I just read an article on Helium.com by an atheist on the topic of how atheists view apologetics. I agreed with the writer’s assessment for the most part of the failure of at least the majority of what is classified as apologetics.
Apologetics is typically a method of addressing philosophies and religions of the world from a Christian perspective with an attempt to overcome the arguments with Christian arguments. One of the good things about Christian apologetics is that it shows that Christianity is open to being challenged and has thinkers who want to address the challenge. Instead of meeting someone’s questions with violence or condemnation, we meet them with reason and explanation.
This is not to say that you will not find Christians ill equipped to give any reason for what they believe and emotionally angry and unreceptive to any criticism. This certainly happens way too often. Some will act like the questioner has mocked or blasphemed their God just by asking an honest question.
However, I am trying to think of another belief system that utilizes a philosophical defense such as apologetics. The only one that comes to mind really is atheism. I know atheists don’t call their philosophy “belief.” The point is atheists have many books and teaching DVD’s giving reasons for why they are atheists. I can’t think of any group outside of Christians and Atheists who do this on any kind of large scale.
On one hand I think being able to give an answer about what a person maintains as truth is very important and thus this is a good reason for apologetics no matter what philosophy is being presented.
The term “apologetics” comes from the Greek word “apologia” meaning to give a legal defense. This is why Socrates gave his famous Apology. He wasn’t saying he was sorry, he was giving a reasoned defense for his actions and beliefs. Thus, any person can give an “apology” for what they hold to be true and this is a good thing.
However, the problem that arises with Christian Apologetics is that Apologists often spend so much time defending doctrine and theology about God we often lose sight of the Person that doctrine and theology points to. If it is mere argument without the Presence of God filling the words, it really matters not.
“The fundamental truth about reality is truth about a Person,” wrote Alvin Plantinga is a book I am reading. I would revise that statement to “The fundamental truth about reality is the Person of Truth.” The truth isn’t that which is about the Person, but the Person Himself, who is known by the name of Jesus.
You can memorize every verse in the Bible and believe in your head every one of them, but it profits you nothing. The essence, the nature of Truth is not the Bible, but the one the Bible points to.
I could spend decades giving a description, and defense about the truth of Jesus and it have no consequence as it gives the illusion that people need only to know the right things in their mind rather than connect with the Right Being Himself. Apologetics has limits for it is not the way to Christ. It is a method of reasoning about Him, but is not the path to Him. The path to Him is Him. Nothing can substitute for that.
Ravi Zacharias, a well-known apologists/Christian thinker, says that his ministry is to clear away some of the confusion and cobwebs about Christianity so that intellectual arguments do not stand in the way of someone’s heart connecting with Jesus. But he makes no claims for apologetics being a substitute for the Spirit of God. The only way to Jesus is Jesus.