Apologetics can never be an end unto itself. The essence must always be about the Gospel; the good news that God has made us in His image and that He loves us, and that this love exists most perfectly in the person of His Son whom He sent to us in order that we might be saved from our sins (John 3:16-17). Apologetics can be many things; a profession, a passion, an avocation, a deep desire, a meaningful hobby or activity, even a general bias of style or tone in communication depending on the skill, experience and intent of the apologist – yet like any other vehicle or medium whether music, or writing or art, it can never be the essence of what (or who!) it communicates. The container can never be the content.
I have been thinking a lot about this in particular within the context of Pope Francis’ papacy. The Holy Father has placed such a heavy emphasis on the purity of the Gospel message. His point, simply put, is that the Gospel is so attractive, so compelling and magnetic (which of course it is!) that by its very existence and by its sharing, those within the Church and those without it are called to a deeper relationship with her Spouse. In effect, he is reminding us, in a substantive way, that the Word of God is not a book, but a Person, and that He is who we are all ultimately searching for. His Holiness has ever so gently, but firmly, tilted the many-faceted jewel that is the Church to the gleam from a facet called Evangelical Joy. He does this not to suggest that the other facets of evangelization vanish, since we know that the Church has many members, and many gifts and that the charism of one particular Christian is not necessarily applicable to another (1 Cor 12: 4-31), but instead he does this to amplify the need for a real assent to, and focus on, the spirits of Joy and Mission so fundamentally necessary at this moment in our journey as a “pilgrim people” (Lumen Gentium, Ch 7).
It is true that Christian apologetics seeks to explain and defend the faith, but why does the faith need explanation or defense? By definition, true apologetics is conditional on an environment of ignorance and/or attack, an environment where explanation and defense are necessary… but that defense and explanation are individually and must collectively be oriented to the goal of sharing the Gospel. And in our apologetics, whether amateur or professional, whether in length or in brief, whether in person or via media, we must actually share the Gospel! I have experienced in myself and witnessed at times in others a proclivity of stopping short of that reality; we see a need, we take action, we explain, we defend, we rebut, and God-willing, we even resolve whatever issue may have been in question, but we don’t always follow the dynamic all the way through. It’s about winning souls, not debates or arguments, no matter how important and necessary those debates and arguments might be in clearing the way for the transmission of reason and faith.
I am certain that many of those whose digital or analog pages I frequent, came to this realization many moons ago, but for me it has been something a bit new. A new emphasis! One which I am trying now to consistently apply!