I have an inquiring mind. I always have questions which when answered lead to more questions and I never accept things at face value. I often find myself as the “devil’s advocate” in discussions when I see a group in agreement. I also try to know the opposing side’s reasoning as much as possible – sometimes as well as the opposition itself. I firmly believe what I believe but am continually seeking to test my beliefs under all scrutiny. To put a formal title on an informal position – I am an Apologist.
Not that I have any official role as such but in my mentality – especially when relating to Christianity – I am definitely an Apologist. I do not claim to be an authority or the best or necessarily a very good one – I’ll leave that open for your opinions – but rather, this is my mindset, this is how I view things – as an Apologist. Apologetics comes from the Ancient Greek word ‘apologia’. Apologia is a speech or writing that defends the speaker or author’s position. Therefore an Apologist is a person who makes a defense in speech or writing of a belief, idea, etc. An Apologist is often considered as one who is rational and seeking more answers than experiences – but is this the complete picture?
Experiences are wonderful. They keep us intimately interested in the big picture. They give us the strength to believe when things are most difficult. They give us the passion and conviction to live our lives for Christ. Without our experiences and the emotions we feel during those times we would quickly loose the meaning behind what we believe. We would believe with our minds and not feel with our hearts.
Emotions are a beautiful gift from God to help us know deep within us that He loves us, that He can be trusted, and that He is eternal. Without our experiences we could not have an intimate relationship with our Creator.
The apostle Paul was converted to Christianity by a series of experiences (Acts 9:1-19, 22:5–16, 26:12-18). His entire conversion was based on supernatural experiences filled with emotions:
- Bright light from heaven surrounded him
- He falls to the ground
- He hears a voice which is not there
- He is blinded
- He has a vision of Ananias and the future
- Ananias has a vision of Paul’s past experience
- Ananias has a vision of the future
- Ananias prays and Paul’s sight is restored
Paul was a well-schooled teacher of the law; he gave himself to the study of the scriptures and understanding of the Tanakh (Old Testament), he was flawless in living what he taught and he was zealous in putting his faith into action (Phil. 3:4–10). We also see repeatedly that he combined his testimony and his experiences with teaching, debating and reasoning his understanding of the complete revelation of Christ (Acts 21:37–22:21). He did not rely on his experiences as evidence for his new faith but he used his experiences to explain why he was a changed person. He used his understanding of scripture to explain why his new faith made sense (Gal. 1:11–17). His experiences opened him up to greater understanding. Both were critical in his conversion and in his ministry. Both were directly why he was so instrumental in the growth of the early Church.
Paul is not alone in his example, this same evidence can be found in the life and ministry of the disciples and many others through history who all share stories of experiences and understanding. From the Apostle Peter to Martin Luther to Billy Graham we repeatedly see lives changed by intimate experiences as well as solid understanding. This same balance is hopefully evident within our own lives – and if not should be something we are seeking.
A balance of experiences and solid understanding of our faith are what is required of a good Apologist. If you only have experiences or understanding alone then you are least effective to give a good defense for the faith. Knowing in our minds and believing with our hearts is what changes the world. If a sports team only practices and never plays a game – what joy is in that? If a sports team only plays games and never practices – what success will they have? Both the practice and the game – both our study and our experiences – are necessary in our own lives as well as in leading others into Christ’s salvation.