Apologetics is the field of study concerned with the systematic defense of a position. Someone who engages in apologetics is called an apologist. The term comes from the Greek word apologia, meaning the defense of a position against an attack, not from the English word apology, which is exclusively understood as a defensive plea for forgiveness for an action that is open to blame. When John Henry Newman entitled his spiritual autobiography Apologia Pro Vita Sua in 1864, he was playing upon both connotations.
Today the term "apologist" is colloquially applied to groups and individuals systematically promoting causes, justifying orthodoxies or denying certain events, even of crimes. Apologists are often characterized as being deceptive, or "whitewashing" their cause, primarily through omission of negative facts (selective perception) and exaggeration of positive ones, techniques of classical rhetoric. When used in this context, the term often has a pejorative meaning. The neutralized substitution of "spokesperson" for "apologist" in conversation conveys much the same sense of "partisan presenter with a weighted agenda," with less rhetorical freight.
The term apologetics is also used in a more specific sense to refer to the study of the defense of a doctrine or belief. In this context it most commonly refers to philosophical reconciliation. Christian apologetics is the effort to show that the Christian faith is not irrational, that believing in it is not against human reason, and that in fact Christianity would contain values and promote ways of life more in accord with human nature than other faiths or beliefs. Islamic apologists justify the tenets and practices of Islam.
In the first centuries of the Common Era a number of Christian writers undertook the task of proving that Christianity was beneficial for the Roman Empire and for humanity as a whole. Also they wrote to defend their faith against attacks made by other people or to properly explain their faith. The Epistle to Diognetus, a response to the accusation that Christians were a danger to Rome, is the first known of these writings.
Following Constantine's conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity, some Christian writers sought to explain the decline of culture and society by systematically downplaying the achievements of classical antiquity while exaggerating the persecution of Christians and the role of Christianity in society. Authors such as Paulus Orosius (History Against the Pagans) represent this tradition.
Similar traditions of apologetics developed in defense against Judaism, against Protestantism, and against rationalism. While some apologist perspectives are now largely discredited even among theologians, Christian apologetics continues to the current day in various forms (for example, the attempt to fit empirical cosmology with Biblical creation, known as creationism). G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis are two of the most prolific Christian apologists in the 20th century. In recent years, perhaps the most widely read Christian apologists writing in English have been Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel. Another modern apologist is Ravi Zacharias, scholar of world religions from India, and author of The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha which compares Christianity with world religions and other modern movements.
While the USA and England produced a large number of apologists in 1800s and 1900s, India became the focus of anti-atheistic apologetics towards 1970 and after that. This was mainly due to the rise of atheists in India who were countered by Indian Christian apologists. The most notable among them is Dr. Philip C. Johnson, who authored more than 50 books and 2500 articles in defense of the Christian faith.
Not all apologists are Christian. In a famous speech in 1805, Seneca chief Red Jacket was an apologist for Native American religion, as opposed to Christianity.
- Apologetics Index (http://www.apologeticsindex.org/) A huge database of apologetics and countercult research resources.
- Apologetics Courses (http://www.apologeticscourses.com/) A large number of downloadable apologetics courses.
- Biblical Archeology (http://www.BiblicalArcheology.net/) An encyclopedic site on Archeology for apologetics.
- Apologetics Encyclopedia (http://www.tektonics.org/index2.html), a Christian website collecting arguments primarily about biblical apologetics.
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Apologetics (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01618a.htm).
- Basic Apologetics Curriculum (http://www.reasons4faith.org/basicapologeticscurriculum.htm)
- Apologetic Ebooks (http://www.Bible4u.Info/) Several illustrated ebooks on Christian Apologetics.