September 29, 2020

Open Mic At The iMonk Cafe: A Question About Apologists

Tonight’s “Open Mic” question is a simple one. If you don’t get it, I’m not going to help you.

Catholics, I thought about this just being about your team, but that wouldn’t be fair.

OK. Here it is. Tonight’s iMonk Cafe Open Mic Question:

“Why are apologists….you know…..why are they the way they are?”

Some help is available here.


  1. Frankly, apologetics is something I avoid (with a huge guilt trip, because i know all christians are “supposed” to be mad keen on the subject. I didn’t come to Christ by someone bombarding me with intellectual arguments, it was a personal journey towards finding Jesus on a relational level (which I realise makes no sense to those who didn’t come that way, so it’s hard for me to see the point of it. But if you mix the untempered zeal of a new convert with theself-righteousness of someone who allows no doubts about their position and, perhaps, the personality of someone who’s better at talking than listening … not pretty.

  2. The Fearsome Comrade (a Lutheran blog) wrote a funny essay on the 5 stages of converts awhile back – you can find the whole thing here:

    Here’s a sample:

    “Stages of Conversion
    It doesn’t seem to matter what version of the Christian faith you join, because this seems to be a near-universal process:

    Phase 1: The Cage Phase
    So you’ve found your new tradition, and you’ve finally discovered all the answers to life’s problems encompassed within it. You’ve also read a few books that explain how every other Christian tradition (especially the one you just left) has absolutely ruined the (edited) out of the Christian faith as a whole. As God’s apostle to the unconverted, it now falls upon you to save the world (especially your friends and family in the old tradition) by enlightening them as to just how perfect everything is about your new tradition and how stupid and wrong everything about their current tradition is. It is very important for you to have a blog during this time so that you can enlighten as many people as possible.”

  3. I have been enjoying this site. I thought I might add my two cents worth because I enjoy apologetics.

    A number of years ago I had a sort of crisis of faith when I discovered that the parable of the woman at the well was not in the earliest manuscripts. I began to fear that I knew precious little of this faith I had come to in my teens. So, I began a journey of knowledge. i studied history of the faith, how we got the canon, supposed contradictions of the Bible. I even studied atheists, other faiths,etc. Guess what? My faith was strengthened. I found answers to my questions.

    Most Christians fear looking at the faith closely. They fear talking with unbelievers because they feel they can’t answer their questions. I have taught adult Sunday school for years. I ask folks to ask me questions that they have about the faith that they are afraid they can’t answer. It is wonderful to see their fear turn into confidence when they realize that they have a faith that can hold up under close scrutiny.

    I believe that the negative turn in the apologetics business came as the culture began to coarsen. Just watch news programs and see people shouting at one another. So, we Christians often imitate our culture. And, I admit, I sometimes fail in this area. You know, it is difficult to not “be of this world.” Yes, we often lose sight of what we are doing. We act like Peter in the garden, trying to slice off ears; the take no prisoners approach.

    Thanks for letting me join in the discussion.

  4. It’s about certainty, coupled with a firm belief that your side is right (which = good chance of being saved) and the other side is wrong (which = good chance of being damned).

    Think burning witches at the stake. Ya, it hurts the witches, but it’s worth it if it save their souls.

    (Note: I do not subscribe to the above views. I’m just trying to explain why others do) 🙂 .

  5. Bror, I think that the least important part of a healthy, life of faith in Christ is containing proof-texts grounding the claims of Christ and giving rational exposition to heathens and doubters for one theological point or another.

    It’s some part, but not any large part.

    Being adept at stating tenets of Christianity in a way that places them beyond the argument of regular folks isn’t a work of faith, as far as I can tell.

    The large part seems to be believing and following them ourselves. Becoming Christlike is what makes us witnesses, right? Not being able to say, to the satisfaction of critics or children, what being Christlike “is”.

    Paul also said that non-believers would know us when they saw us: by our love. Arguments aren’t usuallly loving, no matter how much pathos bubbles up within us while we’re in the heat of them, no matter how much we try to pretend that we contest on behalf of Christ.

    Or whatever – that’s my opinion, at least.

  6. Patrick Lynch,
    And accusing apologists of being fat one time nerds who couldn’t catch a ball exhibits love how?
    Seriously though. I think you have a skewed view of Christianity and apologetics.
    See, I know I can be a jerk sometimes, and I consider myself at least an amature in apologetics. I studied apologetics under Rosenbladt, who many think is a jerk. Yet many of us who studied under him and actually listened to what he had to say have a completely different view of this man.
    The one truth he mercilessly drilled home in his classes, is that Christianity is not about being Christlike, but being forgiven by Christ and his cross. (By the way, Jesus could be pretty merciless in a debate too. He didn’t stand for false teaching. And was willing to grab whips for the zeal that was in him. So perhaps the apologist is Christlike.)
    And I don’t know many apologists who believe that apologetics is the sum total of the faith.

  7. IM, I think I know what you’re talking about. I think that (Catholic) apologists are “the way they are” because when you have someone who is:
    1. intellectual and also
    2. a person of faith (which a rational person can be, but which is still “not rational” – it’s something *more*, blessed are they who do not see but believe, etc).
    3. and they’re faced with atheists jeering about a magical man in the sky and other Christians jeering about an occasionally magical man in Rome you wind up with someone who
    4. is unwilling or personally unable to make an argument from the bottom up like CS Lewis and instead
    5. takes the position that if you don’t agree with them lock stock and barrel… well, you must be a stupid baby who doesn’t understand anything and, oh, you think you’re smarter than Thomas Aquinas?

    (as a cradle catholic, that’s my experience).

  8. Anybody remember Col. Nathan Jessup’s line as he is on the witness stand in “A Few Good Men”?

    “you need me on that wall. You WANT me on that wall”

    the Church really needs men who think deeply about the issues of faith and scripture. Where does it say that Christians are to always put the cookies on the lowest shelf?

    The Puritans were the ones who were pushing education, while everyone else was content with raising slack-jawed yokels with hard bodies and soft minds.

    No, we are not to respond to our critics and enemies with vitriol and hatred, but this does not mean that we throw the baby out with the bath water.

    Where would the church be without Augustine, Lewis, Schaeffer, Ravi, Chesterton, Dinesh D. and so many others.

    Yes, some do not act in a Christ-like manner, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need men to think along those lines, or in that manner, or who think deeper than the average Joe Christian.

  9. “And I do believe that R.C. Sproul, one of the more famous apologists out there, actually excelled at football. Not that fat either as I recall.”

    Interesting, as I always stereotyped apologists more as aggressive former jock types than how Patrick Lynch depicted them– you know, the ones who went around pushing smaller kids into lockers just because they could.

    Yes, I’m totally stereotyping.

  10. o.h, Patrick Lynch,

    Testosterone Poisoning? Two words for you – Ingrid Schleuter. ( you can check her out at Slice of Laodicea)

    Another two words for the most strident and hateful of the group in question – mental illness.

  11. Bror,

    I’m painting a picture, trying to connect the dots between something familiar about humanity (fat nerds with a chip on their shoulder) and a very common flaw among Christians (bellicose self-righteousness). The point being that being literate in Christianity is, of itself, not transforming or vivifying in the least, and in real life, your archetypal fat nerds with poor social skills oftentimes never climb out of that hole, declared Christian faith or no.

    “(By the way, Jesus could be pretty merciless in a debate too. He didn’t stand for false teaching. And was willing to grab whips for the zeal that was in him. So perhaps the apologist is Christlike.)”

    Remind me never to debate you! I’m not trying to be whipped by anyone for not seeing their point – no matter how they exegete their rationale.

  12. Confused, my perception of apologists as fat nerds comes from the fact that the kids on the top of the social game in high school (anybody who can bully and not be an outcast) and beyond generally go on to succeed in something material later in life – they don’t engage in Sisyphean theological debate-battles on context-free topics vs. any and all comers as a pastime or a recreation.

    Also, jocks reading Calvin’s Institutes? Far-fetched?

    Stereotypes are so interesting.

  13. Patrcick,
    Now the question was, how is this love? Not, why do you say it? Perhaps I don’t know the same apologists you do. Perhaps Imonk is asking this about a subgroup I have not run into. I don’t know many self-righteous apologists. I know guys that will stand up for truth, and expose false teachers for being fools. But I also know them to be ready to forgive when one repents of false teaching, and ask forgiveness when they have gone too far. And that is what Christ bids us do, to forgive each other, and bear with one another. on the other hand I see you Patrick pointing fingers and calling them self-righteous when I can smell a good amount of that B.S wafting off of you.
    I am saying it takes all types to make up the body of Christ, all types of sinners in need of forgiveness.

  14. Apologetically Urs says

    IMHO – The Apostle Paul says that we should be ever prepared to explain and defend the Gospel. Just defending the Gospel from a biblical prospective to a world indifferent to God would often be futile at best. As Jesus and Paul the role models to follow, we (as defenders of the faith) must often disprove man’s ‘natural’ wisdom in order to show how things really are from an all but incomprehensible God’s prospective. Paul used the Law (which the Jews understood – especially the Pharisees and Sadducee) That means the arguments we present must seem logical from a ‘natural’ man’s worldview, then we can tell them how their ideology is supported (or unsupported) by biblical truths. Apologetics use scientific logic to create a ‘bridge’ of understanding to those biblical truths, and thus to God’s love and plan of salvation.

  15. It might surprise some to learn that many of us professional “apologists” view our task as fundamentally pastoral. That is, our primary objective is not to prove a point or win an argument, but rather to remove intellectual and emotional obstacles to initial and continued faith in Christ. This means that we are actively listening to those in pursuit of truth, and trying hard not to answer questions that nobody’s asking. It requires a certain level of transparency and complete authenticity on our parts, allowing glimpses into our doubts and struggles all the while pointing to reasons for unending hope in Christ. In short, we try to exegete people—including ourselves—as well as truth.

    In my nearly twenty years of vocational ministry, I’ve learned that most who reject Christianity are reacting to a caricature of it. Their cultural sources of information are slanted and so their perceptions are skewed. Ministering to these folks necessitates a certain level of apologetic skill. I learned that the hard way. Indeed, such experiences are largely responsible for my gradual drift into vocational apologetics.

    As Lee Strobel pointed out long ago, unchurched people have genuine questions about Christianity but feel that Christians fail to provide thoughtful answers. This means that our response must be both genuine and thoughtful. Cold arguments won’t get it done. But “keeping it real” has its limits, too.

    I fear that many in the post-evangelical landscape are swinging the pendulum too far in the other direction. Tired of purely modernistic, argumentative approaches to apologetics, they’ve kicked the discipline itself to the curb. But the answer is, in my humble opinion, balance—not abandonment.

    I personally know many men who embody the type of apologetic I’m describing. Guys like Gary Habermas, Mike Licona, and Rob Bowman are patient, caring, and winsome in their approach. Others who are not apologists per se but who have ventured into apologetic waters out of necessity also fall into this category. New Testament scholars Dan Wallace and Darrell Bock, both of whom I’ve known and watched for years, come immediately to mind. They’ve jumped into the frying pan of cultural debate out of deep pastoral concerns. And they’ve engaged people with charity and authenticity the whole time. It would be a shame for men like this to be included in the broad brushstrokes employed in this thread.

  16. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Jesus complex? Think about it. People hated Jesus for what He had to say; therefore the more people hate you, the more Christ-like you become. — Dumb Ox

    Which tends to remove any reality check on obnoxious behavior in Witnessing (TM).

    I think it’s also because some apologists (and evangelists) mistakenly think it is their job to make people have faith. Still sounds like Jesus complex to me…or maybe the Spanish Inquisition. — Dumb Ox