Every now and then, I’ll get into a discussion with someone about the rise of apologetics as a field of study for Christian Education. In recent years, several universities or seminaries have built or added apologetics degrees including Biola, Houston Baptist, and Denver Seminary, all of which have highly respected faculty and programs.
Personally, I think it won’t reach most students’ learning goals.
Okay, so that’s a strong statement, but let me explain. Many people value apologetics because they feel it helps them spread the gospel. In their view, they want to gain answers to any and all questions in order to be prepared to give a defense. Unfortunately, I believe they’re preparing to answer the wrong questions, and will therefore give the wrong answers.
Most of us in the church have been educated according to a Modernist mindset wherein the major philosophical category is epistemology. In simple English, when we encounter issues or problems, we first ask “Is this true?” before moving forward. Therefore, we gravitate to degrees like apologetics because it helps us to understand the truth, to argue about what is true, and to see the truth.
We live in a post-Modern era wherein the major philosophical category is axiology. When a post-modernist encounters a problem, they first ask, “Is this valuable?” before moving forward. A post-modernist wants to understand issues of importance, value, or good. This is why many people will respond with, “Well that’s your truth,” when you tell them about something you understand as true. What they’re really saying is, “You may think that’s good/valuable/important, but I don’t.” You may have every argument for the authenticity of the Bible, every philosophical proof of deity, all truth in all of existence about the veracity of what you have to say, but if you do not convince them that what you have to say is good, they will never accept it as true.
In short, I feel that apologetics degrees and approaches suffer because they ask and answer the wrong questions. A post-modern apology for Christianity must defend the notion that (1) God is good, (2) Christianity is good, and (3) what Christianity produces is good. If your apology (defense) neglects any of these, I feel that you will not reach this generation. As a side note, I’ll also point out that actions speak louder than words in this case.
I respect those who take the path of the apologist. I respect those who teach apologetics to others. I observe, however, that arguing over the accuracy of this or that New Testament manuscript may not have the effect you think it does. As the old saw goes, no one every became a Christian because they lost the argument. And what is good? “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord really wants from you:He wants you to promotejustice, to be faithful,and to live obediently before your God.”