Apologetics as a Spiritual Discipline
by Matt Rawlings
“Apologists…recognize that every Christian harbors within himself a secret infidel. At this point apologetics [becomes]…a dialogue between the believer and the unbeliever in the heart of the Christian himself.” -Avery Cardinal Dulles A History of Apologetics (Ignatius Press 1999 ed), xx.
“Only those who truly doubt can truly believe” is a quote I sometimes hear attributed to Augustine. Whether he said it or not, it contains a grain of truth. The simple fact is we all doubt. Even someone like me who devours apologetic books like hippies devour kale chips goes through periods of doubt.
For example, every year I read through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and every year I think the same thing when I read through Genesis and Numbers, “What’s with the talking animals? What is this, a Disney movie?” Those passages cause me to doubt the Bible, which causes me to doubt my faith. But then I return to reading apologetics and things that too many Christians overlook like the lack of a materialistic explanation for consciousness, the odds against life, the necessity of an intelligent, powerful being creating the universe, the disciples refusal to deny the resurrection, etc. all brings me back to the faith.
Apologetics is often seen as nothing but an academic exercise for eggheads with no life but it is actually a spiritual discipline. The possibly apocryphal quote from Augustine recognizes the fact that we all doubt and that the only way to truly work through this is to prayerfully work though the problem with our God-given minds and the resources our Lord has given us in grace upon grace. If we choose not to we will do one of the following…
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