Why do we do apologetics? What motivates the quest to answer each and every objection raised against God and His gospel? There are, of course, the Biblical answers. For instance, every apologist worth his or her salt knows 1 Peter 3:15:
...[B]ut in your hearts regard Christ as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;
We must give a reason for our hope when people ask. Also, 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 show that we need to dismantle the arguments that men use to attack God and His gospel.
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. [ESV]Biblically
we know why we do apologetics, but there is another way to answer this question that I want to explore, and then I will offer a warning to every apologist, and would-be apologist, who reads these words.
To begin, think back to the time before you knew verses like 1 Peter 3:15 or 2 Corinthians 10:4-6. Did you already have the "apologetic impulse?" I know I did. I wanted to be able to answer every objection raised against the faith, and I was ready to study and think deeply in order to do so. Before I had a Biblical justification, I think there were at least two layers to my motivation fo apologetics. Layer one of my motivation was a belief in the truth of Christianity. This, obviously enough, a good thing, and every apologist must believe similarly.
Layer two of my motivation is, however, a bit less honorable, and it is upon this layer that I will focus. The second layer to my motivation for defending the faith was a desire to maintain my intellectual credibility before men. I would not be surprised if this has played a role in the lives of many apologists.What's Wrong With Intellectual Credibility?
It is natural to ask at this point, 'what is wrong with intellectual credibility?' The answer, of course, is 'nothing.' If we honor God with our answers and maintain the respect of the world, wonderful. However, if credibility is my true motivation for apologetics, what glory then goes to God? If, at the end of the day all I can say is that I have preserved my standing amongst my peers each answer I have given is nearly worthless because I have not honored the Lord (I say "nearly worthless" because the Lord can turn anything to His purpose, but as far as honoring the Lord, answers to defend only my credibility are worthless).
Please don't misunderstand; I am thrilled whenever evangelical scholars go toe to toe with liberal heavyweights and come through. I think this honors the Lord when it is done to defend Him and His word. The danger lies in motivation. If the scholar is motivated by a desire for his own intellectual credibility he is ignoring a major warning that came from the pen of the apostle Paul.Folly to the Gentiles
In 1 Corinthians 1:23 Paul writes, "but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles". The Christian message makes no sense to the non-Christian mind. Most of us have probably interacted with atheists who are amazed that anyone in the Western world is a Christian. This is perfectly in line with what Paul had to say. We should not expect intellectual credibility because people are predisposed to think us foolish due to our message.
That brings me to my admonition for this week's post. To each and every Christian apologist out there I say, "You will
be called a fool." Do not fear it. Do not be offended by it. It has taken me a long time not to care what people think of my intelligence and I still struggle with it occasionally, but I am comforted by the words of Peter in 1 Peter 3:14:
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you [ESV]
So yes, you will be called a fool. I will be called a fool. My first impulse is to say, "get used to it," but you should do more than that. Embrace it. Revel in it. When we are called fools for representing Christ well we should cry out for joy, for then we know that He alone receives glory, and that in Him alone we find our satisfaction.