The theological field of apologetics is exalted by most within Christendom and challenged by many outside of it. Great strides have been taken by the church to raise up “defenders of the faith.” Debating others in public on the truths of Christianity has become a spectator sport. Many bare the title “Apologist,” or are labeled as such. Winning arguments has become almost as important as winning souls… almost.
I can remember my youth in Christ, when I wanted to learn all that there was about Christianity. I wanted to soak up every theory, every angle, and every point of view regarding the faith, I wanted to so nail it down that I could defend my positions, doctrines, and propositions. I was encouraged by others along the way and even cheered on like a marathon runner to stay the course. I read everything I could get my hands on and entertained my thoughts with a seemingly infinite set opinions. I also read from those who directly challenged my religion; atheists, agnostics, deists, scientists, and the various writings from those sources that christians would call “the cults.” I read the Quran, the Vedas of Hinduism, the book of mormon, and many other other “holy” texts.
I engaged others purposefully and confrontationally, sparring with them in a sense to see if I had weaknesses in my theological armor. Looking back though, It was probably more about picking fights and being a theological bully than anything else. It was a self centered and self serving approach to apologetics that, if I were to be honest, probably had more to do with me wrestling with my own doubts rather than trying to convince others of the truth.
Deep down in my immaturity, I wanted and needed to be right. I can remember how much I enjoyed the mind play with others. I can remember “The Hunt.” I can remember the exhilaration of drawing first blood in theological debates, and the thrill of my own perceived victories. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that I could win all the arguments and take the lead in the fine art of debate and yet still not “win” a soul, lead another to Christ, or make a disciple. Sometimes my opponents would admit defeat and relinquish their faulty viewpoints but still not want to have anything to do with Christ. Instead of defending the hope within, I was making them hopeless without.
My love for apologetics had turned to lust. I had exchanged Christ, my Hope, for the fallacy of “faith defending.” I didn’t say, like David, “For You are my hope; O Lord GOD, You are my confidence from my youth. “ Psalm 71:5
In one way, I had become like the church in Ephesus who tested those who called themselves apostles and found them to be false, yet left their first love. Revelation 2:2-4 Personally, I count that time in my adulterated apologetical walk as idolatrous and wasteful. Where I sought to defend the faith, I was, in many cases defaming Jesus name. If any of this strikes a chord with you, stop for a moment and ask the Lord for wisdom, then read the rest.
Somewhere along the way, the church went from “defending the hope within us,” 1 Peter 3:15, to “defending the faith,” our stance, and our pet doctrines. You know as well as I, what forms a vigorous defense of the faith has taken on throughout history and how Jesus’ name has been discredited in His supposed defense. Maybe it’s time to apologize to some we’ve practiced our apologetics on. I dare say that if any of us had to give a defense of our faith, we could at least give it a decent showing. I wonder though, how many could give a solid defense for the HOPE within them. The defenders of doctrines far outnumber the defenders and confirmers of the hope of the gospel. (Philippians 1:7)
In order to defend hope, one has to have it. Even as I am writing this, my reflection stares back at me from the computer screen and asks, “What is your hope?” As you read this, I would ask the same, “What is your hope?” This is where your biblical apologetics will rise or fall. Can you outline your hope? Could you even come up with three bullets points that encapsulate what your hope is? I would wager that most reading this could defend your church’s doctrine, your denominational distinctive’s, and perhaps even debunk the theory of evolution with ease. But, when it comes to giving an answer for why you are hopeful in Christ, I think there would be a noticeable silence. This post will serve as Part I to a three part series on apologetics.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against apologetics, I am just wondering how we’ve gotten so off track. Just one question for now:
What is your hope, and are you ready to give a defense of it to the next one who asks?