It has been said, “The first casualty of war is the truth.” This is because the opposing countries in an impending conflict need the support of their respective citizens, and each will do what is necessary to get that support even if they have to lie to get it.
The same axiom applies in a debate, which is nothing more than a war of words. Truth can become a casualty in the effort to win the debate. I am not a fan of wars or debates, but I am an ardent advocate of truth.
For the Christian truth is not a principle, or a proposition, it is a Person. It is the One who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” The truest thing a man can do is to emulate the life of Christ.
Peter addresses this in his first letter when he writes “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”
One of the branches of theology is apologetics. The word is derived from the Greek word apologia that appears in the above text and is translated as “make a defense.” Apologetics teaches students of the Bible how to defend their faith, the things they believe.
Some think the epitome of apologetics is to engage unbelievers in formal debates, but debates can sometimes confuse rather than clarify the issues discussed. This is because they do little more than showcase the scholarship and cleverness of those debating. One might come away with more doubt than belief, and truth may seem elusive.
Besides, I do not think that is the point Peter was making. When we “sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts,” that is, when we actually live out His teachings, we will draw the curiosity of the unbelieving world giving us the opportunity to witness to the “hope that is in” us.
This means apologetics, as a discipline, is not the domain of purported theologians and Bible scholars reserved for the forum of public debate. Apologetics consist of knowing what we believe and why we believe it so we can bear witness to the truth when we are questioned about why we live as we do.
This is the responsibility of every believer, to know what we believe and why we believe it, if we hope to live our lives intentionally for Christ and be a witness to those things we hold to be true. And those things we hold to be true are plainly seen in the Scriptures.
We have not been called to win debates or arguments; we have been called to win souls. The greatest apologetic is not a well-worded argument or a clever comeback as entertaining as they might be. The greatest apologetic is a life that has been well lived for Christ.