Kevin’s Conversations: Giving A Defense or Creating An Offense?
“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” – I Peter 3:15
Merriam-Webster defines apologetics as, “systematic argumentative discourse in defense (as of a doctrine)”, or alternatively as, “a branch of theology devoted to the defense of the divine origin and authority of Christianity.” If we want to state it simply, we may say apologetics is a defense of the Christian faith.
Apologetics is an area of interest for me in which I will sometimes spend time reading and learning and exploring. As one whose make-up and personality is geared more towards the logical as opposed to the emotional, the subject has greater appeal to me than maybe it would some others. At the same time, I would barely qualify as an amateur on the topic as there are many others who are far more versed in apologetic subjects and arguments than I.
1 Peter 3:15 is usually the go to verse for those who like to spend their time in apologetics. Now I am sure there are theologians who could dissect the context and full meaning of the verse and argue that the application to today’s concept of apologetics is not a flawless correlation. Nonetheless, I do think we should make efforts to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Not that we will ever have every single base covered in every microscopic detail, even for those who may be led by God to become more involved in the study of these things. But we still want to be able to give some “defense” when asked, rather than to return a blank stare or to give a stream of rambling mumbo-jumbo that makes no cognitive sense.
I tend to think the learning or studying of apologetics has two overarching purposes. The first one is what already has been basically stated here. That being we want to be able to give an answer or defense to those who ask for the reason for our hope. When asked, the obvious answer is always “Jesus”, but many situations and the specific questions asked compel us to expand our answer a bit beyond Jesus and the basic gospel. The assumption is that those asking are likely to be unbelievers. And they may have quite an array of questions, skeptically or antagonistically or in genuine curiosity, that could cover a wide variety of subjects in relation to our faith.
We never know when we may have the opportunity to plant seeds. Sometimes that may come in the form of giving reasoned answers for our hope and faith. We would like to be prepared to do so. Peter exhorts us to do as much.
The second purpose for why we learn and study apologetics, and some may see it as the primary purpose, is for the strengthening of our own faith. When any believer first comes to faith in Christ, they certainly do not have a grasp on all Christian doctrine and theology and belief. Of course, we never perfectly grasp it all at any point in our lives. No one can ever fully understand the mind of God. But we would surely hope to come to learn more and grow in the faith as we mature. And coming to a solid understanding for why we believe what we believe helps in that process.
We can gain confidence and certainty in our faith when we learn and see a reasoned basis for it. Rather than potentially coming to see it as something we may have just “inherited” from our parents or haphazardly accepted at some point in our lives on an emotional whim. Laying aside for the moment the theological debates of whether or not faith is given to us by God or if we can lose our faith or walk away from it, we do see real life situations where people doubt and struggle with their faith. While there is much more to faith than just an intellectual component, if we decide to ignore that component the doubts and pressures of life could lead to a crisis of faith that’s missing a key constituency to keep us stabilized. God does instruct us to worship Him with not only our heart and soul, but also our mind.
Now, what got me thinking about this subject was the debate the other night. Yes, that debate. The one that primarily consisted of, “Yeah, but look how horrible my opponent is.” Lord, have mercy on our nation.
When we debate or discuss or argue apologetic subjects, how do we do it? Whether it is with unbelievers or fellow believers? Our debate may not always be something that we shoe horn into “apologetics”, but rather covers other theological topics or differing matters altogether.
Are we giving our answers, our defense, with gentleness and respect? Is the ultimate concern in our discussion to get to and find truth and to do it considerately? Or is it the pride to prove ourselves and our positions to be right? Is it to gain victory? To humiliate our opponent? Do we seek out debate to show off our superiority? Are people looking at us like that debate Sunday night and concluding that we are a sorry case of pompousness and ridiculousness and hopelessness?
Very few of us have the opportunity to participate in an “official” debate. But the opportunities abound all around us in everyday life to enter into debate or some form of like discussion. We do it all the time here at this blog. We do it at work. We do it with friends and family. Some may do it more than others, but we all have those times when we give our thoughts and opinions on a subject with another person who is of differing belief.
Do we faithfully represent Christ when we have these discussions? When asked, are we able to give an answer for the hope that we have? And can we give that answer in gracious manner? Are we gracious when we discuss and debate any topic, with believers and unbelievers alike?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want others to have any inkling of thought about me similar to the thoughts I had about the participants of the presidential debate. Sadly, I sometimes give them reason to have those thoughts.
Lord, help us to be prepared to give answers about your truths and the hope we have in You. Help us to give those answers with gentleness and respect.