New to apologetics?
Here are 3 things I think every Christian should do with the information I bring to my presentations and workshops. I like to call these the 3 Essential Elements of Every Day Apologetics.
#1. Find answers for yourself.
If you’re new to this whole thing, one of the first things you should know is that apologetics is for you. It helps you, as a disciple of Jesus, see that there are good answers to the hard questions. So you don’t have to lose any sleep at night wrestling ideas like “Do I really have to let go of my reason just so I can have faith?” Or do I have to do the opposite of that: “Do I need to chuck the faith so I can be reasonable…so I can believe things that actually make some sense?” So apologetics is for you. It helps you understand the answers to tough questions about Christianity.
But, of course, apologetics isn’t just for you to get answers. It’s for others, too. Here’s the second thing I think we should do:
#2. Share answers with others
We need to give good answers to people who are asking the tough questions about Christianity. Just like Peter said, we should be ready to share reasons with anyone who asks us about the hope that we have in Jesus. But we’ve got to do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
If you’re on my blog, I’m guessing that you already get this. You’ve decided to invest your time in studying this stuff. You might even be thinking about equipping others at your church through my Accessible Apologetics Curriculum or creating your own series of workshops.
Or maybe you’ve tried to talk to leaders at your church about how important this is, but haven’t been able to get anywhere. Don’t lose heart. Keep studying and sharing these ideas with your friends. You are doing something that matters. People are walking around with all kind of questions about the most important things in life…and somebody needs to give them an answer.
But how should we do this? This leads us into the third thing I think we should do:
#3. Be a wise ambassador of Jesus
Part of this is being a good listener.
If we want people to listen to our ideas, we’ve got to be willing to listen to theirs. Even just asking a question like, “What do you mean by that?” is such a no-pressure approach that it really gets a good conversation going.
If your friend says something like, “It’s stupid to believe in God.” Ask, “What do you mean by God?” Because if you find out your friend thinks it’s stupid to believe there’s a giant Santa Clause-type figure, sitting up on a cloud, waiting to grant your wishes, well…you can totally get where they’re coming from.
Also asking questions like, “What’s your thinking on that?” can also help your friend consider what he believes and why he believes it.
But another part of this is making our answers memorable.
During my graduate studies, I quickly learned that apologetics involves all kinds of other disciplines. We can use theory, evidence and arguments from things like history, science, philosophy and even communication.
I’ve taught a number of Communication courses over the years and I’ve discovered something kind of sad: We typically forget 50% of what we’ve heard—immediately after someone finishes talking to us. But it gets worse. 8 hours later, we’re down to just 20%.
What makes up that 20%? It’s the examples: Stories, illustrations, objects or pictures you can see in your head. These are things that tend to stick.
Think of them like business cards you leave behind with the people you talk to. When they come across your card, they’ll remember you. In kind of the same way, when your friend remembers the example you used, they’ll probably remember your point.
Jesus actually used a number of really vivid examples:
- The camel going through the eye of a needle
- The lamp under the bushel
- The story of the Good Samaritan
It’s not enough just to have good answers for ourselves. Let’s share good reasons to believe in way that’s simple to get and easy to remember.
Reasonable Faith in an Uncertain World: Download the Conference
This article is based on my presentation, called “Everyday Apologetics: Using Stories, Objects and Illustrations to Defend the Faith” at Reasonable Faith in an Uncertain World featuring Dr. J.P. Moreland. Download the complete plenary sessions.