A Holistic Approach to Apologetics

When it comes to the subject of apologetics, most of us are somewhat familiar with ‘informational’ apologetics, through which information is presented as evidence for the sake of defending Christianity.  However, there exists another form of apologetics known as ‘incarnational’ apologetics that should be adequately balanced with informational apologetics.

Dr. David Wheeler defines ‘Incarnational’ Apologetics as

“the representative public and private lifestyle of a Christian that validates to the world the absolute truths of the Bible.  It should be the natural result of a ‘born again’ experience and is communicated to the world through both actions and attitudes of Christians as they consistently live out the tenants of their faith in community with both the redeemed and unredeemed.”[1]

In the field of evangelism, both incarnational and informational approaches to evangelism are equally important, especially in modern American culture.  Since many tenets of modern American society foster a ‘results-based’ approach to everything, many concepts are rendered a ‘hard-sell’ without a visualization of the end result.  When applied to Christianity, one cannot effectively ‘sell’ Christianity to unbelievers without an outward demonstration of its benefit over existing alternatives.  For example, would one be more apt to purchase a fitness program from an overweight smoker with Type II diabetes, or from a buff, energetic person with a distinct twinkle in their eyes?

Jesus provides the answer to how one should balance incarnational and informational in Matthew 5:14-16.  True Christians are the bearers of light, or lamps, to a world in darkness, bearing the light that only comes from an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.  Much like the oil lamps that were common during the days of the early church, Christians maintain this light through a continuous supply of oil, which represents the Holy Spirit residing in each believer.  Christians should strive to be so filled with this ‘Oil’, that It exudes from every aspect of one’s life, to include one’s evangelism.  In fact, the Spirit is life to each believer, and one’s informational approach to evangelism is an offer of life to the unbeliever.[2]

However, many of us struggle with overcoming various barriers to evangelism.  In response to these barriers, Will McRaney states that “the highest level of motivation for evangelism is love for God.”[3]  Some of the barriers discussed by McRaney include those associated with fear.  Fear is a major barrier for me in sharing the Gospel with others, mainly a fear of professional repercussions associated with my job in the military.  Since there are strict rules against proselytizing, there seems to be a razor’s edge line between this and simply sharing your faith.  However, as McRaney states, “we must continually be guided by the Holy Spirit.”[4]

With this statement, McRaney provides the key to personal evangelism—the Holy Spirit—and has been since the Great Commission was given by Christ.  The Apostles before the ascension of Christ were generally the same Apostles throughout the remainder of the New Testament, but with one distinct difference:  they possessed the unfaltering boldness of the Holy Spirit to evangelize the world.  This distinct boldness is first seen in Peter and John, and even unbelievers marveled at the difference in their message and immediately knew they were Christians.[5]  In order to conquer one’s fear associated with evangelism, one must first seek the boldness of the Spirit, in the same manner that Luke discusses in Acts 4:29 and Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:4 and Ephesians 3:12.  Only then can both informational and incarnational apologetics work in unison to bring glory and honor to the living God.


[1] David Wheeler, “Incarnational Apologetics,” in The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, eds. Ed Hinson and Ergun Caner (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008), 50.

[2] John 6:63; Romans 8:10; Revelation 2:7, NKJV.

[3] Will McRaney, The Art of Personal Evangelism: Sharing Jesus in a Changing Culture (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2003), 198.

[4] Ibid., 191.

[5] Acts 4:13, NKJV.

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