How useful is apologetics, making a systematic and reasoned defense for your faith?
I’ve always loved the practice, since it combines the way my mind works, helps answer difficult questions for me, and is useful in arguments. I think it is that last part that raised the question of how useful a working knowledge of apologetics may be. Winning an argument with someone is not winning the person, and what is the point of that?
Should we as followers of Jesus Christ be self satisfied, feeling good that “we are right”?
To be clear, there are a couple places where St. Paul strongly advocates being able to make a defense, or argument, for our Christian faith. It fortifies the mind against the hostile assaults that are so common today. If you don’t think that American society in particular, and the global community in general, doesn’t have an axe to grind with Christianity I’m not sure where you’ve been keeping yourself. Having a solid set of reasons for believing in Christ and the tenets of the gospel is a strong protection against the ridicule and bitter diatribe aimed towards Christians.
There is no question in my mind about how useful strong, reasoned defensive arguments are for a Christian, personally. I do have serious doubts about the application of this type of thinking and communication in the interactions of evangelism. That is the use of apologetics in sharing the gospel seems far less effective than some groups of Believers would have it.
I spent the better part of my life in some sort of debate of this kind with people around me who I desperately hoped, and fervently prayed would come to faith in Christ. I so much wanted to see them experience the peace, the joy, and the wholeness that a relationship with God can bring. But, frustratingly, the arguments, even when masterfully destroying every barrier and stronghold, just didn’t produce much fruit.
The best that could be said for such conversations is that they bulldozed through preconceptions and paved the way for possible consideration of Christ. But those arguments didn’t bring life. And ministering life is what the gospel is all about. Even if that brings death to old traditions and cherished misconceptions.
So, it can be said that all the time spent with my Dad, or on forums arguing the merits of Christianity were not all time lost, but they were not times that produced what I most hoped they could.
Apologetics are useful for the intellect of a person, but that isn’t where most people’s struggles take place. For most, if not all, it is in the heart. And if apologetics aren’t so useful in that arena, what is?
The answer seems like a cliche waiting to happen, but if you combine the clearly defined explanations of 1 Corinthians 13th chapter, and the book of 1st John, (for starters) you will find the real power of conviction is steadily applied Agape love. Caring, honoring, self-sacrificing, serving, healing, longsuffering love. The type of love we call unconditional, but which we so often mar with our conditions.
In the face of such love, hostility and the hardest internal barriers are defenseless. Nothing in the world or the depths of hell has any weapon of use against it.
If I were to look for a reason to say apologetics is important or necessary, it would be to say that it is as a support for the formation of that sort of love and enduring spirit. Apologetics are more for us as Christians, and it is the good works, the signs and wonders, and the kindness that is evangelism’s companion actions. With the heart, sometimes a good argument just gets in the way.
Christianity is a whole package deal, and without putting the whole of ones heart, soul, body, and spirit into God’s hands, there is little of worth we can produce. Today’s piecemeal ala carte Christianity doesn’t represent Christ well, and it doesn’t deliver life dependably, but the gospel as it was meant to be believed and lived offers the only antidote to death, and all its horrible manifestations in humanity.
No where else is there the answers we need. The application of Christian apologetics establishes a plain pathway to see that more clearly. And that is its usefulness.