Understanding the Calling of the Apologist
by Melissa Travis
There seems to be a widespread misconception, even within the church, that the ambition of Christian apologists is to argue nonbelievers into submission to the truth of Christianity. I admit that up until a few years ago, I even held a version of this idea myself. I thought that if your arguments were “good enough,” the person they were aimed at would hit their knees in repentance. I believe that this falsehood may be a significant reason why so many churches place very little importance on apologetics education and why many Christians ignore the subject altogether. “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict the heart,” they (rightfully) believe, therefore it isn’t fruitful to try and debate someone into a saving faith.
But that is actually not the mission of the Christian apologist. I’ve learned through my formal studies and through many personal encounters that apologetics is indeed an essential facet of the Great Commission, but in ways that are often not recognized by those outside the discipline, and sometimes not even by those new to the discipline. Here I will outline the more significant duties of the apologist.
1. Demonstrating the historical, philosophical and scientific reasons for believing Christianity to be true. I Peter 3:15-16 commands us to be able to give a defense for our beliefs, and to do so with gentleness and respect. This is a main goal of Christian apologists. The truth of Christianity is not something that must be taken in blind faith, and believers and unbelievers alike need to understand this. I think of Jesus showing his scars to the doubting Thomas. What a beautiful picture! The wonderful benefit of apologetics for the believer is a strengthened faith–one that incorporates our God-given rationality.
2. Demolishing strongholds. II Corinthians 10:3-5 says, ”For although we are walking in the flesh, we do not wage war in a fleshly way, since the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Paul eloquently states the mission of every Christian: to tear down the Enemy’s arguments against our faith in the spiritual battle waging around us. Knowledge that can be used to defend and advance truth is a God-given weapon forged for the Kingdom…
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