How I Abused Apologetics, by Tyler Smith

1 Aug

Living in Los Angeles has really had an interesting effect on my faith. Having met with a fair amount of ridicule and hostility (some direct, some not), I found myself becoming more and more argumentative. I immersed myself in Apologetics; that is, the practice of approaching Christianity with logic, reason, and analysis for the purpose of a deeper understanding of the faith. I became absolutely hooked. Once I started to read one argument after another in defense of Christianity, I couldn’t stop.

My drug of choice was C.S. Lewis. I started with “Mere Christianity,” then moved on to “Miracles,” “The Problem of Pain,” and “The Four Loves.” His practical, yet faith-based, approach to the teachings of Jesus were exactly what I was looking for. So I went out into the world of the internet, armed with arguments, looking for a fight.

It got to the point that I would have trouble sleeping at night, rehearsing rebuttals to what an atheist friend might say.

It was an interesting circumstance. I had a fuller, deeper understanding of Jesus and the sacrifice he made for us, and yet I had no peace or joy. Apologetics is supposed to be a tool, but I was fully prepared to wield it like a weapon.

I realized that it was my personal pride that had gotten in the way. It wasn’t so important that I defend the faith as it was that I won the argument. As such, I had only read the material to find key points that would strengthen my rebuttals.

I decided that, as my new understanding wasn’t actually helping my relationship with God, as it was meant to do, I would have to change my approach to Apologetics. Rather than trying to find a way to prove myself to others, I would look for a way to glorify God.

Once I made that decision, I started looking at these books in a whole new way. Suddenly, I found myself having discussions, not with atheists, but with my fellow Christians about the wonder and grace of God. In these talks, we would deal with our own questions about Christianity, not by simply acting as if these questions were wrong and should be ignored, but by thinking through them and listening to each other, using Lewis and Driscoll and Keller as reference points.

God gave us inquiring, reasoning minds and the freedom to use them. Some would say that within this freedom lies permission to simply accept whatever we like as the truth. However, what I came to realize was that, the more questions I had, the more answers I discovered. The more answers I had, the closer I came to Christ.

Apologetics was never meant as a way to win arguments. It was meant to incorporate inquiry and intellect into the faith so that we might be able to better comprehend and verbalize what Jesus did for us. I find that, if I focus on that aspect of Apologetics, I have fewer debates and many more conversations.

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