Apologetics as a Martial Art?

by Clark Bates

When I was a teenager I used to study martial arts.  A long tradition of self-defense training ran in my family.  My parents are both black belts in the martial art known as Tang Soo Do and actually first met in a martial arts class that my dad was instructing.  Through the years I’ve studied many different styles but none were so impactful to me, or as effective for me, then the martial art known as Aikido.  If you’ve ever seen a Steven Seagal movie, you’ve seen Aikido.  While it’s portrayed in film as a very violent martial art, it is, in fact, very fluid.  Where Aikido finds its effectiveness is in the irimi tenkan motions, which take the momentum of the opponent and use it against them.  Being that I am now, and always was, smaller than average this was very useful.  I’ve always loved Aikido and consider my time studying it to be the most formative of my youth.

An apologetics discussion, if done right, should be like Aikido wherein we use the momentum of the other person.  Unfortunately, for many, it becomes more like power lifting.  In power lifting, the object is to lift the most weight possible, no matter the strain it places on your body.  When engaging with a non-Christian, the common approach is to hear an objection and immediately file through our mental catalog of memorized responses and immediately go on the offense.  The problem with this approach is that it turns the engagement into a power lifting competition.  You, the apologist, are doing all the heavy lifting, and you’re causing unnecessary strain on yourself.

Never Make a Statement When a Question Will Suffice

Apologist Greg Koukl very astutely recognizes and teaches that any conversation with a non-Christian should involve a lot of questions.  One of the simplest being, “What do you mean by that?” or “How do you come to that conclusion?”[1]  The reason this is a better approach than the power lifting is two-fold…

Apologetics as a Martial Art?