The Mission of Apologetics
by guest blogger Robert Paul Vicars IV
Most military operations involve main and supporting efforts. These supporting efforts either set the conditions for the main effort’s success, or act as a critical enabler. For instance, in an air battle, conditions are set for the bomb droppers by the Air to Air fighters and Suppression of Enemy Air Defense assets. The air controllers and air refuelers are critical enablers. But the bomb droppers are typically the main effort. Without the jets and their bombs, there is little reason for the other aircraft to conduct the mission. And only when they are used in support of the main effort, will the mission be successful. This is a good analogy for apologetics.
Apologetics should be thought of as a supporting effort–as setting conditions or as a critical enabler–not as the main effort. It is easy to become engaged in the varied arguments, demonstrating the validity of the theistic position, the resurrection of Christ, the implications of objective morality etc. and think that we are directly accomplishing the mission of Christ. This is an easy trap to fall into. I’ve been guilty in the past, and have seen others forget their true mission as well. We need to keep the mission in mind.
The believer’s mission is laid out in the gospels a couple of different ways. Matthew says in 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Mark is a little more direct (16:15), “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” Proclaim the gospel and make disciples throughout the world, this is the main effort.
Apologetics can “set conditions” to help open hearts to the gospel. Or it can be the “critical enabler” that prepares minds to share the gospel, or refuel the minds of strained believers. In any case, our speech should be seasoned with the good news of Christ. This is the mission that apologetics supports. If we allow the supporting effort to become the main effort the mission is not advanced. And if the mission is not advanced, then apologetics loses its purpose.
We can and should share the gospel, especially with the harshest skeptics. It is intellectually honest. It opens the door for the Holy Spirit to change hearts (and minds), and is the command of Christ.
*Robert Paul Vicars IV has a passion for apologetics, mainly with regard to common questions and against secular challenges (naturalism, relativism, secular philosophy etc.). blogs regularly at Truth and Friction.