Teaching Effective Apologetics for Small Time Periods
by J.W. Wartick
So you think you have what it takes to be an apologist? You’ve mastered the arguments, and you’re ready to go? Well, using apologetics effectively involves not just making formal, lengthy arguments, but also the ability to condense those arguments down into everyday conversations. Sometimes God presents opportunities which only last for a few minutes. It is important as Christians to be able to present a reasoned defense in the time given to us. Here, I will explore a few of the ways to effectively defend one’s faith in short time periods. Then, I’ll give a brief lesson in teaching this to others.
It may come as a surprise, but the most important thing for apologists to do in any circumstance is to be a thoughtful listener. Get ready for a bigger surprise: No two people are the same, and all people have beliefs they hold strongly. By having a simple conversation with someone about a topic (politics, environmentalism, God, sports), you will immediately see the things that they find important begin to appear in the topics they choose to discuss.
The importance of listening comes into play when using apologetics in small time frames because it allows you to effectively engage with people where they stand as opposed to whatever presuppositions you may hold about them. They will reveal to you their own knowledge level and convictions as you ask them perceptive questions.
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Ask Perceptive Questions
One of the most important tools in the apologist’s kit is the use of open-ended, probing questions. Consider an encounter in which someone is claiming that there is no such thing as objective truth. They say “There is no truth.” But if you’ve applied your skills as an effective listener, you should immediately pick up on the problem with this statement. Asking a simple question like “Is that true?” can be just as effective as a fully-fledged case for objective truth.
When you start asking questions like these, you’ll find that your skills as an effective listener will be expanded as well. Someone’s response to the perceptive questions you ask will key you in on where they stand on issues. Do they really think there is no truth? Have they even thought about the implications of such a statement?
Again, suppose someone says “all morality is relative.” How would you answer that? Well suppose such that person has launched into an extended defense of relativism and argued that because various cultures evolve over time and seem to have different laws across the board, it seems that morality is a human construct which has been created for the purpose of sustaining society. You are going to answer that person very differently than if they said “All morality is relative” and only put it in context by saying that smoking marijuana shouldn’t be illegal. That’s a very different perspective than the former, and you need to ask them different questions…
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Part Eight: How To Get Apologetics In Your Local Church 2
Part Ten: Community Apologetics – one model