Sometimes one can get too carried away with apologetics. 1 Peter 3:15 is the key verse for the use of apologetics: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”
Apologetics has been defined “as the science and art of defending Christianity’s basic truth claims.” Usually skeptics are not looking for a reason to believe but are using all their education and intellect to desperately look for reasons not to believe. In such a case a reproof and rebuke may be more appropriate than a reason.
It is noted that apologetics is not just a science but an art. Peter counsels Christians to use apologetics when people have sincere questions concerning a reason for the Christian hope. The art comes with knowing how to respond when one’s faith is challenged.
Apologetics is basically a defensive position. Usually a preacher should stay on the offensive and concentrate on “reproving, rebuking and exhorting with all long suffering and doctrine.”—2 Timothy 4:2.
On the other hand when an unbeliever seems to have sincere questions and is truly looking for some answers, apologetics can be helpful. When one is preaching in the open-air, the vocal ones are usually the ones not looking for answers. However, there may be both believers and unbelievers in the crowd who are truly interested in some answers concerning typical problems men have with Christianity such as the so-called problem of evil. Therefore the preacher may want to go into apologetics mode with the skeptic, not so much for the hope of convincing him, but in hope of convincing those in the audience who truly want some answers for honest questions in their minds.
When I first start a preaching day on a campus I appeal primarily to students’ consciences by addressing the moral issues. My favorite text is 1 Cor 6:9-10. Appeals to conscience are more likely to capture students’ attention than appeals to their rational faculty because most of them are not all that intellectual. Apologetics may initially gain the attention of the philosophy students but not the typical student.
Later in the afternoon if there is an indication that students are seriously considering their ways and have somewhat settled down from the initial shock of someone judging their moral state, I am likely to go into a more apologetic mode and give them reasons to believe. People need to be challenged to think. There are two inner voices of God, conscience and the reason. If men will truly listen to their consciences, their moral sense will eventually lead them to God. If men will think logically their minds will lead them to the Logos (the Word or the Logic or the Reason) made flesh.