I’ve been seeing a couple of trends lately both online and in the ‘real world’ that I think are related in that both have a foundational misunderstanding of the purpose of Christian apologetics.
One is the tendency for Christian apologists, video posters, and blog commenters to portray an attitude of “win at all costs; crush your ‘enemy’ and his argument to dust” as if the purpose of apologetics is to ‘put those heathens in their place and show how stupid they are’. The other is for Christian leaders as well as laypeople to dismiss the study and presentation of apologetics as unfruitful, unnecessary, and needlessly confrontational. Unfortunately, it appears that the two viewpoints in some weird, twisted way actually feed upon and amplify each other!
As I’ve said, i believe that both wrong-headed attitudes stem from a false view of the two primary purposes of Christian apologetics.
One of the two primary purposes of Christian apologetics is to provide evidence, reason, and experiences that will give both new and seasoned believers confidence in the truth of the Gospel. I firmly believe that the reason that most teens and young adults ‘walk away from the faith” or refuse to seriously consider Christ is because the majority of Christian leaders, parents, and mentors fail (some even actively oppose) in presenting evidences for the faith (apologetics) to our young people.
You see, children are taught from kindergarten on to listen to, obey, and learn (i.e. believe) what they are taught by their teachers. Our public schools, colleges, and universities not only do not teach a Biblical or even deistic worldview; in fact, they actively oppose most belief in the supernatural in general and Christianity in particular. The Gospel is not only silenced but attacked in every discipline of study, and almost every classroom.
Putting our children in such an environment without daily, consistent, and intentional instruction in not only WHAT we believe but WHY we can believe it without “checking our brains at the door” is nothing less than sending them out to spiritual slaughter. One seasoned warrior of the faith even went so far as to say, “Sending your kids to middle school, high school, or college without at least a basic understanding of Christian Apologetics is not much different than sending them to be brainwashed and abandoned to hell.”
So, in order to equip and protect our Christian children and young adults as they venture out into the world, we MUST give them a solid grounding not only in Biblical truth, but ways and methods to defend that truth in an increasingly hostile environment.
The other of the twofold purpose of Christian apologetics is, by the power of the Holy Spirit, remove obstacles keeping doomed sinners from hearing and receiving the Gospel.
And that is why it isn’t about winning an argument. Our job as Christians is to, as much as possible, present the Gospel in a way that it can not only be understood, but understood as truth. Once the evidences, experiential testimonies, and rebuttals of arguments against the Gospel is presented, our task is to live out our discipleship consistently, graciously, and lovingly.
Since our goal is not to ‘win the argument’ or even to ‘make converts’ but to present the Gospel, we need to keep in mind that any apologetic presentation (whether casual or formal) should incorporate a clear presentation of the Gospel and encourage the listener to consider the all-important question:
“If the Bible is true, and Jesus was God incarnate who lived on this earth, died for our sins in order to save us from the just and righteous wrath of God and rose from the dead by His own power, what am I going to do about it?”