Author: David Wilber
The greatest commandment in the Torah/Law of God includes loving the Lord your God with “all your mind” (Matthew 22:36-40). What does that mean?
God gave us a rational mind so that we may discover the truth. The Scriptures instruct us to think about “whatever is true” and weigh the data and evidence in order to discern the will of God (Philippians 4:8, Romans 12:2). Furthermore, we are morally responsible to believe, proclaim, and defend the truth and refute falsehoods (Jude 1:3). This is part of what it means to love and worship HaShem with our minds.
There is a branch of theology devoted to the study and defense of truth. It's called apologetics. The word apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia, which means to give a defense. In the Bible, the apostles often engaged in apologetics. The book of Acts records many instances in which the apostles "reasoned" with people and answered their difficult questions. Any time a believer confronts and answers objections to faith in God, the Bible, and the Gospel message, they are engaging in apologetics.
Sadly, some believers don’t see the value of apologetics. Not only don’t they see apologetics as an expression of love towards God and our neighbor, but they deny the practical benefits as well. They say, “You can’t argue anyone into the faith.” And while that is true, apologetics still serves an important role in evangelism. Christian philosopher Ravi Zacharias puts it best:
Apologetics does not dominate our message; it undergirds our message. Argument doesn’t save people, but it certainly clears the obstacles so they can take a direct look at the Cross. Support the argument justifiably, but recognize it is Jesus Christ who you need to lift up, and it is the Holy Spirit who brings about change within the human heart. An argument may remove doubt, but only the Holy Spirit can convict of truth.
Ultimately apologetics is a prelude to evangelism. The goal is not to win people over to the Lord by argument alone, but to help them see Yeshua clearly. Apologetics clears the way so that the Gospel might be received. Christian author C.S. Lewis went from being an atheist to a theist first through intellectual argument. As the obstacles to his faith were gradually removed, he was eventually able to truly discover and accept the truth. Then, through faith, he personally received the Lord and became a Christian.
Apologetics is for the purpose of not only helping unbelievers see Yeshua clearly, but also to build up believers in their faith. In Acts 18:24-28 we read about Apollos, a Jewish believer in Yeshua. He was “an eloquent man, competent in the Scripture.” The passage goes on to say that he “powerfully refuted” his opponents in public and demonstrated by the Scriptures that Yeshua is the Messiah. This greatly encouraged the other Jewish believers in Yeshua (verse 27).
In addition to worship and evangelism, apologetics also plays an important role in spiritual warfare. As Paul says, although we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. Disciples of Yeshua are given spiritual weapons of warfare in order to tear down strongholds and “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
We are morally responsible for knowing and defending the truth. It's part of evangelism. It's part of spiritual warfare. It's part of our worship. And indeed, it's part of what it means to be obedient to the greatest commandment. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37).
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