Friday, March 28, 2008

Tool for Apologists

I have made the point before that faith is not a religious concept: I think faith is a univeral characteristic of human beings.

Heb 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see [NET Bible]
All human beings who are not suicidal or otherwise terminally pessimistic share that – but faith has an object. To talk about someone's faith (or calling someone a "person of faith") - a universal - without talking about the object of their faith - the specific - is to say nothing really except that they, like nearly every human being, has faith in something. It is only the "in what" that gives meaning.

The word "hope" above is not "I hope I get a pony for Christmas" - this is elpiß: "joyful and confident expectation". As Peter said about hope:
1 Peter 3:15 . . . always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess.
That is apology - regardless of what the object of the hope, and faith, is.

However, there are good ways and bad ways to do that. I signed up yesterday at Stand to Reason for a series of email lessons from Greg Kourkl on "Tactics in Defending the Faith" that seems like it might be a good tool for "thinking clearly and engaging discussions effectively."

I have included the first email below the fold - but I am not going to publish the rest. I think if you want their lessons you should sign up at their site
Tactics in Defending the Faith Part 1: A More Excellent Way

Greg Koukl

Many friends of Stand to Reason use our materials because they agree that Christianity, when properly understood and properly articulated, can take its place in the marketplace of ideas. They want to be able to effectively communicate the message of the Gospel to those who don’t understand or agree. This series of e-mails will help you learn tactics that, when used skillfully and winsomely, will make you a more effective ambassador for Christ.

Let me offer you a word of encouragement. I’ve been defending the faith actively and “professionally” for over two decades with people who oppose evangelical Christian views and are professionals in their own right atheists, skeptics, Mormons, Jewish rabbis, and secularists.

When I started, I wasn’t sure how I would fare in public against the pros with thousands of people listening. But what I discovered was that the facts and sound reason are on our side. We don’t have to be frightened of the truth or the opposition if we do our homework. After all, even people who don’t like tests don’t mind them much when they know the answers.

The truth is this: The Gospel can be defended if it’s properly understood and properly articulated by a winsome ambassador. If we take our time and think through the issues, we can make a solid defense. If we have the truth, there will always be a flaw in the opposing argument. Keep looking for it. Sooner or later it will show up.

The right tactic will help you discover the flaw in your opponent’s argument and show it for the error it is.

Remember that some of the most intelligent people make the most foolish mistakes in thinking when it comes to spiritual things. The tactics you learn in this series of e-mails will help you identify those mistakes. You will see that people don’t give much thought to their objections. How do I know? I’ve listen to lots of objections.

Apologetics has a questionable reputation among non-aficionados. By definition, apologists “defend” the faith. They “defeat” false ideas. They “destroy” speculations raised up against the knowledge of God.

Those sound like fightin’ words to many people: Circle the wagons. Hoist the drawbridge. Fix bayonets. Load weapons. Ready, aim, fire. It’s not surprising, then, that believers and unbelievers alike associate apologetics with conflict. In their view, defenders don’t dialogue; they fight.

In addition to the image problem, apologists face another barrier. The truth is that effective apologetics in the 21st century requires more than having the right answers. It’s too easy for post-moderns to ignore our facts, deny our claims, or simply yawn and walk away from the line we’ve drawn in the sand.

I’d like to suggest a “more excellent way.” Jesus said that when you find yourself a sheep amidst wolves, be innocent but shrewd. This instruction calls for a tactical approach. Even though there is real warfare going on, our engagements should look more like diplomacy than combat.

In the emails you’ll receive over the next several weeks, I’ll share lessons I’ve learned from years of engaging critics of Christianity. These are practical tactics that can make a real difference in equipping you and building your confidence to engage non-Christians in conversations about the most important topic possible their relationship to God.

Next time: Why tactics?

For more extensive tactics training go to and look for Tactics in Defending the Faith Mentoring Series or STRi DVD interactive training in our online store or call Stand to Reason at 1-800-2-REASON.

There are at least two types of folks who may read this who may wish to "[think] clearly and [engage] discussions effectively"; and do that by engaging in dialogue - and not fighting:
  1. People with a religious faith they find under attack, and who wish to defend it
  2. People with a political faith they find under attack, and who wish to defend it
In either case, the skills taught may be useful. Obviously the second group may not be interested in the stated goal of the series
equipping you and building your confidence to engage non-Christians in conversations about the most important topic possible their relationship to God.
but there may be information that can be generalized. Heck, I do not know - I haven't read them yet

1 comment:

  1. Hello, Mr Fleetguy.
    An excellent post.
    Thank you for sharing your insight.


How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly