• PO Box 95007 Saddleridge, Calgary, AB, T3J 0E3
  • +1 403.689.5890
  • info@faithbeyondbelief.ca
In apologetics,approaches,arguments,I'm Sorry,Jojo Ruba

Two More Things Apologetics Can’t Do

By Jojo Ruba

Last week, I started looking at some limitations of apologetics, which still show why apologetics is important. I continue my thoughts this week with two more things apologetics “can’t do,” but still shouldn’t stop us from using them anyway.

3. Apologetics isn’t the Bible.

Now, some believers argue that apologetics isn’t the Bible; therefore, we shouldn’t do anything other than share the Bible with others. Again, as apologists, we should admit that we must always share the truths we learn in Scripture. It’s obvious that the Bible shapes the Christian worldview, and apologetics can’t replace Scripture.

However, any missionary will tell you that when you go to a foreign country, you also need to teach the skills to read the Bible along with the Bible, especially if the people you speak to don’t have a written language. You have to teach them everything from learning how to read the Bible in their own language to understanding basic cultural practices in the Bible.

In our culture, there is so much biblical illiteracy that we often have to do the same thing in explaining the Bible to others. One Christian told me she can’t even share her faith with two co-workers because they think she is “homophobic.” If she isn’t equipped to explain the biblical view of sexuality in a way her non-Christian friends can understand, then they would never go to her to explain her views about the Bible. That’s what good apologetics can do.

Now, I understand there are differences in apologetic approaches and our goal at FBB is not to debate them here. But regardless of our approach, it is important to point out that apologetics isn’t the Bible and that we must always share the truth of Scripture. But in doing so, we also have to teach important skills that help others understand Scripture, and apologetics can help them gain those skills.

4. Apologetics can’t replace the Holy Spirit.

One other Christian objection to apologetics is that Christians don’t need to study apologetics because the Holy Spirit will provide the words when we need them.

Unlike the other objections, this idea actually sounds biblical. In Matthew 10:19 (and the parallel passage in Luke 12:8-12), Jesus says, “But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.”[1]

Now, of course, God can have us speak whatever He wants. In fact, there are several examples in Scripture where this happens. In Luke 1, Elizabeth and the preborn John the Baptist are both filled with the Holy Spirit and Elizabeth declares God’s blessing on Mary and the preborn Messiah (vv. 42-45). In Acts 7, Stephen is filled with the Holy Spirit as He confronts the people about to kill him (vv. 56-60).

But this passage is used against apologetics because some argue that since the Holy Spirit will just put words in our mouths like magic, we don’t need to prepare for any kind of interaction with others. Of course, this would be a good excuse not to read your Bible or even evangelize too. But that would make no sense since Jesus specifically taught the disciples so that they can share their experiences with others.

"The predictions of the prophets . . . were read, they were corroborated by powerful signs, and the truth was seen to be not contradictory to reason, but only different from customary ideas, so that at length the world embraced the faith it had furiously persecuted." —Augustine of HippoThe passage can’t be used against apologetics in general, because Jesus is talking about a specific time and place when He said the Holy Spirit will give us words. He never says we shouldn’t prepare for conversations with others. He says for us “not to worry” about what to say, “when they hand you over” to authorities to attack your faith. In fact, if you read the entire context, this has verse has nothing to do with preparing for everyday interactions but with special interactions when we are treated unjustly by the authorities. This was the exact situation Peter found himself in Acts 4. Being dragged unjustly in front of the ruling council of priests and elders, the Holy Spirit gave Peter the exact words he needed. Yet even in that situation, Peter never once indicates that it is a waste of time using apologetics! In fact, the Holy Spirit, through Peter, declares that the curing of a disabled man was evidence of Christ’s divinity. He was using a miracle that everyone in the city observed as good reason for others to trust in Jesus!

In Acts 5, Peter and the apostles once again were brought before the council. This time, Peter declared, “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross…And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him” (vv. 30-32). If God intended for the apostles to rely solely on the Holy Spirit to give the apostles “words” to say, why did the apostles have to be “witnesses”? It’s clear even in the exact situation that Jesus talked about in Matthew, that the Holy Spirit doesn’t just give us words but also uses His witnesses’ experiences and training. He lets us experience events and learn things so that we can be useful to Him. Many examples in the Bible (Moses and Aaron in Exodus, Esther in front of her king, Nehemiah asking to bring His people back to Israel, etc.) have God’s people giving reasons to authorities without specific words from the Holy Spirit.

In other words, apologetics can never replace the role of the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit uses apologetics and experiences we have to help convince others to obey God. He doesn’t just give us “magic” words to say at the moment, but many times speaks through our experiences and arguments.

Conclusion

In high school, I learned that there is nothing wrong with admitting that you have limits and as Christian apologists, we should be willing to admit the same. But apologists shouldn’t be embarrassed by these limits. Rather, they should show how these limitations actually show the need for apologetics in many aspects of our Christian life, from relationship building to Bible reading and sharing. It allows us to be effective in living out our faith as God’s representatives on earth.

Next week, we’ll examine the most common argument based on “what apologetics can’t do”: “Apologetics can’t save people”. If you want a hard copy of this series, Faith Beyond Belief will be publishing this series as a booklet that you will be able to order on-line.


[1] Scripture citations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).