Just had an email from an old friend asking for help to compile a book list. The theme of the booklist is Christian responses to the challenge of postmodern semiotics, Saussurean signifieds and signifiers, believe it or not.
If that last sentence means absolutely nothing to you don't worry at all, its better that way. Its just an indication of how geeky I was in a previous life.
Reading my friend's email made me realise how much I have changed in recent years. I used to spend all my energies trying to respond to big intellectual issues. Its not that I don't think that's important any more, just that it is only of use to a tiny set of Christians (who are, admittedly at the cutting edge of some very important issues of truth and interpretation).
These days I think that serving the church as widely as possible ought, for me, to involve considering issues that are of every day consequence to the discipleship and mission of every Christian. Hence there being much more about discipleship, grace, Christ-centredness and glory on this blog than there is about postmodern semiotics.
However, the point at which my old interests do still continue to bite for me is this: I think it is crucial that every Christian is able to defend truth. Anyone who is unable to give a reason for the hope they have will not defend that hope when asked. It is necessary not only to have a hope but to be able to express the reason you have it. That's apologetics - not of the fancy academic sort, but of the every day, every Christian, sort.
Thinking back on some of the work I used to do leads me to this concern: I wonder if by so concentrating at the academic end, I and others interested in apologetics essentially took it out of the hands of every Christian. I wonder if we communicated that this is the advanced stuff, rather than the normal stuff. I wonder if we put people off by using words that were too long. I wonder how many people felt disempowered from giving a reason for their hope rather than empowered. I wonder if, at least for a while, I made a priesthood out of apologists?
There are lots of questions people have about the faith and lots of good answers. But these days I start any apologetics training I do in a church in a very simple way. I ask "if you could say just one thing to someone about the hope you have, what would it be? If they only got to hear one thing from you ever what is the thing you would most want them to hear?"
My answer? "Jesus Christ is terrific. He has stolen my heart, forgiven my sins, and I am blown away by his brilliance. That's why I have hope." Hopefully that will make people ask some more after that! All apologetics and all apologetics training should have this as its one goal: how to tell people how amazing Jesus is in a way they are able to hear. And almost all apologetics training should be of the every day, every Christian, sort.