Christian Apologetics Free Course 06, Lesson 02
The Preparation To Become An Apologist 02
Apologists cannot grow in a spiritual vacuum, nor can anyone sustain their spiritual IQ by depending upon themselves alone. They should make it a practice to read works by the spiritual giants both of his era and the past. This will put them in touch with the greatest spiritual minds of all time, accelerating their own spiritual growth and understanding as they imbibe God’s illumination as experienced by others of their kind.
There are two important components to such reading and meditation. The first part is a regular, disciplined, and time-bound devotion and study. The best possible time of the day should be allocated for this. One should not miss this appointment, except in case of emergencies and unavoidable engagements. As apologists keep the appointment without fail, their bodies and minds gradually adapt to it in such a way that they begin to receive maximum benefit from it. Their whole systems become tuned to that event at that time, their concentration and perception are enhanced, and they begin to enjoy their spiritual feast and exercise. While a regular, time-bound devotion and study of Scripture is the essential first step of preparation, conscious reflection during free time throughout the day is the second part. Apologists should make frequent reflection an essential part of their daily lives. Initially they might need to make a conscious effort, but gradually their whole beings will be tuned in such a way that their minds automatically return to it as soon as they are free. Spiritual reflection becomes integrated with their regular thought processes.
The Word of God repeatedly emphasizes the need for reflection on a regular basis. “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success” (Joshua 1:8). “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly landed by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers” (Psalms 1:2-3). Along with their spiritual life and growth, apologists should also take great care of their theology. If people are sloppy with their diet, their physical bodies may end up suffering. If apologists are sloppy with their theology, their spirits will end up suffering. While meditation and reflection are usually informal, theology is a much more formal and systematized presentation of doctrinal information found throughout the Bible. God has His own perfect purpose in scattering information about key doctrines throughout the Scripture, and we should not question the way He operates. Rather, Christians, especially apologists, need to carefully integrate this information.
The challenge comes when such information on a given subject is collected, collated, and interpreted. One can make mistakes. A key verse might be ignored. A key turning-point might not be noticed. The real thrust of a passage might be overlooked. This is why the systematization of theology has taken two millennia from the completion of the Canon. Systematisation and deduction are a long process, where one fine-tunes the deductions and inductions in each round of interpretation. However, in the hurry that most people are in, they sometimes overlook the discipline needed and come to theological conclusions which are not entirely correct. Since the entire theological edifice of the Bible is one whole and tight-fitting integrated unit, an error in one place, without exception, results in error in other places. Apologists should take care to spot and avoid errors because once there is error in their thinking or perception at the theological level, they cannot be successful apologists, for nothing substantial is left to defend when the foundation is missing or crooked. This is why aspiring Christian apologists should become highly literate or well-read in theology.
History has repeatedly shown that people ignorant of history are condemned to repeat the avoidable errors of history. The same is true of theology. Those who are not exposed to the ongoing stream of orthodox theological discussion, and those who do not care to study the erroneous views and interpretations in the theology of others often end up favoring interpretations and ideas that ultimately lead them into errors that have long ago been condemned by orthodoxy. [We must hasten to add here that in theological circles the word “orthodoxy” represents commitment to the fundamentals of the Christian faith, and hence is a positive word. This needs to be pointed out here because the word has other shades of meaning too, including pejorative uses]. Within theology, Christian apologists must be firmly committed to the four Cardinal Doctrines which are:
Sola Scriptura: The Bible alone is the Holy Spirit-inspired divine revelation, and the Bible alone is the final word in all matters of doctrine and practice.
Sola Fide: Faith alone is the means of obtaining justification, and human merit or work plays no role in it.
Sola Gratia: Grace alone is the means of salvation, and works play no role in it.
Sola Christus: Christ alone is the Savior, and there is no other mediator between God and man.
Any wavering on these Cardinal Doctrines will result in the weakening of other doctrines and eventual compromise. For example those who waver on Sola Scriptura are quick to denounce the six-day fiat creation. From there they degenerate to theistic evolution and the eventual abandonment of the entire special-creation and Edenic-sin framework. Nothing much is left for defense or apologetics at this stage, and this has been demonstrated through the degeneration and fall of many Christian apologists who compromised on the Cardinal Doctrines.
Battles are won only by armies that are prepared to fight. The same is true of Christian apologetics. All aspiring Christian apologists should nurture their spiritual life and theology on a daily basis all their lives.
Some Practical Tips: Things done randomly might initially yield noticeable results, but the end will be chaotic. Witness a large house that results from random modifications and ad hoc constructions over a few decades. The house would surely be very large, but this patchwork would also be chaotic, to say the least. Much money and space and many resources would have been consumed, but the end-result would not be pleasing. It is the same with spiritual and theological self-enrichment. A spiritual life and vision developed randomly and in an ad hoc manner might eventually seem great, but that is only because it is inflated and bloated. There is nothing substantial inside, and it lacks foundation. It would fall down at the most unexpected moment, the way an unplanned house crumbles in an earthquake.
To avoid the pitfalls of randomness, apologists should follow a systematic plan of devotion and Bible study. Any plan that suits them and that they are able to follow for a long period of time will be okay. Many lists are available to help a person read the entire Bible in very convenient daily segments. Devotion-related guides are available, and some of them are of very high spiritual quality. Is the Holy Spirit leading you into apologetics? If so, then obtain a plan. Which of these you choose is not all that important. What’s essential is that once you have chosen a good plan you must stick with it long enough for it to become an integral part of your life.
Reading good expository magazines and books, listening to audio, etc. will also nourish your spirit. As you continue studying in this manner, the Word of God will open up to you as never before. You will begin enjoying the Scripture in unusual ways and will find ideas and inspiration jumping out at you as you read familiar passages. “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Read some of the more well-written and orthodox systematic theologies, as well as the classics that keep appearing on narrower topics in theology. For example, read
* William Fitch’s God and Evil – that tackles the questions of how evil can exist in a world controlled by a benevolent God who is also all-powerful and why He does not eliminate evil altogether.
* The Universe Next Door by James W. Sire
* Is Jesus the only Saviour? by Ronald Nash
* The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis.
The larger volumes will give you a comprehensive framework whereas the smaller and more focused works will give you a clearer understanding of special issues in theology.
Reading some of the more conservative theological journals will keep you updated on many important issues in theology, and this will keep you ready to answer various perplexing questions. Many of these journals are available on the web as free downloads, costing you little. There are also many theology websites that discuss every possible theological question. Keep yourself updated on a regular basis.