Have you even been in a conversation or overheard one when someone says something about God that you know is a lie? Did you remain silent because you did not know how to respond?
Pretty much every Christian has had that experience. I remember one incident when someone in class spoke up and said, “I do not believe Jesus was real, or if He was, He was not some kind of superhero.” I wanted to respond, but did not know how or where to begin, so to my shame, I remained silent.
What that incident did was build a resolve in me to never be without an answer to those who raise objections to the Christian faith. So I started studying apologetics and I found that once you get past the basic learning curve, it is really very easy to do apologetics and it gets easier the more you learn and practice.
The concept of apologetics comes from the verse 1 Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
It means to defend the faith from a position of knowing what you believe. Apologetics, when you get right down to its core is, simply knowing what you believe, why you believe it and being able to communicate it in a clear and understandable manner.
My studies have reveled that the apologist’s toolbox is made up of a few things.
Know the scriptures, that is the foundation of apologetics. If you know the scriptures you will know what you believe. Everything else is just add ons that help clarify doctrine. In apologetics we put forth and defend the Christian worldview and that worldview is found only in scripture. Do you need to know every verse of every chapter? No, but it helps to know key passages that clearly show what you are trying to explain. For instance, if you wanted to explain how Christians are expected to behave, a good place to go is Romans chapter 12.
Creeds are helpful in educating yourself and others. Creeds are summaries of what scripture teaches and explain in brief what we believe. For example, the Nicene Creed sums up the Christian faith; the Athanasian Creed, which sums up what Christians believe about the Trinity.
Confessions sum up what your particular church believes and teaches. They are a form of longer creed and are used in establishing what a particular church believes. An example would be the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith or the Confession of Faith of the U.S. and Canadian Conferences of the Mennonite Brethren Churches. Not every church has one, but most do have some sort of statement of faith. Some are more detailed than others. If you have not read your church’s confession, ask your pastor for a copy.
Catechisms are designed to teach confessions in more detail and are used to make disciples and to teach children. Often they are in question and answer form and can be simplified for small children or made for more advanced students. Famous catechisms include Luther’s Large Catechism and the Universal Catechism of the Catholic Church. Again, not every church has one but most of the major denominations have one or more versions of a catechisms.
Learn from other apologists. God has raised up men in His church who are smarter and more gifted than you or me and as you study apologetics you will take them on as teachers. You will watch or listen to debates and lectures or read their books. You can pick up a lot by listening to high level debates, which present both sides of an argument. You get to hear how to counter specific objections. Dr. James White is a great apologist. He has been in over 100 debates and sets a great example of how we should engage non-believers in a respectful manner.
So you have studied all that stuff and are ready, but what if someone asks you about something you can’t find in scripture? If it can’t be found in scripture, then it is not part of the Christian worldview and you don’t need to refute or defend it.
Because the Gospel is limited in the amount of doctrines it has, it has only so many objections that can be made. Once you learn what those objections are and what answers have been given to those objections, you will not hear anything new, but will in fact be able to give a full answer to the hope that is within you.
It takes a fair amount of study and time, and chances are you wont be in high level debates, but you will be able to give a defense of the Gospel to the average, or even smarter than average, person and have a greater understanding of your faith. With that comes a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.
Remember, it is about proclaiming and defending the Gospel, not about winning arguments or brow beating non-believers. You can’t argue someone into the faith, all you can do is proclaim it and give an answer to those who are curious about or are objecting to the faith. The rest is up to God.
Are you willing to put in the effort needed to be able to defend and proclaim the Gospel? When will you start? Where will you start?