Saturday, November 8, 2008

Apologetics: to Keep or not to Keep?

Apologia: defense or justification of a belief or idea

Christian apologetics often get a bad rap.  I know of a man who thinks Christians should avoid using apologetics altogether.  He has seen too many Christians use apologetics like a baseball bat.  These Believers have bashed unassuming bystanders over the head with the justification of their Christian beliefs. 

I understand this guy's discomfort with apologetics.  It's disturbing to see something good perverted.  But let's not throw apologetics out the window just yet.  Apologetics may be important, and even necessary for helping people to understand Christianity.  

I think the comparison of apologetics to a baseball bat can be sort of helpful for the Christians who are trying to decide if they should avoid using apologetics.  (A quick caveat: don't take the comparison too far!).

Baseball bats were created to enable baseball players to excel in and enjoy the sport of baseball.  Thanks to the baseball bat, millions of fans around the world get their share of cracker jacks, raucous crowds, and loud organ music every spring, summer and fall.  

Sadly, sometimes baseball bats are used to commit heinous hate crimes.  It's sickening to think about how something that was intended for good can so easily become a tool of destruction.  However, the fact that a tool can be used for destruction doesn't mean that its use should be forever avoided.  What would happen we banned the use of bats as a result of their misuse?  We would lose a constructive, edifying and enjoyable sport.

If Christians threw away apologetics, I think we would lose a valuable and constructive tool for pointing people to our Redeemer.  I know many people who are hesitant to commit to Christ because they are looking for ways to reconcile their ideas about the world with their ideas about God.  Some of these people might be able to hurdle their intellectual obstacles if a thoughtful Christian were willing to provide good justification for Christian beliefs.  

I recently began a study of the book of Acts that has further reinforced my conviction that apologetics are an important part of Christian ministry.  

In Acts chapter 1, Jesus commissioned his disciples to become his witnesses and the builders of his church.  He also promised to give them the Holy Spirit, guaranteed his return, and then ascended to heaven.  But before Jesus commissioned, promised, and ascended,  he gave his disciples "convincing proofs" or an apologetic that he was alive (apparently seeing his risen body wasn't enough for them;)!

Before the disciples began their earthly ministry, it was essential that Jesus gave them reasons to trust that he was who he said he was and would fulfill his promises.  Jesus' proofs gave the disciples reason to believe that he would empower them to be his witnesses (because he was the Son of God!), and would one day return (because he was a promise-keeper!).  It was Jesus' apologetic for his resurrection that initiated the disciples' ministry, which led to the growth of the church!  It's incredible to think about the far-reaching effects of Jesus' apologetics.

I'm still learning how to use apologetics effectively and wisely, but I think the key to successful persuasion is found in Acts chapter 1.  We must rely on the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit as we engage in his ministry.  Ultimately, it's God who makes our faith winsome and attractive to people in our sphere of influence!

1 comment:

  1. I agree, Sarah! One of the most interesting Sunday School classes I ever attended was on Christian apologetics taught by my husband (he was an atheist until partway through college, so he has a unique perspective on its effectiveness).