I have the worse sense of direction. If I don’t have directional guidance I can end up in the wrong state. In fact, its so bad I often travel to the same locations utilising a navigation system of some sort. With a navigation system in place you are almost sure of finding the right location. I say almost because a navigation system is only as good as the address. To get to the destination you need a description of where you are going. If you don’t, how will you know if you ever got there? You could travel for days wandering around. Of course, you can see everywhere you travel but without an address your travel is in vain.
Navigation: Needs an address
The task of apologetics is to be a navigational tool in the hand of the Christian. It is an intellectual tool helping us navigate questions, objections, and challenges to the Christian faith. RC Sproul describes apologetics as “pre-evangelism”. I like that definition because it clarifies the address of every apologetic endeavour. Apologists must start with the head but should eventually and inevitably aim for the heart. In every conversation, ministry, lecture, and article we should aim to transform from apologist to evangelist. Ultimately, we must navigate the tough questions to eventually plug in the coordinates of Christ. Everyday apologetics will typically start with questions on ethics or observations about current events. Yes we may stop there to handle rational pit stops. Still we must remember the finish line will always be Christ.
Our main point is Jesus
The goal of apologetics is not merely to persuade one that a God exist. At minimum, if we succeed, then we have only acquiesced to convert humans into demons for even they believe that God exist (James 2:19). As apologist we have many targets, applications, and contexts yet always one goal. We are winning people to Christ. We have intellectual focus but our main focus is to win people and not merely arguments. We do Christ and our mission great disservice if we answer objections in various realms and capacities yet relinquish a presentation of Christ. Will it always happen in the conversation at hand? No, but that should be our aim knowing tomorrow is not promised and that Christ may return at any moment.
Christ-centred apologetics must also be persuasive and winsome too. We should present our arguments with love and concern. If apologetics merely becomes an academic endeavour, we will lose all the pastoral care and compassion needed for the task of evangelism to become possible. Here are some practical tips for pursuing Christ-centred apologetics:
- Defend the faith without being defensive. Defend the faith not your pride.
- Share your need for Christ so others may potentially see theirs.
- Don’t merely regurgitate arguments or points from your favourite apologist. Focus on the person you are speaking with and their particular needs.
- Present the love and grace of Jesus so winsomely and illustratively that they think its too good to be true.
- Do more listening than talking. Don’t interrupt. Don’t zone out on their objections and rehearse your irrelevant response.
- Affirm positive aspects of their thoughts. What points of their religion or worldview is actually commendable?
- Before you use the Bible given reasons why you believe it as a reliable source.
- Don’t merely quote scripture. Explain scripture and its context.
- Lastly, ask to present Christ. Say something like, “Do you mind if I tell you why I think Jesus makes the difference on this matter?”
Dear apologist, never wander aimlessly. Plug in the coordinates of Christ in your presentation and within your heart (1 Peter 3:15). Give a reason for the hope in your heart. That hope is the good news of Jesus not a three-point syllogism. After the arguments, rebuttals, and fact checks, bring Christ to the forefront. Don’t be ashamed, because the Gospel actually has the power to save (Romans 1:16).