5 Life-lessons for Apologists from Martin Luther King, Jr.

by Sean McDowell

For the past few weeks, I have been reading the essential writings of Martin Luther King, Jr., including his speeches, books, interviews, and articles. The experience has been eye-opening, challenging, and enjoyable.

Even though Dr. King had some significant character flaws, and I disagree with many of his positions, his public posture offers some powerful lessons for apologists today (and really, for anyone). Here’s my five big takeaways:

1. Love Your Enemies

Given the way blacks were treated during his lifetime, MLK had as much reason as anyone to hate his enemies. And yet he consistently emphasized to fellow blacks that they should be driven by agape love, that is, a love that truly desires the good of the other.

In his 1960 speech, “The Rising Tide of Racial Consciousness,” King emphasized that the black struggle must not be to defeat white people, but to win their friendship and understanding. He emphasized over and over again that the goal of ending discrimination must not involve shaming or hating the enemy, but helping them see the light through genuine acts of love.

Sadly, sometimes apologists forget this truth. The primary goal must not be to defeat atheists or Muslims in argument, but to love them as people made in the image of God.

2. Ends Do Not Justify the Means

In an article for Christian Century entitled, “Suffering and Faith,” King emphasized how the means of ending racial injustice must be as just as the message: “We cannot believe, or we cannot go with the idea that the end justifies the means because the end is a preexistent means.”

Out of a desire to convince skeptics to believe in Christian, apologists may be tempted to overstate the evidence. But as King emphasizes, wrong means actually undermine the message. The end and means must both be just…

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