When we consider an apology, we typically think of someone saying sorry or showing remorse for a regretful behavior or thought. However, an apology is also a defense or justification for something. A segment of Christian philosophy, Christian apologetics defends the biblical worldview and beliefs core to Christianity. Throughout church history, writers and theologians have used apologetics to fight against heresy, define doctrine, and advance the gospel. Much of the apologetics work of the founding fathers has shaped where the Church is today. However, Christian apologetics is not just limited to the philosophers or men of skilled discourse.
Apologetics is a call for every believer. 1 Peter 3:15 states, "but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you" (CSB). As Scripture tells us, making an apology for the gospel should be part of the Christian life. We who are in Christ do not possess the worldview of our present culture. As a result, we face opposition from the kingdom of darkness that seeks to distort the truth of God's kingdom and lead people to destruction.
To engage in the redemptive work of Christ, which is restoring the world to right worship through the gospel, we must incorporate apologetics as an evangelistic tool and integrate "the reason for our hope" in our day to day living. But, defending the Christian faith in our cancel culture and pluralistic culture can be intimidating. Fortunately, we can use the wisdom of apologists before us, a biblical framework, and the example of Jesus Himself to give us insight on how to defend our faith to the glory of God.
Know You Have the Truth
Though the person with the opposing worldview might appear craftier in his or her speech and seemingly more knowledgeable, you can still have courage because you hold the truth. You may not have an answer to every question thrown at you. You might talk more slowly or stutter. But, by God's grace, you have been revealed the glory of Jesus. God has chosen you, softened your heart to repent of sin, and given you the faith to trust in the saving work of Christ. This truth should not make you arrogant but bold. Through your weaker speech and by the Holy Spirit, you can declare the strength and power of God. And, if you don't know an answer to a question, you can humbly admit your limited knowledge and ask to resume when you have studied that area.
Find Common Ground
Identifying common ground between you and the opposition is an advantageous way to begin the discussion. Some benefits are respect and empathy. Opposers of Christianity have oftentimes gone through a hardship or sin struggle preventing them from believing. If you strive to build a relationship, these elements of the other person's story will emerge, and you may be able to make points of connection from your own spiritual journey. Another area of common ground is through God's common grace, which is His benevolent attitude toward all of creation. Through this grace, God bestows His truth and righteousness to the unbeliever. In this way, unbelievers can possess an amount of biblical truth even in their faulty worldviews. We can acknowledge this and point them to the originator of these values.
Assess Opposing Worldview
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 states, "...We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ." In these verses, the Apostle Paul writes such charged language to provoke the believer to be on the offensive when defending the faith. When the ball is in our court, so to speak, we want to identify the moral point of view of the unbeliever. Be curious; question and dissect the unbeliever's answers to pinpoint the irrational, inconsistent, or idolatrous belief. The resource, Stand to Reason, gives useful tools for assessing worldviews. You can find more information at https://www.str.org.
It is easy to get distracted in apologetics discussions. When passions are rising, you may find yourself talking about a topic that is not pertinent to your opposer's salvation. Then, suddenly, the conversation comes to an end, and the opportunity is missed. Stay focused on the gospel from the beginning of the discussion to the very end. Your arguments should point to the saving work of Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus is the only thing that will reconcile the unbeliever to God, so hold the gospel as the utmost importance as you speak.
Highlight the Bible's Story of Redemption
The Bible, which is God's word to us, reveals His plan of redemption for His people. Throughout Scripture, a redemptive story is told and is the center of the Christian worldview. The framework behind this story is creation, fall, redemption, and consummation–God's original intent for the world, the effects of sin, Jesus's accomplishment, and the total unity with God that is to come. In apologetics discussions on suffering, it is helpful to incorporate this story to show that Christians know the source of darkness in this world yet have hope and joy in God. You can learn more about this story in The Daily Grace Company's Amen study.
Because the Bible is God's word, we do not need extra sources, religious texts, or outside interpretations to support our arguments. Though knowing church history or ancient near-eastern history is helpful, use God's Word alone as your primary source of information as it is the first-hand account of God's working in the world. Avoid circular arguments by referring to the breadth and depth of Scripture in its multiple genres and voices.
Love the Other
Colossians 4:6 says, "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person." In a debate, we must remember to be kind, gentle, and humble. As Christ's ambassadors, we represent the kingdom of God and must demonstrate godly character. Remembering that we were graciously saved and forgiven by the love of God, by the Holy Spirit, we too can express the love of God in order to have considerate discourse. Our love might, in turn, move the unbeliever from an opposer to a friend and fellow member of God's family.