Some think that apologetics is for those who went to seminary (hint: it’s not). Some don’t even know what the word means. Here’s some wise words on an important topic…
John Lennox is a University of Oxford Professor of Mathematics, Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science, and Pastoral Advisor at Green Templeton College, Oxford (among other things – phew!). And he’s into apologetics.
You’re probably thinking, how’s that making the case that the rest of us should be into (let alone grasp) apologetics? Here are some insights I want to share from his replies to two questions in an Idea Magazine interview (page 10).
The first is, “Do you think churches need to do more to enable people to engage with faith intellectually?”
It’s very important that church pastors learn how to address the big questions. There has been a danger of Bible study and preaching being reduced to devotional exposition, so that the Bible is over here and the culture is over there. It is very important to learn that if we take scripture seriously it has got real answers to the big questions and that if a pastor or minister of a church can inspire confidence by demonstrating that there are deep biblical answers and biblical stimuli to enable us to cope with these questions, that will put confidence in the right place. Unfortunately there has been a tendency – at least in some quarters – to deter young people from asking questions. A BBC survey a few years ago found that the main reason given for leaving the Church, by far, was that it didn’t answer people’s questions. So rather than just an occasional look, we need to take the big questions seriously. And if church leaders haven’t go the resources themselves, they should use the people in their congregations who do have these abilities and use resources that are available, like Exploring the God Question.
The second is, “Do you think churches need to take apologetics more seriously, or is this an unhelpful way to frame apologetics?”
“Your second question is very interesting. The word apologetics is the most unfortunate word, because it’s not a translation, it’s a transliteration. We’ve taken the word apologia in Greek and made a word from it in English. But if we just translated it and put your question into English, that is: “Do you think churches need to take seriously the defence of the gospel?” Of course they should! The problem is by taking this word and making a special word of it that sounds very intellectual we reduce apologetics to a subgroup of Philosophy 101 instead of defending the gospel. One of the biggest poblems we face is precisely that people say: “Well, I’m not into apologetics.” That is absurd! What, you’re not interested in defending the gospel? Are you sure you believe it? It’s trying to get away from the mindset that apologetics is a special activity. That has been very bad and very dangerous.”