As I prepare to write a review for Andy Bannister’s newest book The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist or the Dreadful Consequences of Bad Arguments, it occurred to me that the only thing worse than a bad argument for Christianity may be no argument for Christianity.
Andy may not agree and to be sure, I mean it with my tongue placed squarely inside of my cheek, but there is definitely an equal playing field for those who give bad arguments and those who don’t even try.
“It is the distinction of Christianity that it has come into the world clothed with the mission to reason its way to dominion. Other religions may appeal to the sword, or seek some other way to propagate themselves. Christianity makes its appeal to right reason, and stands out among all religions, therefore, as distinctively the ‘Apologetic religion.’-BB Warfield
It really is a great tragedy.
After the past couple of decades, tons of evidence that the Church is shrinking and losing its influence, the hemorrhaging of young people from our congregations, and the constant ebb of progressivism on the Western Culture, we have been content to sit in our leather wingbacks and throw theological mud on our apologetic opponents and condescending condemnation on our liberal laymen and laywomen.
If you were so inclined to look at social media, it wouldn’t take you very long at all to find a ministerial mudslinging contest between two theological welter weights on what is happening in the culture and what to do about it. If you read the comment section far enough, you might even find a discussion on which apologetic method is acceptable and maybe even worse, which is not.
What you will not find,
except on the occasional shared post, is the person explaining how they have been successful in convincing their church, leadership, or pastor, to begin aggressively pursuing the equipping of the Saints to be obedient to the command in 1 Peter 3:15!
“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15, ESV)
After so many of us thought that Christianity was entering into a new renaissance of Christian thought, we are finding that we should’ve thought better.
Pastors are busy doing their jobs. They are often understaffed and are attempting to squeeze counseling, visitation, administrative duties, with sermon preparation and balance that with their responsibility as a husband and father.
Elders and deacons are usually either ill equipped themselves or are disinterested in apologetics. They have congregations that complain, budgets to meet, dissentions to address, and families of their own along with 40-60 hour/week jobs.
“He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:9, ESV)
Congregations are caught up in who’s going to win the SEC championship and the latest Walking Dead episode as well as working a job, taking care of their home, and choosing the worst of two evils to run their country.
Of course all of this is exaggeration…NOT!
It’s the truth for the majority of churches and it’s the very reason apologetics can’t seem to gain a beachhead in the pews. It remains the one challenge that good apologists need to overcome.
J Warner Wallace puts it well…
It’s easy to reach those in the Church who are already interested in “apologetics”. That’s no longer my goal. I want to interest the disinterested, challenge those who don’t yet recognize the challenge, and engaged those who feel disengaged. If we hope to change the direction of the Church and grow a movement of thoughtful, intellectually robust Christian ambassadors, we’re going to need to reach those who are disinterested. —J Warner Wallace (from, Reaching Those Who Are Disinterested)2
Talk is cheap.
A great many excited apologist goes into a church wanting to turn the world on its head only to find that the only thing getting turned upside down is their plan. You can have a good plan, a great plan, the best plan (sorry for the parody), present it passionately to a great group of leaders, and never gain one inch toward implementing it, at least in a year or two. That’s for one reason. Churches move slowly. Nothing happens fast in church. Change is resisted vehemently and new folks with passions are suspect. If you don’t believe me, look at Church History.
The Reformation, a movement we think of as happening in a couple of day’s time, took decades-or should I say generations.
In comparison, if you’re a member of the PCA like me, you understand that committees must be formed to form committees to study the proper use of, application of, and implementation of apologetics. Then, if it passes muster, you may be allowed to speak to the session about your “plan”. Ha-ha-ha-ha! (sinister laugh)
Talking a good game ain’t going to get it.
Apologetics brick by brick
One idea that I have been beating around is the one of discipleship.
Discipleship is not usually done one on twenty. It’s usually not even one on two. Usually discipleship is done one on one.
It requires patience, discipline, and takes time. It’s a personal risk. But, the result of discipleship is faithfulness, and that’s the goal.
Maybe discipleship is a more effective means of gaining the affections of a church for apologetics.
You can catch a bunch of fish, cook them up, put them on big slices of Texas Toast, and hand them out to a class of fifty. If you’re good, and the audience is above average, you might get two or three people to read a book that you recommend on fishing or the ten healthiest ways to cook fish.
But, if you teach another person to fish and teach him to teach his buddy to fish, then you’ve started a movement that creates fishermen and you have a new fishing buddy because you have invested in a person rather than a presentation. You have given of yourself instead of taking their time. You have risked a relationship. That carries weight. That creates community. That starts a movement.
Strength in numbers
Now, instead of one guy trying to convince the church leaders of the necessity of apologetics, there are two or three or ten people spreading apologetics into each facet of the church. In Sunday School someone relates the lesson to a proper defense of Scripture. During small group a person shares his experience with a skeptical friend. At the next business meeting, a deacon shares his new passion to obey the command to defend the Faith.
You get it. Like Butch Jones (football coach for the UT Volunteers) likes to say, “Brick by brick”.
There’s a lot of truth to that.
So it’s hard to get apologetics in your church?
So what? Get apologetics in your friend. Tell him to do the same.
As you build friendships, disciple brothers and sisters, communicate your passion for defending the Faith and the necessity to obey the command to do so, one on one, man to man, woman to woman, friend to friend, in community- your passion may spread faster than any conference or presentation ever could.
Apologetics ministries can be built brick by brick.
If you’re struggling to get on your apologetics feet, be faithful and do your duty. You may not be the architect. You may be the mason.
 Geisler, N. L. (1999). In Baker encyclopedia of Christian apologetics (p. 768). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.