Apologetics Is About Love

By Ryan Leasure

Apologetics is about love. Wait, what? Apologetics? About love? You mean to tell me that apologetics — making a defense for the Christian faith — isn’t about academic scruples that few people care about? Don’t apologists thrive off arguments and heated discussions? How could it be about love?

Apologetics Is About Love (1)

While I can’t speak for my fellow Christian apologists, love motivates me to study apologetics. Jesus tells us the greatest commandments are to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. I believe one way we can obey these commands is to grow in our understanding of apologetics. Make no mistake about it; apologetics can be intellectually fulfilling. Love, however, must be the primary motivation. The goal needs to be winning people’s hearts, not winning arguments. And it’s my love for the following people that compels me to do apologetics.

LOVE FOR NON-CHRISTIANS

Like everyone else, I have friends who aren’t Christians. Some of these friends belong to other faiths while others are atheists. I love these friends and want them to receive salvation. Yet they, like me, are deeply entrenched in their worldviews. Quoting Bible verses to them often doesn’t persuade them because they don’t believe the Bible. They don’t care that Genesis says God created the world. For them, the Bible is a mixture of bad history and old wives’ tales.

I could respond to these friends in one of two ways. I could throw my arms up in the air and say what’s the use? They’re on their own. Or, I could try to learn about their worldview and do my best to show them why it doesn’t square with reality. Furthermore, I could also try to answer any objections they have to my worldview. I chose the latter.

Because I believe Jesus is the Son of God who died and rose again for our sins, I desperately want my non-Christian friends to trust in him. I want them to receive forgiveness of sins. I want them to have eternal life and experience true and lasting joy that only Jesus can give. And because I love these friends deeply, I’m committed to studying apologetics with the hopes that God might use it to draw them to himself.

LOVE FOR MY CHURCH

The reason I emphasize apologetics in my local church is because I love my fellow church members. We live our lives to the fullest when we pursue a dynamic relationship with Jesus. And in my experience, apologetics has bolstered my relationship with him.

Not only do I possess greater assurance for my faith — it’s reasonable to believe what I believe — I am also prepared to share my faith with more boldness. Trepidation doesn’t overwhelm me anymore. I’m prepared to answer most questions and objections people have about my faith. In a very real way, apologetics has increased my ability to fulfill the Great Commission (Mt 28:19-20).

Whether people realize it or not, apologetics is the evangelism of today and of the future. While we should never avoid sharing the simple Gospel message — that Jesus died and rose for our sins — we must be able to provide good reasons for believing that Gospel message to be true. After all, we live in a post-Christian, pluralistic, skeptical culture that distrusts any form of religion. They don’t take the Bible at face value. They think religion is a personal matter — your truth is good for you, but not for my kind of mentality.

Most Christians struggle navigating these kinds of conversations. As a result, they feel defeated because they didn’t know how to respond to the skeptic’s objections. Or even worse, they begin to lose their faith. For these reasons, I make it my aim to emphasize apologetics in my local church. This emphasis equips my church to more faithfully live out their life on mission for Jesus.

LOVE FOR OUR YOUTH

Multiple studies report that a majority of students leave the church when they head off to college. In fact, one Southern Baptist study reports that 88% of children born in evangelical homes leave the church at age eighteen.1 According to most of these studies, the main reason students leave the faith is because of intellectual doubt.

It’s no secret that professors at secular universities are more disposed toward atheism and skepticism than the general public.2  In fact, many of these same faculty have a general dislike for evangelical Christianity. How then do we prepare our students in the youth group for the onslaught? With more games? By focusing more on inviting friends than personal discipleship? With short lessons on moral purity?

We throw our youth into the lion’s den with little more than a butter knife to defend themselves and wonder why they don’t make it out. We’re failing our youth if we don’t change our approach. Fortunately, excellent resources exist for equipping our youth in apologetics. Currently, our youth director is taking our students through The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel.

We have some great students in our church. I don’t want to see them become another statistic. I love them too much.

LOVE FOR JESUS

Jesus proclaims, “If you love me, keep my commands” (Jn. 14:15). I don’t know if most Christians recognize this, but God commands us to do apologetics. First Peter 3:15 asserts, “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”

Occasionally I’ll hear someone say Matthew 28:18-20 isn’t the “Great Suggestion,” it’s the “Great Commission.” In other words, Jesus was serious when he told his disciples to go spread the Gospel message. It’s not optional.

In the same sense, 1 Peter 3:15 doesn’t offer a suggestion, but a bona fide command to do apologetics. And doesn’t love for the Lord manifest itself in obedience? Christians aren’t simply hearers of the word, but doers also (Js. 1:22). I don’t always obey God’s commands as I should, but my love for Jesus compels me to do apologetics.

APOLOGETICS IS ABOUT LOVE

It’s not merely an academic exercise. It’s not about silencing your opponent. Apologetics is about persuasively sharing the Gospel to win people to Christ. It’s about fulfilling the greatest commandments to love God and our neighbor. In fact, Jesus tells us in the greatest commandment that we are to love God with all our “mind.” That is, loving God necessarily includes mental engagement. If you’re ever tempted to think that apologetics is unloving, I hope you’ll be reminded of Jesus’ words and think again.

 


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4 replies
  1. Andy Ryan says:

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”
    – CS Lewis

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  2. Susan says:

    Pretty much every Christian activity is motivated by love but it is hard to see God’s love through an argument.

    Much better to listen to spiritual songs that break down the deeper mysteries to a third grade level so more can follow.

    Pure intellectual emotional clarity is spiritual genius.

    Everything to Me
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=PRuF674Avsk&index=12&list=PL5199B78B91353E06

    I Don’t Want To Go
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=PRuF674Avsk&index=12&list=PL5199B78B91353E06

    Christ teaches His people to be lovers not worldly haters. Cf. 1 Cor. 13. Some people are faster learners than others.

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  3. Susan says:

    All Christian activities spring from love motives.

    But too many apologists neglect the simple, powerful profound message of the Gospel in favor of arguments they have grown to like to make.

    Arguing is not greater than conviction by the Holy Spirit.

    Arguing is defensive and sometimes encourages eggshell walking when Christians don’t have to walk on eggshells, Christians have Christ’s authority in Christ’s name to wield so why be tentatively arguing all the time?

    Man up and wield the Sword of the Spirit and deliver the offensive weapon of the Gospel.
    Don’t attempt to persuade fear filled doubters by arguing. Give the Holy Spirit an opening to convict them.

    As Billy Graham once said. Christians are to love, the Holy Spirit convicts and God judges.

    We have to love enough to take the offensive for God to save people.

    The best defense is a good offense.

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  4. Susan says:

    Try to be an evangelist rather than an apologist. Sure many evangelists start out as apologists by getting caught up in defending the Gospel.

    But ultimately this world needs more sowers of the Gospel. If you are defending too much then you may be sowing on unteachable ears and you can never be sure the unbeliever you are speaking with isn’t pretending to be an atheist while he is in fact a Satanist. Satanists don’t go around announcing themselves as such like Karl Marx who Richard Wurmbrand disclosed was a closet Satanist.

    The days are increasingly evil as the drop in morality on television, the movies and social media shows and Christians are not suppose to sully their minds or ears with a lot of the ideas that are commonplace today in the world.

    People think they are going to engage this world by defending the Gospel but not everyone is receptive. There are unteachable spirits, critical spirits, spirits of confusion, and many other evil spirits at work in the world and could be endemic to the flesh which is the unsaved nature of man.

    If a person refuses to acknowledge the evil around him and his own sinful participation in it so Christ won’t convict him then how can you persuade such a one?

    You cannot do better than God though you try and try to reason people out of their evil. It may be you cannot argue people out of evil because evil isn’t rational and these people have settled into evil and now want to rationalize their self deceptive heart’s bad choice.

    Many apologists like a challenge. So they take on one of the stiffest problems in salvation: atheism. But you are limited to influencing another person’s will. Leave that to God and the individual concerned.

    Protect yourself and others by redeeming the time and seeking out others more receptive that do not exhibit the intransigent evil spirits. Are you really going to miss the opportunity to help the helpable by getting tied up solving human problems for the intransigent when they are going to reject and squabble over the godly solution.

    Find someone sincere and receptive and sow the Gospel. Time is short and the Kingdom is at hand and don’t let your heart be deceived. Really a good part of the world is against God so locate the people that can receive God and be raised right.

    Cf. 2 Timothy 3

    Avoid the fools. Time is precious. Look for the people with good receptive hearts. There are not that many online as the internet has been over run by trolls for a while now so hardly a sane, sober minded person is to be found on it.

    Remember to sow discerningly and guard your heart.

    If you sow to godliness and eternal life then you will reap it.

    So evangelism first. Defense only if necessary.

    If you learn to read the signs for the teachable and receptive spirits then you will avoid a lot of grief from fools so ask God for the spiritual gift of discernment.

    Thanks for reading theists. I am sharing my hard won observations with you sober minded people.
    Wisdom learned early is better than wisdom learned late so invest your time wisely. God is watching.

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