Think Again – Heading Home
Posted by Ravi Zacharias, on March 6, 2013Topic: Christianity and the ArtsTopic: EventsTopic: Just Thinking MagazineTopic: MeaningTopic: Worldview
Topic: Apologetics Training
Have you noticed that the word “apologetics” often creates immediate discussion? To the uninitiated in the discipline, the common line is, “What are you apologizing for?” To the one who knows and understands the discipline, the discussion takes on a debate all its own.
I remember the first time I laid my hands on a text discussing the role and place of apologetics. I could not put it down. It is hard to pinpoint the exact reason I was so engrossed in the subject. Was it because I was the product of my culture, knew my faith was in the minority, and on every corner I was asked to defend the “why” of my newfound beliefs? Was it because I was debating these issues within myself? Was it because God Himself planned a path for me that I was to undertake in the years that followed? Maybe a little of each?
All of these had a place in the lines that converged in my personal makeup and calling. What I did not anticipate was having to give a defense of why I was “defending the faith.” “You can’t really argue anybody into the kingdom.” “It only caters to pride, you know?” “Conversion is not about the intellect; it is all about the heart.” As the litany of questions run for why one gets into it, so the reasons run as to why we should stay out of it.
In short, apologetics is the best subject that ends up defending itself when a discussion begins on the topic. The one who argues against it ends up using argument to denounce argument. The one who says it is all a matter of pride ends up proudly defending one’s own impoverishment. So goes the process of self-contradiction.
I am convinced, in the words of C.S. Lewis—who in my estimation is probably the greatest apologist in recent memory—that the question of being an apologist is not so much in answering someone’s question whether you use an apologetic or not. Rather, it is whether the apologetic you already use is a good one or not.
Sometime ago I recall being at an airport looking for my gate. When I arrived there, I rechecked my boarding card with the gate number printed on it and noticed that the flight on the marquee at the gate did not match the flight number or the destination that my card indicated. So I looked at the lady sitting closest to the waiting area and said: “Excuse me, ma’am, but is this the gate for the flight to Atlanta?” She assured me that indeed it was and that they just had not posted the right information yet. I thanked her and started to walk away to find a quiet place to park myself. I heard some hurried footsteps behind me and turned to see who it was. It was the lady of whom I had asked the question and she rather shyly asked, “Excuse me, but are you Ravi Zacharias?” “I am,” I smiled answering her. “Oh my!” she gasped, “I hear you on the radio all the time and I didn’t know you had questions too.” We both chuckled.
I thanked her for the compliment of omniscience that had evidently been wrongly inferred from our program and added, “I have a lot of questions, especially when I’m heading home. I simply cannot afford to miss my flight back to where I belong.”
That answer, though tongue in cheek, incidentally buttressed how my life has been encapsulated in this calling as an apologist. Whatever our callings, we are all longing to not miss a turn on our journey home. And on that journey we are often at the mercy of conflicting indications. How do we get to the right destination and not wander far afield in some lost territories?
Lewis’s writings offer great insight on this journey home. Although 2013 marks the fiftieth anniversary of his death, he continues to be a faithful and wise companion for countless individuals in their losses and joys. From his The Seeing Eye to The Chronicles of Narnia, he communicated that apologetics is all about seeing. He showed us how critical it is to pay close attention to not just the question asked but the questioner wanting an answer. Like an easterner, he understood that a beautiful story has the power to capture the imagination and open hearts otherwise resistant to the gospel. For these gifts and much more, I am grateful for the life of C.S. Lewis.