Saturday, March 07, 2015

Other People's Faith, More Precious Than Gold

Apologetics is an unpopular line of work. It's difficult on many levels. The modern church is largely intellectually apathetic, in some cases even anti-intellectual. The non-Christian world categorizes apologetics with activities like evangelism and missions. It's "proselytizing", "trying to force your beliefs on other people", etc. (The world has its own forms of apologetics, evangelism, and such on matters like environmentalism, racial issues, and sexual ethics. But they often aren't as critical of themselves as they are of Christians. They reserve terms like "proselytizing" for their enemies.)

In another post, I discussed what Acts 18:27 tells us about the significance of apologetics. Another passage I've found helpful in this context is 1 Peter 1:7. People place high value on money and possessions, yet Peter writes of how other people's faith is more valuable than gold. Apologetics can be instrumental in bringing people to faith or restoring or defending their faith. If the world opposes and hates you in your role as an apologist, and even if the church has little or no interest in your apologetic work or opposes it, what you're doing to lead people to faith and restore and defend people's faith is of major significance. On the day of judgment, I'd rather have years of faithful apologetic work to present than billions of dollars, palaces, and popularity. I'd rather have handled the intellectual aspects of faith responsibly than have to give an account for a lifetime of intellectual neglect. Our minds aren't vestigial organs, in life in general or specifically in the context of religious faith. We'll give an account for the intellectual dimensions of our lives and how we influenced other people in intellectual contexts. How will you do?


  1. Would you say that catechesis precedes apologetics? ISTM muchof our problem with youth and young adults isn't so much an ability to defend faith, but not knowing the content of the faith needing defense?

    1. There will be some degree of explaining the content of the faith in the process of doing apologetics. How much we should teach the faith, as distinguished from arguing for it, will vary depending on the context. Many people won't be willing to do something like attend a class or read a book explaining Christian beliefs, at least initially. If you argue for the beliefs along the way, people are more likely to pay attention, take it seriously, and be interested in learning more. The church has a problem with not doing enough to teach the faith, but it would be a mistake to try to correct that problem before addressing the neglect of apologetics. We can and should do both at the same time. We currently have a junior high church living in a college culture. If people can handle trigonometry and chemistry classes in high school, television programs making a scientific case for naturalistic evolution, anti-Christian books like Bart Ehrman's, etc., it doesn't make sense to say that those same people can't handle a Christian message that goes beyond a junior high level.

    2. The failth is also learned in the home, and the degree of interest shown it by parents doubtless effects children's interest therein. I'm not so much suggesting the neglect of apologetics - which certainly must be taught - but rather solid catechesis incorporating it for school-age and beyond while fixing or replacing the broken system of catechesis for the younger groups. ISTM churches are quick to recognize artsy talents like singing and playing instruments, but give scant recognition to kids who learn their catechisms. I've also observed church officers to be less-than- fully familiar with their own doctrinal standards.Such differential treatment sends a clear message, no?

  2. Good thoughts Jason. And Biblically EVERY Christian is commanded to be an apologist, it's not a special office like a pastor-teacher, it's an every member of the body work.

    Peter makes this abundantly clear and pungent when he directs God's people to be "always ready".

  3. Hello Jason,

    You wrote:

    ==Apologetics is an unpopular line of work.==

    But 'popular' enough that some folk make a very good living as professional apologists.

    ==It's difficult on many levels.==

    Agreed. IMO, much of the 'difficulty' lies in the fact that Christian worldview has fallen woefully short of our Lord's prayer to the Father in John 17:21.

    Grace and peace,


    1. IMO, much of the 'difficulty' lies in the fact that Christian worldview has fallen woefully short of our Lord's prayer to the Father in John 17:21.

      Why is it our job to be the answer to Jesus's prayer to His Father?

    2. Hi David,

      Since there are several billion people in the world, the fact that some individuals make a living from apologetics, sometimes even "a very good living", doesn't have much significance. The fact that so few people are able to make a living from it is pathetic, as is the fact that those who do make a living from it have to go through so many difficulties to make that living.

      I think the context of John 17:21 suggests that Jesus is primarily addressing redemption and other work God has been accomplishing throughout church history, not divisiveness within the church, a failure to have every Christian affiliating with the same denomination, or anything like that. To the extent that the latter are problematic, I agree that apologetic work is made more difficult accordingly.