Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Revisiting apologetic

I was a big fan of apologetic until the interest shifted to theological engagement with social and political issues. When I first joined the pastorate (in my third month already!), I did not anticipate there should be a need for apologetic in the church. Partly because I was convinced that there is no need for it in the church. The congregation is more interested in finding out how to make spiritual sense out of their daily life---This is what I thought.

Then I was told that there are some groups in the congregation working through Paul E. Little's book Know What You Believe/Know Why You Believe (Singapore: Campus Crusade Asia Limited, 2009). It is actually a set of two books printed as one. The groups were working through the latter one. 

I was scheduled to do a wrap-up session for the groups, which was two days ago. That was officially my first talk to a seated audience. So I spent last week working through my manuscript. 

Initially I thought the preparation would be easy since I was fanatic over the subject just some years ago. Was very well-versed with the works by C. S. Lewis, Lee Strobel, Norman Geisler, and etc. There was a time when I wished to be a full-time apologist, à la William Lane Craig and Ravi Zacharias. Yet when I started typing, it turned out that it was much more difficult. 

I tried to figure out what would be the best way to address some of the major concerns that Christians find hindering an intelligible articulation of their faith for themselves as well as for their non-Christian inquirers. Yet the talk needed to be as simple and clear as possible without losing the substance. On top of that, I have to innovate it attractively

The last part is the most difficult. Anyone can just simply read out to the audience from some apologetic books from the shelves. But that will not only defeat the purpose of the session, but bring the audience and myself to sleep. And I think we have better things to do than that. 

The crafting of the talk was stressful. I lost sleep. Was worried that the talk will make the audience beg God for deliverance from boredom. 

Writing the talk was also a very personal moment (a week-long one at that) as my conviction over some issues that will be addressed in the talk are rigorously  re-examined. I had to re-asked myself if Christianity makes sense? And, why am I still a Christian? The preparation helped me to come to terms with these questions.

When Sunday came, I was as nervous as a boy talking to his crush for the first time. Nonetheless, I read out the manuscript as animated as needed, in a conversational diction. I thought I can finish it in 30 minutes, but it shot through to about 50 minutes.

And yes, there were some in the audience who stared blankly at the ceiling, some were obsessively checking their nails, and some were sleeping. But that is expected, as I already knew, apologetic is a needless topic! It is irrelevant! Nevertheless, I carried through with the presentation, carefully avoiding presentation flaws that annoy even myself.

After the session ended, I unplugged the laptop and packed up to move to prepare for another class on leadership. While packing, someone approached me to share his experience. He expressed appreciation for the talk. I was surprised! Really. 

So, I asked him why did he appreciate it? He said that he has friends who are very hostile to Christianity. One of them had once militantly exclaimed to him, "Christianity is bullshit!" (I think that is a serious matter. I wonder if that person dare to do the same to Muslims by saying, "Islam is bullshit!"?) And the talk helped to re-cast Christianity against such remark.

Apologetic is irrelevant? That is a conviction that I need to revisit. 

What about you? Do you think apologetic is relevant in your context? Why, why not?


a_seed said...

From time to time I ran into people who told me their reason of not believing. To carry on the conversation effectively, knowing some apologetic is nice.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi a_seed,

Thanks for sharing your experience. It helps me to see the importance of apologetic.

hanguoxiong said...

Hi Sze Zeng,

I was very hesitant to quote 1 Peter 3:15 as the key verse which underpins the relevance of Apologetics. I fear that this verse has been over-quoted to the point of becoming a mere cliche. Nevertheless, I would still say that 1 Peter 3:15 is a key command within Scripture that underscores the need for Christians to know what they believe, why they believe it, and to communicate it in a meek and gentle way.

I encourage you, brother, to keep on striving to teach apologetics and speak about its importance to the congregation you are ministering to.

Have a blessed week ahead.

Guo Xiong.