A defense of Christian defenses
by Kenneth Hensley
Why should you and I care about learning apologetics? Why bother?
To me the answer seems self-evident. After all, it was in reading the works of Christian apologists like C.S. Lewis and Josh McDowell and John Warwick Montgomery that my mind was first opened to the idea that Jesus of Nazareth might have actually been who he claimed to be and that Christianity might actually be true. And I needed to be made open in this way, because I was skeptical.
I remember looking for the first time at McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict—huge wooden cross and judge’s gavel on the cover and thinking, What? Christianity being presented as the truth of history and not as mere religion? Could it really be?
Over the 38 years since, the study of apologetics has continued to deepen my conviction of the truth of the Christian worldview. I imagine I’m not the only believer who could benefit in this way and so it strikes me as intuitively obvious that Christians would want to study apologetics.
Except that many have been taught to think of apologetics as a useless pursuit. Some view it as worse than useless, as in fact harmful and counter-productive to the task of evangelism. “After all (so the argument goes) what does it accomplish to debate with people, attempt to convince them that they’re wrong and you’re right? It’s unkind. It’s unloving. And in the end, isn’t kindness and love worth more than ten thousand rational arguments that appeal only to the mind?”
With this in mind, we begin with a defense of Christian defenses, an apologetic for doing apologetics. (Please don’t ask me to defend presenting a defense of defenses.There’s nothing quite like like getting caught in an infinite regress to drag down the flow of thought.)
Why should we bother with apologetics?
1. The Command of Scripture
Of course, the classic text is I Peter 3:15:
In your hearts reverence Christ as Lord, and always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.
Yes, we’re called to kindness and love. No debate! In fact, notice Peter instructs us here to make our defense “with gentleness and reverence”. I’ll go further and say that the central battle of our lives as Christians is not a battle against competing worldviews but a battle to overcome (by God’s grace and Spirit) our own lack of love, gentleness and reverence, so that we might more and more become living icons of the truth we want to share. It’s a battle of the interior life.
At the same time, we’re called to be as prepared as we can be to defend that truth with words, evidences, reasoned arguments. “Always be prepared to make a defense,” St. Peter says. The word translated “defense” here is the Greek apologia, from which we get our word “apologetics”…
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