How should we use apologetics?
Updated: Sep 30, 2021
The definition and purpose of apologetics have been covered in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. In this final installment, I will offer some guidelines and principles regarding motives and methods for using apologetics properly.
Motives matter! It is vitally important to remember we represent Christ—we are His ambassadors—and we are called to imitate Him. Therefore, we should keep in mind that our objective is not to win arguments or prove we are right and others are wrong. We are living out the Great Commission, and pointing others to Christ. We seek to remove intellectual obstacles that keep skeptics from trusting their Savior. We defend the gospel and the truth of God’s Word by identifying false teachings that try to creep into the church. We destroy arguments and lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:5)—but not the people who raise them. Our greatest motivation should be true compassion for lost souls and a desire to glorify Christ.
Many methods—one rule. There are several different apologetics methods (classical, evidential, presuppositional, etc.) that have been used effectively in demonstrating the truth of Christianity to skeptics. Regardless of the specific method we use, we must remember to conduct ourselves towards others with gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15), keeping eternity in mind.
Apologetics can be thought of as the art of Christian persuasion. We can persuade others, as the apostle Paul did, by first establishing common ground with them. We can demonstrate an interest in understanding their views by asking sincere questions. We can earn the right to be heard by listening to their stories, and being compassionate. We can help others identify weaknesses in their worldviews, not by attacking or belittling them, but by gently helping them to realize their views don’t match reality. As Blaise Pascal said, “People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.” We can help them discover a better way of thinking.
These things may sound simple enough, but they require much more than just willingness on our part. They also require that we:
· Be properly motivated. First and foremost, we must “in [our] hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy…” (1 Pet 3:15). We must be sure we revere Christ in our own hearts before we approach those with whom we seek an audience. This means we must be in a right relationship with Christ and have pure motives.
· Be prayerful. Pray for the Holy Spirit to fill you and lead you in your conversations. Pray that the hearts of those you will be speaking with will be softened toward truth and receptive to the working of the Spirit.
· Be prepared. “…always being prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks…” (1 Pet. 3:15). Prayer is an important part of being prepared, but so is knowing the gospel and basic Bible doctrine. Knowledge of some basic apologetics topics is also helpful. Be willing to learn.
· Be patient. Don’t expect every conversation to end in a salvation experience. While it is possible this could happen, it usually takes several conversations with several people, and sometimes several years, before a person is ready to trust Christ. This is not a poor reflection on you or your efforts. As apologist Greg Koukl says, it’s just as important to be a gardener as a harvester in someone’s spiritual journey. We can plant seeds that will be watered by others. Scripture also reminds us that “neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7). When a sinner repents and trusts Christ for their salvation, we can’t take any credit. TO GOD BE ALL THE GLORY!