Growing up, my Dad taught me apologetics. He was really excited about it, and good at it too. As someone who studied under Norman Geisler at Southern Evangelical Seminary, my Dad got some of the best training out there. As a result, He taught me a lot of what I now know. I found myself eating it up! I am a person who defined himself as a “dumb kid” for most of my life, so finally grasping something and understanding it well fueled me. The more I dove into apologetics, the more I found myself loving Jesus. It was actually apologetics and worldview training that motivated me to open up my Bible for myself, and not just because my parents or youth pastor told me to.
But something happened.
The Bible that I consumed became stale, like old bread. The apologetics arguments I had learned became familiar and rehearsed. There was not life in it anymore.
What I discovered through prayer and being mentored is that I was using what I knew about apologetics and the Bible to feel worthy before Him.
Finally! I wasn’t the dumb kid anymore. My heart felt fixed for a moment! I could contribute, and contribute well. But my heart wanted more than just knowledge, it wanted acceptance. It wanted love.
Here is my point, apologetics is not the “missing piece” to your church if it does not continuously point back to Jesus. I’ve seen enough people walk away from the faith AFTER they were trained in apologetics to learn… we still have a heart problem. It is our inability to embrace ourselves in our brokenness that is the issue. If we reject ourselves, how can we receive love from God? That is what I had done for so many years, and still do. I falsely concluded that I must make myself “acceptable” before God before He can accept me. When all the while Jesus is there alongside you, ready to embrace you when you can see yourself through His eyes.
If you use apologetics as your spiritual kick, I promise you that there is no life in that. The goal of apologetics is to convince unbelievers and strengthen the reasonable faith of believers. But we still have a heart problem. Apologetics can never replace confession, it can never replace being known fully, it can never replace living out the true self of being a beloved child of God. Apologetics helps people think clearly, and the goal of thinking clearly is to be led to the person of Jesus.
Apologetics is a key part of discipleship, but discipleship is more than just apologetics. This is why I believe in a wholistic approach to apologetics. Some people will want to know why the B-Theory of time is not an adequate objection to the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Some people don’t know (or care) what that last sentence meant! And that’s ok. Every believer in Jesus is given a gift for supporting the body of Christ, and not everyone is going to lead an apologetics ministry. But, every believer can benefit from apologetics (knowing what you believe and why you believe it).
I believe every person should be taught at least the simple apologetics. Arguments such as how we know Jesus was a real person, and why we have good reason to believe that He rose from the dead. There it is, apologetics. But apologetics, knowledge, arguments, all of what that offers can never replace allowing the Holy Spirit to work in your heart. The knowledge is good! But the Christian life is allowing the knowledge you have to transform your life by the means obedience to the Spirit. It is in this space where you find real freedom.