Recently, I was a member of the Launch Team for the Completely Updated and Revised Edition of Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh and Sean McDowell. This involved reading and promoting the book, as well as writing a blog to review the book. From the first paragraph of my review, you should be able to tell that this was a big deal to me to be a part of it. After the book was released, I also posted 2 blog posts inspired by short sections of the book ( When was the Book of Acts Written? and Truth Matters to Us in Personal and Practical Ways ). The book is seriously so good that I’m already reading it again.
From time to time for the Launch Team, they would periodically have a contest for the members. One of these contests was to share an image on social media, take a screenshot of that share, and submit it as evidence. Doing so put your name in a drawing to win some prizes. Second place was winning a free signed copy of the book. First place was a 15-minute call with Josh and Sean McDowell.
I don’t normally win these kind of contests. If I throw my name in, it’s usually in a “sure, why not?” kind of attitude, but I never really expect to win. I don’t put much stock in it. So imagine my surprise when my name was drawn for first place. I kind of agonized over that call, in a “what am I going to say?” and a “whatever would we talk about?” way. After working with the Launch Team lead on a schedule that worked out for both of them, the day finally came for the call.
In reality, the call was very cool. They were both kind and gracious, thanking me for helping to promote the book, and asked me questions about myself. One of the questions Josh asked me was what I did for a living.
For my day job, I work in the IT department at a local Catholic hospital. It’s sort of a natural fit for me, as I’ve always found it easier to work with math and computers. Computers are very math and logic based.
Josh then followed up that question with how long I’ve been doing this and followed that up with a question of what is one thing that has changed the most since I’ve been doing this. For some reason, I replied with something along the lines of “the viruses have gotten craftier and more dangerous.” As soon as I said it, I thought, “That was a strange response.”
I have pondered on why I immediately went to that answer. Google defines a computer virus as “a piece of code that is capable of copying itself and typically has a detrimental effect, such as corrupting the system or destroying data.” Several months before that call, the WannaCry virus had been released, which was a nasty new breed of viruses. Computer viruses, in general, are nothing new. PCs, Macs, Linux, iPhone, and Android all have viruses unique to their environment. Some viruses are installed simply by visiting a website, while others require an interaction from the user.
There are several ways to help prevent viruses. One is to stay up to date on the security patches. Another is to run an antivirus. An antivirus is a defense that can both help prevent the installation of viruses as well as help correct the damage done by viruses. And finally, just some general understanding of what to look for is also helpful.
PC Tools says that the purpose of antivirus software is to safeguard a computer from malware, including viruses, computer worms, and Trojan horses, as well as to remove or prevent spyware and adware, along with other forms of malicious programs.
So here I was, talking to two apologists that I greatly respected, talking about computer viruses. And my pondering led me to an abstract thought that I hope I’m able to make sense of here and hopefully not lose you, for there are many others who are more eloquent and more educated in their speech, writings, and thoughts. Simply put and metaphorically speaking, I propose that apologetics is to theology as an antivirus is to computers.
Typically, when trying to define apologetics, an apologist will use the go-to verse of 1 Peter 3:15: “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with gentleness and respect”; with the Greek word for defense being used in that verse being apologia, which is where the name apologetics comes from. (Apologia means verbal defense, speech in defense; a reasoned statement or argument.) Another way to think of apologetics is simply as Christian case-making.
In Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Josh and Sean McDowell says this:
Theologian and apologist Clark Pinnock explains the nature of apologetics in this way:
The term apologetics derives from a Greek term, apologia, and was used for a defence that a person like Socrates might make of his views and actions. The apostle Peter tells every Christian to be ready to give a reason (apologia) for the hope that is in him (1 Pet. 3:15). Apologetics, then, is an activity of the Christian mind which attempts to show that the gospel message is true in what it affirms. An apologist is one who is prepared to defend the message against criticism and distortion, and to give evidences of its credibility.
(Pinnock, A, 36)
(Evidence That Demands a Verdict, pg xxxii)
Just as a virus is “a piece of code that is capable of copying itself and typically has a detrimental effect, such as corrupting the system or destroying data,” there are false doctrines, false ideas, and misconceptions about Christianity that spread as people hear them without verifying their accuracy. These false doctrines, false ideas, and misconceptions typically do have detrimental effects such as corrupting one’s faith or even destroying one’s faith (i.e. when someone turns their back on the faith and becomes an atheist.)
Josh and Sean McDowell have this to say:
People naturally have questions. They always have and always will. One of the key
functions of apologetics, then, is to respond to questions and clear away objections people have that hinder their trust in Christ.
Just as an antivirus is used to safeguard against viruses, apologetics is helpful to safeguard against false doctrine and false ideas. Josh and Sean McDowell give this great quote in their book (emphasis mine):
Influential theologian J. Gresham Machen perhaps said it best:
False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the Gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation to be controlled by ideas which prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion. (Machen, CC, 7)
(ibid pg xxxvi)
Just as an antivirus helps to remove or prevent spyware and adware, along with other forms of malicious programs, apologetics helps clear false ideas and misconceptions about Christianity, the Bible, Jesus, and God. It also helps provide evidence for all of these.
As a computer guy, I typically advise that one installs all updates provided and run an antivirus to help keep your PC healthy. In somewhat the same way, apologetics can help strengthen your faith. Dr. William Lane Craig, in his book On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision, talks about 3 reasons why apologetics can help strengthen your faith. I’m just going to list 2 of them:
First of all, knowing why you believe as well as what you believe will make you more confident in sharing your faith with others…
Second, apologetics can also help you to keep the fatih in times of doubt and struggle. Emotions will crry you only so far, and then you’re going to need something more substantial.
(On Guard, pgs 18-19)
In Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Josh and Sean McDowell mention another reason why apologetics is helpful: it helps students hang on to their faith.
Young people have genuine intellectual questions. And when these questions are not answered, many leave the church…Intellectual challenges, just a click away, confront young people today more than in any other previous generation.
(Evidence That Demands a Verdict, pg xxxv)
I know that in my own life, while it was several experiences that led me to Christ (written about here), apologetics helped confront previous questions that I had about Christianity and has definitely helped strengthen my faith.