The Need for Apologetics in Latin America - Radical

The Need for Apologetics in Latin America

In the last decade, apologetics has experienced a strong resurgence in the global church, and Latin America has been no exception. Traditional worldviews have been significantly challenged due to the constant and drastic social changes we are all experiencing. In response to this, various defense strategies are emerging around the world. Amidst all this, the Christian response has returned to apologetics as a source of answers. How is it happening in Latin America?

What is Apologetics?

 Apologetics is often referred to as a ‘pre-evangelism.’

Before answering that, it is essential to define what we mean by apologetics. It comes from a commandment in 1 Peter 3:15. In that verse, believers are instructed to be ready to give reasons for their faith to anyone who asks. In this sense, apologetics involves presenting arguments supporting that the gospel is objectively true. The aim is to remove obstacles that prevent unbelievers from approaching the gospel. If one does not believe God exists, how will they believe that Jesus was God in the flesh who died for their sins? Therefore, apologetics is often referred to as a “pre-evangelism.”

Why Does the Latin American Church Need Apologetics?

Initially, Latin American churches did not engage in apologetics during their early years because there was no need to create common ground for evangelization. Society already had a Christian substrate due to Catholicism, and most of the population had some knowledge about God, Jesus, and the Bible. However, in recent years, with the rise of secularization, globalization, immigration, and other changes, Latin American churches saw the need to prepare thoughtful answers to questions they had never faced before.

Among all branches of theology, apologetics is one of the most variable. It aims to convey truths to many different audiences. To illustrate this at a basic level, we can say that sharing the gospel in Japan would require doing so in Japanese, and the same goes for sharing it with a French person in French. Similarly, apologetics cannot be approached the same way with an atheist as with a Muslim. In these cases, both individuals have different questions and worldviews that require specific responses.

We can observe this in the book of Acts by contrasting Peter’s message to the Jews (Acts 2) with Paul’s message to the Athenians (Acts 17). While Peter bases his message on Old Testament texts, Paul uses no Scripture verses. Paul knew that if he wanted to communicate with those in Athens, he could not speak to them as he would to the Jews. Therefore, Paul first connects with their culture by quoting their pagan poets or mentioning their altar to the unknown god. Similarly, Latin America is facing the challenge of developing apologetics that responds to its particular society.

A Mixture of Beliefs

This task is particularly complex because Latin American society is currently on the lookout for its identity. It encompasses many cultures and aspirations and has a complicated history. Latin culture results from a collision of two worlds: the Spanish and the native. Orthodox Catholicism was present among the elites, but many pagan cults persisted, leading to a unique syncretism—a combination of Catholic and pagan beliefs.

Over the centuries, Latin American society has undergone many changes. Just a few decades ago ago, many Latin American countries still lived under an almost feudal economic system where large landowners controlled vast productive territories, and many people depended exclusively on them. The move to the cities, the presence of universities, and the influence of North American and European cultures are presently forcing the same changes, as any other Western country. 

However, there are still significant indigenous communities that have been barely addressed by apologetics. So, while the West and Latin American elites are dealing with postmodernism, many Latin Americans still grapple with modernism, while others are even dealing with ancient forms of animism. While deconstruction appeals to some, reason does to others, but even mythical imagination appeals to others. In short, Latin America is a vibrant mixture.

While the West and Latin American elites are dealing with postmodernism, many Latin Americans still grapple with modernism, while others are even dealing with ancient forms of animism.

Latin America has many characteristics that sets it apart from other regions of the world, but if we get closer, the story becomes even more complex. Every country within it has its own characteristics and cultures. For example, Guatemala is very different from Argentina, as Perú is from Costa Rica. Christians who want to develop relevant apologetics for Latin America would need to specialize themselves in each country’s cultures. 

This complex picture of Latin American society should lead us to understand that there will be no single way to do apologetics in this region, as there will be a method for each group approach. However, just as the church has developed its own ways of apologetics in different historical periods, Latin America must forge its own while remaining faithful to the gospel’s truth. As the church, let’s pray for this goal and for those whose lives will be transformed by believing in the gospel.

Renzo Díaz Guzmán

Renzo Diaz Guzman is the Academic Coordinator at Ministerios de Apologética Cristiana. He is an MDiv student at Reformed Theological Seminary Orlando.


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