3 Shifts That Christian Apologetics Must Make

There has been a huge resurgence in Christian apologetics over the past couple of decades. It can be said, without exaggeration, that there is an entire Christian apologetics industry in place. The amount of books, podcasts, video channels, conferences, and theological degrees related to apologetics is greater than at any other time.

Some of the more left-leaning (but not necessarily confessionally liberal) Christians have questioned the continued relevance of Christian apologetics. I understand their concerns but I am convinced that apologetics will always be important for Christianity.

The existence of bad apologetics does not negate the need for good apologetics.
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Having said that, I do believe that there needs to be a shift in the style of apologetics to adapt to our changing culture. I think that apologetics as it is being done now has reached the point of diminishing returns. By that, I mean that Christian apologetics is still doing some good but the effectiveness is not matching the level of apologetic output.

What shifts need to be made?

From Certainty to Humility

This one might surprise people. Isn’t Christian apologetics supposed to increase our certainty that Christianity is true? One of the early and most successful books reflected this view: Evidence That Demands a Verdict. The evidence is so clear, that just encountering the airtight arguments should lead to a conversion.

I know, from my own apologetics experience, that we both feel the pressure to come across as 100% certain and that deep inside, we don’t have all the answers. The truth is that people don’t expect us to have all the answers.

One of the things that I appreciate about C.S. Lewis is that he never pretended he had all the correct interpretations. In his letters, he would respond to people’s questions with something along the lines of: “Here’s my best guess, but I could be wrong.” There’s still a place for that today. I think people will actually be more moved by our humility than by our attempts to be certain.

From Polemics to Personal Reasons

There is a strong impulse among some apologists to embrace polemics. Defending my faith is okay, but what’s really exciting is attacking that other person or group. If I can destroy them, then I really am being effective.

But people are really turned off by polemics. We have seen this with the rise and fall of the New Atheists. They attempted to not just defend a humanist viewpoint but to attack all religion and to do it in the nastiest way possible. Some of their harshest critics came from within atheism itself.

This does not mean that we cannot engage in conversations with other worldviews. My book, Unmasking the Pagan Christ interacts with a particular Jesus Mythicists and The Watchtower and the Word is a response to Jehovah’s Witnesses. But I wrote those, not to attack others, but to engage in theological and biblical conversation. It is possible to win an argument and still make Christianity look bad.

From Showing Christianity to be True to Showing Christianity to be Good

By this, I do not mean that we should stop addressing truth claims. This will always be an important part of Christian apologetics. But for many skeptics, their biggest doubts may be about the goodness of Christianity (or religion in general).

While it is good that the Church is becoming more transparent and that cases of abuse by Christian leaders are being reported, it also confirms the suspicions of many that Christianity is bad. The answer is not to go back to protecting abusers but to show that there is also much good being done in the name of Christ. While some conservative Christians consider social justice to be the enemy, I actually believe it can be one of the most effective apologetics arguments.

For those who are still nervous about not focusing on truth claims, these two aspects of apologetics are not disconnected. It may be that some need to be shown the goodness of Christianity before they can engage sufficiently with the truth of Christianity.

These are the three shifts that I believe must happen within Christianity. The work that has been done has been mostly good, but we need to take it to the next level.

The post 3 Shifts That Christian Apologetics Must Make appeared first on Stephen J Bedard.






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