Apologetics: Hulk Smash or Hulk Hug?
by Jason Wisdom
You know that guy who always has to one-up everyone? He lurks on the periphery of conversations, just waiting for a chance to say “Oh yeah? Let me tell you about….” Do you have someone in mind? Oh yeah? I know someone a lot worse. ::rim-shot:: That is how a lot of people approach apologetics–as a game of snobbish one-upsmanship. For that reason, among others, many Christians have the impression that apologetics is a totally nonspiritual and elitist enterprise. Now, I don’t think we should bear all of the blame. Some people are just afraid of confrontation in any form, and apologetics seems too much like fighting for their taste. Even so, there is a difference between willingness to fight when it is necessary, and looking to pick a fight. It is the latter that people often associate with apologists. We should not be so quick to say “I’m not like that!” That is a dead give away that we probably are–like the football player who throws his hands up after the flag and says “it wasn’t me!”
The primary end of apologetics is not answering questions or objections. It definitely isn’t primarily about proving other people wrong. These are, at best, means to an end. At the risk of sounding cliché’, I want to suggest that the primary end apologetics is loving people. The way I see it, there are two basic reasons that a person responds to questions and objections. The first is to put one’s opponent in his or her place and bolster one’s own
position. The other is to point people (including one’s opponent) to the truth. As far as I am concerned, you only do the latter out of love for the other person. Not a squishy, mushy kind of love, but genuinely caring about the other person. Unfortunately, the former is the way many Christians perceive apologetics–the practice of destroying the opposition. But that isn’t even compatible with Christianity (hence the hesitance of many Christians to embrace apologetics). Why isn’t it compatible? Primarily because the real opposition can ultimately only be defeated by God, and is, in a very real sense, already defeated by the finished work of Christ.
No amount of intellectual prowess or tactical wit will triumph where only the blood of Christ is sufficient. Furthermore, we aren’t commanded to heartlessly crush our enemies and mock their foolishness–aka Hulk Smash apologetics–but to love them (Hulk Hug?). Yes, we are also told to answer foolish speculation and vain philosophy, but to what end? To score a intellectual touchdowns and watch Jesus do a dance on the sidelines? No. We can’t ignore the person and just attack abstract ideas–though that is a real temptation for those of us who discuss our faith on the internet. The end isn’t proving someone wrong (though we often have to do that in order to move forward). The end isn’t even answering the question or the objection. These are simply means to the end of loving people by pointing them toward the truth…
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