Many Christians use apologetics for in-house conversation, almost a stump-the-chump type of activity. While there is nothing wrong with iron-sharpening-iron discussion among fellow believers, defending and explaining what we believe and why is not for mere Christian intellectual entertainment.
The first and primary meaning of the word apologia in Scripture has to do with our defense of the faith before unbelievers, or those outside of the faith we profess.
Read 1 Peter 3:15. The challenge is that we should be prepared to make a defense of our faith before those who ask us about it. Some of us though, are waiting (maybe because we read Scripture a bit too literally) for someone to ask before we start preparing.
The command of the apostle Peter is to be prepared, not wait. He wrote, “But in your heart set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). One approach I take to be prepared is to use the technique used by Jesus and other great listeners – be ready to ask some leading questions and have some ideas of how I would respond.
First, I like to challenge folks to be true, healthy skeptics by reading the Gospels for themselves. I often ask, “How can you be a real skeptic if you have never personally examined the evidence for yourself? How can going by what other people say about Jesus be good enough for you?” Jesus did say, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37). I try and get folks to discuss who they think Jesus is, rather than suggesting we tackle the whole Bible at first.
Second, I try to lead people to think about the Gospel facts. I ask, “What are your impressions of the birth, life, teaching, example, death, and resurrection of Jesus? How much of the primary source material have you read for yourself?” I suggest Isaiah 53 and John 19-20 as a quick start.
I ask, “If the Creator of the universe wanted to communicate with ancient and modern people alike about who He is and what He is like, how could He show us more clearly than by becoming one of us? If He wanted to communicate the seriousness of breaking His holy and moral law, how could He do so more clearly than by demanding the most valuable thing in the universe as a penalty and payment? If He wanted to express how much He cares and loves us, how could He demonstrate more clearly than by dying for us?
Third, I want to be ready to lead people to consider the personal relationship with God that only Jesus offers. Assuming God exists, I ask them what sort of relationship they would hope the Creator would extend to them? What kind of relational experience would they like to have with God? Would it be similar to the one they have with a distant parent, a professor, or the bank officer who handles their school loan? If we intuitively find ourselves looking for a higher kind of relationship, who made us that way? Human relationships can involve three primary foundations: manipulation, right and duties, or close, mutually shared friendship. Does it make sense that the Creator and Designer of all, and the highest and greatest Being would want to have the highest kind of mutually satisfying relationship with us? Isn’t that what Jesus modeled as the norm?
Think theologically. Think and prepare well and be ready to ask some leading questions.
Love is a verb,
©2013 by Mike Olejarz