One common view of the Christian faith is that since it is personal and subjective it cannot be verified in any objective way. Religion is something people feel, not something they can establish on rational grounds.
Peter would not agree. In chapter 3 verse 15 he counsels his readers to “make a defense” (the Greek is apologia) for all who ask about your hope. While the English cognate “apology” usually signifies an expression of regret for having insulted or injured another, it can also be used of a legal defense or justification. Plato’s Apology is his version of Socrates’ defense against the charge of “corrupting the youth.” You may be sure it was logical and persuasive!
Granted, when challenged to defend his faith the first century believer did not have the advantages of a 21st century apologist. By now, almost two thousand years later, the Christian faith has been defended by some of history’s finest minds. World-views have been clearly differentiated and the Christian understanding of reality is the most persuasive. No other frame of reference can handle the complexity of both nature and man. But that does not mean that early Christians were unable to articulate what they believed in a logical and cogent manner. They knew that a Jewish Galilean by the name of Jesus had come and lived among them. He taught them remarkable things not only about life but about his own identity. He was the Son of God, come down from heaven to fulfill God’s redemptive purposes by dying on a cross as a sacrifice for mankind’s sins. Granted, that is preposterous – unless, of course, it is true. For the early Christians it was true because this same Jesus rose from the dead and spent some 40 days with them.
And that is how first century Christianity “defended“ the faith to all who asked. They had no responsibility to convince others. Peter didn’t ask them to do that. The role of convincing belongs to the Holy Spirit. Our part is simply to tell the story, and we are to do it “with gentleness and respect” (v. 15). In one sense the Christian faith doesn’t need to be defended because like everything else that is genuine, it has “the ring of truth.” Both from without (world-view credibility) and within (personal dynamic) it transforms those who believe, and that is its ultimate validation.