The Apologist/Scholar or Scholar/Apologist Model

by C Michael Patton

I love apologetics. It often hurts my head and is beyond my pay grade as far as brain power (especially when I get into all the science stuff—I just don’t know who to trust, and it is often simply no one), but I find myself excited about apologetics in general. That said, apologetics is a very personal issue for me. Normally, it is not the case of a “seeker” or a “skeptic” asking me a question, prompting me to run to the apologetics section of my library at Credo House to research the answer. Rather, it is me asking the questions. It is me defending the faith to myself.

As a result, I find that I am much more critical than others who are involved in apologetics. While I greatly appreciate what Christian apologists do, nevertheless, there are times when I discover some aspect of their apologetic perspective that bothers me. I can’t always put my finger on the specific thing that troubles me.  More to the point, when I do identify the problem, I am too much of a “fan-boy” to confront someone on “my own team” and/or criticize their game plan. The issue boils down to me as simply a matter of honesty.  I don’t find very many apologists who are transparent in their approach.  I don’t find very many apologists who will readily admit their

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viewpoint may have weaknesses.  Many are adverse to “playing the game fairly”.  I find that too many apologists are simply there to defend their prejudices, ignoring honest and, sometimes, well-founded questions. In essence, they are long on “apology”, but short on scholarship.

Notwithstanding my reservations about apologetics and apologists, I am fully aware that this is not always the case.  Last weekend, I spend a lot of time with Dr. Gary Habermas. If you don’t know who he is, shame on you! Gary Habermas is one of the greatest apologists I have ever met. We spent two nights (just him and me) in his hotel room talking theology. Initially, we had some fun with the “Calvinist/Arminian” thing for a while.  (He said he was neither.  .  .Rather, he was comfortable in just being a Baptist.)  Then, we dived into the subject of “apologetics”.  Having read several of Habermas’ works, I already had deep respect for him.   But the one-on-one encounter for two consecutive nights was truly a gift in getting to better understand the underpinnings of his perspective on apologetics…


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