Knowing what apologetics is and why doing apologetics is important are the first steps. But here are some things to keep in mind when engaging in apologetics. If you do apologetics in these ways, then you will be able to avoid some of the dangers that naturally crop when fostering your intellect within your faith.
1. You should do apologetics carefully.
Whenever responding to an objection to Christianity this is the order things should happen.
Study carefully. Study comes before even getting into a conversation with someone. Preparation is key, and without the knowledge to address objections you won’t get far. The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle.
Listen carefully. Listen to understand, not to respond. Many Christians will be queuing up their response even before they know for sure what the objection is. You may need to incorporate an important nuance of their objection into your response. Make sure you understand the objection, ask clarifying questions if necessary. Clarity should be valued over agreement.
Think carefully. This should go without saying, but think before you speak. Think about the objection as it was stated. The better you have studied and listened, the easier this stage will be. Don’t worry if it takes a little time, just say “Let me think about that for just a second.” If nothing else, this should at least let the other person know that you are taking them seriously.
Respond carefully. This is like the inverse of listening carefully. Speak to be understood. Worry less about if they are agreeing with you than you do about making sure your point is understood.
2. You should do apologetics wisely.
In order to wisely engage in apologetics, you need to not only know your stuff but know how best to maneuver in your conversations so that your knowledge can have its maximum effect. This is commonly referred to as tactics. A great book to check out for anyone who wants to do apologetics wisely is Greg Koukl’s book “Tactics: A Game Plan For Discussing Your Christian Convictions”. It is a wealth of practical information and strategy for doing apologetics effectively.
I’ll share one simple strategy from the book, called Columbo questions. Named after the fictional detective featured in the TV show of the same name. Columbo always appeared a little less put together than he was. He would always ask questions, seeming to be very slow to understand. But as he was asking questions he was building his case. Right before he revealed whodunnit, he would usually say, “Just one more question,” and then ask a question that made it absolutely clear he had it all figured out. Koukl recommends a similar approach. By asking questions, you are never on the defensive.
The first two questions Koukl recommends folks ask when doing the Columbo Questions tactic is “What do you mean by that?” and “How did you come to that conclusion?” A lot of times, these questions are enough to trip up the person making the objection. (It is fair to say, a lot of Christians might even have trouble answering these simple questions).
But I would recommend “Tactics” by Koukl to read about the fully fleshed out strategy.
3. You should do apologetics collectively.
Apologetics, like a lot of things in Christianity, is best done in community. It is true you will not always be with a group of Christians when an opportunity comes up to defend Christianity from an objection. But when it comes to the preparation stage, it is a must to involve other christians. I think this a big way that the local church can step up to the plate and provide a means for their members to do apologetics together.
Unfortunately, it is rather uncommon for churches to have any sort of official apologetic ministry. So it will most likely be up to you to find others in the church who will prepare and practice apologetics with you. Perhaps, ask around at your church to see if there may be anybody well equipped in apologetics that would be willing to come alongside you. I can assure you, apologetic junkies like me are extremely encouraged whenever we meet other Christians with a desire to study apologetics. They’d likely jump at the chance to help.
Even if you can’t find someone already well-versed in the field, getting several people together who have a desire to begin studying apologetics is a great place to start. You can keep each other accountable.
4. You should do apologetics humbly.
In all things, Christians need to guard against pride. Many people feel that apologetics is the area of Christianity that is most likely to generate pride in those who practice it. I am not sure I agree. I am willing to bet that there is just as much spiritual pride amongst Christians as there is intellectual pride.
But of course, it is very tempting to let pride creep in. It isn’t hard to start thinking that you are “one of those smart Christians”. Or to become prideful when you are able to win arguments. It’s also tempting to study apologetics for your own reputation and notoriety.
How do we combat this? How do we stay humble as we do apologetics? I think the answer is not much different than how we stay humble when we do anything. We have to understand that everything we have belongs to God. If we have more knowledge, then that is a gift. It is not because we are special, or favored in God’s sight. We owe it to Him.
Because of that, we should focus on Him when we do it. We should do it for his glory, for his worship. Not for our own. Thinking of apologetics as worship is a game changer here because when the focus of our desire to study is because God is worth it, then the spotlight is off of us and where it belongs.
5. You should do apologetics lovingly.
The Bible doesn’t just tell us to always be prepared to give an answer. It also tells us to do so with gentleness and respect. This is part of the command, and it isn’t optional either. There is a type of apologist that nobody likes to be around. Every chance to speak is a chance to try and win an argument. They belittle ridicule and lord their knowledge over others. We are not commanded to do that type of apologetics.
Always be considerate, calm, and kind. If you do not think you can engage someone in an argument without losing your temper and raising your voice, you are better off not doing it. That kind of arguing will not win them over anyway.
Instead, do apologetics out of your love for someone. You care about them, and you want them to know the truth. It is not loving to not question their beliefs if their beliefs will be damaging to them. It is possible to win the argument but lose the person. So always engage prayerfully, calmly, and with compassion
We can boil these five points down to three broader points. These points come from The Ambassador Basic Curriculum from the organization Stand to Reason. They define them as Knowledge: an accurately informed mind, Wisdom: an artful method, and Character: an attractive manner. They call them the ABC’s of being an ambassador for Christ. It’s a journey we are all on together.
I hope you’ve found this series to be informative and helpful. Please reach out to me if you have any questions. And check back soon for more articles and content about a faith that is worth thinking about.