Calling All Apologists: “I want you!”
by Donnie Griffin
As I make my way around various circles, as I have written, read, listened, and conversed, I feel a little like the old Uncle Sam. “I want you!”
Communicating my passion for and the need of apologetics in the local church has shed some light on people’s perceptions of apologetics. Most of the time those perceptions are pretty revealing of the Churches failure to love the Lord with our minds for 100 years or so.
Unfortunately, there seems to be an all too common misunderstanding of what an apologist actually is, both by leadership and laity. Many times the prevailing view is that an apologist is a kind of lone wolf or loose cannon. “The apologist”, people might conclude, “is that person who goes around correcting bad theology in the church and keeping the church safe from atheists.”
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Another common misunderstanding is that the pastor is the apologist. Especially in small Southern or rural churches, there is an overestimation of just what the pastor’s role is in the church. Everything from janitor to choir director are assumed roles for many pastors who I’m sure would rather focus on their primary duty, preaching the Word. It’s easy enough to convince people of that kind of pastoral abuse by the church though.
It’s a little more difficult to convince many rural, busy, and traditional laypeople to stop relying too heavily on their pastor for every spiritual gift listed in the New Testament. In those little churches, which make up the majority of American churches, the pastor is everything spiritual, at least in the eyes of his congregation and apologetics falls into his required bag of tricks.
This is also false.
In fact, there is not such thing as an apologist per se. In the list of gifts that God gives his church, there is no “defender” or “apologist”. “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11–12, ESV) That’s one example of a gift list and there are no apologists listed here.
Now, of course what I mean is not that there is actually no such person as an apologist. What I do mean to say is that there is no Biblical office of apologist listed in the Scripture.
Given that you have already acquiesced that apologetics, the mandate of defending or giving a reason for Christ’s hope is in fact a necessary element of being Christian, you must be asking yourself then, “what is an apologist?” In other words, if apologetics is necessary to the church but there are no official apologists, then who are the apologists?
Well I’m glad you asked…
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