THE APOLOGETIC OF THE APOLOGIST

A starting point for taking on the responsibility of the work of Christian apologetics is recognizing the role that living out a disciplined Christian life plays. Even a brief examination of the Scriptures reveals this striking imperative: one may not divorce the content of apologetics from the character of the apologist. Apologetics derives from the Greek wordapologia, “to give an answer.” 1 Peter 3:15 gives us the defining statement: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer (apologia) to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

I have always found this to be such a fascinating verse because the apostle Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, knew the hazards and the risks of being an answer-bearer to the sincere questions that people would pose of the gospel. Indeed, when one contrasts the answers of Jesus to any of his detractors, it is not hard to see that their resistance is not of the mind but rather of the heart. Furthermore, I have little doubt that the single greatest obstacle to the impact of the gospel has not been its inability to provide answers, but the failure on our part to live it out. The Irish evangelist Gypsy Smith once said, “There are five Gospels: Matthew Mark, Luke, John, and the Christian, and some people will never read the first four.” In other words, apologetics is often first seen before it is heard.

For that very reason the Scriptures give us a clear picture of the apologetic Christian: one who has first set apart Christ in his or her heart as Lord, and then responds with answers to the questioner with gentleness and respect.  Therefore, one must not overlook the stark reality that the way one’s life is lived out will determine the impact.  There are few obstacles to faith as serious as expounding the unlived life. Too many simply see the quality of one’s life and firmly believe that it is all theory, bearing no supernatural component.