A Warning to Young Apologists: Take Breaks from the Battle

by C Michael Patton

I remember when Jurassic Park first came out. I think it was in 94′. Great movie. It was the first movie that was really able to capture new Hollywood special effects with the world of dinosaurs. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. Loved every seen. Will, my son, calls the intense scary moments in movies when something makes you jump a ”pop out”. Jurassic Park had enough “pop outs” for a life time.

I remember driving home after watching the movie. It was a Summer evening. Dusk was the setting. As I passed by a non-industrialized area close to my house, the trees took on a life that two hours ago I would not have thought possible. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw something move. Do you know what my brain interpreted it as? You got it. A Tyrannosaurus Rex. Sure, my rational mind did not engage in this activity, but my disposition was set differently. Due to two hours of exposure and wonder at the possibility of dinosaurs, rationality was not in the driver’s seat. The increased adrenaline and the slightly elevated heart rate demonstrated how the irrational, impossible, and bizarre can grab a hold of our imagination to such a degree that some part of us begins to doubt the reality we know and tips the waiter of unlikelihood.

Over-exposure to these type of things can do that. They can tear the very fabric of reality and what we know to be the truth can suddenly be on the market competing with new ideas that  had no market value before.

I have seen it too many times to count now. Young scholars. Young apologists. Young theologians. They all qualify. You know the type. You may be the type. You have been exposed to the reality of the Christian faith, understand its intellectual defensibility for the first time, are set sail to change the world. But something must come first: you have to prepare yourself. In doing so, you seek to face every foe and every enemy which which could to lay siege to your faith. In order to defend your faith properly, you immerse yourself in the study of worldviews which are not your own. You think to yourself, “In order to be prepared, I am going to read every atheist book ever written. The titans of the alternatives will come under my critical eye. I will not stop until I’ve completely demolished their arguments. I will not slow down until I can say that I have been to every lion’s den and survived. I will bring people confidence by my own stories of victory. Every battle scare will be a testimony to the faith I defend.”

However, this is not how it always works. Please forgive me here and just hear me out. Often our pride and confidence work against us. Our method becomes madness. Our feet begin to slip and we don’t know why. Suddenly we slowly begin to succumb to “the other side” bringing our faith to the brink of disaster. We find ourselves doubting the very faith we set out to confirm. The fact that we doubt our worldview—what we knew to be reality—makes us begin to fall apart inside. Disillusionment is not far behind. “If, due to intellectual engagement, I can doubt what I knew to be true, what does that say about the truths I knew? What does that say about my ability to instill confidence in others when I don’t have confidence myself?” Disillusionment gives way to despair and despair to spiritual depression…

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