Teaching apologetics in the A Quad (Fall Term) has been a real joy for me. My first quad class at Wheaton Graduate School ended yesterday. A new class, on spiritual formation, begins next Thursday (October 20). My seven students gave me their final papers yesterday, a written project in which they had to develop their own approach to apologetics and defend it.
Nothing brings more joy to a teacher than to know that his students have profited from a class he labored over. Reading the final papers for this class has shown me just how much this class transformed the lives of several of my students. I am a happy man today as I reflect upon this eight week course and what I have experienced afresh by such teaching.
One of my students graduated from a leading secular university (BA) where she became convinced, by trying to evangelize skeptical students, that apologetics was really all about the "skillful oratory and flawless logic" (her own words) of winning a debate. She wrote in her final paper that after our second class she "was either in the wrong class, or I was in the wrong." She had a choice to make. She could drop the class or seek to learn what she could from it and try to understand why she was so bothered by what she had heard from her professor. She chose to stay. She writes, "I am so grateful to God that I stayed. He has taught me more than I can do justice to in these few pages. I will summarize by saying that he has taught me the apologetic of love." Borrowing from Lesslie Newbigin she titled her final paper: The Apologetic of Love: "Foolisness to the Greeks."
The last paragraph of her final paper reads:
"My apologetic approach begins with prayer that the person meets Christ and comes to faith. It relies on Christ’s presence and wisdom and boldly proclaims Christ crucified. It keeps Christ at the center of the argument, and most importantly, it does not stop with the argument. It is lived out daily through loving God and loving my neighbor."
How I wish I could influence thousands of Christians to adopt this apologetic of love. I am encouraged today, as I think back over these recent weeks of my graduate class, that other young Christian leaders will follow the wisdom given to this bright young student and thus radically reshape their approach to evangelism and apologetics. A teacher should pray for nothing less I think.