Where on earth has the summer gone? School is just around the corner! And for those of us in speech and debate, with school comes preparation for the upcoming competitive season. I’ve already been doing some planning for the club that I co-coach, and I’m sure that your coaches are doing the same.
As we approach this next year, I want to write a series of posts to help you prepare to compete in Apologetics. Considering how I wanted to start out, I happened to pick up a copy of my book, Defend, from my bookshelf. I turned right to the foreword by Aubrey Parke, the 2013 NCFCA Apologetics National Champion. Her words reminded me of the greater purpose for Apologetics, the real reason that we compete. Even though I had read her words before, I was encouraged anew by her God-centered and God-glorifying perspective on this most fabulous of speech events.
I’ve included Aubrey’s words in their entirety below. I hope that they provide as much encouragement to you as they did to me.
Sometimes God calls us to act on His Truth before we completely understand it. Those leaps feel blind because as humans, we are prone to rely on our physical senses. No matter how firm the ground beneath us is, if we can’t see it, we fear that we will fall. As Christians, we are new creatures from the innermost parts of our being (2 Corinthians 5:14-17), but we still have those places of questioning and struggle. To me, the most incredible thing about walking alive in Christ is seeing how God dispels the clouds of doubt condensing on my heart with a lucid understanding of Who He is, given through His Word.
Second Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” The Bible is God’s letter to mankind, but it’s not about man. He spoke it about Himself. Even the Old Testament law and New Testament commands center around the Divine identity: “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11:44). Unfailingly, it is learning to know more fully Who God is that reconciles our doubts.
That is what Apologetics is all about: answering questions according to the true character of God. I’m glad the first category for Apologetics topics in both Stoa and the NCFCA is “Existence and Nature of God”. To understand why there is a Hell, we must grasp God’s holiness. To pinpoint the purpose of man, we must first realize that God is the creator of man and has the righteous authority to demand all of our worship. Believing in the deity of Christ seems polytheistic until that belief is placed in light of the Trinity. Answering any question, in real life and in Apologetics, requires an accurate view of God.
Because of their common base, Apologetics and real life shouldn’t be separate. This is part of why I recommend Caleb’s approach to Apologetics in “Defend: The Handbook of Competitive Apologetics”. His approach is down-to-earth, accurately explaining the meaning of Apologetics and giving effective tools that will help you to prepare for the speech event it a way that harmonizes with everyday life in Christ.
Here are some of my favorite ways to blend Apologetics speech prep with real life: When you hear a sermon in church on Sunday, take careful notes and work your pastor’s points into your Apologetics cards. Save verses from your personal quiet time and apply them to your league’s Apologetics topics. Draw from your favorite theological books and from your family’s dinnertime conversations. I never read without a pen and paper ready to jot down striking points, and usually the first thing I do after getting home from youth group or church is scribble a few thoughts to myself so I don’t forget them later. Many of them reappear in my Apologetics box.
Last summer I was privileged to stand on a stage at the NCFCA national championship and explain to several hundred people, “What is the purpose of man?” It was a new sensation to hear my own voice echoed by amplifiers, to feel the heat of stage lights, to see hundreds of faces in one sweeping glance. But the tournament ended and the glory of that moment faded into a commonplace summer. What really counted to me was sitting on my back porch a few weeks later, talking on the phone to a long-distance friend. My friend asked me why God would let her parents leave her like they did if He really was good. Drawing on the Scriptures I knew from my Apologetics cards on God’s holiness, sovereignty, and grace, I was able compassionately communicate the truth to my struggling friend.
In Defend, Caleb addresses Apologetics as a speech event with the practical insight only a former competitor can offer. His conceptual organization system will help you not to be overwhelmed by the number of questions to answer, and his advice will assist you in honing your preparation and delivery skills. But Caleb also addresses Apologetics as a Christian life pursuit. Defend approaches Apologetics with the long-term perspective of becoming “thoroughly equipped” to give an answer for the hope that is in us. Because of this, I sincerely recommend Defend and Caleb’s Apologetics curriculum as an introduction to Apologetics.
My one warning to Apologetics speakers is “do not add to His words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:6). God hears every one of your speeches, and He takes His Truth seriously. Don’t distort Scripture to fit your opinion, rather, fit your opinion to Scripture. Never say anything about God that He did not say of Himself. Realize the full weight of what you are speaking.
The cry of my heart for all of us, as ambassadors for Christ, is that God will make us vessels for His world-shaping words. You cannot know the inner struggles of your audience. You cannot foresee the doubts you will wrestle with later in life, or the people God will put in your path. But know that as you speak, hearts will be changed—yours not the least of all.
2013 NCFCA Apologetics National Champion