Debate can be a danger for the apologist’s faith

by Mr. Sheehy

In the wake of the Ravi Zacharias news last week, I kept returning to this passage from Alan Jacobs’s biography of C.S. Lewis, The Narnian, where Jacobs assembles some of Lewis’s thoughts on the danger of apologetics for the Christian believer. I often quip, “You can’t debate anyone into the Kingdom”; in a significant sense, according to Lewis, it appears we can debate ourselves out of it.

“Worse still, we expose ourselves  to recoil from our own shots; for if I may trust my personal experience no doctrine is, for the moment, dimmer to the eye of faith than that which a man has just successfully defended.”

Two years later Lewis concluded a talk on ‘Christian Apologetics” for a group of priests and youth leaders in Wales with a word of confession and warning:

“One last word. I have found that nothing is more dangerous to one’s own faith than the work of an apologist. No doctrine of the Faith seems to me so spectral, so unreal as one that I have just successfully defended in a public debate. For a moment, you see, it has seemed to rest on oneself: as a result, when you go away from that debate, it seems no stronger than that weak pillar. That is why we apologists take our lives in our hands and can be saved only by falling back continually from the web of our own arguments . . . into the Reality—from Christian apologetics into Christ himself.”