There are five very important philosophical-apologetics terms in the New Testament that every Christian should have some familiarity with. Learning and appreciating these key terms will aid believers in both their theological and apologetics understanding. And being so armed, the Christian is helped in their evangelistic and apologetics ventures in the service of Christ.
Let’s explore these key New Testament terms by defining them and then briefly examining their philosophical-apologetics significance:
1. Logos (Greek: λόγος), translated as “word, discourse, or reason”
The Greek word logos is the root for the English term “logic.” In John 1:1, the preincarnate Jesus is called the “logos” (or “Word”), who subsequently becomes enfleshed (John 1:14). Early Christian scholars therefore referred to Jesus Christ as “the logic of God” or “the speech of God.” What came to be known in Christian history as the “Logos doctrine” affirmed that God created the world through the use of his Word (the logic or wisdom of the Second Person of the Trinity). Being made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26–27), human beings are equipped with the necessary rational endowments to trace the world’s intelligibility, thus making the logical and scientific enterprises possible. The Logos doctrine also implied that the gift of faith is compatible with the rational elements found in the world and within the human mind (according to historic Christianity, faith and reason are therefore compatible). Thus, when believers employ their minds in such enterprises as logic, rhetoric, and science, they use their God-given gifts to bring glory to him.
2. Apologia (Greek: ἀπολογία), translated as “a reasoned defense”
The Greek word apologia is the root for the English term “apologetics.” Apologia and its root forms are found in the New Testament (Acts 26:2; Romans 1:20; Philippians 1:7, 16), with 1 Peter 3:15 revealing the mandate imploring Christians to be ready to give an answer in explaining and defending their faith. Through Christian history, apologetics became known as the enterprise by which apologists sought to give a reasoned defense of the truth of Christianity. Today, Christian apologetics involves the use of various disciplines to defend the faith, including the philosophical, historical, literary, and scientific.
3. Pisteuo (Greek: πιστεύω [pisteuō, verb] and πίστις [pistis, noun]), translated as “believe” or “faith, trust”
The Greek word pisteuo is the root for the English term “believe” or to have “faith.” To have biblical faith in Jesus Christ for salvation includes (1) a genuine (factual and historical) knowledge of the gospel events—namely, Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection; (2) a personal assent to the truth and importance of those events; and (3) a confident trust in the object of that faith (the risen Lord, Jesus Christ). Faith, in a biblical context, is therefore not separated from authentic human knowledge of truth and reality. Historic Christianity has, for the most part, affirmed that faith and reason are compatible. Thus, faith can be defined in an apologetics context as trust in a reasonable and reliable source.
4. Christos (Greek: Χριστός), translated as “Christ” or “Messiah”
The Greek word christos is the root for the English term “Christ” or “Messiah.” In the New Testament, Jesus is called the “Christ” (Matthew 16:16), a title meaning “Messiah” or “anointed one.” In the Old Testament, the Messiah was expected to be God’s special agent who would possess a unique anointing by God’s Spirit. Drawing upon Scripture, historic Christianity affirms Jesus Christ as the divine-human Messiah (John 1:1, 14; Philippians 2:6–7). Because Jesus Christ is a single person who possesses both a divine and a human nature, he is able to reconcile God with human beings in his atoning death on the cross. In his messianic ministry, Jesus Christ reveals himself to be both Lord and Savior.
5. Philosophia (Greek: φιλοσοφία), translated as “philosophy” or the “love of wisdom”
The Greek word philosophia is the root for the English term “philosophy.” Coming from two words meaning the “love of wisdom,” philosophy, in the ancient world, was viewed broadly as the attempt to think rationally and critically about life’s most important questions. Christian philosophy developed as a handmaid to theology, with philosophy used to explain and to defend the faith. In a biblical context, the word “philosophy” (1 Corinthians 1:20; Colossians 2:8) largely means “worldview” (a big-picture view of the nature of reality). The disciplines today known as the “philosophy of science” and the “philosophy of religion” attempt to explore the foundations, presumptions, and implications of the scientific and religious enterprises, respectively.
I hope this brief introduction to these key philosophical-apologetics terms of the New Testament will motivate you to explore the Christian world-and-life view in more detail.1 Thinking cogently in a philosophical and apologetic manner can provide many benefits for today’s Christian.
- F. Wilbur Gingrich, Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, ed. Frederick W. Danker, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983).
- C. Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2002).
- In thinking about the Christian worldview, see Kenneth Richard Samples, A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007).