Christian Apologetics Free Course 06, Lesson 03
The Preparation To Become An Apologist 03
Mental Preparation: Christian apologetics is basically a battle of ideas in which wrong ideas and philosophies are refuted and the right set of ideas is propounded and defended. Since the human mind is the seat of ideas, apologetics requires interaction at the mental level. While all humans use their minds, not all use them fully or for entirely constructive activities. The fall in Eden has corrupted the human mind to such an extent that rising up beyond this depravity to think in a wholesome manner is difficult for unregenerate humankind. Even regenerate people are not immediately transformed into the state of innocence. What is more, in every generation there are vast numbers of people devising methods, arguments, and philosophies intended to confuse, persuade, or lead people astray. Thus for the truth-loving child of God, every day brings new frontiers of mental fight.
The problem with mental fight is that it is invisible and not material. For this reason, people on the defense side (victims) take it lightly. Even Christians on the offense usually do not give it the attention or seriousness it ought to receive. What cannot be seen with the eyes often deceives us into thinking that it does not exist or that it cannot exert a substantial influence. This is why ideas that underlie deviant movements are often ignored or underestimated.
Scripture repeatedly stresses the role played by the human mind in spiritual life and in spiritual battle. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). In today’s health-conscious world large numbers of people invest heavily in health and fitness equipment because changes for the worse in one’s health are immediately visible, and they wish to arrest and counter them. But changes at the mental level are not that obvious to the average person, and the impact of such changes is often seriously underestimated. This is one reason why the Scriptures place such a heavy emphasis on guarding the mind.
So important does God consider the mind that the Scriptures use the word mind/minds at least 111 times, the word thought/thoughts 139 times, the word think/thinks 82 times, and the word heart/hearts close to 1000 times. Many more mind-related words are used, but the above statistics are sufficient to impress any thinking Christian with the importance of the human mind. Christians place much importance on subjects that are not mentioned even one-tenth this number of times. That being so, how much more importance ought we to give to the mind. Preparing to become Apologists “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
Obviously, the human mind is the most essential human component of the system used in fighting Satan. The same idea is emphasized by the Scripture in Ephesians: “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness” [emphasis added] (Ephesians 4:17-19). The human mind needs to be channeled in the right direction — even in the lives of the greatest believers and apologists. Else it will go astray and fall into the deepest sin and rebellion as witnessed in the life of Solomon, the most intelligent human and the wisest believer the world has ever seen.
Christian apologists should always remember that this is a battle at the mental level. If they prepare themselves at this level, they will be able to fight. If they neglect preparation in this area they are poised for failure in their professional lives and disaster in their personal lives. Christian apologists should therefore take great care of their mental lives. They should keep in touch with the best conservative minds of the present and past, through personal interaction as well as through reading. They should read books that can challenge and inspire, as well as ones that can answer their own personal doubts.
There is a misunderstanding among most Christian apologists that they are immune to doubts, and that they shall never face doubts themselves. This false belief can greatly handicap and even spiritually kill them. Most people who see doctors and medical personnel erroneously think that these people never fall sick. Actually nobody can carelessly work in the medical field, and medical workers are always under above-average threat of catching infections because they are closer to germs and viruses than the average person. The secret of their health is not all-round immunity, but “all-round precaution”. They take all the essential vaccinations on time, they do not forget to take the booster dosages, they wash their hands after touching people with contagious diseases, and they use gloves and masks when necessary. What’s more, they also take good care of their health so that their resistance to infections remains at its peak. The moment they fail to do this, they fall victim to every possible infection. The same is true of Christian apologists and their faith.
Christian apologists should take care of their minds in the same way. They should continuously be reading the best apologetics books, magazines, and journals. They should continuously be exploring the techniques used by the enemy. Above all, they should continuously keep themselves at the peak of mental health so that nothing quickly overwhelms their defenses.
They must continuously monitor their spiritual commitment and persistence. Any reduction in these should immediately be corrected by reading the best apologetic works and by interacting with zealous apologists. One’s spiritual life should also be overhauled and ‘refitted’ when necessary. Intense apologetic involvement and battles should be avoided while one is in a weak and susceptible condition. Practical Preparation: Christian apologetics definitely has a theoretical side, but theoretical studies become useful and successful only when used in the practical arena. This requires rigorous practical preparation. Just as learning the principles of swimming in a classroom does not make one a swimmer, mere exposure to the theoretical aspects of Christian apologetics will not make one a capable apologist.
Oral and written communication are the vehicles of apologetics. While all of us speak and write, not all of us do so effectively, either in personal life or in formal situations. Witness the number of people who frequently run into trouble due to their speech. Thus apologists should continually sharpen their oral and written communication skills. They should form the habit of frequently reading books and articles on communication, delivery of speech, and print-media communication.
Tons of free material are available on the net, if one is not able to afford books. Apologists are depriving themselves if they restrict all their communication to the oral realm. They need to write frequently (even if these writings are not meant for publication), because practicing one’s expression in writing makes their communication more precise. While all of us speak much, most of us would be shocked if a transcript of our speech were given to us. We would quickly discover that we did not say what we thought we did, and it did not go the way we thought it did. Important words(though they did come to our mind) would be missing, essential phrases would not be there, and often the presumed link between our statements would be missing.