Apologetics: A Tough Job, But Does Somebody Have To Do It?
Tonight, (Thursday night, February 3, 2011) as Dr. Frank Turek delivers a talk in the University of Michigan’s Modern Language Building, I’ll be far far away. It’s an apologetics talk entitled, “I Don’t Have Faith Enough to be an Atheist,” and the concept of it scares me to death. Not so much that it’s the discussion of one man’s faith in Jesus Christ in front of hundreds of strangers. But the idea of the talk ending, the prepared remarks finally complete, and the floor opening for questions from the audience. This is the essence of apologetics: holding a microphone, sitting on an uncomfortable wooden stool, and trying to answer the questions that the audience has as a kind of stand-in for God Himself.
(photo courtesy of apologetics315.blogspot.com)
I shudder at the thought of such an endeavor. There are few things I’d rather be forced to answer questions about than my belief in Jesus. That is not to say my belief is wavering necessarily, just that, when put on the spot, I feel like I don’t know enough about Him, The Bible, The Gospel, God, Heaven, Hell, The Rapture, Sin, you name it, to really convince people that the stuff I believe is true.
I’d much rather you ask me point-blank about why Brady Hoke was a great hire by the Michigan Athletic Department, or ways in which Red Sox fans are agents of Satan. I can’t explain it, but whenever I’m put on the spot—when my faith is tested by a tough question I haven’t yet explored—my mind goes blank and suddenly it feels like I can’t remember a single line of Scripture.
It’s amazing to me because I’ve never had a fear of public speaking. I actually was in a public speaking course in high school, and was the president of my high school’s stand-up comedy club. I write about my thoughts on God all the time, but, still, something about staring into a crowd of Atheists and answering questions about the existence of God, the truth of His word and whether or not miracles happen terrifies me.
In my mind, people like Dr. Frank Turek, whose talk is named after a book he co-wrote with Norman L. Geisler, are a special kind of brave. Deciding to live your life, as a writer, activist, minister, for God is admirable in itself, but to do so in the uncomfortable, unstable manner of an apologetics speaker is something for which I’m not sure I’ll ever have the stomach.
Other campus events, like New Life Church’s “Stump The Pastor” nights held in Michigan’s dormitory study rooms, encourage this apologetics atmosphere amongst the student body. But just the name of this event seems to cultivate an environment for raised voices, one-upmanship and prejudiced/biased intellectual wordplay.
I’m not afraid of Atheists, that’s not it at all. Actually, I live with seven. I also go to school with (what feels like) about 15,000. I’m from a city with (what feels like) 10 million. So why am I so apprehensive when talking about my faith in front of nonbelievers?
The more I think about it the broader my search for an answer must become, and I realize that the only reason I get scared of these kind of apologetics events is because of how passionate an Atheist I once was.
Had I an opportunity to attend a “Stump The Pastor” event as a high school student I’d have relished it and prepared like no one else. I’d have devised impossible-to-answer questions and responses for whatever that pastor planned on saying. I’d have been intent on making him look like a fool, and converting that room full of people to the religion of ME. And most importantly, I’d have been so sure of my own opinion that I actually would have missed the purpose of the event itself.
I guess I’m afraid that I might turn from the faith I’ve worked for over the past few years, and essentially be back at square one. So when someone asks me a tough question about exactly what it is I believe about God, it’s not that I’m afraid to answer. I’m just afraid I’ll hear a better counterpoint.
And perhaps that is the great threat of apologetics. That I might have spent all this time trying to change my life (largely unsuccessfully, but still trying, a work-in-progress) into something God might be proud of, only to see it blow up in my face because of some question I’d overlooked, or someone else’s seemingly flawless opinion that my worldview simply doesn’t account for.
But, despite how scary it seems, apologetics is probably the way that I’ll grow most in my faith moving forward. Apologetics, the defense of the faith, feels like the next step for me in my walk with God, and the ways in which I’ll grow to understand who He is, and what His word means.
I’ve heard that people learn something best when they teach it, so maybe I’ve had it all wrong about apologetics. Maybe it’s not designed for the people in the audience. Maybe it’s not a shiny display, or loud argument made to convince as many people as possible to convert to one’s religion. Maybe it’s for the person speaking, the person who agrees to jump into the lions’ den armed with nothing but God and a promise that can’t really be believed until it’s lived.
Ben Verdi is a man with a laptop and a Bible and a nasty curveball. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org