What apologetics can and can’t do
by John D. Ferrer
I’m a big fan of apologetics. It’s kind of obvious. But over the years I’ve come to see its strengths and weaknesses. For the sake of brevity, I’ll just list a few of them and then comment at the end. When people exercise apologetics well . . .
What Apologetics Can Do
Apologetics can refute heresy and fortify orthodoxy
Apologetics can answer other bad ideas with good ideas.
Apologetics can clarify cloudy theology (i.e., not quite heresy, but not clearly orthodox either).
Apologetics can enrich your thought life, study habits, and communication skills
Apologetics can develop the academic tradition of denominations, churches, and families.
Apologetics can refine the “mind of Christ” helping people to think more like Christ.
Apologetics can advance scholarship in general
Apologetics can expose bad practices, hypocrisy, and evil
Apologetics can help protect loved ones from pernicious ideologies
Apologetics can uncover the implications, inferences, and applications of different ideas
Apologetics can lend richness to one’s education, discipleship, and spiritual growth.
Apologetics can synergize ideas and beliefs–showing their relations to each other.
Apologetics can distinguish different terms, ideas, and categories which might otherwise be ambiguous, confusing, and even heretical.
Apologetics can challenge, entertain, and engage one’s Christian faith at a whole new level than before
Apologetics can sharpen Christian practice, refining our behaviors they are more consistent with the truths of Christ.
Points #5&6 above merits some explanation. On #5, It’s been a recent fashion to shun denominations and be “non-denominational.” While I understand where those folks are coming from, and they aren’t entirely wrong, when it comes to the academic traditions over many generations, the non-denominationalists run the risk of restricting their doctrinal teaching to theological basics (i.e., the agreeable points across different systems), never really digging into controversial doctrines where denominations disagree, and never building very far when it comes to systematic theology and apologetic theology where controversial points are liable to arise. Meanwhile, churches, denominations, and families that can agree on some theological starting points can shift their apologetic energies into deeper discovery and defense within that denominational tradition (be it theological, philosophical, or scientific commitments).
On #6, besides denominational traditions, and overtly “Christian” systems of thought, there is also the vast and barely explored domain of Christian worldview. Apologetics overlaps heavily with “Christian worldview”, sometimes the two are indistinguishable. By “Christian worldview” I mean the wide range of ideas, implications, and applications that can be found and explored when people think from a Christian perspective…
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