by Dan Story
Apologetics is giving a reasoned defense of Christian truth-claims, in particular of the authenticity of the Bible and the deity and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Critical thinking and persuasive reasoning are tools of the trade of apologetics. Christians have religious truth and the evidence to prove it.
"Sanctify Christ as lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense [Greek: apología] to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence" (1 Pet. 3:15).
1. Gospel first, apologetics second. Always try to start a witnessing encounter with the gospel. The job of apologetics is to pave the way for a presentation of the gospel. It is pre-evangelism. It is wrong to assume that every unbeliever harbors intellectual objections to Christianity. Hence not every evangelistic situation will require an apologetics defense.
2. Stay with the essentials. Most non-Christians know little about the Bible or what Christians believe-and what they think they know is often in error. When sharing the gospel, avoid theological subjects that will be confusing to unbelievers, like eschatology or predestination. Confirm the message of the gospel by sharing your personal testimony demonstrating the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit in your own life.
3. Remember your goal. The goal of apologetics is to overcome intellectual obstacles to Christianity so that unbelievers are willing to consider the gospel. Apologetics is not theology. You don't have to give the definitive theological answer to any issue, only an appropriate answer that can be defended scripturally.
4. Never give people a problem. Never force apologetics on someone or create illegitimate reasons to use it. The impulse is to go out and confront everyone you know and challenge their misbeliefs. Apologetics are not an excuse to argue. Often Christian love and understanding may be all that is needed.
5. Find out the real problem. Sometimes unbelievers will raise issues against Christianity that do not mirror their real concerns. They may feel more comfortable discussing a popular argument rather than what's really bothering them. Whatever the issues, you must identify them and respond accordingly.
6. Avoid distractions. Apologetics deals with intellectual obstacles, not moral issues. For example, the fact that a man and woman are living together out of wedlock should not prevent you from sharing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Nor should it interfere with a discussion of apologetics. God will deal with the moral issues once a person sees his or her need to become a Christian.
7. Apply evangelistic and missionary techniques. The ultimate goal of apologetics is evangelistic. The purpose is to bring people as quickly and as efficiently as possible to the point where they renounce their non-Christian worldviews and accept Jesus as Lord.
8. Know what unbelievers believe. Be as a missionary who before going into a foreign culture learns as much as possible about their religious beliefs, language, social customs, ethical behavior, cultural taboos, etc.
9. Don't be intimidated. Most non-Christians have little knowledge of the Bible and few have read even a portion of it. They seldom ask sophisticated questions or need in-depth answers. If you do encounter questions you can't answer or arguments you can't refute, admit it.
10. Keep the right attitude. Don't be self-righteous or pushy. Try to create an environment that encourages the work of the Holy Spirit.
From Engaging the Closed Minded, © 1999. Used by permission of Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI.
Dan Story is the author also of Christianity on the Offense and Defending Your Faith.