The Very Scary A-Word

By Brace E. Barber

No. Not Atheist. Not Apostacy. Apologetics

“Unimaginable! How can you suggest we never teach from the Bible? In a Church no less.” She exclaimed. “You can’t exclude the Holy Spirit and reading from Scripture.”

              I instantly reviewed what I had said to see where there might be some confusion. “No. No.” I stammered. “I simply said that we should teach apologetics subjects to our youth.”

              “Exactly!” She continued. “You want to eliminate relationships and acts of service. We can’t have our kids reading books and debating skeptics all the time. Where’s the heart? Where is the love?”

              “Please. Hold on a second,” I begged. “I didn’t say that. I think relationships and service and knowledge of Scripture are critical. Our kids should know they are loved by God and how Jesus died on the cross to pay for their sins and provide salvation for them.”

              “Well, maybe so, but that’s not what you said. You said apologetics,” she finished, raising her eyebrows, pursing her lips and sitting back.

              This conversation has occurred countless times in my ministry. The word apologetics sets off heresy fire alarms in the minds of those who have bought into the modern church teaching methodologies. Everything stops. Conclusions are reached in the flash of a second. People mentally flee for the exits. ‘This guy’s a fanatic – a brainiac who hates the Holy Spirit and prayer!’

The Softer, Kinder Alternative to the Word Apologetics; Apologetics

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been counselled to find an alternative to the word apologetics to avoid this kind of confusion. “People don’t understand what apologetics really means. They believe it tries to put Jesus into an academic box, defined by logic and facts. They believe the purpose of apologetics is to remove the need for faith.” Unfortunately, the word is a bit like someone’s name. If you choose to not use someone’s name you end up describing them. You have to say, “Uh, the big guy with hair on his back,” instead of just, “Joe.”

You have to say, “Uh, the ability to defend the Christian faith using historic and scientific evidence. To use logic, philosophy and common sense to help provide people with confidence in the Christian worldview.” Or you can say, “Apologetics.” I’ve searched for practical options for quickly conveying the meaning of apologetics in a reasonable way without success. What about saying, “Getting people to know what they believe and why.” That seems short – right? You be the judge. The truth is that I don’t believe the problem is with the word or some euphemism used to blunt the sharp edges of the word. Here’s the real problem. The church has an unrecognized loyalty to teaching subjects and methodologies that don’t threaten the attractiveness of church when compared to the secular world. Church leaders don’t want to put any barriers to kids attending church. I believe church leaders unconsciously equate any kind of intellectual demand on youth with kids not attending the church.

Try to Defend NOT Teaching People How to Defend Their Faith

There isn’t a pastor or layperson that can reasonably reject the benefits of teaching people how to defend their faith. People are frequently receptive to the concept of apologetics. How can someone argue against giving the deeper understanding to the faith they profess? This sets up an awkward showdown when someone progresses the concept of teaching apologetics into an actual plan. It’s at the point of taking action that the incompatibility of the demands of apologetics crash against the rock of fear of turning away kids or congregants. It is at this point that the anti-apologist must rationalize why the apologist is an irrational, single-minded evidentialist incapable of seeing the need for typical Christian subjects. It is at this point the anti-apologist misrepresents the apologist’s words and the meaning of apologetics.

Since the problem isn’t really the word apologetics, then changing the word into a palatable phrase would not create the opportunity for more apologetic subjects into our church curriculum. As a church we will never incorporate apologetics teaching or gain the faith-strengthening and evangelical-power it brings as long as we are prioritizing attendance over substance. Over the past several decades, churches have changed their priority from empowering their congregations to conserving their congregations.

They are reacting to the ebbing of the Christian tide in society by digging holes in the beach to keep as much water as possible. Even churches that are growing are really only benefiting from water draining from other holes and only marginally affecting the unsaved world. Don’t blame me for the statistics. Blame Pew Research, Barna and a dozen others. If it weren’t for them, we could all be blissfully unaware of the crisis in our Faith. Church leaders and members continue with their heads down doing the hard work of digging and dredging to keep their hole size as big as possible, rejecting anything that takes their attention from their work. Apologetics comes as a distraction saying, “God sends the rain as well. That tide may go out forever, and your church like many others will eventually dry up, but you can affect society because God sends the rain as well. Apologetics is the perfect complement to hole digging for catching rain.”

I strongly suggest you take a serious look at the true meaning and benefits of apologetics. I’ve never met or heard of anyone who promotes teaching exclusively apologetics subjects. I certainly don’t preach that. God’s impact on my life has nothing to do with apologetics, but my transformed life was given evangelical power when I gained intellectual fuel to engage with the world. Let’s do that for our children and our congregations.

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Brace E. Barber is a Christian Apologetics Speaker focusing on teaching Churches how to immediately stop the loss of Christian kids from the Faith. See more at Christian Apologetics Speaker

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