by Rob Lundberg
There is an old adage that people believe what they do. Some folks believe what they do, but have never taken into consideration as to whether those beliefs are true, and coherent with the world. As a former skeptic and one who has a love for the spiritual disciplines of loving God with the mind, I believe there some challenges that we have now, and will have to “nail down” as we see our culture evolve into more of a post truth culture, where people listen with their eyes and think with their feelings, in spite of the fact that objective truth exists.
Why do you believe what you believe and do you live it out? One phrase that reflects this question refers to “living the life we defend.” This is based upon 1 Peter 3:15, which tells all believers, and not just an elite group of people to be able to “give a reason for the hope that we have, with gentleness and respect.”
For those of us who are engrossed in apologetics, and would love to see others witnessing to everything that moves with compassion, clarity and confidence, I would like to issue four challenges to anyone who would like to know more about what it means to live the life we defend, and be able to give something more than one’s personal testimony as an “apologia.” These challenges are practical and personal ones that I have incorporated into my walk with the Lord no matter where I find myself.
The first challenge is to be personal with our conversant.
One of the things we need to understand about living that apologetic life is that we need a grasp on how to take ownership of 1 Peter 3:15-17 and Matthew 22:36-39. I have found these passages very helpful, keeping them in the forefront of my walk. They also help me when I find myself interacting with those who have no intention on believing what I do.
These passages are linchpin passages for living out the apologetic life and they serve as reminders to us as we seek the goal to bring a skeptic to the God of the Bible. Apologetics is another word for pre-evangelism with the goal of bringing the gospel to the seeker.
Being robotic, or memorizing someone evangelistic outline is pretty outdated. Knowing what and why you believe what you do, helps those outlines become personal. And when you talk to people, those who you are engaging will know if you know what you are talking about and if you believe it.
Keeping it personal also helps you keep the most important thing in mind when you are talking to someone who is skeptical or hostile toward our worldview. We need to remember that the person we are talking to is created in the image and likeness of God.
How do we do this? it starts off with loving the person (your neighbor) as yourself. Let’s not forget that there are many people who have all kinds of distorted caricatures of who God is and what He is like. Let me illustrate this before moving to the next challenge.
A few years ago, at work, I had to do some “bush clearing”with a coworker who does not believe that God exists. The caricature they had about God was based upon past conversations with well meaning Christians. This person believe that “God” was something like a “cosmic chess player,” who was also a “cosmic grandfather” who gives his children anything they want. I had to basically give my understanding of God, which was neither one of those descriptions. Of course they were more open to talk and once my co-worker’s barrier was dropped, the second challenge rose to the surface.
The second challenge is to keep your presentation relational.
As you and I talk with a skeptical person, it is important to remember that we are not that person’s mind. That might sound funny or odd. Think of this this way. You and I cannot get into the mind of the person to know what they are thinking so that we can answer their next objection. We have to listen and relate.
Some well meaning Christians seek to get the skeptic to the “foot of the cross” in fifteen minutes or less. That should not be the goal. The goal is ALWAYS pointing someone to the cross. But there is no character or compassion from the Christian who wants another notch on their soul stick keeping a tally on how many people “they have saved.”
Let us not forget something here. If you and I think we are going to be the one changing the person, we are not relying on the Holy Spirit. On top of this, we also are not doing evangelism nor apologetics from a biblical perspective in the way that Jesus modeled. We need to be cordial in every facet of our interactions with our skeptical challenger.
The third challenge is that we need to be humble in our engagement.
Continuing on from the second challenge. As we are actively listening for biases and logical fallacies, there may be times we do have an answer right then and there. Sometimes we need to listen closely to the personal objections that the person has about Christ or placing their trust in Him.
If there is something you do not understand, or need clarity from your skeptical friend, do not be afraid to ask the person questions. When we ask questions there are several things that can occur.
First is the opportunity for two way communication and understanding. Second, there will be times that our question will open up the person to their own assumptions where they find out another idea they have never thought about. The questions we ask may even unfold or reveal some hidden prejudices.
As we keep a relational attitude, we need to remain cordial in our interaction. We should be willing to think with the person and challenge them to think with us.
If we cannot answer a question or if the conversation comes to a halt for some reason, know that it is not done, but only for the moment. This presents us with the fourth challenge.
The fourth challenge is to educate yourself on defending the faith.
When I was working on my formal education I would find myself continually preparing to be out in the “secular city” not realizing I would be in the marketplace of ideas of the colleges and the universities. Also, little did I realize, that I would be in the job that I am in right now; a business that was once a Christian owned car dealership, only to have it purchased by one that shies away religious and political dialogue, unless it is consensual.
Wherever you find yourself, let’s remember that when the Bible says that faith is a gift, it is not the gift of ignorance. So let me encourage you to bloom where are planted. If you want to be effective for where God has you, you need to educate yourself to be a Christian case maker who is ready to give credible answers to the hard and soft questions coming at your faith. Let me offer a few suggestions:
Build a library of some good apologetics resources that cover a variety of topics. Since I first started there have been a plethora of resources of apologists writings, recordings (through podcasts), and other sources. Build yourself a great resource library. You can contact me and I can give you some ideas as well. Email me at email@example.com and I can share with you a list of resources.
A second thing you can do is build for yourself a portfolio of responses to criticisms coming from the skeptics. Consult blogs that are giving answers to some of those questions and challenges to see if you are on track. Build it upon topics that deal with God’s existence, the person of Christ, the origin and inspiration of Scripture, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and other subjects.
Thirdly and greatly if not more importantly, be a student of the Bible. Maintain for yourself a personal devotional life.
One reason for this is not just for personal sustenance but also many skeptics attack the Scriptures and try to rip apart its authenticity and inspiration. If you are a student of the Word, bear in mind that you can also work on your responses to those who criticize the Bible. It will also help you keep in front of you the fifth and final challenge to living out the apologetic life.
The fifth and final challenge is to keep our apologetic life practical.
Whenever someone challenges your Christian faith, listen to what they are saying and think with them as the criticism is revealed. In other words, think before you respond.
You may not have an opportunity to respond to it, nevertheless consider it a drill that will help you prepare your mind with a ready response. Jot down the criticism and respond to it on paper as if the person were in front of you. Once you have written that response, study it and file it away in your portfolio of responses. Who knows, you may run into that criticism again.
As I wrap this posting up let us remember that we live in a day and a time where there are those in our churches who have a difficult time articulating their faith. When I first shared these thoughts back in the nineties, this was not as troubling as it is today.
Do not be surprised if you find yourself in a Bible study with believers, where some of those believers may have challenges that are bothering them. Let me tell you right out, I have encountered Christian who are struggling in their Christian faith. There may be a skeptic in the group and they may challenge you in front of other believers with a goal to see if you can answer their challenging question.
Let me recommend that if you can answer it without stealing into the leader’s time, go ahead and answer it. Why? Simply we will have no way of knowing whether or not a believer who is doubting might have a similar question that is causing their doubt.
Take the challenge of the apologist: Be personal. Be relational. Be humble. Educate yourself and build your resources. But equally important, keep it practical. Do those things, and live the life. . . the apologetic life that we defend. But lastly don’t forget that when you are in the marketplace of ideas, go out and give them Heaven.
Rob is a blogger, writer and public speaker on a mission to equip the believer to think and articulate what they believe and to communicate the message of the gospel to a confused culture in a confused, chaotic, “brave new world.” He is available to come and speak to your church, college club, or group. Find out what people are saying.
If you would like to book Rob for a speaking event, you can do so by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org If you have other questions about apologetics or doing apologetics, or if you are looking for apologetics resources, contact our ministry by email.