Apologetics is an english word that is derived from the greek word apologia. The word is used several times in the New Testament, but the most classic is 1 Peter 3:15 where Peter says: "always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you." The verb at it's root means to make or give a defense or reply.
Given the word's origin, it makes sense that much of the field of study has been devoted to the "defensive" side of things. It seems we are always busy coming up with complex arguments to answer the queries of the opposition. However, the field itself has moved beyond merely the basic dictionary definition of the term. The field of apologetics is a vast and varied discipline including both philosophy and science, faith and fact. As such, we must adapt our "defense" to deal with the arguments that are hurled our way in as effective and biblically faithful way as possible.
It is at this point I would like to submit the idea that our apologetics are often all too "defensive." Coming from a football background, it was said that sometimes "the best defense is a good offense." I would suggest that oftentimes we are so focused on answering objections that we fail to realize that we have a decisive opportunity to put our opponent on the defensive instead, and strike at the heart of their worldview.
Facts are that as we discuss our faith with somebody, they are positing as much of a positive outlook on life as we are. What I mean is that their particular belief system and structure also contains certain perspectives and outlooks that are affirmative in nature. Everybody has what I refer to as a worldview; some system of beliefs by which they look at and interpret the world. As such, even as they call us out on our particular belief system, we should be willing and able to call them to give an account for their worldview as well.
A particular worldview that often puts us on the defensive is atheism. This is made worse by the fact that atheism is inherently a position of negation. In fact many atheists are very bold in their assertion that they are not making any positive claims whatsoever, but rather simply negating your positive claims as a theist. As an example, I pulled a couple of quotes from atheists off of an online message board. While these quotes are not necessarily meant to represent an overarching academic argument, they are indicative of how atheists in general view their position.
"Atheism is not a position of truth, it is a lack of belief in gods."
"there's no such thing as 'the atheistic worldview'"
These assertions often make sense to us, and we are content to stay on the defensive and answer as many of their objections as we can handle. However, stating or affirming something does not necessarily make it true. The facts are that while atheism begins as a position of negation, its particular outlook and perspective on life results in positive affirmations. If there is no God, that has certain consequences for how the world functions, who we are, and whose "rules" we are playing by. We should not hesitate at that point to call atheists to give an account of their particular way of looking at the world. If God does not exist, then where does knowledge and morality come from? Are there such things as beauty and love? What is their absolute authority and can they give a cogent defense of it?
Such a challenge opens up opponents of the Christian faith to examine their own belief system for a change. This is healthy and may result in them having to seriously rethink their position on many issues, as nobody has ever really challenged them to think positively about what they believe before. This also results in a back and forth dialogue which is often an excellent way of setting forth the gospel.
Remember, just because you are defending the faith does not necessarily mean you always have to "play defense." Look for opportunities to challenge your opponent as well. It will result in a healthier dialogue and give you opportunity to present the gospel more clearly.