Apologetics. The Greek word for "answer" in 1 Peter 3:15 is apologia which means "verbal defense", from which we get our English word "apologetics". Apologetics is a branch of Christian theology that defends Christianity toward the world. As Peter shows us in his first epistle, every believer should be ready to give an explanation of his own personal faith. What apologetics has become in Christendom is fraught with issues, because it has become a substitution for evangelism. Intellectual arguments will never win a soul to Christ. It is only the Word of God applied by the Holy Spirit to convict man of sin. When we try to use human wisdom to further the interests of Christ, we end up building wood, hay, and stubble on the imperishable foundation of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:10-15).
In his writings on First Corinthians, J.N. Darby wrote the following line that has become quite well known, and it is consistent with what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1-2:
“I do not believe that a single thought of God ever enters into man’s mind by intellect. It is always by conscience, not by intellect.”
When the revelation of God is presented to man, man has a choice; to receive it or reject it. If he receives it, his conscience is affected, and he is made more responsible by it. If he rejects it, his ignorance grows. We are not saying that the Word of God isn’t to be discussed; surely it is. We are not saying that our brains are not to function in the studying of it; surely they are. But the things of God cannot merely consist of ideas bantered around in the intellect without the conscience engaged! Once the mind becomes insubject to the Word of God, the truth escapes us.
We need to remember this in apologetics. In conjunction with being “ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” we must first "sanctify the Lord God in our hearts". Are we entering the philosophical arena to do battle with the world using the world’s wisdom? We are not saying there is no place for "giving an answer" to unbelievers. But the cross must be there; its ignominy, its shame, and its reproach. Therein is the wisdom of God. Without it the flesh is unjudged, and God is not glorified. Answer we should, “with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15).