I taught a graduate class in apologetics this week at Wheaton College. I sometimes wonder why I am allowed to teach such wonderful people but I am. I see this as a unique opportunity and thus enjoy being an adjunct professor of evangelism. The class this week was made up of eight students in all. Some in the class were young students who are recent college graduates and some were nearer my own age with a great deal of life experience. Several have been Christians for only a few years. Some are in pastoral ministry and some desire to go into overseas missions. It was a delightful week in terms of meeting these new students and teaching this great subject. Two things stand out this evening as I reflect:
1. I got very ill with a stomach virus on Monday evening, not sleeping all night. Therefore, all week long I had to deal with unusual weakness. I did not really recover my strength all week long and I am completely exhausted this evening. I could not afford to miss a single day in class and thus had to plough through hard times in both body and soul all week long. This was anything but a fun week for me. I am glad that I learned long ago that "fun" is not what the kingdom is really about. I sought to be faithful and hope that I was under God. Eternity will tell. I am a poor judge of that and thus try not to engage in self-evaluation at this point, especially on Friday evening. There is a time for that but not now.
2. Apologetics requires two things, so it seems to me. Both of these have always intrigued me and motivated me. First, the subject requires an active mind and a willingness to learn how to "defend" the faith in every proper way. Second, it requires gentleness and prayerfulness to be a good apologist. Many great thinkers that I have known in this field have excelled in one or the other but rarely in both. The last half-hour today I all but pled with my students to see that these two must be kept together with all their being. I pray that they "heard" my heart on this vital point.
Every Christian is called to be an apologist, not just full-time teachers and ministers (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). It is a true sign of weakness in the church that this vastly important field of study and ministry is almost entirely given over to professionals in our day. Read the Book of Acts sometime and look for all the references to apologetics; cf. Acts 9:22 ("proving"), Acts 17: 2 ("reasoned"), Acts 17:17 ("reasoned"), Acts 18:4 ("reasoned" and "trying to persuade"), and Acts 19:8-9 ("arguing" and "reasoning"). The Holy Spirit alone can open a heart but we are charged with doing the hard work of seeking to convince people with good reasons for why they should believe, which includes both refuting false ideas and establishing true ones. That is the real work of apologetics. You dare not try it unless you are willing to learn and work very hard at answering objections to the faith but then you dare not undertake this work unless you commit to prayer.