Is apologetics something the whole church should engage in? Or just a few who are called to this area of ministry?

Sir Josh, I’m really interested in applying this holistic picture of humans in my conversations revolving in the faith. When you gave C.S. Lewis as an example, I got a faint idea of what you’re describing. But since I prefer to learn through demonstrations, I’d like to share an experience and draw from your wisdom as how you would approach the situation.

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the alumni of the youth group I regularly attend. One of them, a former leader but still in his youth and very active in ministry, said the following:
“Our purpose is not to defend Christianity but to share the love of Jesus Christ.”
Further, “Let the apologists do that.”

I firmly believe that the church must be equipped to provide a defense for the faith. The person who said this is not an anti-intellectual but rather believes that the church must provide a defense for the faith; not everyone in the church, however. I would like to know how you would approach a response such as this. What is your response to this statement and what are the steps you would take to introduce this more mature approach to apologetics?

2 Likes

Thanks for the question, Genesis! I think I understand the question in general, but I want to make sure I understand the specific statement the person is making. By your last paragraph, it seems that the person is saying that the church corporately should engage in apologetics, but this is not necessarily the responsibility of every individual person in the church. Also, he is juxtaposing defending Christianity and sharing the love of Christ. Does this accurately describe his central concerns?

1 Like

Yes, sir, he believes that the church should engage in apologetics but this is not the responsibility of every believer. Only a select few should engage in this.

I’m sorry, sir, I do not know what you mean by juxtaposition – if it is to contrast or put together. What he meant was that apologetics is different from ‘sharing the love of God’ and he did not even consider apologetics as ‘sharing the love of God’. What he meant by the statement was ‘sharing the gospel’. I’m pretty sure that was what he meant, sir.

I was unable to inquire about where he was coming from which is why I can only frame what he stated in this way.

1 Like

Hi there,

Can I jump in here and say that I have heard similar things where I am in New Zealand. There seems to be a separation in people’s minds about ‘sharing the gospel’ and ‘doing apologetics’ and that it is only for a select few. How would you succinctly describe apologetics and it’s need to a church, not all of whom felt it was necessary?

2 Likes

Okay. Thanks Genesis and Tim. I think I have a better understanding. Certainly the church as a whole is called to apologetics. I think we all agree on that! But it is also true that we have different callings and gifts. Some, for instance, have the gift of mercy. Yet, that doesn’t mean that each individual doesn’t have the responsibility to show mercy. Instead, I would suggest we are all called to show mercy; some are, however, particularly gifted at it. So in regards to your specific question, we might say that some are particularly gifted in engaging with others verbally with evangelism and apologetics. Yet, all of us are to be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope you have (1 Peter 3:15). This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to be a scholar–keep the context of 1 Peter in mind and you will quickly see that Peter is not giving specific instructions on how one might answer (the focus is not on what should be said by how we should say it - “with gentleness and respect”). These answers for why we have hope in Christ will look pretty different–and this is not a bad thing. The church would be pretty one dimensional if everyone had the same interests and gifts. Thank goodness God has not made everyone like me!

I think it would help if we broaden our view of apologetics. I mentioned the context of 1 Peter in the previous paragraph and I think this helps us open our minds to what apologetics should be. Peter is writing to a church going through persecution, a community of believers who feel the sociological and psychological pressures of living in a culture hostile to the gospel. His advice to them was to cling to the gospel and be a different type of people: a holy nation and a kingdom of priests. People who have changed lives and who treat people with mercy, because they know they only stand forgiven because they have received mercy. This is the context for the great apologetic call of 1 Peter 3:15. Once we take stock of this, we see that when the church as a whole lives our calling out, we are, as the missionary/theologian Lesslie Newbigin would say, “the hermeneutic of the gospel.” What he means by this is that our lives actually allow people to make sense of and understand the gospel. When we show mercy, when we love one another, when we sacrifice for others, when we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, when we care about the windows and the orphans, when we stand up for the oppressed and the downtrodden, we are living arguments for the gospel. This does not downplay verbal apologetics arguments and in anyway suggest that they are not needed. Instead, this emphasizes our lives as a living apologetic appeals, which serve as the context by which our verbal arguments are made plausible. Once we see apologetics as integrated with our discipleship and theology of the church, then we see that, of course, everyone is called to apologetics–because we are all responsible to be prepared give an answer for our hope in our own particular contexts (1 Peter 3:15) and because we are all called to show mercy and live out the gospel, which is vital to the task of defending the faith and making an appeal to believe the gospel.

5 Likes

Tim, I answered Genesis in this thread. But I also think it applies to your question. Hope it helps!

2 Likes

Thank you, Sir Josh! Your answer really helps me get the perspective and gives me assurance in my convictions.

2 Likes