Apologetics, What Good Are They?

Apologetics Applied

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.

Examples of my efforts in apologetics:
Why Christ Had To Die
Answering Atheism

Quotation – History

Corroborative detail is the great corrective.
It is a disciplinarian.
It forces the historian who uses and respects it to cleave to the truth,
or as much as he can find out of the truth.

I am a disciple of the ounce, because I mistrust history in gallon jugs, whose purveyors are more concerned with establishing the meaning and purpose of history than with what happened.

Is it necessary to insist on a purpose?

The lilies of the field, as I remember, were not required to have a demonstrable purpose.
Why cannot history be studied and written and read for its own sake,as the record of human behavior, the most fascinating subject of all?

~ Barbara Tuchman

Don’t Worry, Be Happy -the right way

In an essay on how to help others and yourself by being more proactive when worry hits, The White Hot Truth is a little painful, but I needed to read something like that today.

When I worried about rejection and how I may have unwittingly offended someone. Again. I worry about lots of things, and don’t even realize that it is worry, but this has put a little perspective on it.

Worry obstructs possibility. Concern is pro-active.
Worry weighs things down. Concern can rise to the occasion.
Worry is wistful. Concern is penetrating.
Worry tangles. Concern peels back the layers.
Worry gossips. Concern enrolls.


How seductive that word is. How sought after. How vaguely undefined.

I revisit this place of needing to define success and recalibrate my thinking on it, in my own life over and over, but this post is inspired by one of my daughters. She, perhaps more than others has been sensitized, whether by nature or by experiences, to the pull and the penalty of the measure of success. So I felt we needed time together to explore the subject, not because I am an expert, but because I have a different type of thinking. Hers helps me understand others better, mine is practiced in abstracts…which can collate the choices given and options available into a more objective (and so, less painful) package of choices and goals. (That works better for others than for myself, at times)

Our different thinking has led us to clash, to “miss” each other often in our history. Will we be able to come to a place of mutual benefit? -Which every relationship works towards (whether on a conscious level or not); although not every relationship succeeds (there is that word again) and some become very twisted in their actual dynamic. But it led me to think more about this idea of success.

There is a triumvirate of tension in this word. There is the “I”, the “other”, and what I would call the “other Other” – the truth, as in a standard. The “I” for many of us is vague and scattered, although some people are very concise and clear on what their own definition of success may be. Our own success, complicatedly, can be categorical as well. Maybe we succeed in one area, but not in wholeness of life. We must contend with the “other” voices, competing and sometimes cacophonous, weighing in on what constitutes success. Society, friends, enemies, critics, politics, occupational standards…. the list is really endless since it is crafted into individual sets of life factors, each with their own proffered opinions.

Most of us are aware of that “other Other” voice, whether we damp it or tune in to it, or not. Most of us call it a search for truth, but it weighs against all the other voices and definitions with a substance and authority that none of the others hold. Which is why it is in its own category. And, though for many too late, it holds the final verdict.

How complicated a process for something we seek after, so much so, as to make it one of the greatest marketing tools ever contrived.

The New Front: The Cultural War Gets Deadly Earnest

Operation Rescue, the extreme antiabortion group that organized a six-week blockade of Tiller’s office in 1991, issued a statement condemning the murder. “We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning,” Troy Newman, the organization’s president, said.

These unqualified reproaches are nothing new. The organized antiabortion movement has always opposed violence against abortion providers. That has never stopped opportunistic prochoice activists, however, from conflating their passionate rhetoric with the behavior of individual criminals. True to form, on Sunday, Mike Hendricks of the Kansas City Star accused anyone who had criticized Tiller as a murderer (Tiller aborted healthy, nine-month old fetuses) of being an “accomplice” to his death.

Over the past decade this argumentative tactic has taken on an even more insidious twist. In addition to fighting violent, Muslim jihadists abroad, some liberals argue that America must deal with its own, homegrown terrorists. These are not just people who commit violence but millions of socially conservative evangelicals and Catholics — “Christianists” — who comprise the base of the Republican Party and threaten the stability of the country.
The Religious Right Didn’t Kill George Tiller , WSJ Opinion article

I think we might be facing a revival of the type of opposition that led to widespread hatred on the basis of religious association, like that promoted by “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. This slanderous type of constituted myth, old hatreds, and fear spread the discrimination against the Jews. The Swiss Courts ruled in 1935 that it was “libelous”, and “ridiculous nonsense” but it stirred up fear and animosity anyway.

As Christians, our best defense against lies and misunderstandings of our doctrines and beliefs is to patiently explain them. And hope that people will listen and be rational.

Just because we believe in an Apocalypse, in a final judgment, in a second coming of Christ does not mean we believe that we are to abrogate the direct commands of Christ in living peacefully with our fellow man, do good and kind acts to others, be harmless, in this world. Just the opposite. It is in light of these events that we should patiently carry out a longsuffering and caring attitude towards even those we consider “enemies”.

But as Talk to Action blogger Chip Berlet does point out, there is a toxic mix of some of the movements that combine a fanaticism and militaristic approval of violence that incite individuals to acts of violence. but not encompassing all that he would name to it. And that is where the prejudicial slander begins. With that broad brush slathering all with salacious accusations of murderous intent and culpability.

The difficulty in untwining these threads of casting denunciations of conspiracy is that they are so widely used, by the Nazis of the Jews in the past, by Left of the Right, sometimes vice versa (although the Left has always had more of an appetite for it), of Muslims against most anybody else, and of Christians against Muslims at times. But there is a difference of specific groups who truly subscribe to such violence and of “the guilt for this crime from the individual who pulled the trigger to [the group] writ large”, as James Kirchick puts it. Of such guilt mongering, persecutions and genocides have been made.

And while I think it is wrong to cast aspersions on the whole group when an individual, not even closely associated, goes off on an aberrant violent path, I do not think that we can completely overlook our too enthusiastic calumny of our opponents. I think this is a call for pro-life adherents to temper their speech and restrain their aggressive actions. The focused, circumspect deliberation of one dedicated to a cause is more effective than a thousand screaming fanatics. We ought to be deliberate about eradicating abortion, and for that very reason we ought to reassess how useful it is to drum up the emotions of volatile individuals. The issue merits more than rallies and stickers on our cars. It merits activists focused solely on the issue and not on the hoopla surrounding it.

Less media attention, perhaps, but unstable individuals who don’t really understand the underlying conviction that life is precious might just find there is little to inspire violent plans of action.

Population Growth

The increases in population and wealth have not been merely coincidental. They are causes and effects of each other. Today, with few exceptions, the most densely populated countries are the richest. Any mystery in that is dispelled by the realization that people are the source of ideas. The addition of people geometrically increases the potential for combining ideas into newer, better ideas. As the Nobel laureate and economist Simon Kuznets wrote, “More population means more creators and producers, both of goods along established production patterns and of new knowledge and inventions.”
A growing population also allows for a more elaborate division of labor, which raises incomes.

Those who wish to stifle population growth would condemn hundreds of millions of people in the developing world to the abject deprivation that characterized the West before the Industrial Revolution.
Sheldon Richman of the Cato Institute quoted from article by Justin Rohrlich