As a word that appears in the New Testament 17 times, translating to the words “vindication” or “defense,” apologetics is the defense of the Christian faith. In our March BCERC Presents series, inaugural theologian-in-residence, Ekemini Uwan, sits down with apologists Lisa V. Fields and Clare Williams to take a deeper dive into the practice.
To give a defense for the hope that we have, defined by 1 Peter 3:15, is where apologetics Bibically stems from, explains Fields, who jokingly explained that her grandmother thought she, “apologized for Jesus for a living.” But, she defines it as intellectual engagement of what we believe and why we believe it. Williams agreed, adding that it’s making a cumulative case for God.
“Being a Christian doesn’t mean you have to commit intellectual suicide,” said Williams.
Working to bridge the gap of belief in Christianity (or lack thereof) in a growing pluralistic and secular world, both Fields and Williams often find themselves breaking down their truth behind Christianity in layman's terms to those who may doubt the faith – especially in times of turmoil.
“I believe Christianity is true. But something can be true and not relevant,” said Williams. “People may talk about climate change, for instance, and the general consensus is ‘yeah, climate change is true,’ …but is it relevant to them? Are they going to recycle?” Going back to religion, this metaphor shows Williams that she has to be relatable, especially when talking to those more vulnerable to new ideas, like Gen Zers; who are often discussing culture and justice, Williams makes religion applicable to those same topics.
Fields, who also seeks to be relatable, also aims to listen to others and simply meet them where they are, no matter the belief. “How can we have a just world, with pluralism?” A question she points out some may be thinking. “Because we have to have absolutism in some regard, to have justice to thrive. So helping them see the contradiction in their own beliefs helps bridge the gap in talking about apologetics in a pluralistic world.”
As a theologian, Uwan notices that outsiders usually think that she – and other Christian leaders – have it all together. “Sometimes, people see you with a platform, they see what you’re doing, and they project all types of things. Sometimes good things on you, they think, ‘oh my goodness, you’ve made it, you’ve arrived,’” said Uwan. “But not knowing we’re in progress. We’re learning. We’ve never really quite ‘arrived.’”
In light of always learning, Fields focuses her teachings on incarnational apologetics, which is living out your faith to those with and without your same beliefs.
“If we don’t embody the faith, we can’t defend the faith,” said Fields. “Because people care more about what we live, than what we say.”
Defining herself as a “budding apologist” who often focuses on the younger generation, Williams keeps her teachings general as she “hones” her voice; but all in all, she says, “I have a heart for people coming to Christ.”
In her practice as an apologist and a person, Fields’ life goal sums up not only how apologists, but seemingly advice to how we, as Christians, should live. “I’m just a Jesus lover, trying to hear, ‘well done’ at the end,” she said. “It’s not just defending the faith with words, but actually in the life that I live.”
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