Post Author: Bill Pratt
One of the largest blemishes on Christianity is the number of different denominations. Just among Protestants, there are dozens of major denominations and hundreds of smaller denominations around the world. And, of course, there are Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches as well. What does apologetics (defense of the Christian faith) have to do with denominations?
As a defender of Christianity, the very first thing you have to answer for yourself is this: what Christianity am I defending? It’s pretty difficult to defend something that you can’t describe.
I attend a Southern Baptist church, but when I started studying apologetics 10 years ago, I quickly came to realize that to defend the Southern Baptist denomination was not what I was called to do.
What I needed to defend was orthodox Christianity – the traditional, historical faith that was established during the first 500 years of the church, and codified in the ecumenical councils held during that time period. This is the Christianity that every major Christian group points back to in one way or another. As my seminary professor Norman Geisler once wrote, “Unity among all major sections of Christendom is found in the statement: One Bible, two testaments, three confessions, four councils, and five centuries.”
This is exactly the approach C. S. Lewis took in all of his apologetic writings. He always wrote about what he called “Mere Christianity.” Lewis had no interest in diving into the in-house debates among Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Presbyterians. His was a calling to defend the common doctrines that all of these groups held sacred.
As I’ve studied apologetics, I’ve read numerous non-Baptist scholars, including quite a few Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox thinkers. Every one of these men and woman do their utmost to enunciate mere Christianity to the non-Christian world. I guarantee that if I hadn’t been studying apologetics, I would not have been exposed to such a wide range of Christians outside my denomination.
If you’ve ever been to an apologetics conference, you’ve probably noticed the way that Christians from every denomination mingle and network without thinking twice. We don’t wear name tags that label our denominations. It never comes up, honestly.
I believe that Christian apologetics can be a powerful force that unifies all Christians around the essentials of our faith. When we truly focus on what is central, on what is at the heart of our faith, we find that many of our differences seem less important.
Are we ready to drop all of our differences and unite as one visible church? No. There are real and substantial disagreements to be worked out. But the apologists are at the forefront, whether we know it or not, of a global movement to unify around mere Christianity. I am really excited about that and I hope you are, too.