Working in apologetics is not something that should be done carelessly. While no one can claim to be the perfect apologist, it is important that as we approach these discussions, we come to the table with a strategy for engagement. I do not know if any of you are chess players like I am, but as I was thinking about the way that we help those around us understand the rationality of the Christian worldview, there are many lessons that we can learn from one of the most heavily analyzed board games in world history.
I think that there is first a comparison in regards to the structure of the game itself. As you know, every chess piece has a different function, but all of them can be used to make a checkmate. One of my favorite checkmates was one where I pinned my opponent with two pawns and the king. I think that this points towards the fact that everyone can and should be involved in apologetics. We might not have all of the ability of William Lane Craig or Ravi Zacharias, but we can still be used by God for His glory. God can use whatever pieces He wants to; He is very good at using even the most unlikely people to do great things. All of us should have a reason for the hope that we have.
Next, when you approach a chess match, you know what you want to do. I know that when I play, I have a preferred strategy, and I always open the game the same way. In apologetics, you will also probably have your area of strength. We might be drawn to different topics. You could be interested in the resurrection of Jesus Christ or the historicity of the Bible. It is important to have these areas that we have extensive knowledge in and are comfortable with on a more substantial level.
An important consequence of having a specialty is that we are all different. We can strengthen the field as a whole by being strong in different areas. Since it is hard for any individual to become an expert in everything, we can work together based upon our own interests and specialties. However, you can only do that if you have specialties to begin with.
At the same time, I also think that most chess players can identify a time when a match did not go as planned. Even though you might go in with your best foot forward, you need to adapt on the fly. This is why we do not want to become entirely one-dimensional. If I only know the minimal facts argument in regards to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I am going to be in trouble if someone challenges me with a question about the conquering of Canaan and the morality of it. I don’t need to be an expert in every area, but it is definitely valuable to at least be informed in a variety of popular areas so that you can adapt when things don’t go with you planned them. Sometimes, being informed simply means knowing another resource to point towards if you don’t know the answer.
There is kind of a tension between my last two points. How much of a specialist or generalist do you want to be? The answer is different for everyone, but everyone I have ever met in this field at least has a little bit of each of these characteristics. For example, my favorite area of study is probably the historicity of the resurrection if you can’t tell from the number of times I referenced it in this article. I would not claim to be an expert yet, but it is where I focus most of my attention. That being said, I don’t just read about that event. I try to read about a variety of topics just to be familiar enough that I can approximately handle those deviations that are bound to come up occasionally in these types of conversations.
These are some of the reasons that both chess and apologetics have appealed to me over the years. We all have different talents and abilities, and we all have different interests and specialties. While it might seem overwhelming, if we take apologetics as a community endeavor as well as an individual one, we will find a healthy balance.