POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

Intro to Apologetics - Interacting with Wisdom

Continued from Part 4

Whether defending, demonstrating or poignantly calling into question false beliefs and half-truths, every apologist needs to operate in wisdom and dependence on the leading of the Holy Spirit of God.  This requires us to have a well-equipped tool belt and the knowledge to know when and how to allocate the tools.

There is a running joke in our family that has been happening every Christmas for some time. Each year my father-in-law, Terry Monroe, gives me some tool for my collection so that I can fix and build stuff as needed. My father in law is probably the man I respect most in my life, but he also knows I have little current use for such things. Unlike him, I am far from Mr. Fix It or the host of Tool Time. I would rather fix a computer than roof a house, but the tools keep coming! One year he gave me a carpenter’s belt. A leather contraption that holds tape measures, hammers, nails and came with some square pencils. Who knew pencils could be square? I had never seen these before. I asked if I should wear it in a fashion show or to the gym to work out or something!!! But something very different happens when Terry puts on a belt like that: hammers go in, nails fill the pockets and then some magic happens.  You see the difference between Terry and me is skill and wisdom. He has been using tools and completing projects for a long time. He knows which situation requires which tool and precisely how that tool is to be used. On the contrary, most of the time I simply have no clue. My tool belt might be full but I couldn’t get much done; in fact I might just make a mess of things.[1]

There is an analogy here to the realm of apologetics. To defend the faith we must have some good tools. We need to have knowledge and understanding of Christian theology and biblical doctrines. We need to know some good reasons why the core of our faith is true in order to defend it. We need to know why we believe what we do and how to make a case for that. We need to see the weakness in other worldviews in order to humbly question them and their assumptions. These are all great tools but to use them is a matter of skill and wisdom. This only comes with experience and the leading of the Spirit of God. Let me share an example.

Imagine for a moment that you have a friend who is going through a tough time after a family member has passed away and she asks you for the reason you believe in Jesus.  Someone with a full apologetic tool belt has many options here.  He could reach for a hammer and go into a detailed argument for the trustworthy nature of the New Testament based on complicated manuscript counts, repetition of the New Testament passages in the teaching of the church fathers, pontificate about uncials, reliable copying and the transmission of ancient texts. In doing this he would be using a tool but he is also being one. Wisdom would say to point to the comfort of Jesus and the hope found in the gospel. If the conversation then goes to another question we must ask God, in the moment, what the person needs to hear at this time.

Love cares about the person more than winning an argument, and wisdom gives us insight into what the person needs to hear and what they need next in the conversation in order to see Jesus for who he really is. This takes humility and prayer. Douglas Groothuis in his new textbook on Christian apologetics writes the following helpful exhortation:

If we grow in apologetic ability [read tool belt and arguments]—or any other area of competence in ministry—without growing in the grace of humility, an ugly arrogance results, which threatens to blunt or even undermine the force of the best apologetics…Humility embraces prayer and lives within its embrace, whether for apologetics or any other enterprise.[2]

For anyone to engage in evangelism which is undergirded by apologetics she must have two things.  First, she must be fully persuaded that the gospel is true and Jesus the only savior from sin, death and hell. Second, she must love others enough to share that very gospel with actual people in whatever context God provides. This might mean one on one with a neighbor, with groups of friends from sports teams and for some it might mean standing before large crowds of humanity.  Fully persuaded of gospel truth we then seek to persuade others to repent of sin and follow Jesus. This may require the answering of a few questions but again, we must not mind a few questions – we just might find God in them.

Continued in Part 6 - The Road to the Truth


[1] For those who are interested I am actually making good progress under the training of my father-in-law. I have fixed several things around the house and will soon be building a new bridge across the creek behind my house. I will be using that carpenter belt and an unused circular saw I got for Christmas a few years back.  See, anyone can learn with a little effort.

[2] Groothuis, 38.