Christian Apologetics is a robust field of study with many intriguing approaches and arguments. Because Christianity accurately explains the actual world we live in, our evidences are very difficult to refute or dismiss. Worldviews opposed to Christianity are at a disadvantage because they presuppose the world to be different than it actually is. Although their arguments sound good, they do not line up with the real world, with the way things actually are. An example of this would be the Monistic belief that good and evil are merely illusions and that the universe is in perfect balance at all times. It is one thing for a Hindu to claim this, but the real world is harsh and full of evil, which proves that this belief is untrue. No matter what a person claims, it must match up with the way things actually are. Because of this, Christianity has the best evidences, because they do in fact match up with reality. Like I said, this fact makes it very difficult to refute the truth of Christianity. However, there is a danger to Christian Apologetics that is far too often forgotten. Because our arguments are true, it is easy to slip into the mentality that our main objective is to win arguments against lesser worldviews. In my own life I have fallen prey to this idea, especially when I’m in dialogue with someone who has an opposing worldview. As easy as it is to focus on winning arguments, this is not what Jesus has called us to do. Apologetics is not about winning arguments; the end goal of Apologetics is winning people.
esus told Peter and Andrew, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). One of the goals of being a good witness, a good ambassador, a good disciple of Jesus is to win people to Christ. Jesus told Andrew and Peter that He would teach them how to catch people, not win arguments. In the day and age we live in, a person seeking to win people would be a breath of fresh air. So much of what we see on social media and hear about in the news is a culture of people trying to win arguments in order to validate their ego, insecurities, or sinful behavior. Everyone is trying to win arguments. The problem with this is that when the battle revolves around the argument and not around people having true belief, we will resort to treating people poorly in order to win. We defame the character, the physical attributes, and the intellect of the person we argue with, instead of helping them to think through ideas reasonably and logically in order to see the truth. People are marginalized and hurt in order for us to validate ourselves through our good arguments.
1 Peter 3:15-16 says, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with
gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are
slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.”
Often, the Christian Apologist is good at giving a defense, but not as focused on being gentle, reverent and keeping a clear conscience. These verses from 1 Peter are somewhat funny, when we remember that Peter is the one who penned these words. Peter was not the gentlest or most reverent guy in the Gospels and Acts. However, by the time he wrote these words, I think that he had learned that winning arguments does not always win people. Having good character and love toward others is the first step in them possibly listening to our arguments. Apologetics is useless without good character. If no one will listen to you because you are an arrogant jerk, it really doesn’t matter how good your arguments are.
Jesus was full of Grace and Truth (John 1:14). Grace without truth is impotent. Truth without grace is ineffective. We must have both, as Jesus did. Grace means to get something that is undeserved. Jesus has given the gift of grace, through which we can be saved (Eph. 2:8-9). This grace is unmerited, it is undeserved, it is unearned. It would do us well to remember to be gracious when we are engaged in apologetic discussions. Being gracious, in these situations, means granting the person we are talking with something that they don’t deserve. It means to listen well, to stay calm, to be gentle and respectful, even if they do not remain cordial. We cannot enter into apologetic conversations demanding our rights, forcing our opinions, and treating people poorly. These are tactics that help win arguments, but they come at the cost of losing the person. We must be gracious as we present the truth.
So, how do we practice being gracious, gentle, reverent, and keeping a good conscience as we share truth with others? Let me suggest three things.
- We have to focus on what the true objective of our conversation is. We should be focused on helping the person we are talking with see the truth. The ultimate goal for each person we converse with is that they would come to believe in Jesus. However, the goal of each conversation should be to give our opponent something that will linger in their mind, while treating them respectfully. You want to leave the conversation on good terms, so that you can continue dialoging in the future.
- We need to remember who we represent. We are Ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), which means we are to represent Him through our interactions with others. If we are representatives of Jesus, our character and our treatment of others must reflect Him.
- We need to remember who it is that we are conversing with. No matter who they are or how they are treating you, the person you are talking with is made in the Image and Likeness of God. They have intrinsic value because of what they are, not because of how they act. Because of this, we need to be gracious and treat people in a way that respects what they are. When we defame others, we do not take seriously the image of God in them, which is ultimately disrespectful to God.
- People are not our enemies; false ideologies, false worldviews, and false philosophies are. We want to see the person we are talking with redeemed, not further condemned. In order to do this, we must help them clear away deceptions and false beliefs in order to see the truth about Jesus.
hen these four things are kept in mind, we are more likely to be good at fishing for men. Remember, the goal is to win people to Christ, not to win arguments.