In today’s story about the 2015 Governor’s Prayer Breakfast, the featured speaker, Ravi Zacharias, is called an apologist.

This term confuses many people because they feel it means the person apologizes for Christianity.

Instead, apologetics is a formal defense of a topic. It comes from a Greek word that means “to defend, to make reply, to give an answer, to legally defend oneself.”

One dictionary called it “reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something.”

Christians have long disagreed on what type of argument should be applied to the defense of Scripture. Ideas include empirical evidence, what church authorities have said, what Scripture has said, what evidence exists, history and many other ideas.

Even those who claim Jesus is the proof use different categories. Some look at who Jesus was, others at his teachings and others at his resurrection.

Two approaches

The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology breaks the categories into two major groups.

The Objective School pushes for facts.

Thomas Aquinas, a priest from the 1200s known as a theologian and philosopher, was a large influence on church thought.

He claimed that reason and Scripture prove God’s existence.

The Subjective School includes some well-known names from philosophy and theology: Martin Luther, Blaise Pascal, Soren Kierkegaard and Karl Barth.

People in this group argue that humans experience God on a personal basis, therefore arguments can’t lead one to God.

Well-known names

British writers G.K. Chesterson and C.S. Lewis were popular apologists from the early to mid-20th century. Lewis’ fiction and non-fiction remain popular.

Zacharias is one of several modern apologists.

Another is Lee Strobel, who wrote “The Case for Christ,” as well as several other “Case” books. In “The Case for Christ,” Strobel interviewed several Christian scholars and divided the work into three parts. He considered evidence, including biographical information about Jesus and archeology. He analyzed who Jesus was. And he looked at the Resurrection, using medicine, analyzing witness reports and considering circumstantial evidence.

Alister McGrath, a professor at Oxford, is another modern apologist. He studied science and then theology and uses both in his works.

To research on your own

The blog Shattered Paradigm has collected links to 23 apologetics websites at http://tinyurl.com/ng92avj.

Many books are available through stores and libraries. Scan them to find apologists who might pique your interest.

Sources: Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki and Cherith Fee Nordling; Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Walter A. Elwell, editor; 131 Christians Everyone SHould Know, Christian History magazine