The last two weeks I’ve been discussing the concept of an apologetic culture we need to nourish within our churches. Two weeks ago I discussed this from the standpoint of believers with doubts. Last time, I discussed one approach to apologetics, evidentialism, which I believe for most people is the most accessible “starting point for apologetics. What kind of cultural changes are we talking about?
I think its clear that not everyone is designed or called (however one might define that term) to become an apologetics expert, just as not everyone is equipped to pastor or to teach teenagers. Some people simply have abilities aimed for certain areas of the Christian life; some people are phenomenal children’s Sunday School teachers, the teach and the kids just “get it.” Others are great at carrying forward compassionate outreach, they naturally work through the pitfalls of helping those who are truly needy, without becoming enablers of self-destructive behavior. And yet, we are all called to be compassionate. Similarly, we are all called to answer those who ask of the hope that lies within us – every apologists favorite verse, 1 Peter 3:15. Just as our universal call to be compassionate does not mean that everyone is called to open a homeless shelter, so to our universal call to answer objections doesn’t mean everyone should immediately start debating internet atheists or seeking to become experts.
There are “levels” of expertise at apologetics. There are professionals; Dr. Tim McGrew, a professional epistemologist (a philosopher dealing with questions of how we can claim to know or be justified in believing something) refers to these men as the special forces. The best known examples today would be Ravi Zacharias of “Let My People Think” fame, or William Lane Craig. One of my own influences in starting this site was a column by J Warner Wallace discussing the need for “one dollar apologists.” The one dollar apologist is not a paid professional in apologetics, often they focus on one particular objection, or one particular approach to apologetics, sometimes as in my case, spreading out from that starting point. Most of us have blog sites as well. In some cases, we start moving into greater expertise, some such as I seeking more advanced training in these discussions.
I think, though, these are those gifted in apologetics, given the tools to naturally think through and work through objections. Then there are what I call the “Nickel apologists.” The Nickel apologist makes no pretenses to being an expert, they won’t be debating internet atheists (and avoiding the frustrations incurred). They are not familiar with every nuance of apologetic arguments, but they’ve read a few of the basic books, on the subject, such as those I recommended last time, or Frank Turek’s I don’t have enough faith to be an Atheist. They can answer the easy questions when they are asked on the one hand, and they know where to look for the answers they don’t know – they have mastered the art of saying, “I don’t know, but if you will give me a day or too I can find out.” They are the Sunday School teachers who takes time to read a few apologetics related websites or blogs that they consider credible in order to be able to help others.
A culture of apologetics also means perhaps having a church apologetics conference, or a basic discussion of apologetics in Sunday School Training, or in Evangelistic training. It means making apologetics a part, though not the entirety of a churches life and ministry. Dare I say it, it means improving the quality of our tracts to suggest why someone would accept Christianity. In short, it views apologetics in terms of an aspect of Christian ministry, viewing it in terms of a part of the sanctification process—part of “renewing the mind” for the restoration of the image of God in us. It is a change in the way we view apologetics as not a task just for experts, but as a task for the church as a whole.