Affective Apologetics: Getting to the Heart of the Matter

by Brett Lunn

The goal of this post is to introduce and illustrate a different way of doing apologetics. Often we think of apologetics in terms of intellectual arguments, syllogisms, defenses of premises, and so on. Instead, this post will focus on apologetics that aims at the affections. We will focus on the person’s heart. After explaining what is meant by affective apologetics, a number of examples will be given.

Pascal’s Heart

“The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.” This famous line from Blaise Pascal’s Pensées is part of a larger discourse on the role of the intellect and the heart. Recognizing that faith is a gift of God, Pascal argues that the heart has a certain role in the Christian life and apologetics. It is the heart which experiences God. Faith is felt by the heart, not by reason. As Pascal states, “The knowledge of God is very far from the love of Him.”

It is therefore right to recognize the roles of both the heart and the intellect. Pascal is not saying that the intellect has no role, but that there is also a place for the heart and the affections. The intellect is important for persuading those to believe while waiting for God to impart faith to them. The intellect, however, only goes so far. Since God works through the heart, we must attend to the heart and not look down upon those who do not go through the intellect.

Since God’s work through the heart has its own order, it is therefore right to think of apologetics in an affective key. How can we give a defense of the faith that is attendant to God’s work in the heart? How can we demonstrate Christianity in line with the affections? This is not a path contrary to the intellect or somehow inferior, for God made the whole of us. However, if our apologetic is made up solely of premises, syllogisms, and analyzed terms, then we are only witnessing to a part of who God made us to be. As Pascal says in another place, “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.”

So apologetics also includes speaking to people’s hearts, their affections. This is not a lesser form of apologetics or some sort of logical fallacy; it is recognizing people as holistic beings that are created by God…

Affective Apologetics: Getting to the Heart of the Matter