29
Nov

Dumping the Term: “Christian Apologist”

71Most of us who have taken the time to defend what we believe as Christians are familiar with the term, “apologetics”. It comes from a Greek word used by Christian authors: ἀπολογία (apologia). This word appears seventeen times in the New Testament, as either a noun or a verb. Most often, some form of the expression “make a defense” can be substituted for the term. Jesus, for example, tells his disciples that the Holy Spirit will help them “make a defense” (apologia):

Luke 12:11-12
But when they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you should make your defense or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you must say.”

The problem is that our culture has attached specific connotations to the terms that seem to hurt and inhibit our efforts. “Apologetics” sounds like we have something to apologize for, and “Making a Defense” sounds like we’re being defensive! It’s time to change our terminology while remaining true to the definitions used in Scripture. I suggest we stop using the term “apologetics” and stop using the expression, “making a defense”. Instead, let’s use the expression “making a case”. As it turns out, every instance where the term ἀπολογία appears in scripture reads accurately if some form of the expression, “make a case” is substituted (try it for yourself in Luke 12:11). When we engage skeptics about the Christian Worldview, we are “making a case” for what we believe and acting as “Christian Case Makers”.

“Case Making” provides us with several sources of inspiration to help us understand what we are doing and how we ought to do it, and we can look to more than other Christian “apologists” for direction if we start to adjust our thinking in the direction of “case making”. Now it’s easier to analogize the process to what cold case detectives do every day:

1. Christian Case Makers (like Cold Case Detectives) read the original case book completely

2. Christian Case Makers (like Cold Case Detectives) take notes and summarize the case thoroughly

3. Christian Case Makers (like Cold Case Detectives) gather the evidence neutrally

4. Christian Case Makers (like Cold Case Detectives) examine the eyewitnesses critically

5. Christian Case Makers (like Cold Case Detectives) reconstruct the crime scene (and events) meticulously

6. Christian Case Makers (like Cold Case Detectives) look for new evidence diligently

7. Christian Case Makers (like Cold Case Detectives) reason toward an answer rationally

8. Christian Case Makers (like Cold Case Detectives) write up the case carefully

9. Christian Case Makers (like Cold Case Detectives) pick a jury insightfully

10. Christian Case Makers (like Cold Case Detectives) make an opening statement thoroughly

11. Christian Case Makers (like Cold Case Detectives) call witnesses selectively

12. Christian Case Makers (like Cold Case Detectives) present evidence specifically

13. Christian Case Makers (like Cold Case Detectives) anticipate and respond to the opposite side preemptively

14. Christian Case Makers (like Cold Case Detectives) proceed through the case graciously

15. Christian Case Makers (like Cold Case Detectives) make a closing argument convincingly

16. Christian Case Makers (like Cold Case Detectives) place the case in the hands of the jury confidently

I’ve written much more about this process in an article, How To Become A Christian Case Maker. The hope here is to establish a connotation that is less defensive and “apologetic” and more confident and courageous. Most of us hate to have to apologize for something or defend ourselves. We’re happy, however, to make a case for what we believe. Perhaps changing our terminology here will encourage is to take up the cause for Christ with courage and confidence.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity

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