Public Apologetics Part 3: Be Patient!
by Holly Ordway
What does it take to be a Christian apologist? Most apologists will turn immediately to 1 Peter 3:15 and note that we are called to be ready to make a defense for the hope that is within us. Yes. But the context of that half-verse tells us more. St Peter says:
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:13-16 ESV)
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St Peter assumes here that believers are in a hostile environment, and may well suffer for their faith. For Christians in the modern West, that doesn’t mean imprisonment and death (though we should note that for Christians elsewhere today, it very well might), but rather a workplace or social environment that is indifferent or hostile to the Christian faith.
Sometimes it is indeed necessary to speak up directly, with the possibility (or inevitability) of losing one’s job, or not getting promoted, or being shut out of a social group. So be it – and St Peter tells us not to fear, or to be troubled.
But in the day to day work of apologetics in the public square, St Peter has other words for us: he instructs us to be prepared to give an answer to those who ask for a reason for our hope.
One of the wisest statements about apologetics that I have ever heard comes from Dr. John Mark Reynolds. I heard him say this in a talk probably about five years ago now, and it’s stuck with me ever since: “We need to answer the questions people have, not the ones we think they should have.”
If we just start foisting our awesome apologetics answers on people before they ask, we might be overlooking the questions they really do have…