A Philosophy for Apologetics Based on 1 Peter
In an on-line search for the noun apologetics, a definition is given; “Reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine.”1 A Christian website gives this definition of apologetics, “Apologetics is the branch of Christianity that deals with the defense and establishment of the Christian faith.”2 Now to the verse often sighted for Christian apologetics, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Peter 3:15)
Some have taken this to mean debating atheist on a stage in front of an audience about the existence of God. I am not writing to discredit that enterprise, but rather to give a philosophy of apologetics based on what has been written in 1 Peter. The on-line definition from google as well as the definition from the website quoted would indicate debate, but I do not think that this is what Peter had in mind.
The epistle of 1 Peter can be structurally divided into three parts. The first part (1 Peter 1:1-2:10) focuses on the readers; identifying the readers as God’s people. This is based on their being born again; thereby, having a hope of salvation in Christ Jesus. The second part (1 Peter 2:11-4:11) exhorts the readers to have a focus on reverence towards God, love for the brethren, and loving those outside of the church as oneself. The third part (1 Peter 4:12-5:11) reiterates what has been said in the second part, but with a focus on the elders of the church.3
The first step in having a philosophy of apologetics based on first peter is that you must have been born again; according to the foreknowledge of God, by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, through the seed of the living word of God to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (cf. 1 Peter 1:2-3, 22-23) Now that you have this living hope you are putting away all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. You are longing for the word of God and are seeking to grow in your salvation. (cf. 1 Peter 2:1-3)
The next step in a philosophy for apologetics based on 1 Peter is that you are seeking to live according to the example and teaching of Jesus Christ. Peter first tells the readers to honor authority and lastly he tells the readers to live Godly lives. (cf. 1 Peter 2:13-20 and 3:1-7) In between these two he exalts Christ as our example; saying, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.” (1 Peter 2:21) He then uses Isaiah 53 (Christ being the suffering servant of the Lord in Isaiah 53) to demonstrate that Christ committed no sin or lies, when reviled he did not revile, when suffering he offered no threat in return, but trusted in God. Then he describes how Christ died for the ungodly and bore our sins in his body on the cross while we were yet sinning. (cf. 1 Peter 2:22-25 and Isaiah 53:4-9)
The next step after honoring authority and living Godly lives is to “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.” (1 Peter 3:15-16)
This is implying that when someone sees the way that you are living; respecting authority, being kind to everyone, when reviled not reviling in return, when suffering not offering threats. When someone sees this, they may ask about the hope that is in you, because this sort of behavior is strange to the world. So when they ask, tell them about Jesus Christ. It is this living hope that the first century Christians had within them while being martyred.
1 “Apologetics,” Google, accessed December 1, 2016, https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=Apologetics.
2 Matt Slick, “Apologetics,” CARM, accessed December 1, 2016, https://carm.org/apologetics.
3 J. R. Michaels, “1 Peter” in Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments, eds. Ralph P. Martin and Peter H, Davids (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1997), 917-918.