The Bible clearly teaches that every Christian is to be engaged in the task of apologetics. From the Bible’s description of “always being ready to give an answer for the reason for the hope we have” (1 Peter 3:15) to contending for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3), Christians have been called to use their words and lives in stewardship of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some people though think that apologetics is only for professional debaters or those engaged in the public ministry of defending the faith in radio, television, in the university, or other media outlets. While such ministries are vital, every Christian regardless of position, title, rank, or degree is called to the ministry of apologetics. Entering into the resurgence on apologetics materials is Expository Apologetics Answering Objections with the Power of the Word by Voddie Baucham.
Expository Apologetics has nine chapters. In chapter one, the author looks at what is expository apologetics. Chapter two considers 1 Peter 3 and the essence of apologetics while chapter three looks at unbelief. Chapter four explores Paul’s apologetic approach. Chapter five walks readers through learning to use apologetics through creeds, confessions, and catechisms while chapter six considers the role of Ten Commandments in apologetics. Chapter seven helps readers understand basic objections people have about the Christianity. Chapter eight explores what Voddie calls “The Expository Apologetics Waltz” while the final chapter helps preachers and teachers to preach and teach like an expository apologetics. The book concludes with an example expository apologetic sermon delivered by Voddie himself.
There is much to be commended about Voddie’s book Expository Apologetics. For one, I enjoyed his emphasis on the Word of God and the gospel. I appreciate the fact that “expository apologetics” is not trying to reinvent the wheel but rather explain what others have taught about presuppositional apologetics. He notes, “This book is an attempt to introduce a new way of thinking about apologetics, which is actually not new at all. At its core, it is a practical expression of presuppositional apologetics. However, instead of discussing the various approaches to apologetics, or the broader issues associated most commonly with apologetics, this book is about the nature and practice of apologetics” (14).
The author defines expository apologetics as, “the application of the principles of biblical exposition to the art and science of apologetics. It is based on the inerrancy, infallibility, sufficiency, and authority of the Bible. This approach to apologetics is not based on acquiring the latest knowledge in fields like astronomy, geology, physics, psychology, or comparative religion. This approach is based on the believer’s need to have a firm grasp on basic truths and a willingness to share those truths when and where opportunities arise. Our view is always towards gospel proclamation” (20).
He explains that there are three audiences that the expository apologist is interested in, “The first audience is the heathen. This is the person who is both ignorant of and antagonistic toward the gospel. This audience requires an evangelist. The second audience is the churchgoer. This is a person who, whether converted or unconverted, is sitting under the regular preaching and teaching of the Word. This audience requires a preacher/teacher. The final audience is the disciple. This person is brand new to the things of God. This is the child being raised in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4), or the new convert unlearning and relearning everything he thinks and knows (27).
Chapters eight and nine, in my opinion, are the best chapters in the book. Following John Stott’s lead in his book Between Two Worlds, Voddie notes, “Preaching is an extraordinary act where a man stands suspended between two worlds holding forth truths that must be believed by an audience that in and of themselves, cannot and will not believe unless the world they inhabit is invaded by the world that was and is and is to come” (163). I also enjoyed his description about apologetics in preaching when he explains, “Expository apologetics is not about answering esoteric objections. This is real life, rubber-meets-the-road stuff. This is supposed to be a staple of our everyday preaching and teaching (Titus 1:9), and it ought to characterize our basic approach to presenting the gospel (1 Peter 3:15; Jude 1-4). Hence, we begin with basic, everyday objections” (164). All of this and more are reasons why I enjoyed this book. With that said, I noted one weaknesses in this book.
One of my main interests in reading this book was the title and the content of the book. I’m familiar with Voddie’s previous books and have truly enjoyed them. When I saw the table of contents and that the author was going to consider 1 Peter 3 and the Essence of Apologetics, I knew I needed to read this book. The author tells us that we need to consider the “context of 1 Peter 3:15” (34) in order to understand 1 Peter 3:15. I agree completely with Voddie when he explains this and believe he does a good job exploring the context of 1 Peter 3:15. The one area where Voddie failed to consider is the connection 1 Peter 1:13-17 and 1 Peter 3:15 play in Peter’s unfolding argument in his epistle.
Before we go there let me say I truly did appreciate Voddie’s engagement with the biblical text. I don’t have a problem with his explanation of the text but in almost every apologetics book I’ve read that discusses apologetics, authors seem to skip over the first half of Peter’s words in 1 Peter 3:15, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy,”. In order to understand how to give a reason for the hope that we have, we must first understand what Peter means here by “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy”. The author does seek to walk through some of what this means in pages 43-44 but does not connect it to the broader context or to the unfolding argument that Peter is making throughout his book as it relates to 1 Peter 3:15.
1 Peter was written to Christians who were scattered because of persecution (1 Peter 1:2-3). He writes to address their hope in Christ as well as how they are to be holy and to reflect the holiness of God to people as they witness for the Gospel (1 Peter 1:3-25). He instructs them in how they are a particular people and priests unto God (1 Peter 2:1-12). He then explains how they are a people under godly authority and how to live under that authority and honor God (1 Peter 2:13-25). He exhorts wives and husbands on how to live with one another (1 Peter 3:1-7). In the context surrounding 1 Peter 3:15, Peter is instructing believers how to suffer and speak for the gospel (1 Peter 3:8-22), with I Peter 3:14 stating “but even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled…” Moreover, in the following chapter, Peter looks at how Christians are to be stewards of God’s grace (1 Peter 4:1-11), suffer as a Christian (1 Peter 4:12-19), how pastors are to shepherd the flock of God (1 Peter 5:1-11), concluding the book with greetings to several people (1 Peter 5:12-14).
This quick overview of 1 Peter gives us a sense of what the overall thrust of what 1 Peter is about. Understanding the context of 1 Peter 3:15 will help Christians understand that 1 Peter 3:15 is not the only verse in the book. As I’ve explained already, I truly did appreciate how Voddie explained the context of 1 Peter 3:15. I often get the feeling that we are so focused on the task of Apologetics from 1 Peter 3:15, that we miss out on the rest of what the great epistle of 1 Peter has to say to us. Peter is talking in 1 Peter 3:15 not only about how Christians must make a defense and give a reason for the hope they have, he is noting how their entire life must testify to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Remember that Peter is writing to “elect exiles” (1 Peter 1:2), a people who were in exile because of persecution. He was writing to encourage them in the hope they have in Christ (1 Peter 1:3-25). These were men and women were suffering for the sake of the gospel in the fires of affliction. It was to these people that Peter spoke the words of 1 Peter 3:15.
As I read books on Apologetics (not necessarily Expository Apologetics), I get the sense that we are so focused on methodology that we have missed out on how apologetics relates to the Christian life. Peter’s point in 1 Peter 3:15 goes back to 1 Peter 1:13, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Let me try to explain why this is important so you can see some of the weight of what Peter is saying here so we can begin to see why Apologetics is more than just a task Christians perform. Conversely, it is essential to the daily Christian life and ministry of the people of God.
My experience growing up in the Church as a child and in Bible college and seminary has taught me that Apologetics often emphasizes more on “how” we are to reach certain people. It is often assumed those engaging in the task have a biblical worldview when researchers at Lifeway Research Group among others teach us that we cannot assume people in the Church have a biblical worldview or even read their Bibles. Yet what Peter does in 1 Peter is set forth the Christian worldview, that of the hope believers have in God because of the finished work of Jesus and how that is to impact their ongoing growth in sanctification (1 Peter 1:3-25). Since Peter has said that his readers are to “prepare your minds for action” (1 Peter 1:13) that builds upon his premise in 1 Peter 3:15 that if we are to honor Christ the Lord as holy, we first must know the hope we have.
The biblical authors always build upon their thought in order to help their readers understand the topic. Peter is the same way, as the rest of the Apostles in this regard. Peter’s argument then in 1 Peter 3:15 is that in order to defend and commend the Christian faith, we must understand that what is all important is Christians grounding their worldview in the Word of God and the gospel of God. Only through that lens can our defense of the faith commend the faith, or in the words of Peter “honor Christ the Lord as holy”.
The only reason any of us can love God and obey His commandments is because the wrath of God no longer burns against our sin, since God’s people have been given a new heart, with new desires, and affections for the person and work of Christ. This means the Christian life is a life view and our apologetic efforts must spring from that life view. The formation of a biblical worldview begins with understanding the hope we have now in Christ by understanding how Christ has saved us and how He wants to grow His people in His grace. By understanding that foundational point, we will come to see that apologetics is more than just offering defenses and commending the Christian faith. Instead, we will understand that apologetics is a life view rooted in holding fast to the authority of the Word of God and declaring the excellencies of the gospel.
As I’ve meditated on 1 Peter 3:15 recently, what God is teaching me is a bigger vision than only giving an answer to why I believe what I believe. Apologetics is not only giving answers for the reason for my hope in Christ but also how my life testifies of Him. The New Testament has much to say about how we are to know, live, enjoy, and minister for God. When we take all that into account along with 1 Peter 3:15, I don’t know about you but I’m struck with wonder at the God who no longer calls me His enemy but rather calls me His friend. While I believe firmly in apologetics, I think we first need to be Christians, grounding our thinking and methodology in the Word of God. The outflow of that will be ministry to God and a defense of the Christian faith that is first and foremost concerned not with the latest apologetic approach, but rather with what God has said in His Word as the ultimate standard for life.
At the heart of Christian discipleship is the need to hear, heed, and obey what God has commanded. Apologetics is surely at the heart of that, but first we must ground our hope in Christ and grow in Him. The outflow from that growth will be ministry that glories in the Gospel of grace and marvels that He calls His people to the task of commending and defending the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. Lastly, understanding apologetics in this way will enable us to heed Peter’s words in 1 Peter 3:15 and hear them as he means then, namely, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
I don’t know about you but understanding apologetics through the lens I’ve described is less burdensome and more joyful. It is also more hope-filled because it isn’t grounded in our methodology, but rather in the unchanging and inspired Word of God. God calls His people to be a people of His Word and to testify of its Truth. Let the people of God know and declare the excellencies of Jesus in gentleness and respect to the glory of God.
Even with noting the one weaknesses of Expository Apologetics, I am not saying that this is a bad book. As I explained previously in this review, I believe this is a very good book. Expository Apologetics will help readers understand the relationship between apologetics, preaching, and teaching. I highly recommend this book and believe every Bible College, seminary students, pastor, Sunday school teacher, and Bible study leader should read this book. I also believe every serious layperson should read this book to help them understand their clear calling to engage in apologetics. This book is filled with real-world examples and practical advice that will equip readers to think biblically and converse persuasively—offering unbelievers “a reason for the hope that is in you.”