Chicken Little Apologetics

January 28, 2014

by Johnathan Pritchett
SBCToday Contributing Writer
Grade “B” Apologist  ;-)

The last time I wrote here at SBC Today on this subject, I presented a positive case for apologetics and explained some of the myths and realities about it. This time around, I sadly feel the need to take a more negative approach to the issue of apologetics. Apologetics in the evangelical church is not without its problems. While the myths remain myths, and the realities remain realities, the methodology sometimes does not reflect this, and Apologetics can deserve some of the criticism it receives regularly.

I definitely agree that local churches need more training in Apologetics. However, sometimes people are turned off by that, and for good reason.

One reason is that every time Apologetics is introduced, it comes with warnings about how secular society will devour 80 percent of the church youth, and that more and more adults also leave church because churches offer no answers to secular challenges to the faith.

That’s not why people, young or old, leave the church. Sin is, and so-called “intellectual reasons” are just the excuses they find later.

Even so, while there may be some truth to some of that, presenting a “Chicken Little” introduction, which is inevitably followed with a convoluted lecture on some topic or other regarding science, Bible contradictions, the problem of evil, etc., seems to turn off many folks in the local church. More to the point, Apologetics is earning a reputation among those in the pews of being for highfalutin folk, and thus perceived as not being relevant to many people in the church. In some cases, this is rightfully so, because a lot of folks in the pews don’t spend all their time on the Internet talking to young hipsters who follow Richard Dawkins and regurgitate the same tired old objections to the faith from science that these hipsters don’t actually know the first thing about. They certainly don’t know any more than do the laypersons in the church turned off by that stuff.

Take away the means to Google via the smartphone or laptop, and most antagonists to Christianity in our culture haven’t the slightest idea what they are talking about, though they may sound like it when they can copy/paste from a website. 

Besides, Apologetics encompasses more than cosmological arguments and why Neo-Darwinism is garbage.

Here is my advice to professional Apologists: Stop acting like “always be prepared to give an answer to the hope that is in you” means something like “you must always be overly prepared to answer every single dumb assertion or question about quantum mechanics, biology, the Bible, the problem of evil, etc., that some antagonist to the faith tosses at you or you are all doomed!”

Do that, and learn how to talk to, you know, normal people, and the local churches may warm up to Apologetics.  Believe me, as an Apologist, I want them to; but remember to whom you are speaking and the issues that are relevant to them. Apologetics is first and foremost about setting apart Jesus as Lord in our hearts and giving an answer to the hope of our faith. It is not about setting aside time to learn quantum mechanics and giving 20 philosophical arguments in response to every antagonist who blathers something barely coherent against Christianity.

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Norm Miller

B all you can b, bro. — Norm

Luke

As someone who burned out on apologetics, I wish that people would stop acting as if we can intellectually checkmate someone into the kingdom of God. It quickly becomes legalistic in that the pressure resides on us to have all the right answers to the questions people ask. Surely we can be prepared to give an account while still resting in the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Amen.

    I understand being burned out on Apologetics. I am not burned out on Apologetics in that sense. I am burned out on doing classical evidentialist apologetics, which is all we usually get served over and over again. My thing is that apologetics is a lot wider a field than the populizers make it out to be. I went into Biola wanting to learn everything about evidentialist apologetics…When I graduated, I left a presuppositionalist (though I am not Reformed) who is more interested in a synthesis of Cultural Apologetics, New Testament Studies, and Evangelism than anything else.

    I believe Evidentialism has a place in the church, and I find the arguments convincing and useful for deepening one’s faith if that sort of thing helps (though I am not surprised that they are unconvincing to lost people who need an “anything but God” explanation by way or response to our evidentialist arguments…i.e. watch any William Lane Craig debate on YouTube and see his opponents rebuttals for example), but the way we go about it needs improvement. Sadly, if one is interested in this sort of thing in Apologetics, the only schools really offering further study in these areas is Southern (which is Reformed) or HBU, which is less Baptist and more “Mere Christianity” (which comes off a lot more like “Barely Christian” in my opinion of their program so far).

Ron F. Hale

Johnathan,

What would be three or five of the best “intro” books into Apologetics that should be in the library of every pastor and/or church library? Thanks!

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