In conversations with people, I often find myself having to explain what apologetics really is and how it applies to church ministry. I have even had people that seemed to think that an understanding of apologetics was not even necessary for church ministry.
I remember the last question that one of my professors asked me when I was giving my oral defense of my doctoral dissertation. He asked me to explain to him the relationship between apologetics and evangelism. I knew why he was asking such a question and so I began my response.
Apologetics allows for establishing a fertile ground for evangelistic work. It can be used to prepare the soil for the planting of the gospel message by removing obstacles to the hearing of the message. I use the word ‘hearing’ intentionally. When an individual has preconceptions concerning the gospel message, those preconceptions or presuppositions may keep him from even being able to suspend judgment long enough to even consider the message of the gospel.
These barriers can come from a number of places. They can be intellectual barriers, emotional barriers or even volitional barriers. Imagine these as walls between you as the evangelist and the one you are trying to engage with the message. Until the potential hearer lets down the walls a little, the message will more than likely be immediately abandoned or dismissed as poor reasoning or just wishful thinking. It doesn’t need to be that the whole wall is torn down but that at least there is an entry point allowed for the message to penetrate so that the person can respond to what is being told to them.
Apologetics and Evangelism are a necessity today because we live in a very pluralistic and postmodern world. Pluralism implies a diversity of ideas. Now there is nothing wrong with diversity as long as it is centered in truth. And in a postmodern society skepticism abounds. What can be done in a world where the idea of God seems to go against the findings in the observable word? Get the person to see the possibility that there may be more going on than is observable with our five senses.
This is where a discussion of the big questions of life come in. Asking probing questions is the best way to get people to begin to let down walls. Talk to them about the ‘origin’ of everything that we see. Get them to see that evolution only addresses how species evolve over time but it does not address how the first thing even got here. Discuss the ‘meaning’ or the purpose oriented drive that we sense that makes us more than just cosmic mistakes in an evolved world. Ask them if they sense that there is more to life than just living it and then leaving it. Expound on the sense of shared ‘morality’ that seems to guide our lives and how such a thing could not come about by some culturally accepted construct. We as humans can not even come to a consensus or agreement on the small things. How would we ever come to one on something like a commonly shared sense of morality? This in itself goes against evolutionary ideas concerning survival of the fittest. We act contrary to such an evolutionary drive. The question is why? And then finally what about destiny? Why do we as humans sense that there is more than just what happens in this life that lies at the heart of who we are. Why have so many cultures embraced some sense of an after life.? Atheistic thoughts concerning this are not the norm at all. The job of the apologist/evangelist is to get people to question their preconceived ideas and worldview standings and to look for the ‘best explanation’ for what we see and sense in this world. When the wall starts to come down, the evangelist can then begin to plant the seed of truth found in Jesus Christ.
Matthew 13 is a great starting place for us to read again and to now think about all the possible objections that the hearer might have that we need to know how to begin to address so that the seed can fall on fertile ground. It is a war of ideas out there. And remember our ideas have consequences.
Check out my suggested apologetic books in the header for links to some great books to get you started on your journey to answers to some of the objections to Christianity.