Strategies for Effective Apologetic Encounters
by Mark Farnham
“But, what if the person asks me a question I can’t answer? How do I know where to go with the conversation? What if my mind goes blank?”
The woman who asked these questions had just sat through one of my weekend conferences, and yet felt at a loss as she contemplated sharing the truth of the gospel with her friends and co-workers in the coming week.
Her predicament is a common one. We can learn lots of things about apologetics, feel very confident in the middle of an apologetics conference, and yet seemingly forget everything we have learned the moment we come face-to-face with real people.
Part of the answer is to find reassurance that we know more than we think we do if we have been disciple under sound preaching in our local church, or if we have spent time studying how to give an answer. Very few people have the ability to spontaneously speak on any topic related to belief, unbelief, religion, and the like. Most of us need an occasion or a conversation to jog our memory of what we know.
This is where we need the reminders that Jesus gave his disciples before he ascended to the Father. What reminders?
- We have the Spirit of truth living in us (John 14:17)
- The Spirit brings to mind what we have previously learned (John 14:26)
- The Spirit will declare the truth to us (John 16:13-15)
- All authority in heaven and earth belongs to Jesus (Matt. 28:18)
- Jesus is with us at all times (Matt. 28:20)
We need to remember that the Holy Spirit who dwells in believers is the one who will bring to mind what we have forgotten in our short-term memory. The Spirit is the one who will give us words to say when we don’t know on our own. While we should prepare to engage all manners of unbelief, we can never remember everything, nor can we always be knowledgeable about every belief system.
Once we establish the Holy Spirit as the foundation for our apologetic, we can begin to talk about specific tactics that can be used to expose the unbeliever’s presuppositions and worldview. These strategies provide us with multiple ways to challenge unbelief and present the truth of the gospel. When to use which one is entirely dependent on the nature of the encounter with the unbeliever, the extent of the Christian’s knowledge and ability to recognize contradictions and irrationality, and the interest or antagonism of the unbeliever. These tactics can be used by the average Christian to make progress in a gospel conversation with any unbeliever she may encounter…
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