“If the soldiers enrolled by you, and who have taken the military oath, prefer their allegiance to their own life, and parents, and country, and all kindred, though you can offer them nothing incorruptible, it were verily ridiculous if we, who earnestly long for incorruption, should not endure all things, in order to obtain what we desire from Him who is able to grant it.”

- Justin Martyr, First Apology

A mirror is what one looks at to observe himself—to see oneself as himself by himself. Yet one thing that a mirror can’t do is to show a man’s back. A mirror is merely a reflection of what man is before others, not what he is in his blind spots. As an apologist, one may tend to see arguments as swords to wound, not to protect. To destroy, not to build. It is not easy to see this aspect of the self as an apologist. The tendency is to see the world through the lens of logic and arguments. While this may be helpful in many ways, the beauty of the apologetics goes beyond. An apologist has to often be reminded that it is not enough for a man to find winsomeness in the arguments if he who delivers it does so to win no hearts. Every hearer of an argument has a soul in need of restoration. Let not a pill of healing be bitter when it can be sweet. Let it not be sold for a fortune when it can be given free.

The Apostle Paul once penned these words, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” [1] Pride is an ever present thorn in the apologist’s flesh. The desire for power and glory and the compliments one harvests from those who put him on a pedestal come in the form of a pleasant poison. In his letter to the Ephesians, Ignatius wrote, “It is better for a man to be silent and be a Christian than to talk and not be one. It is good to teach if he who speaks also acts… He who possesses the word of Jesus is truly able to hear even His very silence, that he may be perfect, and may both act as he speaks, and be recognized by his silence.” [2] Indeed. He who holds his tongue does so in might, not in weakness. One need not wonder why James saw the taming of the tongue and the lending of ears both evidences of virtue. It is in doing both that makes a Christian winsome—Godly.

An apologist must not see himself as a pillar of knowledge in derogation of others. Such is the allure of pride. It feels good to be on the top until one realizes that the top is not where he thought he stood. One rather striking feature of early church thinkers is their intimacy with the Lord. A man is an emotional being with an intellectual faculty. He is not an intelligent being with an emotional faculty. Must one be surprised that God saw men as sheep? We are not as intelligent as we think we are. Our habitual sins is evidence of our lack of self-control. When the emotion takes over the intellect, not even the apologist can shackle his hands and eyes and feet and thought. Intimacy with the Lord is the fountain of effective apologetics. To first love the Lord with all that one has is the fuel that makes everything he does beautiful.

To the Trallians, Ignatius wrote, “I have great knowledge in God, but I restrain myself, lest, I should perish through boasting. For now it is needful for me to be more fearful; and not give heed to those that puff me up. For they that speak to me in the way of commendation scourge me.” [3] The early thinker, pastor, and martyr quickly saw through the dangers of human praise. Thus, even as he bears the name Theophorus (meaning God bearer), Ignatius fled from it.  The allure of pride comes in the form of harmless compliments.

One’s ministry in apologetics find great power in spiritual disciplines. In the daily readings of the Scripture, in the daily practice of quiet time, of prayer, of fasting, of seeking the Lord, of solitude, singing hymns, confessing sins… in the habit of accountability and fellowship with Godly men and women… in these things does the apologist sustain his arsenal—ready for spiritual warfare. Though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. [4]

There is less hurdle for one to understand the why when they see the who. The life of an apologist is itself a powerful apologia.  When one looks at the apologist, does he see Christ? An apologist is a person of lenses and reflections—through the radiance of his life can the unchurched see the beauty within. The apologetics of Godliness is a testament of a transformed life. Beauty attracts… and Godly beauty attracts absolutely. Godliness after all, is an argument for the existence of God—and more.

[1] Philippians 4:8-9 (ESV)

[2] The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians Chapter 15.

[3] The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians Chapter 4.

[4] 2 Corinthians 10:5 (ESV)


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