How ready are you to answer to challenges to your Christian faith? If you do not think you are as ready as you would like to be or should be, there are many things you can do to get better prepared. Below are some suggestions to help you become an apologist, a defender of the faith.
“but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;” (1 Peter 3:15)
1 Peter 3:15 (one of the founding verses of Chapter 3 Ministries) gives us clear directives. We are to sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts, and we are to always be ready to make a defense for our hope. We may often be mindful of the first, but maybe not focused as much on the second. But it is a command of Scripture, and one we do not need to feel inadequate about obeying. With the help of God, we can get ready to be ready.
The hope that we are to be ready to give an account for is a reference to our hope in Christ. This means, we should always be ready to answer questions about our Christian faith. That could include any aspect of it. One way of doing this is through personal testimony. Another way is through the work of apologetics.
Christian apologetics, simply put, is defending the truth of our biblical, Christian faith. This often manifests as answers to challenges from contrary beliefs and ideas. It can also be work done to strengthen believers’ convictions about the truth of Christianity. It is a work that all Christians are called to be ready to do. Not just pastors or scholars. Not just men. Women are called too and are fully capable to be ready. We need to be ready for our own sakes and for the good of others.
There are many ways we could do the work of apologetics, some big and some small. It does not have to be as a result of formal apologetics training or as part of an apologetics ministry, but it could be. It could also happen when we open the front door of our home and find a smiling pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It could also be done during a lunch break chat with a Mormon coworker. Maybe a family member has questions about God or the Bible. We can also create opportunities to share the hope that is in us by approaching those with no faith or erroneous beliefs and offering conversation about God and the truth of biblical Christianity. All are valid apologetics. All are needed. If you do this work, you are an apologist.
There is no shortage of beliefs and ideas in the world that contradict biblical Christianity. They exist in various world religions and cults. There is also atheism and evolution. There are contradictions even amongst that which bears the name Christian. While we will not have to personally answer to every single one as to why biblical Christianity is true, we will likely need to answer to some.
It has been my ongoing desire to see my sisters in Christ become better equipped for this work. Below are some suggestions that I pray will contribute to that in some way. May God protect you and bless your efforts in the defense of the faith, to His glory and for His kingdom.
“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” (Jude 1:3)
FOUNDATION & BASIC PREPARATION
Sections 1-3 are the bedrock for apologetics work. Sections 4 – 8 will help prepare you in additional ways.
I. Qualifications for an apologist What you will not see mentioned here is a certificate or degree in apologetics or other theological study. You will not see the words “must be ordained”. (Formal training of course would be of great benefit, and we will come to that later. But it is not absolutely required.) What you will see is what you already have if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The absolute basic qualification for Christian apologetics is a regenerated heart. There is indication of this in our verse. Notice that 1 Peter 3:15 starts with “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts”. Who would regard Jesus this way? A believer. Who has the hope that Paul speaks of? A believer!
Believers are a special group of people who can tell of the excellencies of the God who saved them. (1 Peter 2:9) Our hope is real and stems from knowing God and His works. He has blessed us in many ways including giving us the Spirit. As such we are changed and different from the natural man who “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God“. Being spiritual, we can appraise “all things“. (1 Corinthians 2:12-16) We have eyes to see, and with God’s help we can discern truth from error. This is a supernatural and natural process that is largely reliant on the Holy Spirit and our esteeming of the Bible.
Souls sealed with the Holy Spirit and convicted by God know that the Bible is the word of God. It is esteemed as the measure for truth. (John 17:17) This is not obvious to unbelievers. Again, believers are a special group of people. God has confirmed the truth of His word in our hearts. We understand that all systems of faith and beliefs can be measured by it. This does not mean that we don’t continue to test our own personal beliefs. Truth, no matter where it leads must be sought.
When believers rightly esteem the Bible, we glean knowledge and wisdom that prepares us to defend our hope. We need not feel unqualified for this work. Additionally, since God has commanded it, He will provide help for us to obey. With His help, submission to His word, the desire to do the work, effort, and time we can do it. Apologetics can be a lifelong endeavor that delivers much benefit and joy for you and for the many souls you might speak with, to God’s glory.
2. Prayer Whether it is during your preparation work or during your conversations about Christianity, prayer is paramount. By it we can turn to the One “who works all things after the counsel of His will” and in those prayers, seek His will. (Ephesians 1:11) We can pray for guidance, understanding, and discernment while we study and later pray for wisdom, humility, patience, and love when we talk with others. And of course, we can beseech the Lord to open the hearts of those who do not yet know Him or are holding to unbiblical beliefs.
3. Read and Study the Bible If being a believer is the basic qualification for being a Christian apologist, the basic tool is the Bible. All your work must be centered on a correct understanding of its words and meaning. Spend time getting to know what it says. You cannot well defend your hope in Christ if you do not know what God’s special revelation to us says about Him and the gospel.
Reading and studying the Bible is also a lifetime endeavor, and you can tailor the effort for different purposes. I have found that what works well for the purpose of apologetics is adding special study time to regular personal reading and study time. Giving more time to study will not only strengthen your own walk, it will build a firmer foundation for any future encounters in which you are asked to give a defense for you faith.
Special study time for apologetics could take various forms. You might find it helpful to repeatedly study through certain books or chapters. The more familiar you are with the Bible the easier it will be to understand the big picture, find what you need when you need it, and answer questions about Christianity. I have found that Bible study for my apologetics work usually ends up being a topical Bible study. This is often because questions about Christianity or other belief systems usually revolve around certain topics. When one comes up, I do all I can to absorb everything the Bible has to say about it.
A Few Bible Study Suggestions
Use a good Bible translation I would be amiss if I did not implore you to use a good Bible translation whenever you read or study the Bible and by extension prepare for and engage in the work of apologetics. I recommend a word-for-word or essentially literal Bible version like New American Standard Bible (NASB), the English Standard Version (ESV), the King James Version (KJV), or the New King James Version (NKJV). Need help choosing a good version? Visit: Bible translations: Comparison charts
Make use of good Bible study resources To aid your study and dig deep you might find it helpful to use some Bible study resources. I am not referring to prepackaged, fill-in-the-blank book studies; though they can be beneficial. I am referring to books like Bible dictionaries, commentaries, interlinears, and systematic theologies. For information about these resources and some specific suggestions about which ones to use, please see: Bible Study Resources.
Strengthen the basics Study the Bible to get a good handle on the tenants of the Christian faith. For example, be prepared to answer basic questions about the attributes and works of God. What is His nature? What does the Bible teach and Christians believe about Jesus and the Holy Spirit? What is the gospel? What do Christians believe about justification, good works, baptism, regeneration and other matters of faith? You may have answers to these questions in your head and heart, but be prepared to defend them biblically.
With prayer and the help of God, having good knowledge of what the Bible says will help you speak about the hope that is in you with confidence and conviction. What comes of that is always in His hands.
4. Spend Time Thinking About Big Questions and Get Prepared to Answer Them. Below is a short list to get you started. Think of questions that tend to come up as objections to Christianity. Understand that the acceptance of the answers and any coming to Christian faith are inevitably up to the work of God in a person’s heart. Our job is to share what we know about God and His word. We can also draw from other sources like history, science, reason, and the human experience. If you need help constructing an answer, there are many good apologetic articles online that could be of service.
Does God exist?
Is He good?
If God is good, why is there such evil in the world?
Is the Bible a trustworthy historical source?
Did Jesus resurrect from the dead?
Why do good people suffer?
How old is the earth?
Aren’t all religions just a different way to God?
5. Get prepared to answer questions relating to specific groups, teachings, and ideas that contradict biblical Christianity.
Choose an area of study Sometimes you choose to begin the work of apologetics; sometimes it chooses you. My first area of study was thrust upon me early on in my Christian walk. I began my life of apologetics when a family member began to study with Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was quite the baptism into apologetics and launched a lifetime of work that has spread into many areas.
Your beginning might be similar. If something is challenging your faith right now or concerning you because of someone you know or love, that would be a good place to grow in your defense of Christianity. Starting with something that is relevant to your life will energize the work. If there is nothing in your immediate life, choose an area of study that you are curious about. There is a plethora of world religions, cults, questionable groups and teachers, and contrary ideas to learn about. The purpose of doing this is so that if something comes up, you will be better prepared to answer objections to Christianity. Whatever area you choose to study will likely help prepare you for answering to others. Oftentimes what you learn from defending the truth of Christianity in one situation can be applied elsewhere.
Some may have little to no desire to spend time doing this “just in case” work; but it will make you better prepared. Additionally if you do it, a huge benefit is that it will help you to grow in your understanding of Christianity and the Bible! Sometimes we learn the most when we see stark contrasts between what is true and what is not true.
Once you have your area of study, I recommend a three-prong approach for your research. Note, this is not necessarily done in order of one, two, three. A good, thorough study will have you moving back and forth between them.
Three Prong Approach to Research
1. Learn about the contradicting belief or belief system in order to answer well to any challenges to Christianity you may encounter from it. You can skip this part and still talk with atheists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Catholics, etc, about biblical Christianity, but knowing what they believe and what they base it on will help a great deal. You will be able to compare and contrast beliefs more precisely and engage them at a whole other level. To do this well, when relevant, consult official or original material of the group or individual you are studying. This is good and fair research. In order to best respond to objections, it is important to know what is really taught not just what might be said by an adherent or even by a Christian source that has reviewed it. Sometimes what is really taught or believed is misunderstood or misrepresented. How much of the source material you look at is dependent on your particular situation. Learn about all the major tenets or focus on something specific. Dig in as much as needed, praying always for discernment. Please only do this part of the work if your discernment is sharp.
2. Learn all you can about what the Bible says about the contradicting belief or belief system. Compare what is taught or believed to what the Bible says. This is done to make a biblical case for yourself and to those you might speak with. For example, let’s say a Jehovah’s Witness tells you that Jesus is a created being and is Michael the archangel. (Referring back to prong one above, a quick visit to jw.org will confirm that this is an official teaching of the Watch Tower Society) As a Christian, you believe that Jesus is God the Son, the second person of the Trinity. He is not an angel or a created being. Ok, do you know what Bible verses back up your belief? If not, this is the kind of work that would take place for this prong. This work of testing various beliefs by the Bible can have the profound effect of strengthen your faith. Turn to the Bible for the God given revelation of who Jesus is. Is He Michael or is He God? Compare what the WTS has claimed with the Bible. The results will better prepare you to give an answer for your hope in Jesus as God, should you have opportunity. Conversations like that don’t always go as desired or planned. For suggestions about how to handle various encounters please see: Best Manners and Practices for an Apologist.
When you do these types of comparisons, consider what you already believe too and be honest. Keep the highest regard for the Scriptures and be willing to change your beliefs if after prayer and study you can see that they do not line up with what the Bible teaches. We do not work just to test teachings we believe to be false. We must also be willing to examine what we believe. All beliefs must be submitted to the word of God.
3. Consult trusted Christian sources. You may or may not be able to find what you need in the Bible on your own or you may need help working through some tough questions. Fret not. There are many ministries and websites dedicated to helping Christians compare biblical Christianity to various contradictory beliefs and ideas. There are large apologetics ministries and small independent ones. There are ministries that focus on many subjects or specialize in one. Good Christian sources will contrast various contradictory beliefs and belief systems with the Bible. They will also oftentimes give sound answers to tough questions. For a short list of some helpful websites, please visit Gardiner Gateway and look under “Apologetics & Counter-Cult Ministries”. You could also consult books that examine world religions and cults. These often give good summaries about beliefs. Remember, even when using these sources, test everything by the Scriptures. Prayer and discernment should accompany this work as well. Lastly, if your area of study happens to be a teaching or teacher in the Christian realm that you suspect as unbiblical, you could do A Background Check.
6. Practice debating different beliefs. Wouldn’t it be great if you could practice giving answers to questions about your faith or talking with someone who holds to non-Christian beliefs or ideas? There is a way you can sort of do this. It requires some acting and a partner. I am referring to a type pf role-playing activity. I wrote about this before in Teaching Your Children To Be Apologists under the heading “Give your children practice defending their faith”.
This is an activity my husband and I developed while learning about different beliefs and trying to figure out how to answer to them. We would take turns “playing” the Christian or the non-believer and then discuss the issues. We took on all sorts of personas such as atheists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholics, Muslims, etc. We did this both to make sure we understood the contrary beliefs and to practice how to answer to them. We didn’t make it easy on each other either. We tried to be as realistic as possible and put forth the strongest arguments we could for the contrary belief. It really helped us to grow and get better prepared for real encounters. I recommend finding a partner and trying this out. As I wrote in the above article, I think this could be a great activity for women’s ministries’ programs!
7. Take a course in apologetics and read books on apologetics. Good formal training in apologetics would be a huge blessing. Again, not required; but certainly a big help. It could move the learning process along faster and help you to cover things or think of things you might not have thought of on your own. Through it you would likely learn about different approaches to or methods of apologetics like classical, evidential, and presuppositional apologetics. (See links below for explanations of each.) Learning about these and how to utilize them can prepare you even more. You might find it helpful to draw from more than one.
For suggestions of where to take apologetics courses, you could ask at your local church or look for classes online or at Christian colleges. As to books, you could ask your pastor for recommendations and look online.
8. In addition to all of the above, you might also find it helpful to learn about logic, philosophy, various world views, and debating techniques. This could provide you with some extra skills and insight. This help could come in the form of books, courses, or online articles. As a small launching point, please visit: List of Logical Fallacies with Examples.
9. Share what you have learned in your studies with other Christians and encourage them to be apologists. Many women have said to me that they wanted to get better at answering questions about their faith and defending the truth of Christianity. The need is real. If possible, share this work with a sister or more in Christ. It could bless and strengthen all of you. If you are married to a Christian, perhaps your husband would like to know what you are learning and study with you. Sharing what we have learned reinforces it. Finally, if you have children, help them to become apologists too. Every generation need apologists! (For some ideas on how to do this please see: Teaching Your Children To Be Apologists.)
10. Bloom where you are planted and behave. You do not need to make big changes in your life to do the work of an apologist. You could of course decide to get very proactive and start or join a formal ministry. If you do, wonderful! But, you can also simply do the work right now wherever you are and in whatever situations you find yourself. If the world around you knows you are a Christian, your faith is likely going to be challenged. Additionally, someone may simply come to you and want to share their non-Christian faith or ideas with you. Furthermore, you can stay alert and create moments to share what you have learned with whomever you believe needs to hear. And when you do share, behave.
When we do the work of an apologist it is important that we obey all of 1 Peter 3:15 including making our defense “with gentleness and reverence”. How we behave as an apologist is just as important as being ready. Both are commands from God’s word. Work with love and humility. The goal is to glorify God and to promote correct biblical knowledge and true worship. We are working to win hearts, minds, and souls not arguments. For some suggestions along these lines please see: Best Manners and Practices for an Apologist. And always remember: the fruit that comes from your work, in the lives of the ones you speak with, is in God’s hands. You may not always see the fruit. You may be planting seeds. Try not to get discouraged if you don’t see any change or results. This doesn’t mean that you were not a vital part of God’s plan for someone’s life. Trust Him and the power of His word as you serve. Pray that His will be done.