Introduction to Apologetics - Part One
Written by Marcus Honeysett
You can download the PDF of this resource (both parts) here.
Introduction and Explanation
What is actually going on when we evangelise? Is it a human process of argument and debate? Or is it God working, despite us? Does someone become a Christian as a result of our words, or the action of the Holy Spirit? The answer Paul gives is “both.”
Read Paul’s description of his work in Romans 15:18. He is determined that he will speak of nothing apart from the work that Christ has done in and through Him in the power of the Spirit. As He has proclaimed the good news both in word and deed, the Spirit has inspired the words and energised the deeds. As a result Gentiles have been led to obey Christ and to put their trust in Him. Note the extremely close connection between what Paul’s work and the empowering of the Holy Spirit.
In disciple-making, God makes us partners in the gospel with Him and we discover, like Paul, that the action and power of the Spirit go hand in hand with proclaiming the gospel and delighting to people about Jesus.
2 Cor 5:19 spells it out. God is reconciling people to Himself in Christ. He is acting. And yet the message through which He acts He has entrusted to us so that we have become His ambassadors. Paul’s conclusion is that because we have such a great responsibility of working with the Holy Spirit and because we fear God, we urgently implore people and persuade them.
So when we are chatting to non-Christians, our witness and the conviction of the Holy Spirit go together. We often see that as someone grows in their understanding and acceptance of the message so they grow in conviction of sin and their understanding of the need to repent. Some know very little about God and start a long way back, some are much closer. The task of evangelism is as much moving people towards Christ as it is seeing them make the final step. We may have the joy of seeing people take that final step but we are much more likely to help people along the way. But the Holy Spirit is no less acting to lead and convict people, even if we are not the last people in the chain.
So we have the responsibility to move people along, maybe a little, maybe a lot. Bill Hybels talks about several factors that combine to help that movement. He expresses it in a formula: HP + CP + CC = MI. High potency (real authentic Christian living and witness), close proximity to unchurched people, and clear communication, lead to maximum impact for the gospel. We are all learning to be highly potent Christians.
This introduction is about the third part – clear communication.
What is Apologetics?
1 Pet. 3:15, 2 Cor. 10:5
Apologetics is defending and commending the truth of the gospel, in order to remove barriers to faith in Christ. The battle in the spiritual realms is a battle for people’s minds between knowledge of God, and false arguments and pretensions. We are instructed to learn to take every thought captive to Christ. God really does want us to be involved in His reconciling the world to Himself, and we need to be ready to respond when openings come, by building bridges to the gospel between scripture and the mind of the hearer. That is apologetics.
Apologetics frequently comes to mean answering questions about faith in Christ because that is how openings often arise. A question is asked: “what do you think about …..” One of the challenges for us, if we are to obey Peter’s call to be ready to give a reason for the hope we have, is to have thought previously about what the reasons are, so that when the questions come we will be able to answer them. In this way we can put a positive case for a Christian view of the world, as well as spotting holes in other positions. Prior thinking gives us confidence that there are real, trustworthy answers, and that we might be able to use them to help others. If we don’t know the answers we are likely to avoid the questions for lack of confidence.
- What are some of the main questions people are asking about life today, that they may be interested in a Christian response to? (whether or not they are positive about the Christian position)
- Role play some of them in pairs. Discuss the difficulties in giving a response that is both biblical, receivable and helpfully kind to the hearer.
- Discussion. How could you answer the question “Why do you trust the Bible” Which ways lead towards a discussion about Jesus and which lead away?
- What sort of principles should we observe when thinking about how to answer people’s questions?
Principles For Answering
- Glorify God in all that you say. It is easy to win arguments, but an argument is not our goal. Helping a person to respond to Christ is our goal. We want to introduce a person, not an academic subject.
- Have discussions, not monologues. Speak with humility, compassion and respect. Listen hard. Jesus often answered a question with another question: What do you think? How do you read this?
- Talk about what you know. Be prepared to admit what you don’t know.
- Hear the question behind the question. For example does a question about the validity of all religions contain an assumption that all truth is relative? Or does a question about suffering hide very real hurt?
- It is the seed, not the sower that produces Christians, in the power of the Spirit. Don’t be satisfied with general answers - learn to use relevant passages of scripture.
- God always answers prayer.
- Answer in a way that leads towards the gospel not away from it.
Here are a few pointers for some common questions:
1. Is the Bible True?
a. Have you read it?
b. Jesus clearly thought the Bible was true - see Wenham Lk 11:51
c. Jesus clearly demonstrates the Bible to be true through fulfilment of prophecy Lk 24:25 - questions about the Bible are closely linked to Jesus’ claims for Himselfs
d. Manuscript reliability
e. NT Spirit’s testimony Jn 14:26
f. Testimony of the resurrection - eg 1 Cor 15
g. Internal and external testimony - truth claims eg Lk 1, Jn 20, 2 Pet 1:16
h. If it is true, what difference should it make? Acts 2
i. What are the options? Either all made up, or Jesus seen through a romantic haze, or true
2. Is Jesus The Only Way?
a. He claims this for Himself Jn 14:6. Explore mutually exclusive truth claims
b. The claim is based on who He is - the question is really about what He is able to do. It highlights our need for a saviour 1 Pet 2:24, Rom 3.
c. Is Christ really God? Heb 1
d. Question contains underlying ideas of pluralism and tolerance. Answer with the fact that God has spoken Heb 1, that His Jesus’ words are God’s work Jn 14, and that there is judgement Rom 1+6
e. Liar, lunatic or Lord - sincere belief is not enough
3. Isn’t faith Psychological?
a. A question about proof and subjectivity vs objectivity. The Bible places the importance of truth at the top of the agenda
b. To say that the desire for God means He doesn’t exist is as illogical as to say he is exists merely because of wish-fulfilment
c. We are made in His image - it is right that we should desire Him
d. We are not dependent on contemporary experience but objective revelation in God’s word, backed up by evidence that can be examined. An empty tomb.
e. A psychological crutch should be comfortable. Jesus makes uncomfortable demands on me and confronts me with a true picture of myself as a sinner
4. How Do You Know God Exists?
a. Another question about proof. Depends on definition of proof as opposed to evidence.
b. Ways God has revealed Himself - nature (Rom 1), Jesus (Jn 14), The Bible (2 Tim 3)
d. Inner conviction
e. Universal morality
© Marcus Honeysett.