Fight, Explore, Dance: Effective Communication in Apologetics

by Holly Ordway

fightIn terms of percentage, relatively few Christians are drawn to apologetics, the defense of the faith. Among apologists, most are men and only a very small percentage are women.

Why are most Christians uninterested in apologetics? And why are women, in particular, seemingly indifferent? Part of the answer may be that people simply don’t know about apologetics – what it is, why it’s important, how to get involved. But I think there’s another, deeper reason that has to do with the way that apologists tend to communicate.

I believe that there are different modes of intellectual engagement, and that we often fail to appreciate the way that these modes function. What we often take as a dislike of apologetic argument, or as a tension between the intellectual life and femininity, may really be the product of a mismatch between an individual person and the mode of argument that is most engaging for that person.

If we can better understand the different modes of argument, we can better equip both men and women to be effective apologists – serving Our Lord with their unique gifts in the fullest capacity.

I will present these three modes in terms of images: argument as Fight, as Exploration, and as Dance.

Our first image is that of the Fight. In this mode, argument is structured as conflict. In the Fight mode, an argument has a clear winner and a clear loser. Debates are a classic form of Fight argument: the debate opponents have distinct, contrasting or conflicting views, and they take turns striking as hard and effectively as possible, and parrying the rhetorical blows of the opponent. Debates are scored and a winner or loser is declared; the success of a debater lies in his ability to take apart the opponent’s logic or rhetoric and make points that cannot be defended against…

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