Over the years I have spoken to several people from a variety of backgrounds about the Christian faith. When we started a Ratio Christi apologetics chapter on The Ohio State University in the Fall of 2009, I had been talking to college students about spiritual beliefs for several years. It was during my experience while doing campus outreach that I began to see the need for a stronger apologetics presence on the college campuses. Also, it should be noted that it was a debate between William Lane Craig and skeptic Robert Price in 1998 that really got me interested in apologetics.
Anyway, over the years I have taught classes, given sermons and written articles about the need for apologetics in the Church. Therefore, myself (along with other Christians who are passionate about apologetics), generally have to take some flack about apologetics. Even though apologetics is seen throughout the Bible, we are sometimes seen as exalting reason to a place that was never intended or we assume apologetics is the sole catalyst as someone’s conversion. I bring this all up because I once read Introducing Apologetics: Cultivating Christian Commitment by James Taylor. Taylor lists three kinds of people who we will encounter when doing evangelism. If anything, if we do evangelism and encounter people in these categories, we should see why we need apologetics in the Church. Taylor says when dealing with people, many people may fall into various categories such as:
1. Critics: those with criticisms of the Christian faith who are not open to the possibility of its truth. Critics need to be answered to neutralize the effects of their criticisms on seekers and doubters.
2. Seekers: people who are open to our faith but are prevented from making a commitment primarily because of honest questions about the Christian claims.
3. Doubters: are Christians who find it difficult to believe one or more tenants of the Christian faith with complete confidence. Doubters need to be restored to full Christian conviction by giving them the tools to remove their doubts.
In own experience, I run into a lot of #1′s. Many of these people read a lot of the skeptic literature online or have decided to be a disciple of Richard Dawkins, Richard Carrier, or some other famous atheist. Or, they may say they used to be a Christian or a former Christian apologist and they now have a life calling to tell the entire world how bad Christianity is for the world. Now I don’t have the time to go into the complexities of why these people got to where they are. But my point is that there are a lot of critics and it is these critics that tend to be quite evangelistic.
I also see #2′s and maybe some #3′s. I have seen people who are truly open to the claims of the Christian faith but need some of their questions answered. There are testimonies of people that have come to Christ through apologetic works. Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig and other apologist can testify of many, many, people who have been impacted by their apologetic contributions.
As far as doubters, I am convinced there are doubters all over the Church. But since the Church is not equipped to handle many forms of doubt (whether it be factual, emotional, or psychological), Christians can end up suppressing their doubts or questions. This is unhealthy and can thwart a full commitment to the Christian faith. If anything, some basics of apologetics could help these people. I have run into several college students that had doubts all throughout their youth but never got a handle on it before college. This is one reason why they tend to become agnostics or atheists during their college experience.
What’s the Point?
The reality is that if any Christian wants do obey the commands of Jesus and make disciples (Matt. 28:19), they will encounter critics, seekers, and doubters. But my question is how can we expect any Christian to be prepared to engage critics, seekers, and doubters without some basic apologetic training? If this stirs your heart, then I suggest trying to start an apologetics ministry in your church. To see how you might go about it, see the clip here with William Lane Craig. God Bless!