I received a question about why Christian apologists were often so divisive recently. The person asked why Christians engaging in apologetics can often come off condescending and rude.
My response is below:
That’s a great question, and a great reminder of the need to remain humble. It is a sad irony that the human tendency towards arrogance takes hold even in serving God (who calls us to humility).
First and foremost, the cause is the sinful nature that we all possess. Many who dedicate themselves to intellectual studies can neglect service in ministry work more oriented towards mercy and compassion.
The nature of popular materials may also play a role. On the one hand, much of Christian apologetics has been popularized through the debate format. This format appeals to a wide audience because it brings a balanced approach to the issues, inviting proponents of both sides of the argument to speak their piece. It is the nature of a debate, however, to be a bit contentious. In a debate, one is trying to defeat the arguments of the opponent rather than trying to evangelize them. The presentation is really for the benefit of the audience rather than one’s opponent. Responses are also limited in their time so that the debater does not have the opportunity to gently move towards the central claims of the argument as one should try to do in an actual conversation. I wonder if many Christians who use debates as a study material do not, without realizing it, take a debate approach into personal conversation. Such interactions would naturally be contentious, as most personal conversations involve much more than a simple debate over ideas.
On the other hand, opposing materials are much the same. If one tries to engage in apologetics ministry online, they will often find themselves subject to ridicule and personal attacks (this is just the nature of the internet). It may be the case that such Christians have become so accustomed to defending against aggressive attacks that their natural mode of rebuttal to an objection is stronger than may be appropriate for an in-person conversation.
Whatever the reason for our arrogance and condescension, your e-mail is a great reminder of the need to remain humble and gracious as we seek to share the Lord’s good news with the people that he so desperately loves.
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