Apologetics and Theology Both Need to Change

"Apologetics" is the "ready defense" that we need to be prepared to give anyone "who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you" with "gentleness and respect." (1 Peter 3:15). In the past 100 years, this has taken the form of using Reason and Philosophy and Argument to try to help people with Modern/Enlightenment sensibilities to get past their mental stumbling blocks on their way to meeting Jesus Christ.
I think, since we are entering a postmodern age, that such techniques need to be replaced with a more "embodied apologetic" displayed in the way we live and love and worship.

“Theology” is our “in-house debates/discussions” about things we are trying to understand in the Bible (things like the nature of God, the end-times, Calvinism v. Arminianism, the meaning of the Atonement). These are not concerns of those outside the faith--they are concerns of those already in. It is a noble pursuit to seek to more purely understand God (which is what "theology" is supposed to be!).

So, here is what needs to change:

Our apologetics needs to change--from a purely reasoned argument (though we cannot ditch Reason and become unthinking) toward an embodied (incarnational) apologetic. We still need to know how to answer people’s questions, but before that, we need to show them that God is real and that living in Christ’s Kingdom is a superior life that is attractive to the outsider.


Our theology needs to change as well--from a purely academic exercise (though we must always love God with our “minds”) toward an embodied (incarnational) theology that takes those intellectual concepts and immediately applies them to the way we live in the Kingdom of God. Theology needs to be moved down from the ivory tower and put on the streets. Theology needs to be figured out not in isolation by individual scholars but in community.


Rick said...

Dear Bob,
I have found myself over the years shifting "naturally" to the model you have presented. I think part of my shift was that the church culture I found myself in did not adequately address the deeper longing in my soul. There was no room for GOd or mystery.

AS you know, what you are describing here is a very catholic (I did not say RC, but they would be included I guess) view of God. The two topics: apologetics and theology and the manner in which you described them are historically very Anglican. The Episcopal Church in some parts of the church is considered very liberal etc., but the reality is the EC holds very similar "theology" as you described, it is very incarnational in its understanding of God. What is fascinating is that the theology that many are just now discovering is nothing "new" but in reality has been around for 2,000 years in the greater church.

I have learned over the past five years that what I have "yearned for in my soul" has been there all along but it required me facing myself and allowing myself to be open and not closed. Sadly, in the past, I would close myself off to ANYTHING that did not fit in my little "Bible" box. If I encountered a person who did not believe in the same vein as I , I would discontinue my dialogue or label them. I have learned that it was never them, it was always me.

Thanks for the post.


Dave said...


Just came accross your blog and I have some replies.

First apologetics has "embodied" itself in great ministries such as Answers in Genesis; Carm.org, etc., and has continued to oppose those like the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. Are you saying then that we ought to distance ourselves from exegeting the Holy Scriptures (2Tim. 2:15) and therefore resulting in the neglegence of refuting those who contradict(Titus 1:9)? Tell me something?, is just being "incarnational" with just a few pat answers gonna get people saved? Tell that to Simon Greenleaf, the great authority on "Legal Evidence" who when challenged by his student, used his criteria for legal evdience to examine the authenticity of the four Gospels and then became a believer, tell that to Sir William Ramsey who determined to disprove the "Luke" and "Acts" through the means of archaeology and then discovered that "Luke" and "Acts" were authentic and became saved. How about when Paul was at Athens when the city was full of idols (Acts 17:16-18), he "reasoned" with them quoting from their own "Stoic Poets"(Acts 17:28) there are may more passages like this. I agree testimony has alot to do with it, but, the downplay of "reasoned answers" is not biblical.

About theology, if I believe that God is "seeker friendly" rather than a Holy God that owes no one salvation, then I will downplay sin. Is the incarnation of Christ really an "inhouse debate"? I know you don't think so but that is a theological issue. Iron sharpens iron and I appreciate men like Dr. James White; R.C. Sproul; & J.I. Packer who will wrestle with the issues of God's proper identity, because I do not like to worship in ignorance.

Bob Robinson said...


Thanks for visiting and opening a conversation. I think you misunderstood what I was saying.
(1) I did not say that the "change" needs to neglect the sound exegesis of Scripture (I actually said, "we must always love God with our 'minds'.) I started out the post by citing 1 Peter 3 (saying that we must continue to do this ministry).
(2) It is my contention that there is no such thing as being "just incarnational"--it is the call of God on us to be the body of Christ in this world, calling people into the Kingdom of God (that is what it means to be incarnational!).
(3) My point is that we are entering a "Postmodern Period," and that the techniques that were great in the "Modern Period" (while still very effective with many people--including you and a number of people I'm trying to reach with the gospel) will be less and less effective as we move through the 21st Century. The people you cite are actually evidence of this--Simon Greenleaf lived from 1783–1853; Sir William Ramsey lived from 1851-1939. What worked for them in an age of Enlightenment/Reason/Foundationalism may not work as well in the dawning Postmodern age.
(4) Paul is an excellent example of engaging culture where it is at, and bridging the gap between that culture and the worldview of Christianity. This is exactly what I'm advocating here. Modern methods worked well in a Modern age. We need to incorporate new methods (while not absolutly shunning the use of Modern Apologetics) in a Postmodern Age.
(5) About theology: where did I downplay sin? I think you missed my point again. Theology is very important, and I, too, want to engage with the likes of James White, R. C. Sproul and J. I. Packer (along with others, like Stanley Grenz, Brian McLaren, N. T. Wright, etc). My point was more along these lines: our theological discussions do no good as long as we do not apply them to our Kingdom Living. Our theology must serve the church's mission, not just be ivory-tower debates and sources of division.

Thanks again for your concern...
...I'm sure that if you check out my website (www.vanguardchurch.com), you'd find things there that you agree with more than disagree with (which I hope would ease your mind!)

Bob said...