Apologetics Harms and Offends People

By Gordon Hawkes

Apologetics is a dirty word in some circles. But not without reason.

I once heard someone, with heartfelt fervour, explain why he was opposed to it. “Apologetics does real harm,” he said. “I know people who have been deeply hurt by apologists. Apologetics makes Christians combative and offensive.” I have heard this objection from people I respect and consider to be sincere Christians. As such, we should take this objection seriously.

Many within the church have an aversion to even the word “apologetics” because of the connotations it carries for them. The thought of becoming a Christian “apologist” would be, for them, comparable to the thought of becoming an obnoxious boor, or an aggressive, argumentative know-it-all.

Theological Rambo

The negative caricature of a Christian apologist comes readily to mind. One pictures a theological Rambo, locked and loaded with a string of rhetorical bullets strapped across his chest, ready to blow away any enemy foolish enough to contradict even the most minor doctrine of the Strudelberg Catechism of 1726. He sneak-attacks you with his sharpened blade of truth, cutting you down before you can finish your thought. He fires a bazooka at your smallest doubt, lobs hand grenades at your hidden logical fallacies, and blasts you with his machine gun delivery until your position is so full of holes it collapses in a bloody heap. This warrior of the faith is covered in the blood of his past foes.

For some Christians, this metaphor is not hyperbole.

Sadly, there is some truth to this objection, but I think the objection against apologetics as a whole arises from a misunderstanding. Admittedly, there are some who go by the name of “apologist” who are jerks. They show little or no respect for their opponents, and their attitude implies they have singlehandedly discovered ultimate Truth, and all who oppose them do so merely out of petty spite. But are these people good representatives of Christian apologetics?…

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Apologetics Harms and Offends People