The ‘fundamentals’ of martial arts are taught during the first few years of a student’s quest for a Black Belt. Those fundamentals include basics of escaping, blocking, striking, trapping and throwing. However, learning the fundamentals is just the beginning. Martial artists with decades of experience are still practicing those fundamentals because they are the ‘foundation’ of a powerful system of self defense.
The same is true in Christian apologetics. Christian apologists learn the fundamentals of Christianity during their early years of training, then practice them continually as the foundation of a powerful system of faith defense.
The ‘foundation’ of Christian apologetics is the teaching of the apostles and prophets built on Jesus Christ as the Chief Cornerstone of the Faith.
“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:19-22
No matter how many years we’ve been Christians, we never stop ‘practicing’ the fundamentals that are built on the ‘foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” The elements of those fundamentals include an understanding of thousands of Bible verses and hundreds of spiritual principles explained in God’s Word.
The Pattern We Follow
That brings us to the second area of training in martial arts and apologetics – Forms.
Forms in martial arts are pre-arranged patterns designed by master instructors to help students move through the fundamentals in a way that demonstrates an effective defense against one or more opponents. Students begin learning forms by closely following the movements of their teacher. Their goal is a precision of movement that emulates the movement of their teacher. This process can take many years to perfect and for good reason. That precision and exactness is passed along from generation to generation so the martial artist holds to the pattern of the founder of the ‘art.’ Many of the ‘forms’ taught in martial arts today have histories that span hundreds of years. The objective is to practice those ancient forms in the precise manner they were first taught at the beginning of each martial arts style.
Once a student is able to follow the form(s) to the satisfaction of their instructor, they begin to learn the meaning and application of each movement in the form. That’s when the form takes on a life of its own and becomes ‘real’ to the student as they use movements from the form to protect against other students who attack them (with and without weapons). The goal is to move quickly, safely, powerfully, efficiently, and effectively in defending themselves and others in their care.
In the Arena of Apologetics
The same is true in learning the ‘art’ of apologetics. The student learns the fundamentals of Christianity from their teachers. Then they learn the ‘patterns’ that Jesus Christ and His apostles established through their lives and teaching and passed along to their students. The goal is to follow each ‘movement’ with spiritual precision. Jesus Christ is the ‘utmost’ example we are to follow as Christians and apologists.
“He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” 1 John 2:6
“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” 1 Peter 2:21
Learning spiritual patterns in life and apologetics is a process of ‘imitating’ Jesus Christ.
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Ephesians 5:1-2
When Jesus ascended to Heaven He ‘gave gifts to men.’ Those gifts include our ‘instructors’ in Christianity who have the responsibility of ‘training’ us in how to serve God faithfully and effectively so each believer is able to speak the truth in love and grow up in all things “into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)
This is a great responsibility for both teacher and student. The teacher is responsible to God to accurately demonstrate the ‘Christ-like pattern,’ while the student is responsible to God to follow that pattern and imitate Christ.
“Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.” Philippians 3:17
The Ratio Christi Chapter Director
** and other Christian leaders **
So what does that mean for a Ratio Christi Chapter Director? It means students are going to follow your pattern. They’re going to want to be like you based on your being like Christ. Christians in high school and college need strong Christian role models and you are one of those models in their lives. The way you think, talk, act and react are part of the pattern they need to see so they can become like Christ. Being ready to give a defense includes both the right answer and the right attitude (1 Peter. 3:15-16). It is through your good efforts that Christian students learn the apologetic patterns laid down in the Scriptures.
The discipleship model we see in the Gospels is an excellent one for RC chapter directors to follow. Jesus spent time with His young disciples teaching them and allowing them to watch Him as He did the work of apologetics. Then, the Lord sent them out in pairs and shared in their excitement as they returned to tell Him about their journey to proclaim the Gospel. Jesus used those pairings as an opportunity to deepen the disciples’ understanding of the Gospel and the ministry He had called them to do. As the disciples learned the ‘what, where, when and how’ of ministry, Jesus also helped them understand ‘why’ He did what He did and why they would need to follow His example.
Jesus left His disciples many patterns to follow in their lives and ministries, but one of the most important is the example Jesus gave them the night before His crucifixion.
“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.” John 13:14-16
May we follow this and every example Christ gave us with both precision and compassion in service to students and faculty on our campuses.
So, what’s next? The importance of ‘Fighting’ in becoming a Black Belt in Apologetics.
[This series of articles about Black Belt Apologetics first appeared on the Ratio Christi Website. Mark McGee is a Ratio Christi assistant chapter director at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He is also a 6th Degree Black Belt and has been teaching for more than 50 years.]
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.