Apologetics: For Them or For Us?

I know I wasn’t the only one who grew up in White evangelicalism who was taught to love the art of apologetics.

Oh we spent so much time pouring over books, attending conferences, watching debates, and learning our scripts to argue the faithless and heretics into the truth.

We knew exactly how to trap someone with the gotcha questions. We knew how to run people in circles until, exhausted, they gave up and walked away leaving us feeling triumphant that we just got the upper hand.

We knew how to best any opponent.

We loved the thrill it gave us.

It gave us confidence in our ability to learn the truth well. It gave us assurance that we were standing in the truth because we believed that we’d just successfully defended it against the heretic.

We believed ourselves to be doing God’s work.

But were we? Really?

I look back over all the time I invested in debating over doctrine, dogma, and politics, and I wonder where it got me.

I know I felt good after things were said and done. But what did it do for my opponent?

Did they feel the love of Christ in the way I interacted with them? I am assuming not because I cared more about being right than I cared about how the other person felt. In fact, I could often justify making them feel bad by thinking to myself that if they got upset with me, it was because they were being convicted by the Holy Spirit and they didn’t like it.

It didn’t occur to me that maybe I was actually just being an asshole to them and I was the one in sin.

It didn’t occur to me that I had turned this person I was supposed to love into my enemy. Someone I needed to conquer with the truth.

I don’t recall ever leading a single person to Christ through apologetics. Yet, I still convinced myself that God was in it. I felt the endorphin rush of victory and I called it the Holy Spirit.

It’s now been years since I used any of my apologetics skillz. I don’t debate theology anymore. I don’t lie to myself anymore in thinking that I can somehow reason someone into sharing my faith or beliefs. That was never my work to do.

Now I believe that apologetics, though sold to us as an evangelical tool, is nothing but brainwashing.

It teaches us to double down in our beliefs. It doesn’t allow us to have real conversations with those we are in disagreement with. It heightens the emotions by pumping up the adrenaline during the fight and then giving us that sweet sweet endorphin rush when we think that we’ve won an argument, turning off the rational part of our brains that might otherwise wonder, “am I actually right on this topic? Or do I need to do some work here?”

It also helps to isolate us. When we saw “nonbelievers” as people to best with our knowledge, we were perpetuating an Us Vs. Them mindset. They were the dangerous outsiders. We were safe inside our evangelical bubbles.

Apologetics never were for the “unbelievers”. They were to keep us good submissive soldiers who were doing the work of the system and telling ourselves that it was for God.

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