You have prepared your best Christian evidence. You have prayed for the person you are going to talk to. You have made sure your heart is in the right place. You are sure this is the right person to talk to. Yet, they reject your message. They seem completely uninterested. Even years after the conversation, they seem just as far from becoming a Christian. Is it just a waste of time?
I will share a bit of my story. I worked for some Christians and they were quite eager to witness to me. At the time I believed in God but had no interest in becoming a Christian. Since I worked for them, I let them talk to me about Jesus. They shared Chick tracts with me. I could see they were getting frustrated with me that I was not responding. Eventually I left that job as I got another job (partially because I was getting sick of being evangelized).
What they did not know is that they (as Greg Koukl puts it) put a stone in my shoe. I began reading the Bible and reflecting on my own beliefs. I did not tell my employers because I did not want to give them the satisfaction of knowing they were having an impact. Years later I did become a Christian. To this day (almost 25 years later) they still do not know that I became a Christian.
Another example is my group of friends in high school. These were the guys that I used to get drunk with. When I was in university, I became a Christian and that made me a bit of an outcast. Eventually we all went our separate ways (including geographically). I never thought that any of them would become practicing Christians. And yet everyone of them came to faith. This was not because of my witnessing but rather their own life circumstances and the work of God. My point is that I never expected it to happen.
So share your faith. Do evangelism and apologetics. Pray for your friends and family. But especially do not give up. You do not know what God is doing behind the scenes or how your friend is responding on the inside.
As soon as you mention that you are interested in apologetics, someone will say “You can’t argue someone into the kingdom.” I heard someone say that tonight. Now in that case, what was meant was that someone who is determined not to believe will likely not be moved by arguments, which I agree with. But others mean that arguments for the truth of Christianity cannot not bring someone to faith.
Really? How do they know? Have they interviewed every single Christian and discovered that not one came to faith through apologetic arguments? It is so easy to make assertions without any evidence to back it up. Christians get annoyed when atheists make unfounded assertions, we should be careful not to do the same.
What some people may mean by this is that it is not arguments that bring a person to salvation, it is the Holy Spirit. Of course that is true. But that would also mean that you cannot preach a person into the kingdom or you cannot evangelize a person into the kingdom but most people do not say that. Apologists understand that their arguments are only part of the picture and that it is ultimately the Holy Spirit who brings the person to Christ.
So the next time someone says, “You can’t argue someone into heaven,” challenge them on what they mean by that.
“Representing Christ in the new millennium requires three basic skills. First, Christ’s ambassadors need the basic knowledge necessary for the task. They must know the central message of God’s kingdom and something about how to respond to the obstacles they’ll encounter on their diplomatic mission.”
- Greg Koukl
One of my favourite passages, when it comes to apologetics, is Paul’s experience in Acts 17:16-33. This is so much more than Bible trivia. This passage contains principles that are timeless. I see in Paul’s interaction with the Athenians something that is especially helpful in our generation. Here are five principles we can all use.
1. Do your homework. We seen in this passage that Paul took a tour of this city and learned about their worship. He looked at their temples and observed their altars. When we are talking to someone from a different world view, we should learn about what they believe. This could be by reading books or just asking them questions.
2. Be respectful. Deep down Paul was offended by their idolatry. This is exactly what you would expect from someone raised as a strict Jew. But when he talked to them, he commended them for their interest in religion. He did not blast them, he looked for the good in them.
3. Don’t paint everyone with the same brush. We see in this passage that there were people who followed different philosophies. We have to acknowledge that different people believe different things and we should be willing to adjust our communication accordingly.
4. Don’t be afraid to quote their own authors. It is interesting to note that Paul does not quote the Old Testament. In fact the only people he quotes are pagan authors. One of the reasons that this is helpful is that it shows your audience that you care enough to read their own texts.
5. Build bridges. Paul looks for things that they have in common in order to build bridges. Christians and non-Christians have things in common. Take advantage of that. Build on those similarities and gradually build up to a presentation of Jesus.
It is amazing to look at this passage of something that happened in Athens two thousand years ago and to see how appropriate it is for our culture in this generation. I encourage you to use these principles in your apologetic conversations.
How should Christians respond to the upcoming Noah movie? Christians tend to react to Bible movies by either fully embracing them or fully rejecting them (including the popular banning). First of all, we should not go into this assuming that Noah is going to be a faithful representation of the biblical text. This article from the Christian Post makes that clear.
So should we be outraged that Hollywood would change our stories? Should we picket the theatres? To be honest, these things just make us look silly. There is another option.
We could acknowledge that this is a Hollywoodization of the Noah story. But we could still use this as a point of conversation. There is a reason why Bible movies are popular right now. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity and start talking to people about it. People are willing to pay large sums of money to see movies about the Bible. We can talk to them for free. We can even supply the popcorn. Chat with your friends who have seen the movie or who are at least are interested in the movie. Read Acts 17 and follow Paul’s example of building bridges.
For more on this topic, check out this article by Jeff Dewsbury in Faith Today.
I have been asked in the past about the difference between apologetics and evangelism. This is a good question as there is definitely a relationship and yet they are not the same thing.
We can start with definitions. Apologetics is giving a reason for our faith. Evangelism is proclaiming the Good News or Gospel. Apologetics can be and often is a tool for evangelism. The Gospel is shared but there are some questions that are causing some stumbling blocks. Apologetics can then be used to clear away the obstacles.
However, apologetics is not always used in evangelism. Sometimes the Gospel is shared and the person is ready to accept the message immediately. There are other times that apologetics is used without being connected to evangelism. For example, one could use apologetics to argue for the existence of God without sharing the Gospel of what Jesus has done. Apologetics may or may not include a Gospel presentation.
Another difference is that apologetics is not only used with non-Christians. As much as apologetics is a tool for evangelism, it is also a tool for discipleship. For some people, the hard questions do not come up until after the profession of faith. Apologetics has an important role in helping Christians grow more confident in their faith.
So evangelism and apologetics have an important relationship but they should never be confused with each other.
I recently came across this passage as I was doing my devotions.
“Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” (Proverbs 9:7–9 ESV)
What caught my attention is this is so relevant to apologetics. Apologists (including me at certain points) tend to focus our time on the diehard skeptics. We debate the people who are the most convinced that they are right and we are wrong and we feel like we are doing real ministry. What feels good about these encounters is they keep coming back for more and it can be a lengthy conversation (if we can call it a conversation).
While I don’t think we should ignore skeptics, I don’t think that we should spend most of our time with the people least likely to change their mind. We should look for the seekers and the people who are sincerely searching for the truth. There are people interested in God and the Bible and we have the knowledge to help them.
As this Proverb states, trying to instruct a scoffer is only asking for trouble. State your beliefs and when they scoff, just move on. Don’t let them distract you from the wise, that is those who know they are missing something and are looking for the truth.
What role should personal testimonies play in apologetics? I know this is a controversial topic among apologists. For many, testimonies are too subjective and they would rather the emphasis be on more logical evidences for the truth of Christianity.
While I acknowledge the shortcomings of personal testimonies, I can’t help but notice that Paul is described in Acts as sharing his testimony twice. Not only does he share his conversion story, in his letters he often talks about how God is working in the midst of his suffering. Paul seemed to believe that the argument from experience had an important role.
In what way should the argument from experience be used? One of the common ways is that of sharing your conversion experience. It does not have to be a dramatic conversion with sex and drugs. It can be a quiet conversion where the faith moves from that of the parents to that of the person. It can also be ways that God acts in the life of the Christian, including answers to prayer and other spiritual experiences. I have often seen non-Christians moved more by how God is working in my life than the logical arguments that I present.
I am not saying that we should rely only on the argument from experience. It has its limitations. But it is an important part of the puzzle. When it is paired with other evidences for the truth of Christianity, it can have a powerful effect.
You can purchase the Tactics book here. For more from Greg Koukl, go to the Stand to Reason website.