Another primary function of apologetics is what some have called 'offense.' 1
By this they mean that the task of the Christian apologist is often to attack other belief systems. Of course, by attack I do not mean to insult or belittle, but rather to develop arguments against these belief systems with the purpose of showing them to be false or at least highly dubious.
I realize how arrogant this sounds. Really, I do. One of the biggest things that I dislike about my own faith (and yes, it is okay to be honest about these things) is its exclusive nature. I'm really not a mean guy. I love people. 2 I wish that everyone could be right. That somehow, every religion could be a valid path to God. That as a Christian, I did not have to tell sincere believers of other faiths that what they think they know is wrong. If I may say so, I hate this. But unfortunately, my feelings about it don't make it any less true.
That said, this rather bold practice is one of the main tasks of the apologist. The hard fact is, there are many opinions about who God is and what He is like, and most of them have to be wrong. And if I believe that I have been granted access to the truth, and that I am also obligated to share this truth with others, then an inevitable part of that process will be dealing with contrary claims to truth. In order to share the genuine, it is sometimes necessary to expose counterfeits.
This can be done in several ways, as occasion warrants. Sometimes it is through philosophical argument intended to show a particular worldview to be internally incoherent. Sometimes it is more empirical, highlighting various inconsistencies in a system with a realistic picture of the world.
But whatever the specific method, the most important thing is that it be done in love. Some of the best advice I have ever received was that often one's words can be neutral, but it is the attitude in which they are said that makes the difference. People can usually tell what your motives really are.
Think about it. I have been given some pretty hard news on several occasions. And I have no trouble at all picking out the occasions in which the person gave the news in love. The news itself was the same, but the attitude made all the difference.
I have not yet engaged in this type of apologetics in this blog, but I do plan to. When that happens, I will do my best to do it with an attitude of humility, remembering that my coming to know the truth had nothing to do with me. Rather, just like every other Christian, God revealed it to me out of His abundant grace. 3
I should also note that this task of apologetics, though often necessary, is by no means its primary function. Nor should it ever be undertaken by anyone who has not honestly dealt with the position she is attacking.
Next time: denominationalism. (!)
1 Faith Has Its Reasons. Kenneth Boa and Robert Bowman. Pt. 4.
2 Though I must admit this is a fairly recent development. God, however, is persistent.
3 See my post on revelation here.