In Training disciples to stand I suggested that we need to develop our methods of evangelism and discipleship to include some apologetics. Young disciples need to be encouraged to better think through why they believe, and how to defend their belief against attack.
But what apologetics are important and relevant?
Reasons why people believe …. or disbelieve
Christians believe for a mixture of objective and subjective reasons. Objective reasons include philosophical arguments based on science, and the historical evidence for Jesus; subjective reasons include personal experience of God through healing or guidance or a changed life – either one’s own experience or someone else’s. (See Do christians believe for irrational reasons?.)
Because we all have different paths to God, each of us will rely on different reasons to believe, and each of us should be able to “give a reason for the hope we have” (1 Peter 3:15). Once, it would have been enough to simply share what the Bible says about Jesus and our own story, but increasingly we will be asked why we believe the Bible is true and how we know our experience is anything more than subjective, and we may need to be able to give an answer.
People’s reasons for disbelieving are also varied. Some are objective, based on the pain and suffering in the world, the alleged inconsistencies or problems in the Bible, or questions about why God remains so “hidden”. Other people disbelieve for more subjective reasons, such as suffering in their own life, especially at the hands of christians or churches.
We should have some understanding of …..
All christians should be able to briefly explain the essentials, and we should also be including these matters (briefly) in our evangelism:
- Why they believe the New Testament is trustworthy;
- why they believe Jesus is the son of God; and
- what following Jesus means to them.
In addition, it would be helpful to be able to outline other reasons that are important to their belief:
- any experience they have had of God’s healing, or guidance, or help in changing their life around; or
- simple outlines of arguments for God’s existence based on cosmology or other aspects of the world; or
- accounts of other people’s healings or experiences of God.
Finally, it would be helpful to understand the truths behind sceptics arguments against christian belief, including:
- Was Jesus a real person or a legend?
- Can we know much historically about Jesus?
- If there’s a good God, how come there is so much suffering?
- Alleged inconsistencies in the Bible.
- Why did God order genocide in the Old Testament?
- Why is God so hidden from us?
- How could a good God send people to hell?
- Religion causes war and suffering, and opposes science.
- Evolution vs Genesis
Giving a reason for our hope
I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to study up on these matters. But I am suggesting that more christians need to, learning to use good apologetics material that can withstand attacks (it is my conclusion that much christian apologetic material doesn’t stand up to careful criticism). And that all christians need to have some familiarity with the most essential facts, for the sake of their own confident faith as well as to be able to stand under criticism.
Over the next few weeks, I will outline how I suggest we should approach these questions, and recommend some useful books and websites. Please come back to check it out.
Read the whole series
This post is part of a series on Training disciples to stand. Check out all the topics here.