I got to judge a round of apologetics at a National Championship. I felt slightly unqualified because it was the semi-final round and I never came close to that competitive level as an apologetics speaker. But I took the ballot and enjoyed the round. I was impressed by everyone’s incredible delivery, conduct, organization, etc. And some even shared excellent content. But I did turn in those ballots wanting to share some words of encouragement with apologetics students. Specifically, these words: dig deeper! I noticed much shallow preparation as a competitor (in myself and others) and saw more signs of it as a judge. This is not to say that the speeches I saw were bad – far from it! But I wanted to see that these students had thought deeply about their topics and hear them share from that deep thought. I wanted to hear what God’s Word says about these topics (beyond Romans 3:23, Jeremiah 29:11, and John 3:16 that is). And I wanted to hear why speakers earnestly thought there was weight to the matters they addressed. I wanted them to dig deeper.
Maybe we need to step back and pose the question: why don’t we choose to dig deeper? I would gently encourage you to search your heart in order to expose the motives of your heart. I say this because I know from firsthand experience that the sinful, fleshly human heart can take an amazing event like apologetics and use it for selfish ambition. Maybe you don’t dig deeper because the speeches are so short; after all, what depth can you really communicate in six minutes? Maybe it is because most of the judges and audience members are Christian; this is just practice for the “real world”, right? Maybe it’s laziness; that’s convicting for me to write because I’ve battled multiple seasons of spiritual laziness. Maybe it’s because competitive success doesn’t require you to dig deeper; we’ve all seen people win rounds with flashy speeches that are shallower than a kiddie pool. Whatever it is, I’ll make this bold prediction: it is not a valid reason to dissuade you from digging deeper.
You may wonder why I feel the need to discuss the depth of study of apologetics in this piece. Well, quite simply, I’d argue that apologetics can be one of the most useful events the league offers. I think my time studying apologetics has benefited me tremendously post-high school. But I also think speakers rob themselves of much of the value of the event by studying it in such a shallow way. I speak from an embarrassing level of personal experience. So that’s why I’m writing. If God uses my flawed thoughts expressed in imperfect words to encourage one person to take his or her study of apologetics deeper, I will be thankful. Why? I think you are doing yourself an injustice when you don’t dig deeper.
When I enrolled at my large, public university, it’s safe to say that I had some reservations, especially about the spiritual climate of my campus and the discipline it would require for me to follow Christ. As it turns out, my reservations were well founded! It is hard. My first collegiate experience was a beach trip with nineteen other incoming freshmen in my academic program. I think I was subconsciously hoping God would just have me get my toes wet with spiritual challenges. In His perfect wisdom He decided to throw me into the deep end during that first trip. These new peers played games I had to recuse myself from, discussed things I refused to discuss, and treated sin with the flippancy we should expect from people whose hearts have not been renewed by the power of Christ. And making my decision not to partake in these things led to some awkward moments. But I have since had incredible conversations with some of these same students. I fully believe God was working on my own heart and opening doors for me to share my faith with others, but I’d be lying if I said it was easy. Why do I share this anecdote? I hope you think about how your current apologetics study will impact you in the future.
No fruitful conversation in which I have gotten to share the gospel or discuss an important issue from a biblical worldview has been by my own strength. I promise you it is not the strength of my resolve but only Christ in me that allows me to share in those moments. That said, I think God has put me in several conversations while in college that I have been well prepared for. And I think my study of apologetics has something to do with that. Looking back, I’m much more grateful for the preparation God did in my heart through apologetics than any experience I had in an apologetics competition room (although those are very meaningful moments too). Let me submit that you may be much more prepared to defend your unique position at your own collegiate beach trip if you purpose now to dig deeper in your study.
I will now assume that you are motivated to dig deeper. If that is an incorrect assumption, please pray and re-read the article from the beginning. I’m kidding. Anyways, I want to spend the rest of my words on some quick suggestions for how to dig deeper. I think two thirds of the battle is just purposing in your heart to do it, but my more pragmatic readers may care for the practical tips below. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is comprised of the things I, as a college student, wish I would have dwelled on as a high-school apologetics student:
- Commit the time! This is intuitive but no less true. You will likely need to spend more time studying in order to reach the depth you ought to.
- Go to the Word of God! This is also intuitive, but never underestimate the beauty and wisdom of God’s Word as revealed in the Bible.
- Pray for clarity. Do not think of apologetics as such an academic endeavor that God does not care for the details of it. Go to Him humbly in prayer for clarity and understanding.
- Consult godly people in your life! The advice of parents, elders, and mentors is an amazing pool of wisdom. And I think it’s a foolish high-schooler who does not regularly seek out such insight (again, embarrassing personal experience)
- Read things you don’t ordinarily read. I do not mean that you should find a Hindu yoga blogger to flesh out your thoughts. I do mean you should consult many different respected, godly teachers on a given topic. There are so many online sermons, books, articles, podcasts, etc. from godly teachers and they are a wealth of resources for your deep study. Additionally, research some unbiblical perspectives on a given topic so you are more informed to compare with the truth.
- I hope you will commit to digging deeper into your study of apologetics. And I pray that God will bless your efforts by using you in your high-school years and beyond as a warrior for His glory alone.