Right now is a great time to be an apologist. We are living in a period of time where apologetics is booming, both in academic and everyday life. It’s never been easier to get your hands on material that can strengthen your faith and empower your evangelism, and the time to utilize these resources has never been more urgent. With the rise of the current missions movement abroad, religious persecution in the Middle East, and increasing secularization in America and Europe, being equipped to give a defense of the Gospel wherever it is challenged is no longer optional; it is required if you are to be a witness in today’s world.
Every movement has it’s obstacles to overcome, and the apologetics movement is no different. Right now we are living in what one apologist has described as “the anti-intellectual age of the church”, and we are seeing the fruit of this anti-intellectualism wreck havoc on churches and Christians, many whom end up leaving the church when they arrive at college. Another consequence of this anti-intellectualism is the rise of apathy – Christians just do not seem to care about defending their faith or developing a solid worldview.
I’ve been pondering what the biggest hindrance to this movement is. Is it the problem of the anti-intellectual church? Is it the apathetic indifference of the average Christian? Is it the lack of funding, or publicity, or accessibility? What is holding this movement back from accelerating a full speed?
My personal opinion: apologists are the biggest hindrance of the apologetics movement.
Hear me out: I don’t believe apologists *in and of themselves* are the biggest hindrance. Obviously the work of diligent apologists, both professional and layperson, has born much fruit already! I also don’t believe that the problems listed above aren’t considerable challenges for us to face; indeed, they are tall, looming obstacles to overcome. When I say that apologists are the biggest hindrances, I am talking about a specific type of apologist: the unloving apologist.
The problem with the unloving apologist is that they are everywhere. They may not have the audience of William Lane Craig or Lee Strobel, yet they have a bigger influence in the lives of their congregation than the heavyweights do. They may not travel the nation on speaking tours at sold out college lecture halls, yet collectively they can impact numerous churches every week. The problem is not that they have tense moments or occasionally lose their cool; we have all had encounters where we failed to love others. The problem is that these apologists routinely show a lack of love for others; they are unloving people in general. They are not what Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13: “4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…” (1 Cor 13:4-5 ESV).
The main thrust of 1 Cor 13 is that love makes or breaks us. Without love, all of our efforts, publishing, researching, debating, evangelizing, studying, sharing – it all goes down the drain (vv 2-3). It doesn’t take a moral failing of a big-name apologist to turn off the Church from taking apologetics seriously – all it takes is hundreds of average Joe apologists in congregations across the country who are rude, disrespectful, arrogant, and condescending to convince Christians that apologetics isn’t worth it.
There are Christians who won’t consider apologetics even if their fellow apologist gives the shirt off their back and sells their house for the Kingdom. That problem is in their heads. However, where we see an apologist live without the love of Christ, we must admonish them to show love rather than win every argument at any cost. If that apologist is ourselves – if we are the ones who are not living a life of love – then we must repent immediately and drink deeply of the sacrificial love of Christ. We should keep in mind, as apologist Jim Spiegel wrote, “When it comes to proving religious truth, an ounce of love is worth a ton of argument.” (1)
1: Spiegel, James (2010-01-21). The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief (Kindle Location 1191). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.