It is easy to say we need to practice apologetics. We may have a great desire to do so. But how do you get from being a new or less educated Christian to feeling comfortable answering people when they ask us about our faith or challenge our beliefs?
We all know Christians that seem to have a gift for answering people’s questions about Christianity but what about me? I haven’t been to seminary, I haven’t studied all the different religions, I only know a few people outside of the Christian faith, how can I make any useful difference? How can I measure up to my preacher, my friend gifted in evangelism, my extroverted cousin? How do I get to the place where I am making any kind of positive impact in apologetics?
“I assert confidently that the principle means by which most believers have become great in the church of Christ is the habit of diligent private prayer. ~ JC Ryle (A Call or Prayer)
Prayer is one of the most important and honorable practices of the Christian life. In pagan religions, you had/have to follow all sorts of rules, regulations, postures, times, etc to petition a god who may or may not be listening. But the one, true God made it possible so that His children, at any time, and in any circumstance can come to Him. He isn’t bothered, annoyed, or troubled by our coming to Him. He is pleased, He is ready, He loves for His children to come to Him in prayer.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. (Psalm 34:17)
I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; (1 Timothy 2:8)
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. (Jeremiah 29:12)
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (Psalm 145:18)
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
God alone is responsible for the salvation and sanctification of people. However, He, in His loving kindness, has invited us to participate in His grand plan of salvation and discipleship. God does not need us but has chosen to use and include us. What an exciting and glorious honor! We, depraved sinners, have been welcomed to be a part of the miracle of another person’s salvation. What an amazing privilege!God does not need us but has chosen to use and include us. What an exciting and glorious honor! Click To Tweet
This should not only fill our prayers with thanksgiving and awe of our Lord but spur us to pray for the lost person to be receptive and to pray that the Spirit fill us with wisdom, gentleness, and patience so that we do not dishonor God and the title of Christian.
Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. (Hebrews 13:18)
We also know that when we start to tell of the Gospel or answer people’s challenges, we will be met with hostility, anger, and possibly intense persecution. But the Bible has an answer to such situations. We are to love and pray for them.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)
Read Your Bible
“It’s not rocket science: Neglect of daily prayer & Scripture reading are the two most common causes of spiritual weakness among God’s people.” ~ Paul Washer
Reading God’s Word is imperative for apologetics. It is our food (Deuteronomy 8:3). It is how the Christian survives. We cannot claim the name of Christ and neglect His Word. How will we know what we are defending if we do not know what God’s Word says?
Reading the Bible is what sanctifies the Christian. Sanctification is the process by which the Holy Spirit makes us more like Christ. This is process does not end until our death.
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17)
We not only need to read God’s Word but we must obey it and teach it to others. If we only read and do not obey, we are only filling our head with useless knowledge. If we only read and do not teach others (1) we are not obeying the Scripture but (2) we do nothing to help others. In a sense, we are not loving our neighbors. For to love our neighbor is to tell them who God is and share with them the Gospel. If we do not read, we do not know how to obey. If we attempt to teach without first reading God’s Word, we are going into battle ill-equipped.If we attempt to teach without first reading God's Word, we are going into battle ill-equipped. Click To Tweet
For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. (Ezra 7:10)
In order for Ezra to be equipped to teach Israel, he first had to study the Scripture and obey it.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2)
As we practice apologetics, some verses will become very familiar. You will quickly realize you have them memorized or at least in part. However, it is also important to intentionally memorize Scripture.
Memorizing Scripture helps us to remain vigilant against sin.
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11)
Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)
Memorizing Scripture leaves the Christian with peace.
Practicing apologetics can leave us feeling rejected, frustrated, and hopeless at times but meditating on God’s Word is a healing balm to our soul.
Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. (Psalm 119:165)
Memorizing Scripture makes us wise in dealing with those who are enemies of the Gospel.
The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip. (Psalm 37:30-31)
Submit to a Local Church Body
Church is where the sheep go to be fed. Yes, we can feed ourselves through regular Bible study but we are only getting a part of a feeding when we neglect the fellowship of others. Through the church, we are fed through the reading of the Word together, hearing the pastor exegete Scripture, singing songs of praise to our Lord corporately, and encouraging each other in our daily lives and struggles.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (Ephesians 4:11-14)The church is also a place of protection, correction, and, when necessary, discipline. Click To Tweet
The church is also a place of protection, correction, and, when necessary, discipline. We are not perfect and when one of our fellow brothers or sisters sees us in error, it is a blessing for them to come and correct us. It isn’t always easy to see our sins pointed out to us but as Proverbs 27:6a says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” Later in the chapter, verse 17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” We are in a local body of believers to sharpen each other, to make each other stronger for the battles that we face each day.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)
As Believers, we do not desire to hurt each other but rather to strengthen each other. In the military, two soldiers will spar with one another not to injure each other but so that they may be quicker to respond to attacks, learn to dodge faster, and how to recognize a better opportunity to attack. In the mean time, their muscles are getting stronger and their balance and foot work improves.
It is similar within the local body. We do not correct each other in order to make the person feel bad but so that they recognize the error and learn to avoid such false teaching or sins next time.
The bruises on the soldier hurt but he knows they will heal and he will be stronger and a better fighter for them. When our correction “wounds” heal, we know we will recognize that sin creeping up sooner next time and be able to shut it down before it gets its hooks in us.
Strive to Exhibit Fruits of the Spirit
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
As a Christian matures in the faith, she will begin to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit more and more. These are crucial in practicing apologetics. As Matthew 7:20 states, “you will recognize them by their fruits.” True Christians produce a certain spirit that is recognized as something different, something odd, to the world. If we react to a person challenging our belief with anger, impatience, rudeness, harshness, fear, or hate, how does that make us any different from the world that they live in?
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:22-26)
Being in the Word, memorizing Scripture, and praying unceasingly will naturally grow your ability to resist the temptation of acting like the world and the Spirit will increase the fruits of the Spirit in your life.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
Constantly reminding yourself that you are still a terrible sinner and, but for the grace of God, you would be where they are, is another effective way to keep your cool when reacting to a challenge. It wasn’t long ago that you may have been the same as they are: lost, deceived, graceless, merciless. Remember those who were patient and gentle with you and how God used them to bring you to Christ.
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:13-18)
This goes for speaking with brothers and sisters in Christ as well. It is especially upsetting when we see a person professing the name of Christ but acting or teaching something that does not align with Scripture. This more infuriating than the atheist who doesn’t know better. But we are not given a pass in Scripture for treating brothers and sisters in a harsh or rude manner.We are not given a pass for treating brothers and sisters in a harsh or rude manner. Click To Tweet
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. (Ephesians 4:1-7)
Consider Your Circumstances
What types of people are you around? Do you live in an area where a particular cult or religious group is common? Do you have a lot of atheist family members? Are there questions or arguments you seem to hear more often? Recognizing the types of people you come into contact with the most will give you an idea of what arguments you may hear most often. This can help guide you in what topics to research and be most familiar with.
For example, I do not live in an area with a lot of Muslims so while I should study, understand, and be able to speak the truth of the Gospel to a Muslim, I may not have opportunity to use that as often. I do live in an area with a lot of people caught up in the Word Faith heresy so it would be wise for me to be more grounded in addressing their arguments.
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
I do want to clarify that the verses above are not saying we should take on the sinful practices of people in order to “friendship evangelize” them. We are not to be “yoked” with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14), we are to be separated from the world (1 Corinthians 6:17), however, we are still a part of the world (1 Corinthians 5:9-10). Jesus prayed for us in His High Priestly Prayer in John 17.
“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:14-19)
What is being taught in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 is that we should be willing to humble ourselves to the people we are going to. We should respect their customs and not attempt to present to them the idea that in order to be a Christian they must act and look exactly like us.
We recently had a missionary come speak at our church. His family are missionaries to the Lakota people, a native American tribe in the United States. He said that one of the biggest hurdles they have stems from how the Gospel was presented to the people in the past. They were taught that to be a Christian, they could no longer retain any semblance of their culture. The men had to cut their hair, they had to dress a certain way, they had to act differently. Essentially, they began to understand that in order to be a Christian, they had to become a white man.
When a person becomes a Christian, there are certain lifestyles that must be repented of but the Gospel is for all people: the white man, the Lakota, the Asian, the African, the South American, the Jew, the Gentile. We should not participate in sinful practices but we should show the people we go to that we respect them and their culture is not inferior to our own.
Also consider what interests you. If there is a particular topic that you find fascinating or enjoy studying, do not disregard that. God gives us righteous desires. If you have a desire to study a particular topic of theology or apologetics, do so for the glory of God.God gives us righteous desires. Click To Tweet
In order to answer questions about Christianity you need to know what it is you believe and why. We are blessed today to have access to amazing resources. Many of these can be found very inexpensively and even free at times. We truly live in a wonderful time.
It is also helpful to understand at least a little of the religious background or beliefs of those you interact with. Often people respect you more when you already have an honest idea of what their beliefs are. The “honest” part is very important. There is lots of very bad information out there on different doctrines and belief systems that may not be universal for every one of that group, may be a distorted view of the actual belief, or may be a complete lie. It is important to make sure you are getting good information from reliable sources.
I also advise studying the beliefs from people holding to that belief system. Even when we try to not give a non-biased presentation of a belief, it is always likely to do so. Make sure you are sure in your own beliefs and not easily swayed into false teaching by clever arguments. This suggestion is only for those very mature in the faith. If you do not consider yourself mature in the faith or if you have a tendency to be easily persuaded but you still want to study these sources, I advise finding a trusted sister or your husband to read/study the sources with you and then discuss them.
It is not necessary to understand the opposing views beliefs but it can be helpful. Do not let a lack of understanding of the questioner keep you from apologetics, but don’t neglect studying with the desire to show the opposing view respect and to better communicate the Gospel.
Here are a few ideas on ways to get started in your research:
- Read commentaries from trusted pastors/teachers
- Read arguments from opposing views
- Watch/Listen to debates
- Talk with trusted mentors (pastor, teacher, seminary professors, experts in the field of interest)
Learn to Recognize the Common Logical Fallacies
“Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.” ~ GK Chesterton
A fallacy is a falsehood. A logical fallacy is an argument that does not make logical sense. Often these can be tricking and sound good but when analyzed further, we find that there is a flaw that renders the argument invalid.
You do not have to be the “know-it-all” and constantly point out what fallacy someone may be utilizing. However, it is a good idea to be able to recognize them, avoid them in your own arguments, and know how to address them when others use them. Knowing how to explain/teach how an argument is faulty without making that person feel like a fool is a rare skill these days and never an easy task.
It feels good to be right. I want to be right. I like it when other recognize when I am right, especially when it comes to theology. However, winning an argument is not the end goal of apologetics. The goal of apologetics is to share the Gospel and glorify God. If we have to “turn the other cheek” in order to do this, that is ok. Even if we leave looking as fools, that is more glorifying to God than winning an argument and having tainted the name of Christian.The goal of apologetics is to share the Gospel and glorify God. Click To Tweet
People will not like our message. They may not like us. But, God forbid they hate us because of the way we acted. Let them hate us for the message of Christ, not for our sinful actions.
I plan on covering these fallacies in the future but for now, here is a list of some of the more common fallacies. I would encourage you to do a little research and learn to recognize these and how to address them in a respectful manner. As you look through these, you may be able to recognize many of them being exhibited in this years political debates.
- Ad Hominem — attacking the person rather than the argument
- Appeal to Force — threatening or telling the person something bad will happen to him/her if he/she doesn’t agree
- Appeal to Pity — appealing to a person’s emotions
- Appeal to the Popular — trying to convince a person to agree to something based on a majority holding to or doing it
- Appeal to Tradition — “this is the way it has always been done”
- Begging the Question/Circular Argument — assuming something to be true based on evidence that relies on the assumption being true
- Cause and Effect — assuming the effect is related to a cause because the events occur in a similar time or condition
- Fallacy of Composition — assuming that the whole argument is true because one part is true
- Fallacy of Division — assuming what is true to the whole is true to the parts
- Fallacy of Equivocation — using a term with multiple definitions in different contexts but treating it as if the original use works in both contexts
- False Dilemma — giving two choices when actually multiple choices are available
- Genetic Fallacy — attempting to affirm or invalidate a claim because of the origin or unrelated history of the claim
- Guilt by Association — rejecting an argument or claim because the person proposing it likes someone who is disliked by another
- Non Sequitur — a funny comic…just kidding…checking to see if you are still with me…data that does not logically follow the assertion
- Poisoning the Well — providing negative information about a person before he/she speaks as to discredit the person’s argument
- Red Herring — introducing a topic that has nothing to do with the argument currently being discussed
- Special Pleading (double-standard) — applying a standard or expectation to the challenger different than the standard applied to one arguing
- Straw Man Argument — attacking an argument that was never put forth by the opponent
- Category Mistake — Attributing facts about one thing that has nothing to do with that thing or attributing to one category which can only be properly attributed to another
Here is a fun website that can help describe some of these fallacies and offer examples.Let them hate us for the message of Christ, not for our sinful actions. Click To Tweet
These are disciplines every Christian should be involved in. Apologetics is a part of evangelism, it is a part of every Christian’s walk. We need to equip ourselves daily and continuously to be able to properly handle God’s Word and present ourselves as good workers of the Great Commission.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)