Apologetics in the Manner of Jesus
by Dallas Willard
When we do the work of apologetics we do it as disciples of Jesus, and therefore in the manner in which he would do it. This means, first of all, that we do it to help people, and especially those who want to be helped. Apologetics is a helping ministry.
The picture presented in the context of I Peter 3:15 is that of disciples who are devoted to promoting what is good, but are being persecuted for it. Their response, as Jesus had taught them, was to “rejoice and be glad.” And that led those looking on to inquire how the disciples could be joyous and hopeful in such circumstances. This question would, of course, be inevitable in an angry, hopeless and joyless world. So the disciples were charged by Peter to “be ready to help people understand the hope that is in them, but with gentleness and fear” (vs. 15), and always with a clear conscience that one has done what is right. (vs. 16)
So we give our explanation, our apologetic, as an act of neighbor love. And as we do so we are to be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves. (Matt 10:16) The serpent’s wisdom is timeliness based on watchful observation. And doves are incapable of guile or of misleading anyone. So are we to be. Love of those we deal with will help us to observe them accurately and to stay entirely away from manipulating them—meanwhile intensely longing and praying for them to recognize that Jesus Christ is master of the cosmos in which they live.
Love will also purge us of any desire merely to win, as well as of intellectual self-righteousness and contempt for the opinions and abilities of others. The apologete for Christ is one characterized “humbleness of mind”(tapeinophrosunen; Col 3:12, Acts 20:19, 1 Pet 5:5)—a vital New Testament concept which cannot be captured by our word “humility” alone…
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