Developing an Agile Apologetic

By Douglas Groothuis

eaching Christian apologetics at Denver Seminary since 1993 has taught me much. Much of what I write was first sparked or sharpened in the classroom. For years I have advised students to practice intellectual and relational dexterity that deftly marshals apologetic resources in different situations. I call this art agile apologetics. Just as an agile shortstop in baseball can jump, run, and throw from any position, so must an apologist be agile in arguments. As Paul told his mentee, Timothy, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2, emphasis added; all Scripture references NIV). Whether our task is easy or hard, complicated or simple, we must be ready (1 Pet. 3:15).

Of course, arguments are always at the forefront of apologetics. Without them, there is no rational Christian witness, and without that, “truth stumbles in the streets” (Isa. 59:14). We must out-think and out-live the world for Christ and His kingdom (Matt. 6:33). But savvy defenders of Christianity must not only master the best arguments; they must also muster them in real time and without canned reactions. Two principles should guide and inspire us to this end.

Worldview Agility. First, apologetic conversations should seek to develop relational and worldview agility. We should know with whom we are interacting and what her worldview is. An accurate diagnosis precedes an apt prescription. Apologetic diagnoses depend on (1) a deep knowledge of the worldviews most commonly held today and (2) the patience and kindness that define active listening

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