Having been out of the church culture for a few years, I have become increasingly troubled over the “us against them” mentality that has been fostered through some apologetic programs. Case in point, Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project. The Truth Project is comprised of 13 one-hour lessons designed to counter a “downward slide within the body of Christ” because “today’s believers live very similarly to non-believers.”
A few years ago I had the opportunity to participate in the program and my experience with it was perplexing. I expected to gain rational tools to defend my faith however, as the class progressed I became increasingly agitated over the reaction of the participants to the material. Comments during discussions betrayed the growing sentiment that it was believers vs. the deceived, truth vs. lies and there was a battle to be won. It reminded me of a high school pep rally where participants were encouraged to “Go! Fight! Win!” Despite the reminders of the video host that our battle was not against flesh but against principalities and powers, the evangelistic fervor that resulted appeared to be aimed more at individual “targets” than against any powers that be.
I use this experience to illustrate my concern. I have no argument with apologetics nor a Christian worldview. I happen to hold a Christian worldview. The point of this post is not to examine The Truth Project or to criticize it. My concern is that apologetics, which is by nature a rational sharing of information, has become for some an emotional tool of conflict creating a divide rather than reconciliation.
When I worked in ministry I was a quick defender of the Church. Working for an evangelistic ministry put me on the front lines of faith reaching out to those who did not have a saving relationship with Christ. Often I heard the critics level the charge of hypocrisy and those who had left the church claimed to have found more acceptance outside the realms of the body of Christ than within it. Properly employed, apologetics is a discipline which yields understanding between individuals. Exercised with the above mentioned mentality, apologetics creates barriers instead of common ground.
I am still a believer in the Church and in rendering a proper defense of our faith but am increasingly dissatisfied with how some in the church conduct themselves when engaging in apologetics. Our fervor to defend the faith may be alienating the very ones that Christ would have us reach. While the Holy Spirit is quite up to dealing with the walls we might construct, I am concerned that we, the Church, have created a false dichotomy—the Church vs. the World. In creating a worldview that focuses on this divide, the very Truth we possess becomes a lie that causes the people whom Christ loves to run away.