“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates (469-399 BC)
I often get the impression that people – even those already interested in apologetics – feel they just don’t have time for apologetics. It is as if I can ‘hear’ them thinking, “well, that is for you apologists, but the rest of us (with real lives) simply don’t have time for things like that.” What they may not realize, is that most apologists are ‘tentmakers,’ like the apostle Paul, supporting their missionary work through some other profession. Apologists are pretty busy too.
I can easily count the apologists who earn their living through apologetics work. All but a few have some other career which is their primary means of support. The church simply does not value apologetics enough at this point to fund it. One doesn’t just say, “I want to be an apologist when I grow up,” head off to school, and get hired into an apologetics job upon graduation.
This is not so much a complaint (here) as an insight; we love apologetics and we love the church, so we press on. It is simply the current reality, but an important one to recognize for the budding apologist. You are not going to get to some point in your life where becoming an apologist is easy, nor likely where someone pays you to do it. You just need to start NOW.
So, how then does a busy person become skilled at apologetics?
Leaning one’s craft seems to require three basic components: resources, time, and motivation. As the title of this article indicates, we’ll mostly focus on the time component, but I want to briefly address the others as well.
When I started learning about apologetics, resources were sparse and required far more effort to gather. There were a few books by authors such as Lee Strobel or Josh McDowell. Every now and then, one might run across an apologetics oriented discussion on some product or interest BBS forum (this was before the Internet). There were a few ministries with radio programs beginning to address the topic. A friend got me started by lending a few RC Sproul and White Horse Inn cassette tapes. I was hooked.
Today, resources abound! There are a lot more books and many of the ministries have podcasts. There are apologetics web sites everywhere, and even some insanely useful apologetics aggregators, such as Apologetics315 and The Poached Egg. Various apologists fill social media like Twitter and Facebook with streams of resources every day. The problem becomes almost the opposite; there is now too much to keep up with. No excuses in this category!
This category is key. This is the reason many of us have attended school at some point in our lives. Having that accountability in the form of money spent, or at least exams, keeps us focused on the goal. But other motivations exist as well, such as a yearning to be a good disciple of Christ. There are communities of apologists who check in with one another, but it can certainly just be a friend from church. And while there may not be exams, if you start talking to people about your faith or teaching others, the pressure will soon be on to learn more.
“If someone doesn’t think they need apologetics, one has to wonder if they have tried evangelizing lately.” – Bobby Conway (1)
Most people are pretty busy these days. Some are extremely busy. However, I don’t think that is a good excuse, and I’ll explain why. For roughly twenty years now, I’ve been loading apologetics knowledge into my mind. I’ve been a pretty busy person over that time; sometimes, insanely busy. For example, I’ve learned apologetics while running an IT consulting firm. I’ve learned apologetics while working a more than full-time job AND earning my BA, simultaneously. I continued to learn apologetics while in graduate school AND being a full-time dad to an infant and toddler simultaneously.
As you can imagine (or have first-hand knowledge of), when you’re that busy, you don’t have much time to read books or attend classes and conferences. But, I’ll bet you have time to listen to podcasts and lectures. I used my commute time when working away from home, and time doing laundry and dishes, etc. when working at home. For some jobs, you may even be able to learn while working.
You likely won’t learn things as quickly this way, but over time the knowledge will seep in as you are exposed to similar material over and over, and the materials begin to overlap. It is an opportunity to use such times more wisely which almost everyone has.
For this reason, we’re planning to start a podcast for TilledSoil.org. I would strongly suggest other apologetics ministries do so as well. It is a form of communication that is going to become increasingly utilized, and might be the only way you will reach a too-busy person.
The other issue for most of us is priorities. Even at my busiest points, I probably had at least a little time I could have devoted to learning apologetics which I chose to spend on something else. For the average person, this is quite a lot of time. How much time do you spend watching TV or movies, playing video games, or surfing the Internet? Many of us, aside from our busiest times, actually spend a great deal of time on activities we could dip into if we changed our priorities.
We don’t have time not to do apologetics!
In the world in which Christians find themselves today, skipping apologetics is simply not an option. Every Christian is called to be an apologist on some level. And yes, the Bible tell us so! But aside from that, we need to be persuasive in such a culture. Os Guinness notes that we have mostly lost this ability today. (2) He says that many Christians (especially in America) don’t know how to persuade. They can preach, protest, proclaim, or pronounce, but they aren’t persuasive to the culture. Is it any wonder why the culture is going in the direction it is?
“We should not ask ‘what is wrong with the world?’ for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather, we should ask, ‘What has happened to the salt and light?'” — John Stott
I could give you page after page of quotes by prominent apologists, theologians, and church leaders about the urgent need for apologetics. The fact that you need to get involved should not be in question. I’m trying to help with the HOW.
Where do I start?
First, you are going to need a media player of some kind. While your computer will work just fine when you’re actually in front of it, to maximize learning in your spare-time, you’re going to need to be mobile—like ‘in your pocket’ mobile. If you are on a tight budget, you can find very inexpensive players, but this comes at a time-cost of being harder to manage. My recommendation would be investing in a tool such as an iPod touch or iPhone. This way you can get many more uses out of the device beyond our needs here. You can also do things like take text notes or audio memos of things you’re learning or reminders to re-listen to something later.
Subscribe to a couple of good podcasts to start. While I don’t want to discourage anyone from RC Sproul or the White Horse Inn where I began, I’d start with Greg Koukl’s Stand to Reason podcast, or J. Warner Wallace’s PleaseConvinceMe podcast. Then, begin to branch off as you hear guests you like or discover other podcasts, being sure to add a variety of apologetic focuses (ie: theology, history, science, etc.)
Once you start getting comfortable with these, add in a podcast by a skeptic or start interacting on-line in some discussion. This will begin to show you where you are weak in what you have been learning. Begin to take opportunities to calmly discuss apologetics issues with people you meet. You’ll be surprised at how easy this is once you’ve begun to master the information. It is being uninformed and feeling cornered which bring out the tense and angry dialog (or, simple avoidance) I so often run into in such discussions.
You need to start somewhere and the time is now. The quality of your discipleship, and in some measure, the health of society, depends on your doing so.
This article was first published at TilledSoil.org. Copyright © 2013 TilledSoil.org. All rights reserved.
1. “Apologist Interview: Bobby Conway” – Apologetics315 08/26/2012
2. WHI-1168 | The Case for Civility – http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2013/08/25/whi-1168-the-case-for-civility/