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.
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RECOMMENDED RESOURCE: Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What It Is and Why We Do It by James K. Beibly
Most introductions to apologetics begin with the “how to” of defending the faith, diving right into the major apologetic arguments and the body of evidence. For those who want a more foundational look at this contested theological discipline, this book examines Christian apologetics in its nature, history, approaches, objections and practice.
What is apologetics? How has apologetics developed? What are the basic apologetic approaches? Why should we practice apologetics? Countless Christians today are seeking a responsible way to defend and commend their faith. If you are one them, Thinking About Christian Apologetics is the place to start!
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