In his letter to several churches, Peter encouraged his readers to live in a way that honors God. In fact, he asked them to consider how unbelievers would view their lifestyle:
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:12 ESV)
Jesus said something very similar (Perhaps this is where Peter got the idea?):
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)
It is important for us to know what we believe. It is important for us to have “sound doctrine”. But why did Jesus not tell us to make sure our arguments are strong so that we could convince people of our truth claims? Why did Peter not warn us about logical fallacies when we were giving a defense of the gospel?
Interestingly, Peter does talk about apologetics. Now, the modern definition of apologetics is something like this: “Apologetics is the task of defending a particular idea or belief system and answering its critics”. What does Peter say about apologetics?
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense (Î±Ï€Î¿Î»Î¿Î³Î¯Î± – apologia) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:13-17 ESV)
I included the verses around 1 Peter 3:15 so that you could see the context. What is the context for this “defense”? Suffering for doing good. In other words, those who are persecuting the believer are so astounded by their faith in spite of the persecution and they are so overwhelmed by the believer’s gentleness and even respect in spite of the persecution, that the persecutors themselves ask what makes this person different.
This believer is not debating an atheist in order to prove the atheist wrong. The believer is being persecuted by the atheist and has hope in spite of the persecution. The believer is not presenting an argument in favor of Christianity to an unbeliever, he is living a life that demonstrates that “Christ is Lord” in spite of the suffering that he is enduring. The one causing the believer to suffer notices the difference. The believer has become light in the darkness.
So, why has apologetics become writing and debating in order to prove that we are right? Why has apologetics been reduced to arguments, positions, logic, and presuppositions? What happened to letting our conduct reveal the God who has changed us and is working to redeem the world?
Perhaps, the next time an unbeliever denies the existence of God or the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, we should attempt to prove our doctrines by loving that unbeliever and living a life that shows that we have died to ourselves and God is living through us by his Spirit. Then again, it does seem easier to just argue with that person.