Apologetically Speaking

I have been an apologist since shortly after finding my way back to the walk I abandoned as a teenager. Of course, I did not think of myself as an apologist. I was just a guy who spent much his life challenging anyone who admitted going to church, especially those who called themselves preachers. Now, I was suddenly telling people why they should believe, defending my understanding of the Bible, and giving my testimony through the changes in my life.

When it came to my attention, I was practicing informal apologetics. I decided I needed to know more about the subject. Imagine my disappointment when I found out that my version of apologetics was old school, ineffective, and amusing to many in the Christian community.

At one time, being told I was a minor leaguer or worse, totally without talent, might have hurt.  It might even have caused me to revert to behaviors, God helped me overcome. Thankfully, that did not happen.

Instead, I decided to become a first-string apologist.  Of course, that meant reading, study, and formal education in theology and apologetics.  For someone with eight grandkids, that sounded like a bit of challenge. Luckily, the only obstacle was surviving the truth my studies revealed.

The Almighty opened several doors allowing me to attend seminary.  Not only did I attend, but I also earned an advanced degree in theological studies. I was even considering more education, at least a certificate in apologetics, but something got in my way.

According to academic theologians, modern apologists must be prepared to go toe to toe with atheists and skeptics, including members of academe. I had no problem with that idea. Over the decades of my involvement in higher education, I butted heads over one thing or another with professors and others more times than I can remember. 

I did have a problem with the changes this attitude wrought in the area of Christian Apologetics.  Now, an apologist had to be a cross between a teacher, mediator, debater, and philosopher.  Okay, I understood the teacher, mediator, debater aspects of the matter, but philosopher? Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Marx, etc. were philosophers, and none were believers in anything beyond themselves. While other philosophers might be classified as Christian or believers, most worshiped at the feet of humanity, the mind, or their own ego, not Yahweh or Jesus.

Still, it was possible to accept that one should be versed in philosophy to debate with atheists who preached the gospels of the philosophers mentioned above.  That changed for me when my young, bright and enthusiastic Apologetics professor essentially threw down a variation of Schrodinger’s Cat as one example of how arguing philosophy was essential to apologetics.  

It became clear modern-day apologists are, in many cases, merely debaters. Theologians who want to debate the other side, scoring academic wins on nebulous aspects of philosophy. Admittedly, the professor in question was only scratching the surface of the topic. Yet, his examples and explanations made it clear modern apologetics was more about mind games than belief systems.

Christian apologetics should not be an academic exercise.  It should be a serious approach to defending or explaining one’s beliefs. Indeed, an individual’s eyes can be opened by a logical argument. Still, the reality is the person’s heart must be ready to hear, or the evidence will fall on deaf ears. For example, the idea of loving God was always hard for me, until a rocket scientist turned pastor explained it from the pulpit.

Love, to me, was an emotional commitment, desire, feeling, or need toward another person or animal such as a pet. Loving some nebulous, all-powerful being, I would not meet until I died was a bit hard to grasp.  I firmly believed He loved me because the evidence of his love was always around me, once I opened up to it. Still, the idea of me loving Him was hard to fathom.

Then the logical, scientific-minded former engineer said, “Loving God is a choice. It is a choice you make, not an emotion you feel.” He went on to say emotion might come into it later, to which I can attest, but first, I had to make a choice. I could either love God or not, as I saw fit.

So, my purpose here is what? It is to make it clear we can all be apologists in our own way.  It is not based on how well we have memorized verses in the Bible.  It is not based on debating someone on the evidence supporting the accuracy of the Bible.  It is not based on one’s eloquence as a speaker. As the Bible teaches, it is based on God, making the other person receptive to the message.  If it is their time, they will hear what you are unable to say in a pastoral or academic sense. 

Our job is to share our faith whenever possible.  If we are truly living that faith, and it is their time, they will see it.  If they don’t, you may have planted a seed that will sprout when the next person responds to their skepticism, need, or fear.  Do not let your head or heart by bothered by Shrodinger’s cat or other paradoxes. Whether the cat is alive or dead, it has nothing to do with one’s Christian walk.

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About S. Eric Jackson

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