Ever had something like this happen to you?
I have. On more than one occasion during my student years.
If you're a young Christian heading soon to college and the realm of "higher learning", be prepared. There's a very good chance this type of scenario will confront you, too. Or perhaps you've already encountered it in high school? Were you prepared to give an answer?
1 Peter 3:15 says:
15 But sanctify the Lord God[a] in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
That word "defense" , in the original Greek translated apologia, which means to defend, or a speech in defense. So, contrary to a prevalent Western understanding, Christian apologia, or apologetics is a formal defense of the faith, not an expression of regret.
St. Peter, the rock upon whom Christ built His church, implores us to stand firm and to be ready when questioned about the faith we hold. But how many of us can do that? How many are even interested in doing that?! Are your beliefs just suspended in air or do they have a firm foundation?
There are two reasons why this should matter to you as a Christian: 1) If you have a heart for Christ and desire to fulfill His commandment to spread the Gospel, then you need to know what you're talking about. And 2) because without this firm foundation, you are in danger of blindly accepting another worldview because it's the latest trend...it's "common sense" you may say. Or collective ignorance. So, at least be honest with yourself and be able to defend whatever view you hold. Facts are stubborn little things.
Why do I bring all this up? Well, because I have my finger on the pulse of our young generation. I pray for them, I speak to them and encourage them whenever I can. I see a need for critical thinking skills, for our youth to be proud of their Christian beliefs rather than cowering to worldly voices.
I know several teenagers who have abandoned the faith of their upbringing in order to espouse an "enlightened" worldview that sees Christianity as fairy tales and secular humanism as their new salvation. They would never identify humanism as religion though, because they think they can escape definitions and paradigms with which to view the world and make their moral choices. It's a fascinating study, human nature.
In my case, those years ago in the classroom, I made my case for Christ to my professors because I'm a loud mouth and don't ever mind to share my opinion. I rather like confrontation when it involves Truth. But I've learned a lot since that time and am now embarrassed at some of the things I said. Well, a little bit.
For example, it doesn't do much good to say "Because the Bible says so!" if the person you're speaking to doesn't believe the Bible to be true. You must be able to explain the Bible itself ... it's history and why you believe it's accuarate and authentic. This involves evidence, historical data, corroborating facts. When someone says, "religion is just a crutch" it also doesn't help to point a finger at their addictions as their own "crutch" to get through life. Lord have mercy. Apologetics should never involve barbed wire.
If you're someone interested in Christian apologetics, let me share a few nuggets of wisdom that I learned the hard way:
- Not everyone is a Truth seeker; don't assume they are. You can waste a lot of time and energy on someone who just wants to debate at best and ridicule you at worst.
- As follows the above, to give Truth to him who does not love the Truth is only to give more reasons for argument.
-Debate is healthy and follows logic; it's adherents can agree to disagree peaceably. Arguing can lead to anger and violent tempers; Truth is tossed to the wind in these cases.
- In the case where debate turns to arguing and anger, shut up and ask God to forgive your unbridled tongue.
- The Christian religion is a historical one. That means you can do research on it's claims outside of the Bible.
- The study of Christian apologetics is rewarding -- it will undoubtedly increase your knowledge and quite possibly facilitate a measure of wisdom. All the while increasing your faith.
- Do not make judgements about those with a different worldview. There are many good and intelligent atheists out there, for example, and some of them genuinely do want to understand why you believe the way you do.
- Always separate the human being from the worldview they hold; criticisms should remain on the theological plane.
I encourage you, Christian, to be able to give a defense for the faith you hold, remembering the words of Scottish author and minister, George MacDonald:
"It is often incapacity for defending the faith they love which turns men into persecutors."