by Rob Lundberg
Apologetics (or pre-evangelism) is far too important to remain isolated from most people in the Church. Christians today likely need apologetics more than ever before.
However, helping Christians understand the true value of apologetics can still be a significant challenge. Our world is becoming more skeptical and with all the objections that are confronting the Christian faith, what if we were to rethink our methods of reaching people, and stop trying to convince the church that they need to do apologetics?
Someone once told me that I am “into apologetics.” This showed me one thing. That the person making the claim has no clue on the biblical mandate for every believer to give a reason for the hope that we have based on 1 Peter 3:15-17. Deep down inside, I wanted to tell the person that perhaps they need to really read their Bible and see that the whole Bible is a polemic (apologetic).
So the question that comes to mind in this context would be, “How do we help them learn apologetics if we stop trying to convince them about the value of apologetics?”
Apologetics, “the handmaiden of Evangelism”
Apologetics is about giving a reason or a defense for why we believe the Christian faith is true. This word is used nine times (See Acts 25:16; 19:33; 22:1; 1 Corinthians 9:3; Philippians 1:7, 17; 2 Timothy 4:16, Jude 3, 22) and is most popularly referenced in 1 Peter 3:15. In the formal sense it is that branch of Christian theology dealing with the verbal defense of the faith.
So why do we need apologetics? This is because our culture has gone through some ideological tectonic shifts since 9/11/2001. This event in our nation was the start of a tectonic paradigm shift in our culture that church evangelism ministries are either ignoring or they are totally oblivious of existing. And this is why I believe Christian apologetics is necessary as a “handmaiden for evangelism” today.
Simply stated, we need to understand the culture, in order to reach the culture with the gospel of Christ.
What do you mean a tectonic paradigm shift?
This tectonic shift has moved us from a postmodern culture to a post-truth culture. Today’s culture thinks nothing of taking personal preferences over propositional truth. Those preferences are rooted in materialism, religious pluralism, narcissism, hedonism, relativism, moral preferences, and all kinds of skepticism. I think we do not look have to look too far to realize that we live in challenging times.
In such an age of confusion and chaos how does one find answers to life’s deepest questions? Christian apologist has said, “We have right to believe anything but not everything we believe is right.” How are we to reach this culture with all the static in the way of seeing truth and Christ clearly?
Let me see if I can paint it a little clearer, by giving us some “that was then” and “this is now” using “Yesterday/Today” scenarios to help us understand.
Yesterday, apologetics was about why we believe what we believe and has traditionally about answering the questions of skeptics and unbelievers about faith in Christ.
Today, I believe apologetics needs to first focus on the believer, especially the young people and should be aimed toward answering those questions that equip them to take ownership of their faith.
Yesterday, we needed to master facts, data, and history to intellectually prove what we believe is true.
Today, we need to model a concerned and compassionate lifestyle to prove that what we believe is relevant.
Yesterday, we needed to WIN the DEBATE.
Today, we need to WIN an AUDIENCE both in the church and outside the church.
Yesterday, we communicated on a level playing field where TRUTH was an objective reality.
Today, we communicate on the shifting sands of TRUTH being a subjective reality.
Yesterday, the church and the culture shared a general knowledge of the Biblical narrative.
Today, the church and the world are both Biblically illiterate.
Yesterday, a committed Christian man or woman was admired.
Today, a committed Christian man or woman is seen as dangerous by the secular culture.
Yesterday, we could begin with the truth and express grace.
Today, we must begin with grace in order to be able to share the truth.
Yesterday, the moral climate and values of major institutions (i.e, education, government, medicine and the media) reinforce the general moral mandates of our faith.
Today, the moral climate and values of the major institutions challenge and ridicule the moral mandates of our faith.
So in order to sum these up TODAY is much more like First Century Christianity than last century Christianity, therefore our answers are already available, but we must change our paradigm.
To give you a little bit more reinforce for this, a recent Barna survey indicated that only 13% of Christians who regularly attend church have a spiritual conversation once a week.
Our efforts in apologetics must serve the Church by helping Christians to seek out spiritual conversations and equipping them to be effective when having evangelistic conversations.
I believe that many Christians who have a desire to share their faith and do evangelism, often feel helpless and shut down when objections surface. At the same time, some of the objections raised may be harboring or be common objections they have in their own minds.
We call it conversational evangelism (that is undergirded by apologetics).
What if we focused on efforts primarily on helping Christians to share their faith and have spiritual conversations in everyday life? People have good questions, and sometimes those questions have underlying questions attached to their primary question that might hinder a direct answer. With reference culture on a global perspective, many have confirmed, that “the questions have not changed, but rather it is how those questions are articulated and how our answers come across in the culture.”
To follow up this with a summarizing thought from a talk from Michael Ramsden, “It is always wrong to give the right answer to the wrong question.” This is why we need a different method of communicating the life changing message of the unchanging gospel. We teach you how to do this: break down the questions to get the message of the gospel through.
In a world where the church is proclaiming with fervency that “Jesus is the answer, Jesus is the answer,” the culture’s response is something along the lines of, “if Jesus is the answer then what is the question?” America is now a “post-truth” culture embracing a postmodern mindset, with a smorgasbord of ideologies, and moral issues vying for attention to challenge the Christian worldview.
If you check out our material and resources, I am thoroughly convinced that once you will come to understand WHY Christianity is true, your testimony (HOW) will become more solidified, and you will be ready to share with anybody the credible answers to those questions objecting to the Christian faith.
If you would like to ask any questions about what you have read here, please contact me, by email at . . . firstname.lastname@example.org.