Whether formally or informally, the problem of evil (in various forms) is undoubtedly the favourite positive argument against Christianity. If God is all-powerful and perfectly good, why is there evil in the world? More difficult to answer than the problem of evil in the world is the problem of evil in the church. As we listen to the unchurched world around us, it seems eminently obvious that what offends people about Christianity is not Christ, but unchristlikeness among Christians! They need to see more of Christ, not less! Talk about the love of God so easily elicits complaints of unloving, dishonest, hypocritical, and sometimes barbaric behaviour of those who represent him. Are unchristlike Christians of any more use than unsalty salt?
The task of apologetics is to defend the Gospel by making the truth obvious. Lies obscure truth. Intellectually, the apologetic task involves presenting well-reasoned arguments that rend the veil of lies in order to expose the truth. But our culture, for all the lies it tells, has clearly spoken one truth to us the church: talk is cheap. For too long, we have presented a heartless gospel composed only of talk. We have given excuse for unbelievers to embrace the lie: "the church is composed of hypocrites;" "Christianity is a sham." Defeating this lie...and YES, IT IS A LIE...requires a willingness to live the truth. The world that has witnessed our faith poorly lived needs to see it well lived. They have seen the truth incarcerated in our sin. They need to see it liberated in our repentance, and incarnated in our faithful living.
Peter's exhortation is set in the context, not of intellectual debate, but of religious persecution. The question is not of how well we argue before the questioning world, but of how well we live before the watching world. "Set apart Christ as Lord." 1 Peter is about sanctification - internal purity in the face of external evil, faithfulness in the midst of suffering, holiness in the midst of horror, Christ incarnate in a godless world. The truest answer to the problem of evil, within and without the church, is the 're-incarnation' of Christ in the church to the world. Costly discipleship is costly apologetics.