defense, or apology)(Romans 1:20 probably referring not to unbelievers but to those who believe but continue in unrighteousness. Romans 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.See Romans 1:16-22) for rejecting the revelation of God in creation.
The legal nuance of apologetics was reframed in a more specific sense to refer to the study of the defense of a doctrine or belief. In this context it most commonly refers to philosophical reconciliation. Religious apologetics is the effort to show that the preferred faith is not irrational, that believing in it is not against human reason, and that in fact the religion contains values and promotes ways of life more in accord with human nature than other faiths or beliefs.
In the English language, the word apology is derived from the Greek word apologia, but its use has changed; its primary sense now refers to a defensive plea for forgiveness for an action that is open to blame. Secondary but uncommonly, it is used to refer to a speech or writing that defends the speaker or author's position.

Christian apologetics

Main article: Christian apologetics
There are a variety of Christian apologetic styles and schools of thought. In the Thomistic or Classical apologetics tradition, philosophical arguments for God's existence are emphasized before turning to the specific case for Christian revelation claims. In the Evidentialist tradition empirical arguments about the life, miracles, death and resurrection of Christ are presented as probabilistic proofs. The presuppositional tradition argues that belief in God must be presupposed, and from that vantage point non-theistic assumptions are proven to be fallacious.

Early Christian era

In the first centuries AD a number of Christian writers undertook the task of proving that Christianity was beneficial for the Roman Empire and for humanity as a whole. Also they wrote to defend their faith against attacks made by other people or to properly explain their faith. Aristides and Quadratus of Athens, writing in the early second century, were two of the first Christians to write apologetics treatises. Other second-century apologetics writings of note included the First Apology and Second Apology of Justin Martyr and the Epistle to Diognetus , a response to the accusation that Christians were a danger to Rome, further more: Athenagoras, Tatian, Theophilos of Antioch, Tertullian and Minucius Felix.
About a century after Emperor Constantine I's conversion to Christianity, the Roman Empire began falling to invaders from northern Europe. Some Christian writers sought to explain the decline of Roman culture and power by systematically downplaying the achievements of classical antiquity while emphasizing the persecution of Christians and the positive role of Christianity in society. Paulus Orosius wrote the first book advancing this perspective (History Against the Pagans), though the far more learned and influential work of this type was The City of God by Augustine of Hippo (426).
Several of the early Christian apologists developed arguments from fulfilled prophecy and gospel miracles as proofs of Christ's divinity. Eusebius of Caesarea in his Demonstration of the Gospel attempted to prove the truth of Christianity by fulfilled prophecies from the Old Testament, and by rebutting arguments that the apostles had made up the story of Christ's resurrection.

Medieval era

In Medieval Europe Anselm of Canterbury composed the Monologion and Proslogion in which he developed the ontological argument for God's existence. He believed that faith was necessary as a precursor to philosophical argument and expressed his position as "I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand: for this I also believe, that unless I believe I will not understand."
Theodore Abu-Qurrah, the ninth century bishop of Harran, composed On God and The True Religion. Abu Qurra represents a group of Christian Arabic apologists who argued their case under early Islamic rule.
A highly influential Catholic apologist was Thomas Aquinas who presented five arguments for God's existence in the Summa Theologiae. His approach, which adapted Aristotelian thought, is known as Thomism, and has dominated both Roman Catholic and Protestant approaches.

Post-Reformation era

The first Protestant textbook of apologetics was written by the Dutch legal scholar Hugo Grotius, On The Truth of the Christian Religion. This work, which was released in 1632 and translated into many languages, remained in print in English until the late nineteenth century, defended the historicity of the gospels, and also addressed arguments to Jews and Muslims.

Modern era

Since the seventeenth century the controversies over Deism, Atheism, the Enlightenment, Humanism, and theories of Feuerbach, Marx, Freud and Darwin, have each in turn spurred both Catholic and Protestant apologists to reply. Changing modes in apologetics, whether or not they are currently fashionable, are important markers in the history of ideas. Among the notable apologists of the early modern era are Blaise Pascal, Joseph Butler, William Paley, Søren Kierkegaard, and John Henry Newman.
The Roman Catholic G. K. Chesterton, the Anglican C. S. Lewis (who popularized the Christian trilemma), the Lutheran John Warwick Montgomery, and the Presbyterian Francis Schaeffer were among the most prolific Christian apologists in the 20th century. Among the most widely read Christian apologists writing in English have been Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel. Another modern apologist is Ravi Zacharias, author of The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha, who argues for Christianity over other religions and philosophies deemed false or heretical. Frank Morison is also notable, because of his famous defense of the historical Resurrection, Who Moved The Stone?, as is William Lane Craig. Although not primarily an apologist, Douglas John Hall authored Why Christian?: For Those on the Edge of Faith which is written as a series of dialogues with a young doubting inquirer.

Christian apologists

Some prominent Christian apologists include: Although members of churches within the Latter Day Saint Movement self-identify as Christians, their most vocal critics are frequently other Christians. Organizations such as Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, a group of scholars at Brigham Young University, and Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research, an independent, not-for-profit group, have formed to defend the doctrines and history of the Latter Day Saint movement in general and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in particular.

Apologetics in other religions

As the world's religions have encountered one another, apologetics and apologists from within their respective faiths have emerged. Some of these apologetics respond to or fight back against the arguments of both Christianity and secularism; some do not.
Apologists for Islam have defended the Koran using rationalist and empiricist arguments, and using cosmological arguments to prove God's existence. Muslims have actually developed their own form of creationism, Islamic creationism. Islamic apologists have also challenged both Jewish and Christian beliefs. The late South African Islamic scholar, Ahmed Deedat, was a prolific popular writer who debated Christian evangelists by arguing over discrepancies in the Bible, and claiming the Gospel of Barnabas is the only authentic record of Jesus' life.
One of the earliest Buddhist apologetic texts is The Questions of King Milinda, which deals with ethical and intellectual problems. In the British colonial era, Buddhists in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) wrote tracts that challenged and rejected Christianity. In the mid-nineteenth century, encounters between Buddhists and Christians in Japan prompted the formation of a Buddhist Propagation Society. In recent times A. L. De Silva, an Australian convert to Buddhism, has written a text designed to refute the arguments of Christian evangelists. At a sophisticated academic level, Gunapala Dharmasiri has challenged the Christian concept of God from a Theravadan Buddhist perspective.
Hindu apologetics designed to counter Christian missions developed in the British colonial era. Richard Fox Young has collated examples of these early apologetic tracts. Hindus have also developed their creation story and their own form of cosmology.
In a famous speech called Red Jacket on Religion for the White Man and the Red in 1805, Seneca chief Red Jacket was an apologist for American Indian religion, as opposed to Christianity. American Indians have also developed their own form of creationism.
Some pantheists have formed organizations such as the World Pantheist Movement and Universal Pantheist Society to promote and logically defend belief in pantheism.

External links


apologetics in Czech: Apologeta
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apologetics in Russian: Апология
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apologetics in Chinese: 護教士

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Buddhology, Mariolatry, Mariology, Mercersburg theology, apologia, apology, argument, argumentation, bicker, bickering, canonics, casuistry, contention, controversy, crisis theology, defense, dialogical theology, disputation, dispute, divinity, doctrinalism, doctrinism, dogmatics, eschatology, existential theology, flyting, hagiography, hagiology, hassle, hierology, hubbub, litigation, logomachy, logos Christology, logos theology, natural theology, neoorthodox theology, neoorthodoxy, paper war, passage of arms, patristic theology, phenomenological theology, physicotheology, polemic, polemics, rationalism, religion, rhubarb, scholastic theology, secularism, set-to, soteriology, systematics, theology, verbal engagement, war of words, wrangling
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