". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


If You Want to ‘Always’ Have a Defense for Faith, Then Reject the Lie That Theology Is Just for Scholars

March 4, 2024

“Everybody’s a theologian.”

That’s the title of a book written by a beloved teacher I refer to often, R.C. Sproul. At first glance, it may seem like a bold statement. But I think, in taking a few steps back, it’s actually quite relevant — especially for believers.

When I was finishing my undergrad, I felt a conviction to go to Bible college to learn more about what I believed and why I believed it. Initially, I didn’t know which Bible college to go to, what academic track to pursue, or how long I would be studying theology. When my brother started quizzing me on theological matters before I left for Bible college, I was terrified I made the wrong decision. It was like I didn’t know anything!

However, I’m so glad those concerns didn’t stop me from studying theology because, after a year, no decision has impacted my faith in a way greater than Bible college did. And in general, it completely changed the way I viewed theology as a field of study.

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Many use this verse as a way of saying, “Always be ready for evangelism.” And while I could agree with that, there are others who use this verse (I think more accurately) as a way of emphasizing the need of apologetics, which comes from a Greek word translated as “make a defense” or give an answer.”

Evangelism and apologetics aren’t quite the same, but 9Marks ministries helpfully distinguished the two:

  • “Evangelism is telling others the gospel. Apologetics is defending the truth of the Christian faith.”
  • “Apologetics addresses everything from the existence of God to the reliability of the Old and New Testaments. In contrast, evangelism is telling one specific message: the good news about what Jesus Christ has done in order to save sinners.”
  • “[A]pologetics usually requires some level of intellectual sophistication. Apologetics can involve logical arguments, historical debates, philosophical discussions, interpretive disputes, and more. On the other hand, evangelism is simply telling others the message about Jesus Christ. That’s something every Christian — even a brand new Christian — should be able to do.”

Both are very important for reaching unbelievers (and both help mature our own faiths!). And in reference to 1 Peter 3:15, 9Marks added that “while Christians shouldn’t let apologetics distract us from sharing the gospel, we should also work to be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks us about the hope that is in us.”

But how do we do that? I could likely write a book on this topic, so I think what may prove to be most helpful is to elaborate on this main point: Reject the lie that theology is just for scholars.

I once believed theology just wasn’t something the average believer needed to be concerned about. But I truly couldn’t have been more wrong. The definition of theology is “the study of God.” And we’re going to pretend that doesn’t apply to every single Christian? I certainly won’t. Not anymore, that is.

Before studying theology, I hardly had any defense for my faith. Could I tell people the gospel message? Sure. But I couldn’t defend the doctrine Christians uphold and live by. If an unbeliever had questions, I would have scarcely had an answer.

But it’s through studying theology that allows us to know the doctrine we are called to defend. And here’s my take: Christians have no right to be indifferent to doctrine. There’s a reason no one has heard of a martyr who was indifferent to doctrine. All of church history proves Christian’s care about doctrine, both primary and secondary. Which doctrines Christians uphold often determines how they engage with certain politics. Yet, how easily do we dismiss the need today to study theology and doctrine, particularly when a controversial discussion appears, or the subject is difficult to accept or understand? Outside of the gospel message, unbelievers will ask questions related to doctrine. Will you have an answer?

Thankfully, prior to studying theology, I didn’t have a lot of instances where unbelievers asked me questions. But now, I find it somewhat humorous, because I can’t seem to avoid them! It’s almost as if the Lord was preparing me for such a time as this.

Theology is important because it’s the study of God Himself, and because that, then, applies to absolutely everything. Fortunately, we live in a technologically advanced world where theological resources are at the tip of your fingers. You don’t need to go to Bible college to learn theology, you just need a desire to learn it at all.

Yes, theology can be confusing. But I also firmly believe it’s unnecessarily conflated. If you study or want to study sacraments like baptism or the Lord’s supper, then you will engage with theology as those are biblical doctrines. The Trinity is doctrine, the Second Coming or Judgement Day is doctrine, and basically any belief Christians hold as it pertains to Scripture can be classified as doctrine. Why can I make such a claim? Because doctrine means, “a belief or set of beliefs held and taught by a Church, political party, or other group.” And for believers, what we believe, our doctrine, comes from the Word of God.

So, if you want to make a defense for the hope you have, according to the command of Scripture, then you must know Scripture. It won’t happen overnight, of course. This is a lifelong process until you are called home where God Almighty will say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Sproul once said, “If Satan can paralyze a Christian, he doesn’t have to destroy your faith, but … if he can embarrass you and intimidate you, he can neutralize you as a factor for the kingdom of God.” I believe there are many ways Satan tries to nullify our faith. He loves to make theology solely divisive. But as Sproul also said, “Of course, doctrine divides, but it also unites. It unites the ones who love God’s truth and are willing to worship Him according to that truth.”

Additionally, I think Satan loves to make Christians feel like they aren’t capable of a deep study and knowledge of God’s word. What a blatant lie that is. Anyone is capable, and I promise that your life as a believer will only become more beautiful the deeper you seek to understand your Savior. You don’t have to be embarrassed or intimidated in any part of that process.

I also believe Satan loves to make us feel our efforts are futile and that having a defense doesn’t matter. But considering the fact that Scripture says it matters, I would encourage you to believe it does as well.

Nothing has brought me more joy than knowing my God better and being able to share His truth better. It’s a humbling experience, because not only does it take discipline, but it requires the help of the Holy Spirit. We weren’t designed to do this on our own. But like Sproul, I believe all believers are called to be theologians, because to be a theologian means to be a student of God and His word. I just don’t see how that doesn’t apply to all those who claim to live for Him.

So, when Scripture tells us to always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you,” what will be your first step to answering this call?

Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.