8 Surefire Ways to Fail as an Apologist
by Matt Walker
Sometimes, to know what not to do is to know what to do. As an apologist or an aspiring apologist, you may have read a stack of articles on what you’re supposed to do to be effective, but what are some ways to safeguard yourself from failing as an apologist? Here are some suggestions on what you should do if you want to fail as an apologist:
1. Don’t Listen. In conversations with skeptics, Francis Schaeffer would give the skeptic the first 50 minutes of a one hour conversation where he would ask questions, and he would then talk for the last ten minutes of the conversation. If you want to be able to speak into someone’s life thoughtfully and compassionately, don’t talk so much. Listen. If you don’t listen, you’ll be more prone to misinterpreting and misrepresenting what the person has to say. Not only that, you’ll look like a jerk who just wants to tell the other person how it is. Listen, process, and respond.
2. Show No Mercy, Give No Grace. Have you ever been around that guy who thinks it’s his job, no, his duty to put the unbeliever in his or her place? If you haven’t, you will at some point (or that person may be you). Understand that just as God has shown us mercy and has given us grace, we are to show others mercy and give others grace. It’s not your job to “close the deal.” It is only God who saves. So, relax and trust that God is in control of this, God is the hero, God saves, and God will convict and correct as he sees fit. Speak the truth in love.
3. Make it a Point that You’re Smarter than the Other Person. I get it, as Christians we have the only worldview that fully corresponds with reality, is coherent, and is comprehensive in nature. I get it. But, we need to be more focused on winning the person than winning the argument.
4. Tell More than Ask. This goes back to our first point. In James chapter one, we’re told to be slow to speak, yet quick to listen. If you want to be most effective, ask a lot of questions and listen, process, and pray through the answers, asking the Spirit to help you. What do people like to do? They like to talk about themselves. So, ask a lot of questions, get to know the other person, and listen more than tell. Most times people don’t need to hear Plantinga’s 20 arguments for the existence of God, but instead need someone who will care enough to listen to them and be a friend.
5. Give the Other Person Canned Answers. If you’ve been studying apologetics for any time, you’ve read a book or two on how to answer certain objections. Although this is very helpful for thinking through particular issues, it’s not the end of the line. For example…