If you know anything about our church, you know that we are intentionally incorporating apologetics into our discipleship process. We believe that every Christian should be equipped to defend the faith in a way that is effective and winsome. We do not believe that every Christian should become a vocational apologist, but every Christian is called to contend for the faith (Jude 1:3), and to be ready to give an answer concerning the hope they have in Jesus (1 Peter 3:15).
Up to this point, we have written articles, created videos, and developed content addressing contentions people have concerning the faith, but I’ve been doing a great deal of thinking about how we can make apologetics more accessible to our church family. How can we go from merely addressing topics to creating a culture of apologetics? A culture where every disciple is developing their apologetic?
I definitely don’t claim to have figured it out! But I believe that, in order for this to take place, four things need to be true about our uses of apologetics.
It Needs to be Biblical
This should be intuitive, but an argument for the Christian faith is only as good as it is congruent with Christian doctrine. What might appear to be a reasonable answer could end up hurting your overall defense of the faith if it is not grounded in proper exegesis. In other words, a Christian Apologist should not only have a deep understanding of the objections to the faith but a deep understanding of the content of the faith itself. Theology and Christian apologetics must remain in tandem with each other.
It Needs to be Simple
One should be careful not to confuse simplicity with shallowness. I am talking about a simplicity that arises from the mastery of a subject, not a cursory glance that gives initial gratification. What makes apologetics so daunting is that we attempt to master too many subjects. One might feel that he needs to become an expert in science, to get a degree in philosophy, or to do a robust study of all the counterfeit religions in order to engage in apologetics, but none of these things are necessary. These types of studies can definitely aid in the defense of the faith, but the fundamental need is knowing what you believe and why you believe it.
It Needs to be Practical
There is certainly a place for philosophical arguments for the existence of God (i.e. cosmological, ontological, teleological, moral, historical, etc.). We recently hosted a class where we covered many of these arguments. However, most people are not thinking on this level (at least not the majority of the time).
Instead of asking questions like “Who am I? How did we get here? What is the purpose of life? What can we know, and how can we know it? What is the nature of reality?” they are asking, “What I am going to do this weekend? Where can I make friends? How do I fix my marriage? Where can I find happiness? What career path am I going to take?”
When life is falling apart people are looking for answers that are on a practical level and not as much on the philosophical level. So what do you think would encourage this person to consider following Jesus? Hearing the cosmological argument? How about the fine-tuning argument?
What they need to hear is the hope of Jesus related to their pain through a person who has been healed by Jesus himself. The greatest apologetic is a Christian displaying wholeness where others display brokenness. 1 Peter 3:15 is the verse that most reference to encourage apologetics. The verse tells the believer to be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks him for a reason for the hope that is in him. A close examination of the context will reveal that what gives rise to this question concerning the believer’s hope is his steadfast wholeness in the midst of suffering.
It Needs to be Conversational
When I think of apologetics, I can tend to think about two clearly delineated parties engaging in a formal debate. Though I am thankful for vocational Apologists, who have given their lives to addressing some of the most difficult and perplexing questions concerning faith, most of us will never engage on this platform. Most likely, we will have these conversations with a fellow employee, a friend at the gym, or with a family member at a reunion. Because our setting is typically informal, our apologetic should take on a more conversational tone. Apologetics has been given a bad rap because some have taken the debate approach and have shoved the arguments for God down people’s throats.
Also, when I say conversational, I am not just talking about tone, but an approach. The goal should be to evoke a conversation, not just bulldoze a person with information. Here are a couple of ways to encourage this conversation:
- Listen to understand (Proverbs 18:13).
- Don’t answer questions they aren’t asking.
- Use the Scripture (Romans 10:17).
- Share how Jesus has made you whole (John 4:28-29).
- Always be gracious, respectful, and humble (1 Peter 3:15).
Is there anything else you would add? I would love to hear your thoughts on how we could help every believer develop in apologetics.