Tool #05: Character Matters
Why do apologetics? Why defend the faith? For some, it would seem that winning arguments and scoring points in a debate is a strong motivation. There are some whose motivation is pride and selfish ambition (Phil. 1:15). However, a love for Christ and a love for others should be our motivation (Matt. 22:36-40). It does not matter how much we know if it is lacking a spirit of love and a genuine heart for others (1 Cor. 13:1-7). Having a right motivation cannot be faked - it must be from the heart (Rom. 12:9, Prov. 4:23). 1 Peter 3:15a: "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord," - this is foundational to a defense of the faith.
2. Fruit of the Spirit
To defend the faith with arguments and reason is essential. But if the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) are lacking in a believer's life, good arguments are tainted and weakened by poor character. In fact, the hypocritical character of many believers does great damage to the Church and hinders the open reception of the Gospel. Believers should be examples to follow, not examples to avoid (1 Tim. 4:12b). 1 Peter 3:16 is often neglected; the Christian's character ought to shame those who would slander Christ.
1 Peter 3:15 also includes this admonition: "But do this with gentleness and respect." The tone of our interaction as defenders of the faith is just as important as the strength of our arguments. Proverbs 15:1: "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." The manner in which apologetics is done is part of the apologetic. This springs from a heart changed by Christ and a character that is actively cultivated. (2 Pet. 1:5-8)
Apologetics is that branch of theology which seeks to provide a rational justification for the truth claims of the Christian faith.(1) However, doing apologetics simply involves being a Christian - and being Christlike. The tools of knowledge, education, arguments, and answers... what good can these really be without Christlikeness? Your character matters.
What does this look like in a in everyday life? It looks like this:
Love Jesus with all your heart. Love people and care for them. Be prayerful, devoted, and have a godly character. When interacting with people, let your manner and tone be respectful and humble. Ultimately, your goal is Christlikeness.
What was last year's post? It's a Paul Copan interview.
(1) William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), p. 15.