From woke preacher kids on social media to disillusioned ministry leaders, I seem to find myself with no shortage of people in my life openly critical (or, at the very least, skeptical) of my work with Ratio Christi.
No, their issue isn’t with me personally. (After all, I’m a pretty charming guy.) Rather, their problem is with the type of ministry I’m doing. They simply don’t like apologetics. Some of them would actually go so far as to say they hate it.
While you may at first suppose there’s one glaring reason why such churchgoers would have such a distaste for the defense of the faith, you would be wrong. I’ve personally been hit with a variety of objections to Christian case-making from professing believers, and I have no doubt there are many more of which I’m simply unaware.
In a recent post, we offered brief responses to some of the more common of these Christian objections to apologetics. In the present post, we’ll respond to a few more as we continue to catalogue and answer these anti-apologetics arguments from within the church.
“Apologists Are Jerks”
A number of people, both Christian and non-Christian alike, have had some bad experiences with Christian apologists. I’ll never forget the time, for example, when the head of a local association of ministers introduced me to the group by saying that apologists had left a bad taste in his mouth.
Essentially, the underlying sentiment is that apologists are jerks. Sure, they may give good arguments and evidence for believing the Christian message to be true. However, the character of these messengers leaves one unwilling to even consider those reasons for belief.
Indeed, it’s undeniable that some Christians out there doing apologetics are less than Christ-like about it. However, that’s to be said about Christians in any endeavour.
Even though we’re saved, we’re still sinners who regularly mess up. Just look at the apostle Peter, whom the apostle Paul scolded over the way he treated the Gentiles (Gal. 2:11-13). It would certainly be understandable if Peter’s actions left a bad taste in the mouths of those involved or even onlookers, but this has to do with Peter, not with Christ.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not trying to justify the less-than-admirable behaviour of certain Christians in doing apologetics. Indeed, apologetics is supposed to be done with an attitude of love, humility, gentleness, and respect (Eph. 4:15; Col. 4:6; 1 Pet. 3:15).
Rather, the point is that just as there always has been, is, and will be poor representatives of Christianity (and we each know a few), so too there always has been, is, and will be poor representatives of Christian apologetics. But just as the former shouldn’t turn one off from giving serious consideration to the faith, so too should the latter not turn one off from giving serious consideration to the defense of the faith.
“I’m Not an Intellectual”
I grew up in a church that didn’t exactly put a high emphasis on developing the Christian mind and thinking deeply about one’s faith. In fact, many of its members were quite hostile toward the use of the intellect in the church setting. Most, however, were simply intimidated by the idea and felt that apologetics belonged to the world of academics.
In response to the first group—those hostile to the use of the intellect in the church—we might point out that the Bible itself calls us to cultivate the Christian mind.
God’s Word in no way endorses blind faith but, in fact, condemns it (Prov. 14:15; cf. Acts 17:11). What’s more, it calls us, both explicitly and implicitly, to a reasonable faith: to love God with all our minds (Matt. 22:37), to reason together (Isa. 1:18; Acts 17:1-4), and to answer questions (Col. 4:6; 1 Peter. 3:15) and objections (2 Cor. 10:3-5) as they arise. So, Christian hostility toward the use of the intellect with regards to our faith is, it would seem, hostility toward the call of Scripture.
Now, in response to the second group—those intimidated by the use of the intellect in a faith context—we might add that apologetics is used throughout the Bible by virtually every writer, intellectual and non-intellectual alike.
Sure, you’ve got your formally-trained Lukes and Pauls, but you also have your everyday people, including fishermen, farmers, and shepherds. All of these biblical writers, no matter their respective vocations or educational backgrounds, engaged in some level of apologetics in the books they wrote and the lives they led.
And recall that it’s Peter, a fisherman, who penned the explicit call for all believers to give a defense for the faith (1 Pet. 3:15)! So if apologetics could be accessible to every believer then, there’s no reason to think it couldn’t be so now.
“Apologetics Doesn’t Work Anymore”
Some Christians feel that apologetics doesn’t work anymore. While it may have been effective at the time of the apostles and throughout church history, it simply doesn’t pack the same punch in our relativistic, feelings-driven culture. It had a good run, but it’s outdated and obsolete, so what’s the point?
What this objection fails to recognize, however, is that this has always been the case with apologetics: it’s effective for some but not for others (see, e.g., Acts 17:32-34). But this doesn’t mean that apologetics needs to be abandoned; it means it needs to be adjusted.
Scripture calls us to be adaptable in our evangelistic endeavours (1 Cor. 9:19-23). This includes being able to contextualize our apologetics to the people we’re trying to reach. Such was the practice of Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles.
So, rather than saying that apologetics doesn’t work anymore, at most what we could say is that certain apologetics arguments and strategies need to be either set aside or simply revised as appropriate. But though our apologetic methods may need to change with the times, it’s still all apologetics nonetheless.
While it may look different from one situation to the next, there will always be a need to give a reason for the hope that is in us.