Apologia Sophia: “Apologetics Wisdom” 1—Attitude

Apologia sophia (Gk: ἀπολογία σοφία) transliterates the Greek word endings and roughly translates to “apologetics wisdom.” Since I am an adjunct professor for Biola University’s MA program in apologetics, I teach and interact with many students who are preparing for a career in apologetics or are studying to deepen their knowledge and sharpen their skills in the field. Thus, as a teacher and a full-time scholar at RTB, I hope the following series gives practical advice—and even some genuine wisdom—when it comes to the apologetics enterprise (the art and science of giving a reasoned defense of Christianity; see 1 Peter 3:15).

Let me begin part 1 (of 6) by enumerating three points designed to help both those who are interested in and those who already engage in Christian apologetics. These points apply equally to professional and lay Christian apologists, and the points relate more to the attitude and focus of the apologist than to specific content of arguments. Future parts in this series will address other topics.

1. Contend without being contentious.

Be careful that you don’t confuse contending for the faith (Jude 3) with being a contentious person. Apologists need to be vigilantly critical of faulty ideas—especially as they relate to Christianity—but they also need to be gracious toward people. If you believe in God’s grace toward you then you should also endeavor to treat others graciously. Nobody’s perfect, and sometimes apologetics encounters can be intense, but beware of becoming apologetically jaded and giving in to a contentious attitude.

2. Value truth above winning.

Apologists are often called to present, explain, and defend Christian truth claims to various non-Christians. In doing so, strive to esteem truth above victory in an argument. Rhetoric and polemics have their appropriate place in apologetics but only when they serve truth as a sacred reality. Prize and handle truth as if it is sacred, because it is. The triune God is Truth with a capital T. In fact, Jesus Christ specifically called himself the Truth (John 14:6). An honest person who handles all truth, big and small, with care and precision, carries unique credibility. Thus as an apologist, be a truth seeker above all.

3. Don’t compete with or envy other apologists.

The enterprise of apologetics can sometimes bring out one’s competitive nature. And some apologists have made significant contributions in defending the faith. But guard against competing with or envying other Christian apologists. Instead, come to view them as valued allies. Learn from them as brothers and sisters in the Lord. Recognize that all Christians are on the same team and God has given each apologist their own distinct personality and gifts. Encourage, support, and pray for other apologists. Apologetics can be a critical tool in the process of persuading people of ultimate truth and reality and, as such, it involves a type of spiritual warfare. So ask God’s Spirit for protection over you and your fellow apologists.

Here’s the apostle Peter’s scriptural mandate for the critical apologetics enterprise:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

–1 Peter 3:15–17

The attitude, goals, and focus of the Christian apologist bear significantly on his or her power of persuasion.
Reflections: Your Turn
Which of the three apologetics suggestions above is the hardest for you to incorporate? Why? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.