So, You Want To Be An Apologists? Advice on Entering Apologetics Ministry

by J.P. Holding

I have found that nothing is more dangerous to one’s own faith than the work of an apologist. No doctrine of that Faith seems to me so spectral, so unreal as one that I have just successfully defended in a public debate. For a moment, you see, it has seemed to rest on oneself: as a result, when you go away from that debate, it seems no stronger than that weak pillar. That is why we apologists take our lives in our hands and can be saved only by falling back continually from the web of our own arguments, as from our intellectual counters, into the Reality– from Christian apologetics into Christ Himself. — C. S. Lewis, The Joyful Christian

The above comment by C. S. Lewis is sometimes offered as a sort of “corrective” to the exercise of apologetics and the necessary primacy of faith. Of course, with the point that faith is itself reliant on evidence, the distinction between what Lewis saw between “intellectual counters” and “Reality” becomes somewhat less pronounced, if it does not disappear entirely.

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Nevertheless, I have turned my thoughts to this quotation, which has (oddly) been introduced to me again in more than one way. Is Lewis’ experience my own experience as an apologist?

The answer is no, it is not my experience, but I can understand why it was Lewis’. Lewis, though an excellent thinker and scholar of literature in his own right, was not a Biblical scholar. I can understand why he would think certain doctrines were “spectral” or “unreal” – I might well feel the same without much the information we now have about the Biblical world (the impact of honor and shame; the use and relevance of “probabilities,” etc.) which makes it clear that any spectre comes of our own disconnected views as modern Western people.

So as an apologist, I do NOT see myself as “taking my life into my own hands” at all. Nevertheless, I do feel like I am someone who “takes bullets” for others (even as I happen to be wearing the “Kevlar” that sound scholarship provides). And that’s a critical point for anyone who wants to pursue apologetics seriously: You should keep “hands off” until you are reasonably “bulletproof”.

And how is this to be done? It depends on what personality type you are, but here are some points…

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