The Spiritual Life of the Christian Apologist

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Apologists can easily garner a bad name for themselves. Jump on YouTube or TikTok and you’ll see popular apologists seeking to “destroy” the arguments of their opponents. While their logic may be tight, their care for those they’re interacting with is often lacking. Far too frequent are the ridiculous, over-the-top, argumentative tirades in Christian apologetics. Their tone can be one of pretension and snark. In an effort to defend the faith, they (we) have forgotten that the person sitting across from us is an image-bearer.

Many apologists act in this negative way for a variety of reasons. At least one reason is the missing focus on the inner life—or the spiritual life—of the apologist. If we hope to endear non-believers to the Christian faith, we must give more attention to cultivating true Christian character that is both substantive and enduring. This kind of character and posture is not only beneficial when interacting with skeptics and seekers, but is central in our calling to imitate Christ.

Ironically enough, I think many of the main virtues of being a good apologist are in the primary prooftext for apologetics: 1 Peter 3:15. The verse reads: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Right in front of us are four clear virtues that will help cultivate the spiritual life of the apologist: honor, hope, gentleness, and respect.

Our apologetic approach is intended to point people to the gospel—the good news.


Christian apologists should honor Jesus. The apologist who doesn’t honor Christ as Lord in their hearts really has no business being a Christian apologist. There is a reason Peter places this virtue at the beginning, even before one prepares their apologetic argument. Honoring Christ is the very foundation on which our lives our built. This honoring serves a dual-purpose. It not only esteems Christ over our lives, but it also is a reminder to humble ourselves. With John the Baptist, we should declare that “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). However, honoring Christ is not primarily an outward act. Instead, we honor Christ in our hearts—in the inner life of the Christian. It is from this resolution to revere the supremacy of Jesus with all that we are, beginning in our hearts, that our Christian conduct flows outward. The whole posture of defending the Christian faith is one that is grounded in a conviction that Christ is preeminent.


Christian apologists should be full of hope. The defense, or apologia, that Christians offer is not an empty one, but rather one that is “for that hope” that is within us. We should not be distracted by arguments that sound clever or might humiliate our opponents. Instead, we want to cultivate answers and arguments that reinforce and build upon our hope in Christ’s finished work. No matter how logically cogent, our apologetic approach is intended to point people to the gospel—the good news. Even more, we are not people who base our lives on a panic theology. We have a hope and faith in what Christ is doing and will do in the future. Instead of panic, we live our lives under the reality of our resurrection hope. This hope is seen in our answers, but also in our day-to-day lives.

We don’t treat people as arguments to be won, but as individuals with real concerns and questions.


Christian apologists should be gentle. But why gentle? First, it’s a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23), but, second, the apologist is to be gentle because he realizes what real apologetics requires. When we’re interacting with a non-believer, and inviting them to change their mind and heart, we’re participating in something profoundly radical. When someone comes to the realization that all they have believed was not only false, but was also harmful and disastrous, they are in a dangerous place. They are hanging between the chasm of two worldviews. For that reason, we must be gentle. We must listen and guide. We want to move people, full of compassion, to the cross and into the embrace of our Lord. We must remember that we are dealing with real people, in real life. Which brings us to our last virtue.


Christian apologists should be respectful. Every person, whether believer or unbeliever, skeptic or seeker, is an image-bearer. Young and old, rich and poor, the person in the corner office or the person in the jail cell—they are all made according to the image of God. If that is true, and it is, then it requires those who want to defend the faith to be incredibly respectful. It requires us to have real, tangible compassion to those that we’re taking to. We don’t treat people as arguments to be won, but as individuals with real concerns and questions. But how do we respect them? The most respectful thing an apologist can do is to tell the truth, but to tell the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We lead them in care to the only answer that will satisfy: Christ.

When we begin to cultivate the kind of character that 1 Peter 3:15 speaks of, we realize that apologetics is not just a collection of facts or evidences. Being a good apologist is not primarily about being good arguing. Instead, being a good apologist is about being the kind of person Christ has called us to be. Put another way, apologetics is not just verbal—it’s visual too. Our lives are an apologetic. The way we demonstrate honor to God, hope within our hearts, and gentleness and respect for other people all show that we truly believe that God is real and that He cares for us. We reinforce what we say by the way we live our lives. Therefore, let’s begin cultivating the spiritual life and be the Christ-honoring apologists God intends.

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Christopher Talbot

Christopher Talbot serves as the Youth and Family Ministry Program Coordinator and Campus Pastor at Welch College, where he also teaches courses in biblical and theological studies. He volunteers as Pastor of Youth and Family at Sylvan Park Church. Chris has spoken and written widely on youth and family ministry, and apologetics. He serves as Assistant Managing Editor for the D6 Family Ministry Journal and as a contributor for the Helwys Society Forum. He is the author of Remodeling Youth Ministry (Welch College Press, 2017) and co-editor of Christians in Culture (Welch College Press, forthcoming). Chris and his wife Rebekah live with their three sons in Gallatin, Tennessee.

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