“Mere Apologetics” – Alister E. McGrath

Apologetics is not a set of techniques for winning people to Christ. It is not a set of argumentative templates designed to win debates. It is a willingness to work with God in helping people discover and turn to his glory.

Alister McGrath, Mere Apologetics

I really dislike analogies that every teacher uses and everyone has heard a dozen times, but I’m going to use one now. I’m sorry. (Not really. If you’re bothered, get over it.)

Do you know how federal agents learn to identify counterfeit bills? What they don’t do is spend countless hours studying the intricate differences in the counterfeit bills. Those differences could be almost infinite, and it would be impossible to memorize all of them. What they actually do is spend hour upon hour studying every intricate detail of the real bills, learning every line, curve, image and shade, so that when they run into a fake they see the differences in that bill from the one they already know so well.

That’s a little like what apologetics is. It is the ability to point out truth in a world filled with counterfeits. It’s highlighting the brightness of glory of God to a dark world. It requires that we know two things. First and foremost is knowing what it is that we are highlighting. It’s understanding the truth of God, especially as He is revealed to us in the Bible. The second is knowing who we are revealing Him to—understanding the audience we are speaking to and giving an understandable and well-suited message of truth to them.

The task of the apologist is not to make the Christian faith attractive or relevant to the world. Rather, we are called on to help people appreciate and discover its power, relevance, and persuasiveness.

Alister McGrath, Mere Apologetics

Apologetics is something that every believer is called to. Talking about, and especially defending, our faith isn’t easy though. It’s intimidating, it makes us afraid of the reactions we may get, and its pretty easy for us to avoid. Nevertheless, it is an essential piece of our Christian mission,  and it’s one that we need to train ourselves on.

Mere Apologetics is a good place to start. Alister McGrath is one of the great minds of our generation, and this book is a great introduction to the topic. McGrath starts by laying the groundwork for what apologetics is, why its important, and how we should go about presenting our case in todays world. He then highlights examples of apologetics and approaches we can take to engage our world with the truth of the gospel. The ideas he lays out are extremely important, and the way he lays them out are simply put and very well stated.

Every generation believes it stands at a critical point in history.

Alister McGrath, Mere Apologetics

Ultimately, learning apologetics is about teaching ourselves how to best communicate the truth that our faith is founded on to a world desperately in need of it. We need to be able to explain why we as Christians aren’t blind, ignorant, superstitious, anti-science, and delusional. That sounds harsh, but there are a lot of people that truly believe that we are (for example, the reaction to VP Mike Pence as the leader of the coronavirus response).

But the truth is that there are legitimate, intelligent, well-thought-out reasons to believe what we believe. There’s even science that backs up what we believe. In order to engage with people that don’t understand, we need to be willing and prepared. The Holy Spirit will take it from there.

I pray that we would be willing and prepared to fulfill the mission we have been put on.

Apologetics is to be seen not as a defensive and hostile reaction against the world, but as a welcome opportunity to exhibit, celebrate, and display the treasure chest of the Christian faith.

Alister McGrath, Mere Apologetics

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