I don’t know about you but when I’m chatting to someone about Christianity or Philosophy I always appreciate and enjoy the conversations where the person I’m speaking to seems to take a genuine interest in what I’m saying, listens to my points, doesn’t constantly interrupt me and takes my point of view seriously even if they disagree with what I’m saying. As human beings there seems that there’s an almost innate hostility to people who speak to/at us in the opposite way’s I described above, this is because it is not just having the truth but its communicating it in a manner that is both respectful and gentle as commanded in 1 Peter 3:15-16.
You see, knowing the gospel and seeking to persuade people that it can be trusted through apologetic evangelism is only one facet of our role as Christian ambassadors, we must ‘always’ communicate these truths in a loving manner that builds a solid foundation for the truth we seek to convey. It is simply not enough to treat other human beings as mere debate victims to our ‘alleged’ superior use of philosophy and logic, we have a duty to season everything we say with love, grace, gentleness and respect with or without the answers. Apologetics at least anecdotally can seem to draw types of people who have a love of combat, they enjoy the thrill of debate and there is nothing inherently wrong with such a natural disposition. However such a disposition can often result in the love of intellectual combat overpowering a graceful and humble attitude towards the person we are talking to. This is why it’s so important for apologists to make sure they are constantly relying and depending upon Gods gift of grace towards us, remembering that we were once rebels!
There has and is still a tendency for apologetics to be separated from evangelism and treated as some type of metaphysical jousting match with little thought for the person on the receiving end of our arguments, rhetoric and Gospel. Admittedly, there is a time and a place to be firm and unforgiving in our defence of the gospel but more often than not this is not a tact required by the person we are engaging with. Even in such a scenario it is not to say that to be firm and unforgiving necessarily means communicating in a graceless and unloving way, Christian Philosophers such as William Lane Craig and Ravi Zacharias often find themselves in challenging circumstances yet still manage to season their speech with grace, ‘gentleness and respect’.
Greg Koukl in his great book ‘Tactics’ challenges Christians to leave a pebble in peoples shoes so that our discussion with them will leave them with a niggle to think about what we shared with them. This is wise advice that we should all take on board, but unfortunately when we fail to season our apologetics with grace instead of a pebble we leave a thorn that leaves only a painful reminder of the last discussion they had with a Christian. Our apologetics must accompany an evangelistic and missional mindset and never be devoid of grace.
Jesus in Mark 12:31 describes what is probably the worlds most well known moral maxim, ‘Love our neighbour as yourself’, what this means for our apologetic is that we must make sure that through all our discussion whether that be on Twitter, Facebook or down the shops that our apologetic evangelism is always seasoned with grace. We must talk to people as we would wish to be spoken to.
This article is also available at my blog over at Apologetics UK.