The Death of Apologetics…Again?

Posted: January 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

Christian apologetics is the systematic defense of the reasonableness of the  faith.  Every few years a Christian leader announces the death of the discipline with a fair amount of glee.  For the last ten years “progressive evangelicals” have preached that we just need to “follow Jesus” (i.e., love the least among us without judgment) and quit arguing with everyone.  They argue that apologetics is divisive and that in the wake of postmodernism most people don’t care about “rational arguments” for the existence of God, the historicity of Scripture, etc.

Recently a prominent Christian blogger uploaded a video of a Christian university student struggling with what it means to follow Christ and his first response was, “traditional apologetics is not the answer.” 

Well, let me concede a few points: (1) it is true that few people are ever argued into the faith; (2) apologetics has never been THE answer and (3) too many evangelicals have used apologetics in the past to beat people over the head.  They often win the battle with unbelievers but lose the war.

Yet, I find the dismissal or diminishing of apologetics to be troubling for a number of reasons.  First, Scripture is clear that we are to defend the faith (1 Peter 3:15). 

Second, to say that we don’t need apologetics but only need to love those around us is a false dichotomy.  We can, and should, do both.  Yes, people can become arrogant about their knowledge and browbeat those with heartfelt questions about or objections to the faith but people can be become arrogant about their own social justice endeavors as well.  Sinful people sin! 

We can defend the faith in a humble way.  For example, do yourself a favor and purchase The Reason for God DVD (Zondervan 2010) even if  you have read the book.  Keller interacts with a handful of non-believers on core objections to the reasonableness of the faith.  The episodes are real and unscripted.  Keller listens intently and then humbly responds with powerful answers.

Finally, we need apologetics.    I help pastor a church that is roughly 1/3 college students.  The average age of Revolution Church is 23.  They feed the homeless, reach out to those in treatment programs, donate their extra clothes and toiletries to the needy, etc. and they have very real questions about the faith that only a person well schooled in apologetics can answer.

Moreover, I have taught English and literature at the local secular university and the moment the class learns I am a pastor they pepper me with sincere questions about the reasonableness of the faith.

Over the last few years, I have found the works of Tim Keller, William Lane Craig and Ravi Zacharias to be invaluable.  I have also found their general posture of being a grace filled, non-threatening presence to others to be the right example of how a true apologist should approach their defense of the faith.

Apologetics will one day be unnecessary but not until the trumpet sounds the return of our King.

  1. I like this a lot. What a great way to talk about true apologetics!

    Have you seen Tim Keller’s Reason for God DVD? After viewing the trailer I am definitely interested.

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