Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Psychotic Penguins & Apologetics

1 Peter 3:15 says, in part : "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."

Whenever I think of how I've seen a few people approach this verse, I am reminded of the penguins from Madagascar ("the penguins are psychotic..." said Alex the Lion). Most take the posture of the three peripheral penguins: they're on guard, waiting in almost paranoid anticipation of the dreaded "question that we don't know the answer to", and are always ready to attack the perceived enemies of the faith.

A smaller number assume the posture of the penguin in the middle: cocky, self-assured, and smugly confident that they can adequately argue into submission anyone who dares to challenge the veracity of their truth claims.

When I say that 1 Peter 3:15 was "in part", most would assume that I'm referring to the opening phrase about setting Christ apart as Lord. Actually, I was thinking of the end of verse 15, and hoping to dive right into verse 16 as well:
"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." (1 Peter 3:15-16 NIV; emphasis added)
Being "ready to give an answer" should never be equated with a posture of either attack-ready paranoia nor one of cocky more-apologetic-than-thou. Some of the most fruitful discussions I've had with people have resulted from doing what this verse actually says (God wants us to get it, so He's made it easy): gentleness, respect, and with a clear conscience (that we weren't offensive, probably).

Verbally beating people into intellectual/spiritual submission through apologetics -- even emergent apologetics (the writings of McLaren, Sweet or even Derrida) -- should never happen among those who claim to be imitators (apprentices) of Jesus. Yes, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is offensive to some, a stumbling block perhaps, but that's different than if WE are offensive in our attitude, actions, and words.

(And it was fun to find a spiritual use for the penguins from Madagascar.)

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