On Virtue in Apologetics
by Paul D. Adams
I recently attended a conference on apologetics that was inspiring and very well orchestrated. The speakers are on the front lines of apologetics and they are at the top of their game in their discipline. The topics addressed by astrophysicists, philosophers, historians, and even electrical engineers were all vital for effectively reaching the world with the Christian message.
The goal of the conference was “training believers to be confident, courageous, and culturally aware.” After some reflection on my experience, there are 3 areas I propose would be helpful in rounding out an apologetics conference and help reach this worthy goal. They are the integration of virtue, the necessity of defining method, and the value of dialog. This post will address the first of these.
On Apologetics and Virtue
So often it seems that mainline Christianity views apologetics as mere bantering and bickering about difficult topics. And, I wonder if Christian apologists bear some responsibility for this perception. One of the undercurrents that I observe when Christians gather (whether in church, a home, or at a conference) is that we tend to “let down our hair” and speak freely with one another. In these “holy huddles” our free speak in turn accommodates loose or casual language where attitudes easily rise to the surface but often go unnoticed. In an otherwise “mixed” crowd with unbelievers Christians are (rightfully in my mind) more guarded in their speak and these attitudes would not be so apparent,
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yet believers who huddle together don’t intentionally mask their attitude or use guarded speech so much. Are Christians the same people both on the court and off it? In other words, do we portray the same love and compassion for those who’ve not embraced the Gospel when we speak about them in their absence as when we speak to them in their presence?
Put differently, where is the place for virtues in apologetics? While Christian apologists readily come to the defense of the faith when someone levels an argument against a core Christian belief, is there just as much zeal for humility and honesty as there is in arguing for the existence of God or against abortion? Is it evident to Christians that the goal in winning arguments is to lovingly persuade non-believers to consider their position in light of eternity? Or, do apologists take it for granted that since the audience is filled with believers that it’s safe to spew disdain for opposition to Christianity? Does not the apologist bear any burden in making the discipline of apologetics attractive to the believing community by portraying the virtues when doing apologetics?
The biblical answer is “Yes.” The apologist’s spiritual life is just as important as the intellectual life…
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