Apologetics and arrogance

In my early days as a Christian, I was passionate about sharing my faith and defending it against any opposing views. Whether I said it or not, I believed that apologetics was all about knowing more than others and being persuasive in my arguments. I feared the embarrassment of being unable to answer questions about my faith.

Little did I realize that this mindset led me down a path of pride, rudeness, and a lack of compassion toward others. Whenever I experienced rejection because of my arrogant approach to showing off how much I knew, there was a ready explanation: sometimes Christians suffer for their righteousness. This excuse prevented me from recognizing my mistakes and hindered my growth.

Even as I read 1 Peter 3:15-16, which clearly says we are to be gentle and respectful, I took that part for granted! Instead, I focused more on being “ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason.” I spent far more time learning answers than asking questions.

I needed to learn how to ‘regard Christ the Lord as holy.’ If my greatest desire had been to honor God, and to live a holy life, then I might have had an earlier conviction of my sin.

Thankfully, over time, I began to see the error in my ways. Whether it was getting married, having kids, or God slowly working in me, I realized how important it is to care about other people’s feelings.

As I reflect on my past mistakes, I want to share some lessons I’ve learned about what true apologetics looks like and how to embody gentleness and kindness in our conversations.

First, prioritize love over winning arguments.

There was a season when I thought this was weak advice! I’m ashamed to admit it, but there was a time when I thought this was the kind of advice that unintelligent people say, to give them an excuse for not “loving God with all their minds.”

But now I see that loving someone is much more complicated than having the upper hand in an argument. Anyone can master some syllogisms. But steadily attending to the needs of others? That requires God’s work in our hearts. Love is more intellectually demanding than the weightiest philosophical tomes.

I had to reckon with the challenge Jesus gave us. He puts it plainly: love your neighbor as yourself. That includes those with whom we disagree. We must remember that our ultimate goal is to share God’s love, not to win debates.

Second, listen actively and empathetically.

In my quest to be persuasive, I often failed to listen to others and their viewpoints. Active listening is crucial in engaging in meaningful conversations about faith. It shows that we genuinely care about the other person’s thoughts and feelings. It creates a safe environment for open dialogue.

There’s a well-known aphorism: no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. I have to ask myself: am I desperate for an opportunity to tell someone what I’ve learned? Or am I curious to see how God is already at work in their life?

Third, embrace humility.

The habit of studying “why we are right” can develop arrogance. It can foster a community where we feel we are better, more intelligent, or more deserving than others. As we celebrate Christian heroes and denigrate atheist thinkers, we start to disregard the feelings of people who don’t know Christ.

But humility is critical in apologetics because it is critical to the Christian life. We become Christians by acknowledging that we are creatures accountable to our Creator. We confess that we fall short of our standards and God’s standards. We plead for God’s forgiveness and restoration. We invite the Holy Spirit to live within us and make us new.

Our experience of God’s love ought to undermine our inflated self-importance.

As we depend on God, we are willing to admit that we don’t have all the answers. We are open to learning from others. Recognizing our limitations can help us be more gentle and kind in our conversations. We approach others with a desire to learn from them rather than merely prove them wrong.

Sometimes I’ll say, “I don’t want to convince you of anything. I don’t think I can, and I don’t think I should. Instead, I want to seek the truth with you. I believe the truth is found in Jesus. But you don’t. And for me, that’s the start of an exciting conversation.”

Fourth, seek wisdom and discernment.

While it’s essential to be knowledgeable about our faith, we must also seek wisdom and discernment in our conversations.

Knowledge is gaining information about what the Bible teaches and why it is true. But owning and reading many books is very different from having good friends and enjoying open-ended conversations!

Part of a mature faith is understanding when to speak and when to remain silent. It means we are considerate of others. For instance, we tailor our responses to the unique needs and concerns of the individual we’re talking with.

Finally, stay curious about what God is doing.

Apologetics is not just a human endeavor but a spiritual one. I’m imperfectly attempting to practice God’s presence - to know that God is my Friend all day, every day.

I hope that one day I will automatically ask for God’s guidance and the right words to say as I talk about my faith. This is what it looks like to trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in and through my life - and in the lives of those around me.

I’m curious about what you’ve learned in this area. I’d love to hear your stories and wisdom.

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Amen! :heart:
Thank you for sharing this! :slight_smile:
You definitely have described a lot of what I have gone through as well. When I became a Christian, I became very overzealous of God and His word. To the point that I was annoying to others and called a Bible Thumper! :rofl: I have to laugh now, because I am able to look back and see how I was.
I guess because I was finally learning the Truth, I wanted everyone to know as well. I think that is when I take control of the conversation instead of letting God lead it.
That is one of the reason’s I joined Uncommon Pursuit, I want to learn to be able to share the word of God with love and not with anger. I want to be an example of God’s Love.

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Hi @Jeni, I’m glad I’m not alone in this struggle!

I think of Romans 10:2, " I can testify about them that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge."

Zeal for God is commendable. Yet our zeal must be based on knowledge of God, his word, his gospel, and his ways!

That’s helpful for me to hear. There was a season when I thought I needed to read books that would teach me how to steer conversations a certain way. If I learned the tips and tricks of conversational evangelism, I could bring more people to Jesus. I read the books, took notes, and tried to apply them.

But what I experienced was underwhelming at best. It turns out that attempting to control conversations backfires. No one wants that. No. We want genuine, loving interactions.

I’ve experienced much more freedom by asking questions, listening empathetically, and being sincerely curious. And I think I’m a better friend - and Christian - for changing my approach in these ways.

That means a lot to me. Let’s help each other figure it out!

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