A Comparative Study of the Work of Apologetics and Evangelism -- By: Frederic R. Howe

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 135:540 (Oct 1978)
Article: A Comparative Study of the Work of Apologetics and Evangelism
Author: Frederic R. Howe

A Comparative Study of the Work of Apologetics and Evangelism

Frederic R. Howe

[Frederic R. Howe, Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

The purposes of this article are to seek to clarify the ongoing task of apologetics, to show its divergence from the work of evangelism, and to offer a challenge to the high and worthy task of carrying on both a biblically sound evangelism and a biblically consistent defense of the Christian faith. The words of Jude 3 epitomize the challenge as follows: “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (NASB).

The very existence of the common salvation of which Jude wrote rested on the redeeming grace of God which had been faithfully proclaimed to Jude’s readers in the work of New Testament evangelism. These believers who had been evangelized were to enter into the sphere of defense or apologetics, setting the clearcut lines of difference between truth and error. This defense, which was a virtual polemic against false teachers, involved the kind of response projected in Jude 22: “And have mercy on some, who are doubting” (NASB). Granting the textual problems in this verse, one still can agree with the words of George Lawler concerning it:

It thus seems reasonable to take Jude’s admonition to mean that we are to extend mercy to those who may have leanings toward such things as are taught by apostates but who are hesitating in doubt…. It may well be that some of them are still hesitating, wavering, in doubt as to what is right or wrong and have taken no final step. Some may be disputations, to be sure, and under the influence of the apostasy, and attempt to support claims made by apostates. In either

case, and in both instances, we must make every effort to correct their mistaken views and impressions, even to the point of rebuke if need be.1

Obviously, Jude had primary reference to a specific type of false teaching which had set itself over against the believers. The activity he urged on his readers at that time conceivably involved the field of polemics, in distinction from apologetics. However, these two fields in the present day have apparently overlapped significantly, so that the words of Jude can apply to the role of the defender of the faith today.

The Task of Apologetics

A description of the task of apologetics depends to ...

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