Every Christian An Apologist
by Joel Taylor
In matters of religion, the propagation of false, antithetical concepts seem to keep working their way back into the proverbial woodpile of Christian thought. I find it nettlesome mainly because those who are found disseminating these erroneous matters should know better, specifically, those in ministerial roles of leadership. Then again, since when were leaders in ministry perfect?
One issue I’ve discovered in the woodpile recently is the concept of ‘the professional apologist’. Too often the apologist is viewed as a "master", with long hours put forth for the purpose of defending the faith, especially on behalf of those, bless their hearts, who are not gifted enough to be apologists.
Take for example, this recent statement by Frank Turk at Pyromaniacs in this post entitled “He Saved Us”.
“I honor the work of thoughtful, erudite apologists who spend their lives effectually dismantling the ideologies which oppose the Gospel, and the church benefits from the work of those men. It does: it must. It is one of the duties of the elder, as I see it, to be able to rebuke those who are, frankly, wrong.
It’s the rest of you I am worried about. Let’s face it: everyone is not an apologist, and not everyone ought to be an apologist. It takes an interesting and spiritually-mature mix of mental acuity and personal charisma to be an effective and winning apologist. It is not just an exercise in dogmatics or legal or philosophical wrangling.
Do you agree with that? I certainly hope not. This is poor theology, it is wrong, and should be corrected. Worse, it lures Christians into the same mentality that says, "That’s not my job." Such thinking is both common and pestiferous. Yet, is that what Scripture teaches us? Is apologetics for the erudite, well-educated professional only?
Let’s cut to the chase and see if we can ascertain just who Scripture declares the apologist to be, and what is expected. For the moment, disregard the above quote; given the writers conclusions, his teaching of the ‘erudite apologist’ smacks of theological elitism.
Let’s look to the sure word of Scripture, shall we?
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. – I Peter 3:14-16 (ESV) [emphasis mine]
I Peter 3:15-16 is a mandate to every believer. Tasks of the teaching-shepherd or pastor-teacher is to equip the saints for spiritual worship (Ephesians 4:12), as well as to carry out the mandate given here in I Peter. Be able to give a reason for your hope in the Christian faith. It’s well accepted that 1 Peter 3:15-16 is a mandate to every believer to be able to practice. Apologetics. Carrying out that mandate serves God and the Church, the body of Christ. But for our purpose, let’s keep it simple, without straying into the specific aspects of apologetics theory.
Who is Peter speaking to? Christians.
A specific group of ‘professional’ Christians? No.
Is God speaking to all of His children, and instructing all of us to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”?
Please, brethren, stop thinking of apologetics as belonging to some ‘erudite’ group of specially gifted people, and realize that the tasks of the apologist is one that simply involves the believer presenting the hope of the Gospel that lies within you.
It requires that you, the Christian, know the fundamentals of the faith. It requires that you, the Christian, study the Scriptures, pray over them, and by God’s grace, having been given those truths by the Father, they become such a reality in the very core of your being, that it is, among other things, a quite natural thing for you to express the reasons you consider all trials to be joy.
In ancient Athens, every citizen was expected to be able to join in the discussion of state affairs. In Christianity, every citizen of the heavenly kingdom is expected to be able to give reason for the glorious hope in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Who is the Christian apologist? You are, if you be in Christ.