Spiritual Formation & Apologetics

By Allen Jackson

Apologetics as storyI sometimes get asked about the relevance of apologetics in student ministry.  In decades past, college students learned how to “defend their faith” by reciting information that was designed to break down the arguments and presumably the defenses of non-Christians so that they would be intellectually convinced to become Christians.

With a few notable exceptions, I am not sure that logical argumentation ever really converted anyone to faith in Christ. As the old cliché goes, “if someone can talk you into something, then someone else can talk you out of it.” Don’t get me wrong. I am a person who likes, as Josh McDowell famously put it, “evidence that demands a verdict” in that I think analytically and carefully about decisions that I make. The biblical record was convincing to me, but only because it appealed to both my mind and my emotion.

According to Lee Strobel in an interview on ChristianityToday.com, apologetics has grown into an organic blend of fact presentation and storytelling. Strobel cites none other than Josh McDowell as representative of the change:

How have evangelism and apologetics changed? They have become more relational, more story-driven. Josh McDowell would go on college campuses and describe why to trust the Bible. And people would come to faith in droves. Then they stopped coming to faith in so many numbers, and he didn’t know why. And now he takes a story approach. "You know," he says, "I was the son of the town drunk. This is how it affected my life and my relationship with [my dad]. This is what prompted me to seek spiritually. This is the evidence I found. This is how my life was changed. This is how I reconciled with my father." So it becomes a story…

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