The Danger of Apologetics


know-it-all“Whoa. Danger? I thought this was an apologetics blog.”

You’re right. It is. And as such, it’s my job to make sure that whoever reads it gets an accurate picture of what apologetics really is. And a very important part of that job–one that thus far I have neglected–is to make clear the inherent danger in doing apologetics.
First, a story.

I was once doing some evangelism with a friend on my college campus. We engaged a guy in conversation about God, and things quickly became heated. He was an international student, not at all Christian, and had a more or less pluralist view of religion. He had thought about it just enough that the conversation was a little out of my friend’s reach, which left the ball squarely in my court. So I engaged him. When he argued fallaciously, I called him on it. When he back-pedaled, I pressed him. In short, I destroyed him. It wasn’t pretty. And for what? I seriously doubt that our conversation had any lasting impact on him whatsoever. If he ever came to faith, it was because someone after me loved him better than I did.

You can probably see where this is going. There are at least two ways apologetics can be harmful.

First, there is an inherent danger in studying a little bit of anything. This is compounded when the thing being studied has direct relevance to what one values most. For most of the folks reading this, what you value most is probably the Christian message of salvation. The gospel. So when one studies to learn how to “defend” that gospel, it’s natural that a certain stance develops: a stance of, well, defense. It is the stance of either/or, of us and them, of truth vs. falsehood (or even lies).

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The defense imagery (which I have myself used many times) suggests rather powerfully a clear distinction between the truth-bearer and the truth-denier. And again, when the truth in question is the gospel itself, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Worse still, the defense stance is one of violence, or at least aggression. And this is directly opposed to the spirit of Jesus, and thus to the gospel. But how can a defense be opposed to what it is defending? That, as the philosophers like to say, is repugnant to the intellect…


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