Four Challenges to the Apologetic Life


cropped-robgoodgravatar.jpgNot too long ago, I found some of my notes dating back a few years, which has caused me to reflect over the last several years of my life as a minister in the arena of auto sales. Before I get to that though, I would like to be a little transparent, and ask your prayers with what I am sharing.

Over the past several weeks, I have been riding a roller coaster of discouragement, with wanting to do more in ministry but due to the time demands of my job, that is not possible right now. I will tell you that I have had my high points blocking off time to lead a small group in answering the tough questions that come after the Christian faith. At the same time, I do not let this discouragement get the best of me.  Those moments do not happen often and thankfully I am hindered from living out my Christian faith in job environment.

The battle comes working inconsistent schedules, working long hours with some bright spots and highlights of conversations that the Lord has opened up. But my desire is for more time in a day to be able to share with you in this blog.  And that weighed into the periodic spiritual battles we engage in make for a really wearying day.

But such are the joys in the midst of the raging of the cultural setting I find myself. So what’s all this got to do with what is following my asking for your prayers? Let me share with you some things on what it is like to live the apologetic life and things that you can engage in full force or in part.

Allow me to share with you four challenges that we have as apologists, which will help you prepare yourself to be a believer who is ready to give the credible answers to that curious questioner challenging your faith.

The first challenge is the personal side of apologetics.

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 them very useful not only in my personal walk in the faith, but also as I interact with those who have hostile questions to my Christian faith.

These passages are linchpins for the apologetic life and will serve as a reminder to you as you seek the goal to bring a skeptic to the God of the Bible. As we seek this part of doing pre-evangelism toward those who are skeptical, we will get a glimpse of the magnitude of the dialogue, especially when it comes down to truth issues being discussed. Know that as you engage the criticism, spiritual battle is taking place. How is this so?

It is because people have different views or caricatures of who God is and what He is like. Others have a different understanding of what Christianity is really all about.  Some people, who look for God, travel the eclectic road, taking from a vast potpourri of qualities: a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  Let me give you an example.

Let’s say that you are talking to a person seeking God, and they happen to like the Dallas Cowboys, and they are acceptant of the gay lifestyle and they are a liberal Democrat. What kind caricature of God do you think that person will have?

They will have an image of God in their minds which they have created that turns out to be “one” which likes the Dallas Cowboys, is acceptant to the gay lifestyle and is more loving of the liberal Democrat than to a biblical worldview that leans toward  conservative views. Ultimately the God that is created in the person’s mind will be more of a reflection of themselves rather than the God who really exists.

There are many people who have all kinds of different caricatures of God that are totally foreign to the real nature and essence of God. Not too long ago, at work, I had to clear the bushes and let a co-worker know that I don’t believe in the God that is a cosmic chess player, or one that is a cosmic grandfather who gives his children anything they want. Once this barrier was dropped, the second challenge for us as apologists rises to the surface.

There is a second challenge is to keep your apologetic relational.

As you and I share with a skeptical person, it is important to remember that we cannot what is in our conversant’s mind. The one thing which should always be the goal is finding a way for the seeking skeptic to see the God of the Bible.

If you and I think we are going to be the one changing the person, we are not relying on the Holy Spirit and we are not doing apologetics from a biblical perspective.  We need to be cordial in our interactions with the skeptic.

We need to be actively listening for biases and errors in reasoning. We need to be alert to any moralizing that might be smuggling in God’s morals, while rejecting the God they are arguing against.

We do need to what questions to ask, and be active in the conversation and not trying to debate point for counterpoint. When we ask questions there are several things that can occur. First there is the opportunity for two way communication and understanding with one another. Second, our question will open up the person to their own assumptions where they find out a third idea. The questions we ask may even unfold or reveal some hidden prejudices or blind spots in reasoning.

Remember, we need to keep it relational and 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, remember that it may not be done, but only for the moment. This presents us with the third challenge.

The third challenge is to educate yourself to defend the faith.

I remember back when I was hammering out my formal education, I would find myself continually preparing myself for being out in the marketplace of ideas. 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, and then change over to one which forbade religious and political discussions, and now to one that is nominally Christian with a diverse group of people working embracing various worldviews. Could I ask for a better mission field or what?

So let me ask you a question: What can you do 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 realissueapologetics@yahoo.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. Being a student of the Word, remember to 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 fourth and final challenge to living out the apologetic life.

The fourth challenge is keeping our apologetic life practical.

Think before you respond.  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.

There may be times when you will not have an opportunity to respond to an objection. But if you hear one in an earshot, or you are a bystander to a conversation or if one comes to mind, consider it a drill which will help you prepare your mind with a ready response. Jot down the objection and respond to it on paper, as if the person were in front of you. Once you have written that response, study it, take ownership of it, and file it away in your portfolio of responses. Who knows, you may run into that same objection another time.

Another thought comes to mind as I wrap this posting up. 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 be skeptical.  The level of skepticism has ratcheted up in our culture, and it is also in the church.  There are Christians who have great questions, even doubts about the Christian faith. There may be visiting 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.  This is day that we live in, and we need to be ready.

Let me recommend that if you can answer it without going 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 doubts might have the same or similar question causing their doubt.

Take the challenge of the apologist: Be personal. Be relational. Educate yourself and build your resources. But equally important, keep it practical and relational. Do those things, and live the life . . . the apologetic life we defend.

_________________________________

robgoodgravatarRob 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 support this ministry you can do that by clicking here

If you would like to book Rob for a speaking event, you can do so by emailing him at realissueapologetics@yahoo.com    If you have other questions about apologetics or doing apologetics, or if you are looking for apologetics resources, contact our ministry by email.

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