A ways back I remember reading an article by William Lane Craig about advice for people who want be an apologist. In all honesty, Craig probably knows many people who have come to him asking for advice. I think he would admit that many of them want to live the life he has and is living (e.g.,lots of speaking gigs/debates, lots of fans, lots of attention, etc). The more I have thought about this issue, I can list some of the right and wrong reasons to pursue a career in apologetics. Or, perhaps here are some of the right and wrong reasons for being very active in the field of apologetics.
#1: The Need for Attention
Given the overload of reality TV shows and celebrity worship, the last thing we need are apologists who have a narcissism problem. If you are craving attention and affirmation, than that can’t be motivation for being a player in apologetics. I am not saying that it is a bad thing to be encouraged and noted at all for contributions in the field of apologetics. However, we need to check ourselves in this area.
#2: The need to tear people down with knowledge
Sean McDowell gives us some tips on this one:
“Youth Specialties president Mark Matlock wrote a compelling essay about apologetics and emotional development.3 In it, he argued that apologetics often attracts people who have been emotionally hurt, and in turn, who use apologetics to hurt other people. He’s absolutely right. As the saying famously goes, “Hurt people hurt people.” There is power in knowledge. And many people seek power by gaining more information so they can control and even humiliate other people. If you are an apologist, I encourage you to ask yourself some deep questions: Why (honestly) are you an apologist? Is your heart genuinely broken for non-Christians? Do you pray for humility and guidance in your research and conversations with both Christians and non-Christians? I hope so.”
To read on, click here.
#3: The Need to Look Really Smart
Don’t get me wrong. I know we have an anti-intellectualism problem in the Church. I also know we have a fideism problem as well. But if you want to be an apologist to show people how smart you really are (and boast about your degrees), that is probably not a good thing. If anything, this only reveals that there is some sort of insecurity here. We need to check ourselves in this area.
#1: We want the Church strengthened and confident in their faith
Apologists work hard! They have to answer a lot of objections and have to be very knowledgeable about a variety of disciplines. We want Christians confident so that they will in turn want to obey the commands of Jesus (e.g., preach the Gospel and make disciples).
#2: Apologists know their ultimate reward is with Christ
A mature apologist doesn’t always look for affirmation from others because they know their real reward is with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:10). They have been called to be faithful and obedient to him. Now that doesn’t mean there is no need for any encouragement. But ultimately the apologist will answer to the Lord for the work they did to edify and strengthen his Church. After all, it was the Lord who has laid down his life for his Church (1 John 3:16). It belongs to Him!
#3: The Apologist knows false ideas are a hindrance to the Gospel
“False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation to be controlled by ideas […] which prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion.” – J. Gresham Machen, “Christianity and Culture,” Princeton Theological Review 11 (1913):
The apologist knows one of the main motives he does apologetics is to expose the idea structures that are causing a hindrance to the Gospel. Paul speaks about this here:
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5 NIV).
#4 Apologists know that critics must be answered
As I have mentioned before, in Introducing Apologetics: Cultivating Christian Commitment by James Taylor, he lists three kinds of people who we will encounter when doing evangelism. If anything, if we do evangelism and encounter people in these categories, we should see why we need apologetics in the Church. Taylor says when dealing with people, many people may fall into various categories such as:
1. Critics: those with criticisms of the Christian faith who are not open to the possibility of its truth. Critics need to be answered to neutralize the effects of their criticisms on seekers and doubters.
2. Seekers: people who are open to our faith but are prevented from making a commitment primarily because of honest questions about the Christian claims.
3. Doubters: are Christians who find it difficult to believe one or more tenants of the Christian faith with complete confidence. Doubters need to be restored to full Christian conviction by giving them the tools to remove their doubts.
Once again, apologists work hard at answering #1 because they know the critics are the ones that impact the seekers and doubters.
There are many more motives that need to be examined if we are to be effective in the field of apologetics. To read more on this, see Apologetics 315’s article here called The Pitfalls of the Apologist.