I have had a passion for apologetics since I was in high school in the 1960’s facing challenges to my faith raised by my fellow students and my teachers. In college, I took part in a ministry on the University of South Carolina campus in part so that I could engage with those getting a skeptical education. Furthermore, God has given me the opportunity to have friendships with atheists including some highly educated atheists, and opportunities to speak to others. For many years I taught high school science classes including courses in creationism which I designed. I started blogging while going through a very difficult time in my ministry and life at the suggestion of my children. As they thought, it has been good for me; and, I hope, helpful to others. However, as I have been exploring the world of blogging, I have noticed that there are far more apologetic bloggers than I had realized and that the other bloggers are really good with really nice-looking sites. In fact, I just read a blog giving advice to apologetic bloggers that pointed out that the number of such bloggers were approaching a saturation point. So, I ask myself, why I am blogging. Am I blogging merely for my own benefit? Are my efforts glorifying God and benefitting His kingdom? Why do I blog?
All my years of pastoring have been in very small churches. It was soon evident in my ministry that I would not be a famous pastor having a world-impacting ministry as so many of us young pastors hoped to have. However, I also realized that there were people to whom I ministered who needed my ministry. I learned much from my Dad who also only pastored in small churches. Someone needed to pastor the small churches and minister to the few. Not everyone can be a general and generals could not win wars without armies made of lesser officers and enlisted men doing such things as preparing food and driving vehicles. In the Bible there are not only the David’s and Paul’s, there are also the Archippuses and the many nameless “men of God.” Even so, I have no pretensions to a great blogging ministry. It is faithfulness that matters most (I Corinthians 4:1, 2). Though my ministries – both pastoring and teaching – have been small, yet God has blessed me to minister by His grace to those who would become pastors and pastor’s wives, missionaries, medical workers and even the Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives not to mention others who faithfully serve God in local churches. Therefore, I keep blogging and am thrilled if anyone is helped by my blog.
This raises the greater question concerning the reason anyone practices apologetics. Now, I have already posted about the importance and value of apologetics (“An Apologetic for Apologetics”). In this post, I am more concerned with the motives and goals of apologetics. Why do we do what we do and what are our goals, what do we want to accomplish.
I am afraid that, over the years, I have had to fight against many wrong motives in myself as I practiced apologetics. It is easy to desire to practice apologetics just to win arguments and put atheists in their place. It is also common to be involved in apologetics to display our intelligence and skills in logic and argumentation, to show ourselves to be the proverbial “smartest person in the room.” In our more pious thinking, we may desire to stand for the truth and contend for the faith. Both of these are good motives, but often are conceived in only intellectual terms thinking that if we convinced others that the God of the Bible really exists, we have accomplished our work when really it is not the knowledge of the truth, but its application that should be our goal.
So what are we trying to accomplish when we practice apologetics? First of all, as in everything else in our lives, we are to seek to please and glorify God (I Corinthians 10:31; Ephesians 1:6, 12; Revelation 4:11). We are indeed to stand for the truth and contend for the faith (I Peter 3:15; Jude v.3). We are to not only convince others of the truths of Christianity, but also seek to help them place their faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation (Matthew 28:19, 20; II Corinthians 4:1-6). We are then to build up believers in the faith, including our own selves, dealing with doubts and challenges, so that they would not be “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:12-16), but be able to discern the truth (I Thessalonians 5:21, 22), reprove the evil works of darkness by life and word (Matthew 5:13-16; Ephesians 5:11; I Peter 2:9), convince the gainsayers (Titus 1:9), and recover those who oppose themselves and are taken captive by Satan (II Timothy 2:23-26). All of this must, above all else, be done in a spirit of meekness motivated by love (I Corinthians 13:1-3; I Peter 3:15; Jude v. 21): Love for God Whom we want to glorify and please; for our fellow-Christians whose faith we want to strengthen; and, yes, for the lost who have been captured by false religion and philosophy, even the atheist whom we want to bring to a saving knowledge of our Lord. If we are not so motivated seeking to accomplish these goals, we are not really doing our job no matter how sophisticated our websites are or how brilliant our arguments. If we are faithfully using our gifts in love seeking these goals to the glory of God, we are doing our job no matter how small our ministry.
Hence, I would encourage us all to keep faithfully, lovingly, meekly seeking to glorify God, standing for the truth, seeking the lost, and edifying one another by using apologetics whether to help your family and neighbors or Sunday school class or whether you are reaching tens of thousands around the world. We live in an increasingly hostile world where the truths of our faith are continually under attack, we could use all the apologists who use their gifts motivated by love that God directs to do so. We need to support each other in encouragement, advice, and, especially, prayer. May God use each of us for His glory.