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.