Six Enemies of Apologetic Engagement
by Douglas Groothuis
The evangelical world today suffers from apologetic anemia. Despite the fact that holy Scripture calls believers to give a reason for the hope we have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15; see also Jude 3), we sadly lack a public voice for truth and reason in the marketplace of ideas. We do not have a strong intellectual presence in popular or academic culture (although some areas, such as philosophy, are more influenced by evangelicals than others). The reasons for this anemia are multidimensional and complex.
Three recent books explore the lack of a "Christian mind" in contemporary evangelicalism, and I highly recommend them. Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Eerdmans, 1994) explores the historical roots of evangelical anti-intellectualism. Os Guinness’s Fit Bodies Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What to Do About It (Baker Books, 1994), discusses some of the historical problems and also outlines what a Christian mind should look like. J.P. Moreland’s Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (Navpress, 1997) explains why Christians don’t think, develops a biblical theology of the mind, and offers helpful apologetic arguments and strategies to empower the church intellectually.
My modest purpose is briefly to lay out six factors that illegitimately inhibit apologetic engagement today. If these barriers are removed, our apologetic witness may grow into what it should be in Christ.
Too many Christians don’t seem to care that Christianity is routinely ridiculed as outdated, irrational, and narrow-minded in our culture. They may complain that this "offends" them (just as everyone else is complaining that one thing or another "offends" them), but they do little to counteract the charges by offering a defense of the Christian world view in a variety of settings. Yet Scripture commands all Christians to have a reason for the hope that is within them and to present this with gentleness and respect to unbelievers (1 Peter 3:15). Our attitude should be that of the Apostle Paul who was "greatly distressed" when he beheld the idolatry of sophisticated Athens. This zeal for the truth of God led him into a fruitful apologetic encounter with the thinkers gathered to debate new ideas (see Acts 17). It should for us as well. Just as God "so loved the world" that he sent Jesus to set us right with God (John 3:16), Jesus’ disciples should so love the world that they endeavor to reach the lost by presenting the Gospel and answering objections to the Christian faith (John 17:18)…
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