Is Apologetics Worth the Time?

–Daniel S. Ferguson

In every church, you’ll find the ardent defenders of the faith. They’re the people who post articles about how Christianity can be “proven” and always want to discuss the logical reasons for believing in Christ.

Here’s the thing: there really aren’t any.

I don’t mean that you have to shut off your brain to believe in Jesus. There are lots of reasons to think hard about faith, but we Christians really shouldn’t pretend that our faith is logical.

One of the things that makes me really angry is when Christians point to other faiths and say that they’re illogical or stupid. The go-to is usually Scientology or Mormonism, which I’ll hear mainstream Christians lampoon fairly regularly, wondering how anyone could believe such a thing.

I always respond with my favorite definition of Christianity:

Christianity: The belief that a cosmic Jewish zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.

My favorite part of that quote is that it’s all true. It uses some intentionally sarcastic language, but there’s no part of it that we don’t believe as Christians.

The reason I respond with this is because what we believe truly is irrational. Virgin birth? Ex nihilo creation? Resurrection from the dead? God in human flesh? A part of God living inside each human who wants it? Come on, those things are crazy.

Even the Bible thinks so:

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18, ESV).

You heard Paul right: folly.

And therein lies the problem with apologetics: it has very little to do with evangelism. Yet that’s how it’s usually presented, that if you can just convince people with enough evidence for faith, then they’ll suddenly sprout faith. But read the verse again: to those who are outside the faith (“perishing”), the whole thing is folly, no matter how much evidence you think you have. (And hint: you have astoundingly little.)

There’s nothing wrong with apologetics, so long as we understand its place. It’s not, for example, a very useful evangelistic tool, as it usually ends up with us sounding like everyone’s crazy uncle who posts conspiracy theories on his Facebook. In that regard, apologetics often does more harm than good, especially when it winds up being an argument all the time.

But when it helps the believer weather a storm of doubt, apologetics can be very useful. In that respect, I recommend at least understanding why you believe what you believe. What’s the basis of it? Why did you start believing? Why do you keep believing? Being able to answer those questions when your faith is strong will help you when your faith is weak.

However, please don’t go around defending the logic of our faith to outsiders. It helps no one. I know of no person who has ever been “convinced” into a saving faith in Jesus Christ. That’s because it’s not a matter of the mind, but of the soul, which can’t be swayed by logic but only by the power of God.

At the very least, if you’re one of those people who thinks other religions are silly and illogical, you probably need a stiff reminder that what we believe is absolutely insane and that you just sound pompous when you talk or act like that. Mormonism isn’t stupid. It’s just what some people believe. You’d hate to be talked about that way as Christians, and the first thing you’d do is feel defensive, so don’t do that to other people, even when they’re not around. It’s not very nice.

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3 Comments

  1. Oh my…

    Paul wasn’t saying that Christianity as a whole system was “folly” but that the idea of a crucified God was simply unthinkable to the gentiles and Jews alike. Anyone reading Christianity’s early critics like Celsus can see they always rejected the gospel on this basis alone. How can God die a death intended for slaves? That’s what Paul is referring too.

    “but there’s no part of it that we don’t believe as Christians.”

    How about that Jesus isn’t a zombie??? How about Jesus isn’t the same Person as the Father?

    Cmon this is basis stuff here.

    Apologetics isn’t supposed to be an evangelistic tool per se, the point is to defend the faith as valid and therefore preserve it’s existence.

    This type of attitude is why Christianity no longer holds any voice in the market place of ideas on western culture.

    “The reason I respond with this is because what we believe truly is irrational. Virgin birth? Ex nihilo creation? Resurrection from the dead? God in human flesh? A part of God living inside each human who wants it? Come on, those things are crazy.”

    No those things are perfectly reasonable if an all powerful God exists who exerts control over all matter.

    Logic and reason are gifts from God. Christianity is a historical faith that happened in history and not some collection of ideas or myths that take place in unknown places.

    The truth is there are MANY people who want to see Christianity cease to exist. That’s the point of apologetics.

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    1. Obviously, that definition of Christianity is meant to be comical, but it’s not too much of a stretch. By zombie, they’re referring to Jesus rising from the dead. By “is his own father,” they mean that he’s God. It’s really not that far off from mainline Christian belief; it’s just phrased comically. As far as saying that my own faith is crazy, it really kind of is. While God is logical, his interactions with our universe defy our own logical understanding in too many ways to count. That’s why it’s pretty hopeless to try to explain it. I’ve seen way more people think their way out of faith than into it precisely because logic isn’t how we first approach God. Logic can help us understand God, but it’s almost completely powerless in helping us to meet God. And that’s the point.

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  2. I enjoyed the humor of this post. Sometimes it takes a bit of humor to break down barriers between believers and non-believers. It’s sort of like saying, “Look, I know this is hard to believe, I sometimes have a tough time myself until I see what has truly happened in my own life. That’s the evidence that these seemingly impossible claims are real.” Anyway, i enjoyed this post!

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