Seven Apologetics Fails to Avoid

by Nik Shuliahin

The need for apologetics in our culture is growing. More and more the public square will provide Christians with the opportunity to give a reason for their hope in Christ (1 Peter 3:15). When Christians defend their faith with intelligence, integrity, humility, and love, the practice of apologetics glorifies God and serves our neighbor. However, as with with preaching and evangelism, there are some pitfalls we need to avoid so that we don’t end up doing more harm than good. Here are what I consider some less than helpful approaches, as well as some thoughts about how we can do better.

1. Appeals to Pseudo Science.

My Greek professor in college once warned our class, “A little bit of knowledge in Greek can be very dangerous.” I think the same goes for science. Yet, so often Christians will appeal to science that is not really, or even “proof” (that’s a tricky word with lots of epistemological baggage!) that God exists, or that God’s word is reliable. I do think recent scientific consensus poses more difficult questions for atheism than it does for Christianity. However, we need to be careful not to jump on board with websites or parachurch organizations that treat the Bible as a science textbook. It’s embarrassing and potentially damaging to our witness.

A Better Approach: By confessing “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,” we’re under no obligation to sort out scientific details. Not even naturalism can do this. Apologists are better stewards of science when they work with larger questions – the kind that pose real problems for the materialist worldview, as well as point to the order and purpose that comes from a Creator. For example, the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and the origin and nature of human consciousness allow for conversations that strongly suggest a Creator. To be specific, I would stay miles away from groups like “Answers in Genesis,” and instead invest in books like Stephen P. Meyer’s The Signature in the Cell – which even atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel has called “a careful presentation of this fiendishly difficult problem” (the origin of life).

2. Assuming Christian Truth is Obvious.

I often hear apologetics expressed at the popular level as evidence that any rational person will accept. In other words, if non Christians just have access to the right information, they will naturally bow the knee to Christ. It’s a whole lot more complicated than that. When Jesus raised Lazarus, some who saw the sign believed. Others did not – in fact, they went and reported what Jesus did to the authorities, who tried all the more to have him arrested (John 11:45-53). Even hard evidence like a dead guy walking out of the tomb does not always lead to conversion…

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