Is Apologetics Necessary for Faith?

In my previous post I argued that faith and apologetics are compatible. Given a proper understanding of faith, there’s no genuine conflict between the two. A natural question that might arise at this point: is apologetics necessary for faith? If faith and apologetics are compatible, must one therefore have reasons and evidence for their belief?

This is a fair question. What is the relationship between apologetics and faith? Let me start by referencing the definition of faith we arrived at last time. Faith is knowledge of the gospel produced in us by the work of the Holy Spirit [1]. So at it’s core, faith is knowledge. And this knowledge is produced by a mechanism, namely the Holy Spirit.

Since the Holy Spirit has freedom of the will, He can operate in a variety of circumstances. He can work through an argument for God’s existence or through a miracle testimony. He can work through reading or hearing the gospel message. He can even work through suffering. As C.S. Lewis famously said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains”. The Holy Spirit has complete autonomy and thus can operate in any number of situations.

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains”C.S. Lewis

Alright, where does apologetics fit in? As I mentioned, the Holy Spirit can work through apologetics. Does that mean that the Holy Spirit can only work through apologetics? Not at all. Recall the photography analogy I gave last time. Some photographers (or ‘photogs’ as we call each other) argue that real photographers can’t do a bunch of edits in post. Too much editing makes them “something else”. However, let’s assume that real photographers can still make a lot of edits. Does it follow that photographers must make a lot of edits? Not at all! Photogs that do no editing at all are still photographers.

So from the fact the Holy Spirit can work through apologetics, it doesn’t follow He must work through apologetics. He can produce faith in all sorts of situations. Also note that if apologetics were necessary for faith, a very small number of people actually have faith. But surely that is incorrect. Christians that aren’t aware of apologetics can still have faith. How? That has already been answered. The Holy Spirit can work in their lives in other ways (like bible reading, hearing the Gospel, worship, and so on).

In short, the Holy Spirit doesn’t have to produce faith through apologetics. He can use other avenues. Another question that arises: well, if apologetics isn’t necessary for faith, why bother with it at all? Why go through so much trouble doing apologetics if it isn’t necessary? That question will be addressed in the next post.


[1] While “faith” is used a number of ways in English, I am using Alvin Plantinga’s definition in “Warranted Christian Belief”.

About the featured image

As we were quickly shuffled along with the hundreds of other visitors, I managed to snap this photo of a woman praying in St. Peter’s Basilica. If you look closely, the bottom is pretty worn down from all the hands that have gone before her.
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