Guest post by Brandon Tejedor
I’m very much convinced that there is a need in the church for Apologetics. I am equally convinced that the field of Apologetics needs major reform. I don’t have it figured out, but here’s a few things:
- As Zach has pointed out, there is little-to-no room for doubt in most churches. I believe this is horrible. Doubt is not the bane of faith. My faith was and IS forged by my doubt more often than not. And it doesn’t come from reading catchy phrases that win arguments, but months and years of wrestling with challenges. In this I believe churches have failed me miserably, though great Christian academics and scholars have made up for that failing to some degree.
A church that can not engage doubt honestly in both intellectual and existential ways is not one likely to flourish, and is simultaneously failing and pushing away today’s intelligentsia.
- Christian Orthodoxy needs some serious refocusing. I don’t know how Young Earth Creationism, Capitalist Economics, Plenary Verbal Inspiration, and the right to bear arms all became nearly as important as “Jesus is Lord” but the list of requirements to be a Christian, especially a “good” Christian have grown so long that I’m worried about tying my shoes correctly. Now many of us do have firm conviction on many doctrinal matters, and I think that is no bad thing. But the requirements to get in under that umbrella are in my opinion far greater than need be and it sows unnecessary levels of discord. Augustine and Calvin wrote about non-literal interpretations of Genesis centuries before Darwin wrote about evolutionary theory. C.S. Lewis was most likely an inclusivist (even Billy Graham has made comments before that suggest inclusivism). And those are just a few people that have been hugely influential to historical and modern Christianity.
- There needs to be a greater distinction between Christianity and Politics. This goes for both left- and right-leaning Christians. Christ commanding us to take care of the poor does not automatically mean supporting welfare though many make it out to be such. The only thing the New Testament seems to teach about property is that we should be generous with our possessions, yet some treat higher taxes as if they mug God himself. I think it’s great to be politically involved, and I think it’s great to have your politics informed by your religious beliefs. I don’t think that political beliefs are equivalent to religious beliefs though, and many seem to make it out that way.
- The discussions we have on these issues, and the “Apologetics arena” in general, need to be infused with a greater abundance of grace. This means not just respect, but genuine care for the fact that many people who disagree with us do so with genuine and non-malicious intent. This means patience needs to be employed, as too many Apologists expect people to immediately change their minds as soon as they hear “good reason.” The fact is that beliefs, save when based solely on demonstrably false information, generally are very complex with countless influential factors informing them, and they rarely change quickly one way or the other save through powerful events (not all that often do lectures and debates count as powerful events, though at times and for some they do). Most idea shifts are gradual, yet all too often there’s this unspoken expectation that an altar call should follow every presentation of the Kalam Cosmological argument.
- The greatest Apologetic is love. When speaking specifically of the apologia, we are commanded to gentleness and respect, but as Christians we are commanded to love in all things.
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
–1 Corinthians 13:4–7
Any Christian apologetic which lacks patience and kindness, which displays envy, boasting, arrogance, or rudeness, irritation or resentfulness, any apologetic which celebrates some wrongdoing in some ends-justify-the-means sort of way, that shuns truth or fails to bear the worst and fails to believe and hope for the best, is a failed apologetic regardless of its intellectual content. This, THIS!, above all else I think is the failure of many of my peers and predecessors in the field of Apologetics. It is a failure I have often been guilty of, but strive to improve in my constant interactions with Christians I don’t agree with (as they make up the majority of my tense relationships), as well as non-Christians.
That’s my thoughts on it at least.