@josh_steele Personally, I see apologetics as a Holy Spirit filled attempt to meet another person where they are at in their life journey and persuade / help them to open their heart and mind to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. We see that the apostle Paul did this very thing - he became like other people as much as he could in order to win them for Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 9:19-22 - Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.
I think the word ‘persuasion’ is useful in this context. Os Guiness’ book ‘Fool’s Talk’ is all about persuading others to open their hearts to Christ. And I think that is exactly what the Apostle Paul was all about. Here is an excerpt from the jacket cover of Guiness’ book:
"Christians have often relied on proclaiming and preaching, protesting and picketing. But we are strikingly weak in persuasion—the ability to talk to people who are closed to what we are saying. Actual persuasion requires more than a one-size-fits-all approach. Guinness notes, “Jesus never spoke to two people the same way, and neither should we.”
Following the tradition of Erasmus, Pascal, G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, Malcolm Muggeridge and Peter Berger, Guinness demonstrates how apologetic persuasion requires both the rational and the imaginative. Persuasion is subversive, turning the tables on listeners’ assumptions to surprise them with signals of transcendence and the credibility of the gospel."
By ‘signals of transcendence’, Guiness means that we show those whom we are persuading that their is more to life than they have previously thought. We hope, with God’s grace, that those whose minds are closed to God will have an ‘aha moment’ - a realization that maybe God does in fact exist and Jesus is who He claimed to be.
I recently read a great article on Christianity Today that illustrates this function of persuasion in apologetics. Dave Yauk grew up in a broken family even though his dad was a pastor and he rejected Christianity entirely - seeking fulfillment in the world. But - in his own words:
" But one day, I opened a book—I can’t remember which one—that posed a question I couldn’t answer. The author asked, “Do you have a desire to be perfectly loved?” Of course, my answer was no. That’s impossible! No one can love us perfectly. And yet the author probed deeper, acknowledging that we still desire this sort of perfect love, even though no one on earth can provide it. We desire to live happily, to never be hurt, and to be loved for who we are.
This was the first moment I ever entertained the possibility of a personal god. The book followed up with a famous quote from C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
As the truth of this insight sank in, my anger and pragmatism were shaken. Desiring a perfect love is pointless if finding that kind of love is impossible in this life. The persistence of my desire meant that something perfect must exist out there, somewhere.
I finally opened my Bible, and almost instantly I came upon John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Suddenly it all made sense. I understood how Jesus differed from all the other religious leaders I’d encountered in my reading. I had pictured a mountain with Buddha, Gandhi, and all the others at the bottom, trying to “bind back” to “god” through their works. But Jesus claimed that he began at the top of the mountain and sacrificed everything to come down to us!"
To me, this is the function apologetics plays. This young man had closed his heart to God, but through a book and Lewis he realized that maybe - just maybe - God really did exist. Then he was able to pick up the Bible again and let God back into his life. That is what I think Guiness means by Christian persuasion. I believe apologetics plays a similar, though different, role in the believer’s life. When we encounter and idea or experience that makes us doubt God in some way, apologetics can help correct false views of God so that we can once again draw near in confidence and trust - in quietness and trust is our strength!
I think apologetics always functions to draw other people nearer to God by washing off the dirty windows of the mind that keep them from seeing Him clearly. May the Lord bless your study richly and the kids grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus!