Apologetics is the rational case for Christianity through offering arguments and/or evidence for its truth, defending it against objections, and responding to competing claims. 1 Peter 3:15 says “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense (literally give apologetic) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
As you read this passage, Peter is clear that apologetics is motivated by a character that is submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. As we regard Christ as special in our hearts, we become “prepared” to be a great apologist. I have found the opposite to be true in my life as well. As I am sharpened and more grounded in good reasons for my faith, I am willing to give more of my heart over to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
I had a fairly childish faith when I started college. I desperately wanted to follow Christ, but my desire never seemed to take root. However, my first semester at Truman State University, I was challenged in three different classes about my faith. In Psychology, I was told that anyone who wanted to pursue academics needed to check their faith at the door. In Biology, my professor talked about the “fact” of evolution and how the idea of God is ridiculous. In Sociology, I was berated with 6 weeks of atheist apologetics which left my faith in shambles. I was scared, confused, and ready to leave my faith behind.
It was in that moment in time, God placed in my path a wise Campus Crusade staffer who challenged me to read Dr. Moreland’s “Love God with All Your Mind”. This book, more than any other, challenged me to think deeply and rationally about my faith. At the end of that series, I walked away feeling significantly more confident in defending my faith.
But, you know what else happened? I started to take my faith more seriously. Desire shifted toward character. As I was more confident in my faith, I found myself naturally giving Jesus more of my heart.
The same can be true for you. Take time to explore those questions that you have about your faith, Jesus, other religions and the tensions you are currently holding in your own pursuits. These, I believe, can be the difference in giving your heart to Jesus.
Dr. J.P. Moreland, in his address to the Association of Christian Schools International (2001) said this:
“So understood, an apologetic character is not a set of answers a person memorizes and adds to a life otherwise defined without regard to the apologetic mandate. No, an apologetic character is a way of being present in the world, an approach to life, a part of the very structure of one’s embodied soul. Just as there is a difference between someone who can spit out answers from one’s home medical book and a skilled physician who sees the world as a doctor, so there is a difference between one who memorizes a set of answers to certain apologetic questions and one who has an apologetic character. An apologetic character is part of the very warp and woof of one’s journey, of one’s very life as a disciple. So understood, it will increasingly exemplify a set of virtues and exhibit mastery of a range of skills … The development of an apologetic character cannot be reduced to mastery of a set of questions and answers, to a set of skills, or even to a list of virtues. While such a set or list is very helpful for focusing one’s training efforts, we must never forget that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Training believers to exemplify an apologetic character includes, but goes far beyond, any list of answers, skills, or virtues. It is an entire way of living.”
I encourage you to “set apart Christ as Lord of your heart” – have a way of living that is surrendered to Him. I encourage you to “be prepared to give a defense…”, not just a list of answers to tough questions, but a life that is prepared (though rational apologetic study). This character of apologetics could perhaps be the most life-changing shift you make in your own life as you do it in step with the Holy Spirit.
- What questions, tensions, or outright disbelief takes residence in your heart/mind?
- What are some areas of your life that have not been surrendered to Christ’s Lordship? What questions/beliefs/ideas do you think could be tied to those areas?
- What would it look like to live an ‘apologetic character’ in your life? What are some specific, tangible steps you can make right now?