Apologetics - it is not a cage match!
In 1 Peter 3:15 it says 'But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.'
This year we are encouraging people to grow in three aspects of Discipleship:
Content: Our knowledge of the Bible, theology, Christian History
Character: Being the sort of person Jesus was
Competency: Being able to do the sorts of things Jesus did.
One area that comes under the Content and Competency is the category is apologetics. Content because we need to know how to explain Christianity and help people with difficulties and questions. Competency because we should seek to address the content issues in the manner of Jesus, Peter and Paul.
Apologetics is about helping people resolve issues of doubt. As such it is for everyone - Christians and non Chritians, young and old. It isn't just for the academics and philosophers. We need to learn to 'lovingly address - even welcome honest doubts and questions'. If we just try to avoid the doubts and questions, they won't go away.
A great place to start is by acknowledging and beginning to work through (with others as required) our own doubts and questions as they arise. That gives people permission and provide models for working through their own doubts and questions.
An important next step is to access the wisdom and experience of those who have wrestled with many of the same questions as us. This can be through personal contact and through reading other's writings. We don't have to start from scratch.
BUT APOLOGETICS IS NOT JUST ABOUT CONTENT, IT IS ALSO ABOUT APPROACH
In the preface to Dallas Willard's book "The allure of gentleness: defending the faith in the manner of Jesus", Rebecca Willard Heatley writes:
Today apologetics has become something of a cage match revolving around proofs of God's existence and involvement in the world. it has become a harsh battleground for the intelligent design-versus-Darwinism debate and other hot button religioun-versus-science arguments. What's lost in today's "apologetics" is to gently and lovingly address - even welcome - the honest doubts and questions that burden believers' faith.
Here are three quotes from Dallas's book that I think can help us from falling into a cage match (a reference to professional wrestling) mentality:
When we do the work of apologetics, we do it as disciples of Jesus - and therefore we are to do it in the manner in which he would do it. This means, above all, that we do it to help people, and especially those who want to be helped. This is how all of Jesus's work is characterized in scripture. Apologetics is a helping ministry......
What does it mean that we are to be characterized by gentleness? To begin with, it means being humble. Love will purge us of any desire to merely win as well as of intellectual self-righteousness and contempt for the opinions and abilities of others.....
So the call to "give an account" is, first, not a call to beat unwilling people into intellectual submission, but to be the servant of those in need....
May we learn to engage in apologetics with both the wisdom and spirit of Christ.
photo credit: What's the point? via photopin (license)