Apologetics was a word I heard a lot as a college student in evangelical Christian circles. Books by authors such as Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell were essential tools for helping to nurture my faith while attending an overwhelmingly secular college. I’m not exaggerating to say that I turned to them at least monthly to find an answer to some new challenge to Christian faith.
Fast forward ten years to studying in a graduate theology program… Apologetics never really came up in three years of courses. My classmates and I talked about it–about how we wish we were more familiar with how to articulate arguments for the faith in a concise, compelling way–but while our courses prepared us to answer deep theological questions from professors, our advanced studies didn’t necessarily make answering the blunt questions from friends and family any easier.
Over at the Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Glenn B. Siniscalchi shines some much needed (redeeming) light on the topic of apologetics. Quoting Paul Griffiths, he notes: “the term [apologetics] has passed into popular currency, to the extent that it has, as a simple label for argument in the service of a predetermined orthodoxy, arguments concerned not to demonstrate but to convince, and, if conviction should fail, to browbeat into submission.” I think this is precisely why it’s a challenge for institutions of higher education to incorporate apologetics into theological education.
But, Siniscalchi rightly argues that regardless of the connotation of apologetics today, apologetics as a spiritual discipline, as an aspect of faith formation at all levels–from the pew to academia, is worth redeeming.
It is strange that apologetics would be so lowly esteemed in so many Christian circles. Apologetics is needed now more than ever. The New Testament writers and early Church Fathers had to be heavily apologetical, for there was no Christian influence in culture yet. In a post-Christian context, it seems reasonable that we should have the same approach.
In Siniscalchi’s words, apologetics and ministry are two different sides of the same evangelical coin. It’s worth the read, check out the whole essay.