The Ten Commandments of Apologetics
By Dan Story
When I first began my apologetic ministry, I learned the hard way—as probably many of you did—that possessing apologetic knowledge and the ability to answer the tough questions does not qualify someone as a good apologist. It’s also necessary to engage unbelievers in such a way that they will give us a fair hearing—that they will listen, understand, and seriously consider our perspective. In this article, I’ll lay out the do’s and don’ts of good apologetics. On the “do” side are the principles of sound apologetic tactics. On the “don’t” side are the pitfalls of poor apologetics—things to avoid. Together they provide the ground rules of effective apologetic evangelism. I call these principles the ten commandments of apologetics.1
RULE 1: GOSPEL FIRST, APOLOGETICS SECOND
Whenever possible, try to start a witnessing encounter with the gospel—which is what unbelievers must hear in order to be saved. It is wrong to assume that every unbeliever harbors intellectual objections to Christianity. Hence, not every witnessing situation requires an apologetic defense (or offense). If the unbeliever responds to the gospel, forget apologetics and continue to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Confirm the gospel by sharing your personal testimony, demonstrating the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit in your own life.
RULE 2: STAY WITH THE ESSENTIALS
Most non-Christians know little about the Bible or what Christians believe, and what they think they know is often in error. In witnessing opportunities, avoid theological subjects that will be confusing to unbelievers, such as eschatology or predestination. Likewise, avoid debatable issues, such as speaking in tongues or methods of baptism. Similarly (if you can), don’t get hung up on controversial issues, such as the age of the earth. We should never muddy the waters of good apologetics and evangelism with topics Christians may rightfully disagree about. Of course, if the unbeliever raises an issue that he or she is genuinely concerned about, we need to respond appropriately. The apostle Paul gives a good summary of the essentials in 1 Corinthians 15:3–4. In a word, they always revolve around the person and work of Jesus Christ…
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