Implementing Apologetics Ministry
by Max L. E. Andrews
There are two main components to an apologetics ministry that I have discovered to be pertinent for the growth of the church: variety and particularity. Though this seems paradoxical it yields fruit when properly sown. When I say variety I’m referring to the range of topics discussed. For laypersons who cannot wade in the depths of theology and philosophy for too long the monotony of one dense topic becomes a dreadful bore. Spread out the range of topics but allow for thorough and sufficient examination and discussion. My ministry met twice a week. On Sundays I would lead a survey of different books in the Bible. During this survey we would explicate the themes, historical background, and the theological importance of the contents. This would allow everyone to have a general knowledge of the book while delving into the theology. On Wednesday evenings we would examine philosophy and history. This ensued the family of cosmological arguments, the fine-tuning argument, the moral argument, the resurrection of Christ, the hypostatic union, heretical doctrines, etc.
The second component to apologetics is particularity. When I refer to this I am appealing to the depth of a topic. Whichever topic I would be discussing for the day I would get as deep as I could with the topic being covered. For instance, when I discussed the hypostatic union I would probe deeper with questions of Jesus’ self-understanding and the notion of reduplicated predication. In essence, don’t give surface level lessons and actually challenge the church on their beliefs. Probe as deep as you can while maintaining fruitful discussion.
I was given the opportunity to deliver a sermon to the congregation one Sunday. My sermon was an exposition of Acts 17, Paul’s visit to Athens. I used this text to bring out the axioms for apologetics and the importance of it while supplementing each point with other passages of Scripture. After the sermon several congregants approached me saying they didn’t really understand the depth of my exegesis but they still received the concept and purpose of apologetics. Too often the church seems to be looking for applications in their life, the question of, “How do I relate this to my life?” This was a way of slipping in an application of apologetics while stressing the need and importance for it in the church.
Apologetics has application in two respects. The first is evangelism. When evangelizing, Paul used reason to determine his method of evangelism. Reason consists of principles of logic and method; these principles consist of the formation of simple truths and axioms that may be used to overcome problematic thinking and doing. It is important for the Christian to be on their toes and ready to provide an answer for any question brought to them and be able to act appropriately when faced with any situation (I Pt. 3.15). A difficulty in evangelistic apologetics is when one encounters an intellectual debate or discussion; there is always the possibility of construing one another’s thoughts and points. Rational and intellectually persuasive dialogue is much more effective than some Christians give it credit for. Biblical evangelism is more than sharing one’s testimony. Not to discourage sharing the impact of the Trinity in one’s life but many societies need intellectual engagement, especially the western world of Europe and North America.
The second role of apologetics is for the edification of the believer. We’ve all had our existential confrontations when we doubt our meaning, value, or purpose in life. Additionally, apologetics serves to provide reinforcement of the truth of one’s faith when facing doubt. To be honest, I’ve doubted my faith several times. I went through a four month per period of questions, depression, and doubt due to physical, emotional, and spiritual sufferings of a disease I have. It wasn’t religious experience of the presence of God that drew me back to him. What drew me back was my intellectual foundation. I used the truths I accepted as a foundation, i.e., objective meaning, value, and purpose, and allowed God to restore my trust in him. Doubt isn’t a biblical virtue and it’s not good. Critically thinking through your faith and challenging your thinking is virtuous. Sometimes apologetics is just as important for the unbeliever as it is for the Christian.
When one is doing apologetics correctly one will see the twofold effects of it: a rational reason for the truth of theism and Christianity for the unbeliever and the reinforcement of the truth of the faith for the Christian. If apologetics does not provide the Christian with the latter I would encourage him to allow the material to saturate his heart and mind prior to leading a ministry focused on such an endeavor.