In our modern age, when one is converted as an adult – it seems as though they are birthed into the Kingdom of Christ one moment and thrust into the work of Apologetics the next. As Groothuis put it, “the possibility of despair is always close at the elbow of hope, acting as a debating partner if not a heckler”. We are surrounded on all sides by those who cannot and will not see the validity of our faith. Personally, I was converted at the age of nineteen as a freshman in college. I remember overhearing elder family members discussing how certainly I would grow out of this “phase”. Intrinsically, I knew this was more than a phase, but I was ill equipped to argue that case. What did a freshman in college know about himself or about Christianity? The antagonism that suddenly surrounds us drives us to arm ourselves with truth. Eventually, we gather enough mental stamina to defend our faith, and with God’s help we even gather a few souls in the process.
We must defend philosophical and theological positions because they are foreign to the unbeliever but not because they are unique to our faith. It does not take long for us to recognize that all people (religious or irreligious) hold particular theologies, philosophies, presuppositions and ideas. As Frankl said, “The gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.” When one recognizes that all people stand on some foundation (either good or bad) it positions him or her to not only defend the Christian faith, but also recognize inconsistencies in all other faiths or world views.
So, why do we engage in Apologetics? We are forced to. But I would argue that beyond our need to defend our faith, thinking deeply on the reasons for our faith adds to our delight in Christ. No doubt, when we have been in God’s manifest presence for ten million years, we will still be learning more of God’s infinite person. As our knowledge of God grows, our delight in God will grow proportionately. Therefore, one might slightly bend Dr. Piper’s theory to say “Apologetics exist because worship does not”. Apologetics is evangelism. Apologetics is discipleship. But Apologetics is also worship. The audience of Apologetics is, therefore, the unbeliever (evangelism), ourselves (discipleship), and our Lord (worship).