As you’re using Christian apologetics, never forget we need to do so Christianly.
At the beginning of Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth, she argues that Christians in every profession ought to think carefully about how the Christian worldview shapes and directs how they do their work. (Matt Perman’s application of Christianity to business is one example of someone who does this well.)
Apologetics is no different. What makes our apologetics Christian isn’t merely the arguments we use or the conclusions we’re arguing for, and it doesn’t just mean arguing morally—with honesty, respect, etc. Our apologetics work is Christian when it conforms to the shape of the Gospel, reflecting the person and work of Jesus to the world.
That might sound a little abstract, so listen to an example from Total Truth of this kind of application of the Christian worldview to apologetics-type work:
By God’s grace, we can make a significant difference within our sphere of influence—but only as we “crucify” our craving for success, power, and public acclaim, “If anyone would come after me,” Jesus said, “let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). If we long to be given the mind of Christ, we must first be willing to submit to the pattern of suffering He modeled for us. We should expect the process of developing a Christian worldview to be a difficult and painful struggle—first inwardly, as we uproot the idols in our own thought life, and then outwardly, as we face the hostility of a fallen and unbelieving world. Our strength for the task must come from spiritual union with Christ, recognizing that suffering is the route to being conformed to Him and remade into His image.
Questions like, “Whom should I talk to about Christ? And why? And how? At what cost? And for what purpose?” are all questions affected by the Christian worldview. Our society is constantly pressing in on us, attempting to conform us to its values and goals. Because of this, the Christian answers to the above questions might not be as obvious as you’re assuming. We need to think through this.
Think about who Jesus is. Jesus “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant”; He “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death” (Phil 2:7–8). He defined love as service (1 John 3:16), saying He “did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45). Though He knew He came from God, He condescended to the menial work of washing the feet of His disciples (John 13:1–5). He loved us to the point of death, even while we were His enemies (Rom. 5:8–10). He “endured hostility” and willingly bore the shame of the cross “for the joy set before Him” (Heb. 12:1–3).
Think about who we are. We “were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Eph. 2:3). This is “not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:9). We owe all to Him. God’s kindness led us to repentance (Rom. 2:4), so we are therefore called “to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men,” even when hated, as a reflection of what He has done for us (Titus 3:1–7). God saved us “so that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light,” which we do, in part, by “keeping our behavior excellent” (1 Pet. 2:9–12). We can live in any circumstance “through Him who strengthens [us]” (Phil. 4:10–13), and “whoever wishes to be first among [us] shall be slave of all” (Mark 10:44).
Think about who the lost are. They are no different from our former selves: “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh” (Eph. 2:3). The root difference between us is spiritual, requiring the work of God in their lives, just as He worked in ours. They need God to “grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” so that they “may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:25–26), so we can’t expect our arguments to be all-powerful, nor should we look down on non-Christians as if we were superior. God is the one who granted us repentance and enabled us to see Him as He is. To them, “the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Christ” is still “an aroma from death to death” (2 Cor. 2:14–16). Because they have not yet been freed from their guilt, they hate and fear the idea of judgment. Judgment by a perfectly holy being can’t be faced without an understanding of grace, so we need to demonstrate God’s kindness and grace with more than just theological words.
Think about our goal. Our goal is not to promote our own name; our goal is to glorify the name of Jesus. This frees us from having to endlessly defend ourselves. It frees us to admit when we’re wrong. It frees us to promote others who are doing good work. It frees us to speak to the lowly and outcast. It frees us to concentrate on a few individuals who need us rather than feeling pressured to speak to thousands. It frees us to speak to thousands in a way that points to Him and doesn’t steal His glory for ourselves. It frees us to accept with joy whatever size and type of ministry He gives us.
There is certainly much more to consider as we’re working out what it means to use Christian apologetics Christianly, as we attempt to conform all of our apologetics work to Jesus and the cross. Who knows what God will do through this kind of intentional thinking? Who knows how He’ll be glorified in new and beautiful ways? Who knows the lives He’ll change through us?