What is Apologetics?

Apologetics may be simply defined as the defense of the Christian faith. The word “apologetics” derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used as a speech of defense or an answer given in reply. In ancient Athens it referred to a defense made in the courtroom as part of the normal judicial procedure. After the accusation, the defendant was allowed to refute the charges with a defense or reply (apologia). The word appears 17 times in noun or verb form in the New Testament, and both the noun (apologia) and verb form (apologeomai) can be translated “defense” or “vindication” in every case.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Understanding What Makes this Apologist Tick! [1]

This evening, I have been mulling over the last couple of days something that was said in a meeting that has me wondering what type of impression I give with my passion toward the task and discipline of apologetics.  Yes, you might think it is a time to be transparent.  Indulge me for these next few minutes.

I work a full time job at a Christian family owned and operated car dealership, which puts me in front of a plethora of people with all different kinds of world views.  Among my peers, they see my passion in the Bible studies we have before our sales team meetings on Friday mornings.  In fact during those studies and interactions I try to assist in bringing out a practical application for living in the post-Christian culture, and in particular for living out the love of Christ with every person that graces our respective three lots.

There is nothing wrong with that, and my employer encourages that so long as it does not interfere with what we are there for, and that sell the product.  But something was said that has prompted this posting, that gave me the impression that apologetics is the only thing that people see in my Christian walk.  Is that the only thing they think about when the interact with me?  Is this something that is misunderstood by them with me, because they really have not gotten the chance to really get to know the real Rob?  (Most likely it is this last question).   So this posting is going to be of clearing the air and that is all.

How do I see apologetics in my ministry?  Do I only read apologetics books and nothing else?  Do I only think about apologetics and that is all?   Let me deal with each of these questions in the form of a Q and A format so that you, the reader, can get to know how God has "wired me."  I will deal with the second and the third question and then conclude the answers with an answer to the first question. 

Q:  Do you only read apologetics books and nothing else?

A:  No.  In fact, I read my Bible more than I read a book about apologetics.  I think it is vitally important for the minister to not only be an apologist, but also know the Bible and his Lord.  My day starts very early reading and studying the Word of God in a devotional time, and prayer time.  During that time I am jotting notes and journaling what I am gleaning from Scripture and what the Lord has brought to my mind as I engage the text.

Q:  Do you only think about apologetics and that is all?

A:  This answer is a follow up to the previous question.  No.  I like to stay up on current events and reflect on how that impacts the Christian worldview.  I also like to stay up to date on what my favorite sports teams.  I love the outdoors, fishing, camping and hiking when I have the opportunity.  I just like being outdoors and seeing the majesty of God's creation.

Also I enjoy talking to people and being personable.  Someone who hides behind an apologetics book thinking that they are going to impact the kingdom of God is going to present themselves of no use to the Great Commission.  So whether it is talking to someone about something in the sporting world or something about the spiritual impact of things I am comfortable in a diverse amount of subjects, whether it be the outdoors, sports, fishing or rugby (that's right rugby -- New Zealand All Blacks rugby).  I find that knowing and being involved in a bunch of things outside of ministry can allow me to be able to be real and interact on a personable level with people in many different "circles."

Q:  How DO you see apologetics in your ministry?

A:  In answering this question, I really hope to put things into perspective.  Why?  Because I see everything in relation to the Christian walk and world view.  There is nothing in life that is not affecting in some way shape or form the Christian life.

When I was a student at Oklahoma Baptist University, I heard a lot about being involved in "full time Christian service."  What does that mean?  Does it mean that there is a difference between people in the pulpits and multi staff scenarios and those who grace the threshold of churches and pews on Sundays and Wednesday nights?  To me the answer to this question is "No!"  

I have served as a pastor.  I have been involved in the life ministry of a local church as a minister of evangelism and even have taught Sunday school. (In all actuality, I would like to be back in a couple of those areas again some time down the road)  Those positions are a great privilege of service, but that does not mean that those not called to those vocations or service positions are lower on the "church karmic ladder."  In fact I believe that those who are in the arena of the secular city are more in full time Christian service than those who are sitting behind their desks or spending time using a pastoral perk on the golf course.

I currently work in the field of retail.  But as someone who has been in "full time Christian service" in the scope of academic ministerial jargon, I find it more of a blessing in ministry to be in the arena and in the trenches with those who eek out their lives day by day.  I find it a blessing to be personable with people, both Christians and non-Christians (to include atheists and Nones) alike.  In fact, I believe I talk to more people than those who serve as pastors and ministers in multi-staff settings about the things that matter most.  When I say that I talk to people, I am talking in the context of trying to get to know them, their heart, and not just their mind.

For those who are working out their biblical faith "with fear and trembling,"[2]  I look for ways to serve them by living out my life in Christ with them, serving, encouraging, fellowshipping, and sometimes equipping them.  What is the end result?  We glorify God together and we are both encouraged.

For those who want nothing to do with organized religion, Christ or are of a different religious persuasion, again I try live out my life and faith (that I defend) in Christ in front of them.  Sometimes a conversation will strike up, because of something that was said in a dialogue; other times it won't.  Do I listen for those opportunities? I would be lying if I said that I didn't.  Do I force them?  No, but there will be times where I might "drop a stone in someone's shoe."  But here is the issue.

Being a formally trained evangelistic minded apologist has equipped me in not just understanding that we need to love God with heart, soul, and mind.  I also take the second commandment just as equal in importance, LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."[3]   

Doing apologetics is not just some "heady" exercise in theological geek-dom.  It is living out the Christian life, equipped and ready to give an answer to someone who sees my life in Christ and asks what makes me different.  I am equipped to give that answer because that is how God has wired me as a former skeptic.  Some folks will say, "all Christians are not called to be apologists like you."  I don't want anyone to be like me!  But you know what?  All Christians are called to obey a command whenever there is a command given in Scripture.

One misnomer about that statement is that every Christian IS called to be able to give a reason, an answer back, for the hope that is in them.  First Peter 3:15-17 is a command not to those who are geeky, heady and reading books that talk about defending the faith.  It is a command to the church or the whole body of Christians that Peter was writing to in AD 62-63.  It is still very relevant for today.[4]

So I see the Christian life one that is about loving the Lord who saved me with all my heart, all my soul and all my mind and loving my neighbor as myself.  If you know me and you are intimidated by that, I am sorry.  You probably need to read the whole Bible and see that the entire New Testament and much of the Old Testament were written as a polemic (another term for an apologetic discourse) for God's loving intervention in your life.    


Notes:

[1]  This posting was prompted by a recent comment made in a meeting about one's interpretation about apologetics and how they see me.  It should be taken as a time of reflection and evaluation.  Perhaps it might serve as a reminder on how the readers of this posting see the Christian life.

[2] Philippians 2:12.

[3] Please see the context of Matthew 22:34-40.

[4]  I like what J. P. Moreland had to say in a conference one time, that the secular city defines knowledge as coming only by science and even in some cases pseudo science; and that the religious community has withdrawn (since Darwin) to faith and feelings as a way of insulating itself from secular thinkers.  Some folks take issue with this, but where was the equipping of the church at that time?  Why does it seem harder respond to those countering Christianity?  Why do Christians have difficulty answering "Why are you a Christian?" without giving their personal testimony?


About the writer:   Rob Lundberg is serving as the local Chapter Director/Apologist for Ratio Christi at the University of Mary Washington, located in Fredericksburg, VA.  You can view Rob's website at http://www.roblundberg.org  He is a Certified Apologetics Instructor with the North American Mission Board (Southern Baptist Convention). Rob holds an earned a B.A. in Religious Studies from Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee OK, and Masters of Divinity from Mid America Baptist Theological Seminary. Rob's ministry is  an apologetics and discernment ministry that aims to equip believers in engaging and answering the hard questions of Christianity through the avenues of research, writing, and discourse.   He is available to come and speak to your church, Sunday school class, or your group.  For more information http://www.roblundberg.org/contact.html.

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