7 Reasons Why Apologetics Might Be Good
by Paul Coulter
I have a confession to make: despite the fact that I write and speak on apologetics, there are times when I question whether apologetics is really any good. There are two main reasons for my doubts. Firstly, I sometimes find apologists more than a little intimidating. On one hand they generally seem incredibly clever and, on the other hand, they sometimes seem excessively aggressive, more concerned with winning arguments than winning hearts. Of course, some of what I interpret as ‘aggression’ may actually simply be passion, but nonetheless I think there is more than a hint of truth in the claim that apologists and their disciples (by which I mean Christians who are passionate about apologetics) aren’t always renowned for their grace and compassion. I should know – I am one! Secondly, I sometimes wonder what difference apologetics makes. What occupies the attention of most people most of the time is not deep existential questions about life and faith but the ordinary stuff of daily life. The majority of people do not reject Christian faith because they are convinced through argument of the truth of an alternative worldview but either because they simply don’t perceive it to be relevant to their lives or because they seldom pause long enough to think about it. Furthermore, many people do not read; not because they cannot but because they choose not to, have no inclination towards books or simply do not have the time. Yet apologists are invariably bookish people and generate thousands of words in speech and print (again I accept my share of the blame!!!)
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This, then, is my confession. Yet, despite my doubts, I still persist in apologetics. Having tested my heart to make sure that I’m not motivated entirely by my own desire to win arguments or my internal compulsion to write, I have concluded that the real problem is not with the idea of apologetics but with bad apologetics or apologetics done badly. I here offer seven reasons why apologetics might actually be good, or rather seven guides to what makes for good apologetics.
1. Good apologetics isn’t just for nerds
When churches arrange a meeting on an apologetics topic they commonly bring in an ‘expert’ in the field, often with an impressive set of credentials and more letters after their name than in their name. I have no desire to malign the work that such expert apologists do and I am deeply grateful for their contribution. We need some people of the highest calibre to engage in apologetics at the highest intellectual and social levels. What concerns me, however, is that many Christians end up leaving such events thinking, “That was impressive, but I could never do it”. Although the speaker may have intended to empower God’s people to defend their faith, the actual result may have been quite the opposite. Apologetics is not merely a pursuit for the highly educated or bookish person. Every Christian ought to be prayerfully seeking opportunities to explain their faith, and any explanation of faith is, in the broadest sense of the word, apologetics…
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