Apologetics is Unassuming

by Travis Dickinson

There’s considerable debate on just what apologetics is or at least what it’s supposed to be. A typical definition is something along the lines of this:

Apologetics is the defense of Christian beliefs.

But the problem with this definition is this doesn’t uniquely pick out the discipline. After all, the systematic theologian seems to be defending Christian beliefs when he or she defends a particular doctrine. A Sunday morning sermon is seems even to be a defense of Christian beliefs. The pastor provides reasons for how to understand a passage and how it should be applied in our lives. So this definition isn’t going to work.

An Unassuming Defense

I want to suggest that what uniquely picks out apologetics is that, in doing apologetics, one defends Christian beliefs in an unassuming way. That is, we think about and formulate reasons for believing that do not, in making the case, assume the truth of Christianity already. This doesn’t mean that one doesn’t believe Christianity is true in making this unassuming case and it doesn’t mean that we aren’t obviously arguing for the truth of Christianity, in making the case. It is simply that we don’t only cite a passage or some belief from Christian theology and call it a day.

Proving Christianity with Christianity

Think about how easy it would be to give a case for the existence of God if all we had to do was cite a passage. Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning God…”…and we’re done here! We’ve proven God’s existence.

Citing Scripture as a way to justify our Christian beliefs is of course a very fine practice. In fact, I think this is precisely how it should be when we are having discussions about Christian theology amongst Christians and how your pastor should do it when he is preaching to the church on a Sunday morning. The pastor certainly cannot be burdened with proving the general reliability of Scripture before he ever begins to exposit Scripture.

The problem, of course, is that outside of Christian circles…
 

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Apologetics is Unassuming