What does the Lord require of you (and me)? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
I’ve done a lot of writing lately on why apologetics matters so much, but what does it mean to the individual apologist? How are we to live our lives in ministry? Are our callings different from those of others? To be an apologist is a serious responsibility and it is not one to be taken lightly. It is also one that we all fail at from time to time, like any other task, and need to remember the importance of.
To begin with, we need to remember that we are slaves of Christ. We are not our own. We are bought with a price. This means a dependence on Christ, and this is an area I will admit I am not the best at, though marriage has helped greatly. Prayer is something I do have a hard time with, but it is something I have been working on. When the wife and I pray together at night, I try to recall all the prayer requests from throughout the day and the recent past that I think need addressing. I also try to give thanks for what has happened. Prayers also become a review of the day where I try to see where God has been at work in our lives.
Why am I the one praying? This is the point where I bring forward a related duty. I do know there are female apologists out there, and thank God for them, but I am one who does believe a man leads the household, and that means spiritually as well. Of course, women pray on their own, but it’s my belief that a husband is in some ways to be a priest for his wife and come before God on her behalf.
Now to something then that will apply to men and women equally, love your family. What? What does that have to do with apologetics? It has everything to do with it. You are constantly defending the reality that Jesus is Lord of the universe, yet how can He be seen as Lord of the universe if He is not seen as Lord within your own household? If you are not living the life of a Christian spouse and a Christian parent, depending on your marital and parent status, you are not living a Christian life, period. This does not mean that you are non-Christian, but it does mean in your life, you have sin and you need to deal with it. Of course, I realize no one can be a perfect spouse or parent. There is always room for improvement. The only point is to make sure this is a priority.
In our world of apologetics, there are several of us. I belong to the Christian Apologetics Alliance online. With a quick check, I see that we have 1,816 member. This is a lot of people just on Facebook. None of us is standing alone. We have several people. The work you do is important. However, several other people are doing it as well so be willing to cut yourself some slack. Yet when it comes to your spouse, no one else can be a spouse to your spouse but you. When it comes to your children, only one other person can really be a parent to that child, but you don’t want that child to grow up with an absentee father or mother. They will regret it and they will not look happily at the work that you do. Do not expect God to bless your apologetics career if you are not being a blessing to your own family.
Thus, you must study of course, but always set aside time. When your wife wants to go out and do some shopping, don’t do it with complaining. Take that time for her. Trust that God can make your private time fruitful. In our home, I try to do activities regularly for Allie, but we also have some quiet time where she can do her own thing and I can read my book. She can be playing on the Wii, for instance, and I have my book out and I’m getting in my reading. I recently got a Kindle from a friend so after we go to bed, I can be lying next to her for awhile, but I have my Kindle out with the book light getting in some reading. She knows that I need to do a blog like this regularly, but when the work is done, I try to make sure it stays done. Remember, you are not married to your work. You are married to your spouse.
When that time of study comes, make it fruitful. Read good books that will encourage your mind. From time to time, read something lighthearted and fun as well. Of writing books there is no end and too much study will make you tired. When you read a book, try to make sure it is one you want to make an investment in. Remember that you cannot master every field out there so choose your battles wisely.
For instance, on this blog now, I try to avoid science debates. My position on this has changed over the years. In the past, I would have stood staunchly against the evolutionary position. Today, I don’t care. Why? Because I see it making no difference to if Jesus rose from the dead firstly. The second reason is that I am not a scientist. I realize I am speaking out of my field. I do not want Richard Dawkins speaking on theology or philosophy without proper study (And I see what an embarrassment it is when he does). Why should I then be speaking on his field without doing the proper study?
Now an objector out there is saying “But Nick, don’t you know about all the scientific problems with evolution?” I know about the scientific claims, but I cannot explain the problems. Now if you can and you think you can plant a rock in someone’s shoe that can get them to the gospel, more power to you. I’m not going to stop you, but I’m not going to argue with someone on it when I am not trained or read-up in that area. This is also why I do not use the first two arguments of William Lane Craig (I also think they’re inductive without a metaphysical backing) as I could not begin to explain the science behind them. When someone critiques them scientifically to me I’m of the opinion of “Go ahead and say what you will. It’s over my head and not my argument anyway.” Why would I want to rest my position on an argument I don’t understand. If you understand it, have at it. Realize there are areas you don’t understand as well and respect others in those areas.
Recognize the awesome responsibility you have. I see us often as the heroes in the front lines fighting the battles. Many of our brothers and sisters are not as intellectually equipped. This is no fault of theirs. This is not saying they’re stupid either. This is just saying some people are geared towards the academic side and some are not. Those that are not often have strengths in other areas where we fall short. They could excel at empathy for instance. We all have our gifts in the body and we need to respect that not everyone is an apologist. (Though everyone should know where to get the answers to the questions and everyone should respect our ministry as well)
That means that these people are depending on you to fight. You must realize that. What I often think with some of these people is what if they went after someone who was not as equipped as I am, such as my wife or my mother. How would I handle that? That is often why I can be tough as nails on some aggressive and antagonistic people, because I know they would be more than happy to do the same to the people that I love.
Be studied then. Be ready to take that challenge. Realize how often you might be the one that someone turns to for help and when they do, you want to be ready. Not everyone will know people in the Christian Apologetics Alliance, for instance, but they could know you. You could be the only local person they know and if you don’t know the answer, such as a question outside of your field, then make sure that you know a place that they can go to.
Take time for pleasures as well. All work and no play does have an affect. There is a point to play in your life. It is important to rest to recharge your intellectual batteries. What I tell people is what ever you do, do it seriously. When it comes time for work or study, you do it hard. When it comes time to play, you play hard. My friends who play me in games know that when it comes to ones like Scrabble or Super Smash Brothers, I take no prisoners.
When those times of play come, do make it a point to not beat yourself up for enjoying yourself. There are several apologists out there who are taking time to watch the big game. (Although not this one. I could care less) They might be reading during a commercial, but they do have their other interests and they’ve got to where they are as well. You do not want to be a workaholic.
Make sure you are living a holy life as well, and this gets us to the last great temptation, pride. Those of us intellectually gifted can have a great temptation to pride. You can marvel at God using you, but do so in humility. Realize that it is an honor to be used by God and you are but a servant doing your duty. Do not think that you are so special and that is why God is using you, but realize that you are being used by God and it could be because you in fact are not special, as 1 Cor. 1 indicates. God often likes to use the weak and lowly and shameful. Realize that for whatever reason, God has invited you to participate in the spreading of His Kingdom. He doesn’t need you. He could do it without you. You are not necessary to the plan. Still, you are used and that is a work of grace just as much as salvation is.
When someone comes along like your spouse and is concerned that you are getting puffed up, take it seriously. I have regularly told Allie that I am on guard as much as I can be against pride. I want to be humble and I have told her that this is a battle that I have to fight regularly. I must realize when temptation comes that my God is not honored when I am being prideful. Furthermore, Allie does not want a man who is prideful. That is not attractive to her at all (And keep that in mind fellow men. We want our wives to be attracted to us). Your God already thinks you’re worth sending His Son for. Your spouse already thought you were special enough to spend the rest of their life with.
Be willing to help your fellow apologist and to help the layman always. Recently, J. Warner Wallace of PleaseConvinceMe.com linked to a post I’d written on the importance of teaching, and I thank him for his correction. It is not teaching that is needed, but training. If you can, help build other people up so they can shine in the community. They are not your competition. The mission is not about you. When you meet a layman wanting to learn, train him up. When you meet a fellow apologist who could use some help, such as they might be just starting out, be willing to take a disciple if they are someone who is studying in your area. For those who are already established, your blessing on those climbing up the ladder can be highly instrumental.
We train because we’re not just building up people with facts, but we’re building up people who know how to use them. It is not enough to put a sword in a soldier’s hand. You must teach him how exactly he is to use that sword. It is not enough to just give a copy of “Case For Christ” to the interested layman. You must train him up on how he is to use that information and teach the art of debate.
We all have a serious task as slaves of Christ. Give it your all and remember as the Scripture says, that when you are finished, you are just servants doing what you have been told.