Have you ever started a project, or an important job, only to realize that you had the totally wrong tools? I remember only recently having an experience like that. While I was away at college, my car started to have engine problems. So, I took it to a mechanic, only to get that dreaded message: your alternator is out. If I didn’t get my alternator replaced, I wouldn’t be able to drive my car. That’s a sad thought for a college student, mostly because we have no money! Being broke, I needed to change it myself. Now, if you know me for any length of time, you will quickly realize that I’m not exactly a handy guy. I had no idea what I was doing, nor did I possess the tools for the job. Thankfully, with the help of a friend, and a couple of YouTube videos later, the alternator was changed: mission accomplished.
When I reflect back on my one and only mechanic triumph, I can’t help but ask: what would I have done if I didn’t have the right tools (or a good friend with the right tools!)? Without the right tools, one will always be at a loss when faced with a task or challenge. The same holds true when we begin to consider Christian apologetics. If the apologist lacks the essential tools of an apologist, he will eventually fail when challenged. So I want to ask you, what tools do you have in your apologetics toolbox? In this brief series I want to consider some of the essentials of good apologetics.
Being a prepared apologist begins with being a good Christian. All too often, at least in my own life and walk, I have found it too easy to focus on my apologetic to the neglect of my Christian walk, and my relationship with Christ. Because of this, one of the lessons Christ has had to teach me is that good apologetics is a balance. It’s about getting to the place where we are as spiritual as we are intellectual. If this is true, and I wholeheartedly believe that it is, then the spiritual disciplines are among our most important tools.
The first discipline vital to the apologist, and the Christian, is daily Bible reading. The Word of God is quick and powerful (Heb. 4:12). It accomplishes the end to which God sends it (Isa. 55:11). One of the ends to which God sends His Word is the revelation of God. It reveals the mind of God to us by the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10-14). So if the Christian apologist is to know God, he must begin by seeking him in the word of God. That is where our daily relationship with God our Father occurs. Jesus emphasized this in John 15:10-11. By abiding in Christ and obeying His word, we find answered prayer and lasting peace in the presence of Jesus. This is radically important. What use is apologetics if not the Glory of God, and bringing people to him? An abiding relationship with Christ in the Word transforms us by the washing of the water of the word into the image of Jesus. That is the greatest goal for any Christian. That is the end to which the apologist must strive.
But not only does the Word reveal God to us, strengthen us spiritually, and make us like Christ, a functional knowledge of the Bible is essential to doing apologetics accurately. Many objections that people have to the Christian faith arise from a faulty understanding of various Biblical texts, or supposed contradictions. That is a big challenge for the apologist who may know arguments for God, but knows little of the Bible. How can one expect to accurately answer questions on these issues without a working knowledge of theology, the Bible, and the context of a passage? The simple answer: you can’t.
The Bible is an important tool. As an apologist, I challenge you to drink deep. Feed your spirit on the Word of God. Know Christ revealed in it, and let it change you into his image and likeness. Learn it thoroughly. Get some theology books. Learn to study the Bible. Many questions will be answered better by accurate interpretation than they will by purely intellectual ideas.