How To Become a Christian Apologist

If you’re a Christian and you admit it, you are bound to be caught up in a discussion with someone about God.

I’m afraid there is no way out of it. Often, these discussions can be quite calm, full of grace, enlightening to our own faith. But it is also the case that you will find yourself sitting next to someone on an airplane, at a holiday meal, at a high-school reunion, or some other such gathering, arguing for a God that you don’t even believe in yourself.

They say that it is always best to avoid the subjects of politics or religion. There’s good reason for that. Even though the conversation might start out innocently enough, it may go in directions for which you are not prepared. For example, I was once seated next to a lovely woman on a very long flight who truly believed that my spiritual future was at stake because I didn’t know what my new name would be “when I was wrapped in the scroll.” I knew she was talking end of the world stuff, but beyond that, despite my theological and biblical training, I was lost. I found myself defending my own salvation, and the deliberations of the promise given through the cross and resurrection weren’t taking me anywhere. Like an apocalyptic ninja, she neatly deflected, any thoughts on my part that just maybe, something really did happen when Christ died and rose−”little things,” like forgiveness of sins, mercy in the midst of decay, resurrection of the dead, courage to believe in healing and redemption and restoration, when everything else seems to say “no.”

Another way to become a Christian apologist is talking to someone in crisis, someone who is really suffering, someone who is losing, or has recently lost, a loved one. It is always difficult to respond to “If God is a loving and just God, why are they taking ______? It is so unfair. They are such a good person.” Where do you even start when the theological platform they’re on is so shaky? How do you tell them that you don’t believe in that god either, a god who is cruel, suspicious, selfish, punitive and watchful? That, in fact, the rejection of that God may be an act of faith? How do you explain that the reality of God does not neatly fit into the categories of morality? How do you explain that we speak relationally, in realms of promises, and we proclaim quite boldly the absurdity and foolishness of the cross and resurrection? How do you talk about God’s reality as the constant giving and self-giving of the Trinity over to creation for creation’s sake? It’s a tough sell.

Becoming a Christian apologist is no easy task. Either you’re caught between what is fantastic or what is pure despair. But though superficially they look like completely different arguments, at the center of each is the absence of the incarnation and the event of the cross and resurrection. And though it often it often seems dull, open-ended, foolish, and lacking moral metrics, it is this story, this promise that we are called to proclaim.

Still, it might be wise to keep it at a safe distance, to refrain from any sort of apologetics. It might be smarter to not even try to speak of this one who created us and all things. This One entombed by creation, and also the savior of it. It is better to stay away from the slow pulse of this naked and broken heart, this Trinitarian, relational God. But somewhere, out on the edge of eternity, out of an overwhelming love, the world is formed. How do you even start to tell someone that out of dust and water, they shall rise, alive, without shame?