Spiritual Dangers and Apologetics

I came across this surprising quote that may shock some readers:

“I envy you not having to think any more about Christian apologetics.  My correspondents force the subject on me again and again.  It is very wearing, and not very good for one’s faith.  A Christian doctrine never seems less real to me than when I have just (even if successfully) been defending it.” – C.S. Lewis

Yes, that C.S. Lewis.  The one we think of as living and breathing apologetics.  Apparently he had something negative to say about apologetics.

I do not want to try and guess as to what was happening to Lewis or how he was affected by his apologetics activity.  However, there is something that rings true here.  There are certainly enough examples of evangelical Christian apologists who not only give up on apologetics but gave up on the faith as well.  While many do not take it that far, I do hear from some apologists about how their passion for God is diminishing.

What should we do with this?  Should we give up on apologetics and just focus on singing praise songs with our Christian friends?  We need to see this not as a problem with apologetics but a part of human psychology.  A person who studies the dynamics of marriage relationships or studies parenting in an academic setting will have to work extra hard to be a good spouse and parent.  Sometimes when we focus on the theoretical dimension of any discipline, there arises obstacles to living that out in real life.  But that does not mean that we should either give up the academic study or the practical application.  It just means we have to work harder at keeping a balance.

The fact is that we need apologetics.  I hear regularly of people who give up on Christianity because of attacks by critics.  They are not good attacks, but these Christians have never looked into the responses to these critics.  They are assuming that the church is not able to respond on an equally intellectual level.  Apologists are needed to equip the church to know what and why they believe.  I recently came across this verse:  “I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14 NIV)  I am not sure that Paul could say that to most of our churches.  We need people who are well-read in areas of atheism, world religions, biblical studies and so on, to demonstrate that Christianity does have a response and is capable of standing up to any other worldview.

At the same time, this apologetic need should not come at the price of our own faith.  Very few apologists give up on Christianity but many more lose their spiritual passion.  It does not have to be that way.  Here are some suggestions as how to avoid the spiritual dangers that come with apologetics.  Do not see your apologetics activity as your primary spiritual discipline.  Put as much effort into your relationship with God (prayer, worship, Bible reading for devotions) as you do for apologetics training.  Do not feel as if you have to respond to every challenge that is out there, pick your battles.  Do not put all your time into debating the diehard skeptics who you know will never change (apart from a miracle) as they will drain the life out of you.  Be willing to read apart from looking for material to make an apologetic defence.  Do not think that because you are an apologist that you have to understand everything, there will always be mysteries.  Invite God to be a part of your apologetics ministry.  You are not God’s bodyguard, God is your general.  Instead of seeing yourself  as needing to protect God, find out what he wants you to do.  Who does God want you to talk to?  What does God want you to say?  This is not an excuse to avoid training, but to realize that God knows the heart of the person we are talking to and we should let God guide us in the conversation.  Finally, be willing to take a break.  Unless apologetics is your full-time job that feeds your family, you can back away when things become too rough.  Remember, even Jesus went off to refresh after times of hectic ministry.

Apologetics is important.  But it is hard, hard not just on the mind but on the soul.  Even C.S. Lewis found it hard.  But God continues to use Lewis to encourage believers and and challenge non-believers.  God can use us as well.  But do not sacrifice your spiritual life on the altar of apologetics.  Do what you can to make a difference in the area of apologetics but build your relationship with God.  Your apologetics ministry will be much better if you do.

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12 thoughts on “Spiritual Dangers and Apologetics”

  1. Oh wow…I guess one must try to achieve a balance. I realized that I now seem to enjoy Christian literature more than the bible(which feels like such a chore)…Lord have mercy on me! Apologetics to the detriment of my spiritual growth is pointless!!!

  2. Don’t let the atheists drag you down with their close-minded arrogance and narrow mechanistic biases, limited to their five dull senses.
    Perhaps, it’s as Pastor J.W. Counsell says, “An atheist doesn’t find God for the same reason a thief doesn’t find a policeman.” An atheist will not find what he/she is not looking for.
    One can have so much more respect for the agnostic, who at least admits that he/she has not yet completed their due diligence, sufficient to reach a conclusion.
    Believers, on the other hand, can recharge their “apologist batteries” by brushing up on the writings and debates of many great leaders in the study, such as William Lane Craig and many others.
    The strongest conviction of all however, for believers, comes not from our own reasoning but from the infilling of the Holy Spirit. We have been gifted with Divine Presence within our hearts, as stated in John 14:16-17 (NKJV): “16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” Also, ! John 3:24b (NKJV): “24b And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”
    Atheists and non-believers miss so much in life if they fail to search for the answers that are out there. Instead of living by the old adage: “seeing is believing”, they would live life much more fulfilled by the understanding that “believing is seeing”.
    Stephen Covey put a good perspective on things when he said, “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.”

  3. I have experienced faith lessen when I read so much of others’ analysis of Christianity from a contrary point of view. Though I answer their contrary points completely, still, like dents or some such, it makes an impact.

    Getting away for a while and reading the Word itself, prayer, and worship purely, without worrying about the various challenges to various parts, helps restore strength, and joy.

    1. Exactly, as in Ephesians 6: 10-16; 16 “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”

      I like ‘The Message’ translation of Ephesians 6:13-18, which makes the point you are making, so well:
      13-18 “Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”

  4. Reblogged this on Wanda's World and commented:
    I have found this a danger in my own life.
    Apologetics is important, but so is your relationship with God. Prayer, praise, and personal Bible devotions are just as important. If you let them slip your joy will also slip, and that will effect your apologetic negatively.

  5. Thanks for posting this. I think that Lewis was a thinly-veiled pessimist; it doesn’t surprise me very much to read that. I think that you’re correct in attributing the problem to human psychology though, instead of to apologetics or to our faith.

    It’s interesting, but I’ve observed Calvinists (or those who give themselves that label) lately nearly abandoning apologetics in place of preaching—as if they were mutually exclusive! I also see it being done in the name of the sovereignty of God, which is just a shame. It’s as though they forget that Paul was a brilliant rhetorician.

    Have you read any Edward D. Andrews? He has some really fascinating thoughts in his books on apologetcs in the collection up on Logos Pre-Pub.
    http://www.logos.com/product/24062/edward-d-andrews-collection

  6. There have been numerous times when I have felt discouraged and said, “That’s it! I am not going to spend any more time presenting the truth of God to atheists, etc. It’s just too wearying.” The next thing I know, God has given me a word of encouragement and I enter the fray once again. It’s like Elijah, saying he had had enough, and what does God do? Send him sustenance and put him right back into ministry.

    It is so easy to spend more time on apologetics than the study of God’s Word or in prayer. Yet how can we possibly expect success if we do not allow the Lord to inform and fuel us? This is what I struggle with these days so this blog really speaks to where I am at right now. Thank you for it, Stephen!

  7. I really think we are missing the point here. The purpose of the gospel was not to argue semantics with atheist fanatics, and those that would mock his name, but to guide his people in proclaiming his glory, and giving opportunity and new-found life to those that have an ear to hear, and whose hearts have not been hardened. I believe the study of Apologetics can be reassuring to those of us in the faith, as it further strengthens us, and grounds us in this world by appealing to our natural curiosity and investigative nature; however, I do not find it Biblical, nor productive, to argue with those who adamantly oppose Christ and his teachings.

    “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
    “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

    So why do we argue with the world by using the world as proof of his being? How can one call something faith if faith is only accomplished through physical evidence? Christ didn’t walk around on this Earth shooting lightening out his fingers or doing magic tricks for the scoffers (that’s not to say he didn’t perform miracles in public). He didn’t put on shows for those that spat on him, or argue for hours on end semantics in The Word so that those who had scorned him would be convinced. Christ spoke to those that had a heart to hear, to those that doubted, and to those that sinned (all), and were burdened by the weight of that sin. We aren’t called to “fix” the brokenness of the world by “proving them wrong,” we are called to set examples of what a life in Christ looks like, so that others will see his glory reflected in his people and further long for the truth.

    We are called to spread The Word to those that do not know The Word. We are called to make disciples of those who have EARS TO HEAR. I think we sometimes miss our calling, and try our faith, by attempting to rationalize the kingdom of heaven using the depths of this Earth.

    “‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’”

    I fall prey to this distraction as well (all to often), and it’s no wonder so many in the faith grow tired and weary when they commit themselves to this line of futility.

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