When the apostle Peter spoke of “always being ready to make a defense (apologia) to anyone who asks us for the reason for the hope within us” in 1 Peter 3:15, he was speaking to and encouraging persecuted Christians. His command to engage in the defense of the gospel was not aimed at the intellectual elite, or the scholar and professor. Defending the faith was never intended only for the smart and educated believer. When the bible teaches that we are to defend the truth of the gospel, it teaches that all believers are to do so.
The command to “always be ready to make a defense” assumes that it is possible to engage in such an activity. In other words, the command to defend the gospel presupposes the defensibility of the gospel. This may come as a surprise to those who were taught that faith is simply believing what they were taught. That is not what biblical faith means. Biblical faith typically refers to a relational trust. That relational trust is placed on a God who has demonstrated his faithfulness and has given ample evidence of both his existence and trustworthiness. Therefore, when people suggest that faith is simply believing something blindly, they are engaging in a misrepresentation of what the bible teaches and how the bible itself defines the notion of faith.
The field of apologetics can seem very intimidating to the new believer who is just getting their feet wet in all this Christianity stuff, but take courage! Defending the Christian faith can be done by anyone who is filled with the Spirit of God and equipped with his Word.
The BEST ADVICE I Can Give:
There are many resources out there for folks who want to learn how to defend the Christian faith. There are books, YouTube videos, online and in-person classes, etc. all of which I highly recommend if one can find a trustworthy source. However, I have found that the best way to defend the Christian faith is to know the Christian faith. Learning basic Christian theology is vitally important for both the spiritual formation of the believer and for pointing out misrepresentations put forth by unbelievers.
For example, while I am a seasoned apologist myself, who has studied philosophy, various scientific theories, and odd theological views, I have found time and time again that whether I am engaging with a member of some religious cult or a hardened internet atheist, the issues of basic Christian theology almost always come up.
Instead of arguing some vague philosophical point, or some convoluted scientific theory, I often find myself defending the coherency and biblical grounding for the trinity or correcting someone on what the bible teaches concerning some topic that relates to Christian theology. I will often hear an objection against the Christian faith that is based upon a misunderstanding of what the Christian faith actually teaches: How can God allow bad things to happen to good people? (The bible teaches that “there is none who are righteous, Romans 3:10-12, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23). A solid grasp of basic Christian theology will go a long way for one who seeks to intentionally engage with unbelievers who are bringing objections against the faith.
My best advice for a believer who wishes to fulfill the biblical mandate to always be ready to make a defense (1 Peter 3:15), and to contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered (Jude 1:3) is to be familiar with the “faith once for all delivered.” Know your bible well! Know your Christian theology! Know what it is you are to believe as a Christian and why you believe it!
While there are countless books on apologetics (many of which I highly recommend), one of the best ways to equip yourself against error is to be so familiar with the truth that when error rears its ugly head, you can identify it as such and refute it; hence, the best apologetic resources I can recommend is the bible itself, and a solid systematic theology.
This is not to say that the believer should not use other resources. Indeed, the use of extrabiblical resources is a must when one goes deeper into the various issues that relate to apologetics and theology. But for the beginner, get grounded firmly in scripture and theology.
An introduction to Christian philosophy and logical thinking will prove very useful as well. One of the ways that we love the Lord with “all our minds” (Matthew 22:37) is to think our thoughts after him. God is always logical and rational. As we seek to reflect the one in whose image we were created, let us learn to be clear thinkers who are rational, logical, and of course, biblical. In doing so, we will be in a better position to defend the truth that God has entrusted to us.