I found this post by another apologetics-enabled pastor thanks to a tweet from J. Warner Wallace.
I’m going to quote the whole thing in full:
There are those who wholly question the enterprise of Christian apologetics. They assert that God will call those whom he chooses, and apologetics is just a distraction to the work of the Holy Spirit and the revelation of God. This was Karl Barth’s position.
The idea is prima facie nonsense. When a missionary travels to another country to proclaim the gospel, she learns the language of the people so as to communicate in terms that they understand. Apologetics is simply the language the secular world uses to talk about God. To say we shouldn’t practice a rational defense of the Christian faith is like saying the missionary need not study language, because the Holy Spirit can do whatever it wants.
When I was a junior in high school, a church youth group in which I was participating took me to a weekend retreat in hopes of setting up camp in my heart. This was in Southeast Texas, and the only people who ran Christian camps there were Baptists. I remember listening to a firey preacher say quite a bit about hellfire, and I spent a good deal of time after his lectures asking him questions. Admittedly, I had not read the Bible, and he had. The Jesus I wanted to talk about was a projection of the niceties I most enjoyed. He was frustrated with me. I’m sure I was not particularly respectful or informed or interesting to him. And after what was probably a lot of patience, he said to me, “Sometimes you have to stop doubting and just believe.” Of course this was a wasted answer on a thinking person. It was an act of the missionary saying, “I’m tired of learning your language.”
Compassion requires translation. We must be about the work of addressing hard questions with meaningful answers. And the cause of Christian apologetics will always be essential.
Oh, what a world it would be if every pastor was like this. It would be a different world.
And Tim Keller wrote, in his book, The Reason for God, “All doubts, however skeptical and cynical they may seem, are really a set of alternate beliefs.” Whenever we doubt, whenever we question, we are philosophers.
This is also true of evangelism and apologetics – we are all evangelists, we are all apologists; although many wish to distinguish between the two, there is no distinction, for every time we clarify our beliefs to a sceptic, we are defending it from misunderstanding and misrepresentation. The Apostle Peter wrote, in 1 Peter 3:
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”
Here evangelism, apologetics, righteous behaviour and worship are all woven together into one seamless whole – “if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake”; “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy”; “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone”; “the hope that is in you”; “do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience”; it is how we are called to live.
This, indeed, is the role of the church, and we all have our part to play.
Unfortunately our time is often wasted: too many Evangelicals engage in endless debate about worship styles (or, more accurately, musical styles), because, we say, we must find ways of attracting people to church so that we might preach the gospel to them. We organise and promote endless programmes to the same end – fashionable attempts to catch the attention of a fashionable fickle world. Some, perhaps, have merit, and some, perhaps, are reached; but sooner or later we must explain what we believe, why we believe it and why unbelievers don’t; and, we must learn to do this on ‘their’ turf, in terms they understand.
There’s that view again, that preaching the gospel without any evidence to strangers is what causes them to become Christians. Just bring them to church and preach at them – that will turn Muslims and Hindus into Christians, they tell us. I don’t think it works, though.
I was just having a chat with a certain lady who lives in the South who was explaining to me about what a poor job Christians are doing (in general) of evangelizing down there. Apparently, they are often doing one of three things. 1) they ask people to come to church, 2) they ask people to read the Bible, or 3) they preach the bare gospel message to them and hope that this will magically work to convince people to become Christians.
I think that sometimes Christians can be so enveloped in their own culture that they forget how to talk to people from outside that culture. In fact when you look at those 3 approaches, the main common denominator seems to be a complete unwillingness to inquire into the person’s current views and life situation. Instead of trying to have some context in which to maneuver, the popular approach seems to be to dismiss all of that inquiring into the other person’s views. And even if the questions are asked about where the other person is coming from, then there is still work that needs to be done to answer those questions. Work that isn’t being done in many cases.
I think that the most common Biblical model agrees with this, too. In the Bible, if you could authenticate your message using miracles, then you did that, as with Jesus and the paralytic. If you couldn’t do miracles, then you pointed to other miracles that someone else had done, like Peter in Acts. But always you were aware and informed about what your opponents believed, in order to counter them, like Jesus vs the Sadducees, or Paul vs the Greeks. I think we need to do better than just expecting that people will believe you based on your say-so instead of having non-rational and rational objections that need to be addressed first.