Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Ten Commandments of Apologetics--Part One

I’m sure many of you have learned the hard way—as I did—that possessing apologetic knowledge and the ability to answer the tough questions are not enough.  It’s equally important that we be able to apply this knowledge effectively; that is, be able to engage unbelievers in a way that they will listen, understand, and consider.

In this and the following five blogs, I’ll lay out the "dos" and "don'ts" of good apologetics.  On the "do" side are the principles of sound apologetics tactics. On the "don't" side are the pitfalls of poor apologetics--things to avoid. All together they provide the ground rules of effective apologetic evangelism.

I call these principles the “Ten Commandments of Apologetics,” and they were originally published (in fuller detail) in my book, Engaging the Closed Minded; Presenting Your Faith to the Confirmed Unbeliever (Kregel Publications, 1999).

1.         Gospel first, apologetics second: Whenever possible try to start a witnessing encounter with the Gospel—which is what unbelievers must ultimately hear in order to be saved. It is wrong to assume that every unbeliever harbors intellectual objections to Christianity. Hence, not every witnessing situation requires an apologetic defense (or offense). If the unbeliever responds to the Gospel, forget apologetics and continue to share the “good news” of Jesus Christ. Confirm the Gospel by sharing your personal testimony, demonstrating the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit in your own life.

Often, however, you may have to earn the opportunity to share the Gospel. In many encounters with unbelievers, you’ll find yourself responding to challenges or answering questions concerning issues far removed from the Gospel, and the plan of salvation will have to come later. In such cases, apologetics becomes pre-evangelism—a tool to pave the way for a Gospel presentation. But remember that the goal of all apologetics is to lead an unbeliever to Jesus Christ.

2.         Stay with the essentials:   Most non-Christians know little about the Bible or what Christians believe, and what they think they know is often in error. When sharing the Gospel, avoid theological subjects that will be confusing to unbelievers, such as eschatology or predestination. Likewise, avoid in-house debatable issues, such as speaking in tongues or method of baptism. Similarly (if you can), don’t get hung up on controversial issues, such as the age of the earth.  We should never muddy the waters of good evangelism with topics Christian may rightfully disagree on. Of course if the unbeliever raises an issue that he or she is genuinely concerned about, we need to respond appropriately. The apostle Paul gives a good summary of the essentials in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. In a word, the essentials always revolve around the person and work of Jesus Christ.

3.         Remember your goal:  The goal of apologetics is to identify and remove obstacles that prevent a person from seriously considering Christianity as a world and life view—and Jesus Christ as personal Savior. The impulse for many new students of apologetics is to rush out and confront everyone you know and challenge their misbeliefs (especially family members or friends who may have tripped you in the past). But keep in mind that apologetics is not an excuse to argue, and we should never force apologetics on someone or create illegitimate reasons to use it. Often a person’s “obstacle” is not intellectual at all. It may have been a bad experience in church or with a hypocritical Christian. It may be an emotional struggle or the loss of a loved one, resulting in anger at God. Whatever the issue is, we respond accordingly. Often Christian love and understanding is all that is needed.(c)
I hope these first three “commandments” are helpful. Next week we’ll look at several more.

Dan Story


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Do Christians Deserve Respect--The Bloggers Comments

In the last two blogs, you’ve read the responses of fifteen non-Christians to the question, “Do Christian Deserve Respect.” This blog was posted by visiting blogger, apologist Gary Zacharias. You can follow Gary’s own blog at I encourage you to check it out; he has other great insights to share.
In this third blog, Gary offers a few comments on the responses:

In the previous post, I listed a number of responses from people who were asked what they respected (or didn't respect) about Christians. Their responses gave me a peek into how today's society views Christians. As the old joke starts out, there was some good news and some bad.

The good news was that people respond when Christians live the life that Jesus commanded. Those who wrote about Christians were impressed when they saw love, respect for others, a willingness to hear the other person, and an attempt to maintain friendships despite religious differences. I was pleasantly surprised to hear how impressed the writers were when Christians approached them using logic. For too long we have circled the wagons in our Christians bastions and failed to vigorously contend for the faith, using apologetics (a rational defense of the faith). We have so much rationality on our side--logic, history, archeology, textual criticism, manuscript evidence, and scientific discoveries stretching from the outer reaches of the cosmos down to the incredible cell. I'm glad some are employing these tools as they interact with the world.

On the other hand, there was some bad news. Writers complained about a lack of respect among Christians, a lack of humility, a closed-mindedness, and hypocrisy. Some of this may simply be because Christians say they know the truth, which is unpopular today. But there are ways we can present our position without coming across so negatively. Greg Koukl, a popular Christian radio show host, writer, and speaker, puts it in a good way--we are to act as ambassadors for Christ, demonstrating knowledge, wisdom, and character. Today's postmodernist world wants to see how Christians live and how they treat others before they will respond to our message. That seems fair to me.

Gary Zacharias

I’ll share some of Gary’s other blogs in the future. For my next two blog, however, I’ll share “The Ten Commandments of Apologetics,” which were originally published in my book, Engaging the Closed Minded; Presenting Your Faith to the Confirmed Unbeliever (Kregel Publications, 1999). I think you’ll find then helpful as guiding principles for “doing” apologetics the right way. That is, in a fashion that encourages the unbeliever to give us a fair hearing.
Dan Story

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Do Christians Deserve Respect--Part Two

In my last blog, I invited apologist Gary Zacharias to share the results of a question he Googled, "Has anyone met a Christian he/she actually respected?" Last week I focused on the negatives responses—those shortcoming we Christians need to be aware of when we dialogue with unbelievers. In this blog, Gary relates the (mostly) positive responses—what we’re doing right in our dialogue with non-Christians, which earn their respect.

“One of my roommates was studying to be a pastor and he has a degree in Theology. I respect him greatly. He is a great source of information. He is accepting of others, supporting gay marriage and respecting the separation of church and state. He doesn't spend his time judging or preaching.”  

“My best friend is also a Christian and she is also very accepting of others. She supports gay marriage. She knows and respects that I'm an atheist. She doesn't spend her time judging or preaching either. Being a Christian doesn't mean that someone isn't worthy of respect.”

[Note:  I don’t think these first two comments should be interpreted to mean the believers endorse gay marriage. The point is that the non-Christian did not hear condemnation.  In evangelism and apologetics, we don’t raise obstacles, we let the unbeliever do that—and then, of course, we respond in love accordingly.]

“One of my best friends is Christian, and he's pretty cool. We don't always agree, but he's always willing to have a friendly debate with me. Trick is, when we're done debating, we're DONE, and move on to another topic of conversation. He does drop the 'my God is totally awesome' hints every once in a while, but I understand that it's part of his religion to proselytize and that it kinda comes with the territory. I respect him a great deal for not only what he's been through in his life and how he's handled it, but how good of friend he's been to me and our other friends.. . .” (I put this person’s negative response in in the last blog.)

“How they treat others, their sense of personal responsibility and their values are things that I respect. I have met many Christians, many atheists and many fellow agnostics who possess these qualities. You don't need to be religious or non religious to be respectable. You just need to be a decent human being... maybe with a sense of humor!”

“One is a friend from high school. We graduated a year apart several years ago and were roommates a couple times. We can have discussions on everything from the origins of life to regular this and thats. We can always respectfully disagree without getting preachy or pissed off. And the other is a friend of mine from college that is probably the most compassionate Christian I've ever met. Tolerant and open minded every step of the way. As a matter of fact if she wasn't so religious I think we'd be a couple by now. I love that girl but her Jesus love is too much for me in that respect. So yes it's possible but most are close minded, backward thinking bigots as far as I'm concerned.”

“Not in person, but in this forum, I've encountered one or two [Christians]. The one I remember was extremely knowledgeable regarding his religion, used logic (!) to make his points, rather than emotion or irrelevant bible quotes, and just generally impressed me as a person who had arrived at his faith rationally, rather than by indoctrination.

“A persons religion doesn't matter that much to me. If they have a good attitude and good character (honest, sincere, positive) then they are a good person no matter what.”

“This is basically a circumstance about being open minded to other people's matter how outlandish they may seem. For me though, the ones I respect the most are the christians that respect their own values, while at the same time not pushing them on others...If you wanna be a "holy roller", thats fine, but don't push your religion on me.”

“The ones I've known, care for the poor, care about the youth, care to reach out to those whom the world looks down upon, long suffering, kind, patient, self controlled, the list goes on. True christians are very loving people.”

“Yes. D. W. He is such a respectful person, and he listens and responds to any doubts that I have about the existence of God, rather than just spouting out bible verses and judging me. He is the ONLY christian that I talk to about religion.”

Next week I’ll share Gary’s thoughts on both the positive and negative comments posted in this and last week’s blog. I believe there are some lessons we Christians can learn in terms of how we communicate with non-Christians, who are often totally ignorant of true Christianity and have stereotypical assumptions on what we believe, how we think, and how we behave. In particular, I hope you noticed how “postmodern” many of the responses were—Dan.

Gary Zacharias is a college English professor, married with two sons and two grandchildren, and is currently co-teaching a class on apologetics at Emmanuel Faith Community Church in Escondido, California. Check out Gary’s blog at He has other great insights to share.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Do Christians Deserve Respect?

I invited fellow blogger Gary Zacharias, who has an apologetic ministry, to share an insightful—and convicting—blog that reveals we Christians may have some work to do in order to earn the respect of non-Christians. It also reveals what non-Christians respect about Christians. Gary got fifteen responses to the following Googled question: “Has anyone met a Christian he/she actually respected?” 

In this blog, I’ve selected the more negative responses—those shortcoming we Christians need to be aware of when we dialogue with unbelievers. In my next blog, Gary will share the positive points that encourage respect for non-Christians. In Gary’s own words:

I came across a powerful insight the other day:

The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians -- when they are somber and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug and complacent, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths.

I then googled "Has anyone met a Christian he/she actually respected?" The answers were fascinating. I've gathered several for you to read and think about
Here goes:

“I respect all Christians. It's their religion that I do not care for. 99% of the people I know are Christian. Since I have become an atheist, there is one characteristic in them that I have found to be sorely lacking: respect for me in return, even though we disagree. Christians have responded with statements/questions such as, "You're going to feel really bad if something happens to Vin [my son]", "What if you're wrong? You know you'll go to hell, right?" "Really? I actually thought you were a pretty decent person [yeah, I got mad over that one].", and, my least favorite, "Don't tell anybody....they'll think you're crazy!”

“I think what I dislike about the stereotypical American Christian is the lack of humility, the lack of tolerance (despite what Jesus commands in the bible), the arrogance, and the lack of intellectual pursuit of truth.”

“. . . Here are some traits that would cause me not to respect a Christian: I've met Christians who are overbearing, don't want to listen, or decide I'm stupid or silly right off the bat because I don't believe their 'truth'. Then there's the ever so popular condescending approach. And the fire-and-brimstone, 'burn in hell you rat bastard atheist scum' version.” [I’ll put this person positive suggestions in my next blog—Dan]

“The first thing I hate about most Christians is their lack of broad mindedness, They have confined themselves to the belief that the christian way is the only way. Yes I have met Christians that are my good friends and family, and it's their humble nature and open mindedness and ability to understand deeper things that I respect and cherish them for.”

“I usually make friends with the rocker christain type, and they are not one of those christains who freak out about everything.. example.. they are not aloud to watch harry potter or read it cuz of the so called "witch craft" .. honestly, thats just tooo far.”

“I have met Christians I respect, I have met Jews I respect, I have met Muslims I respect. etc. I am not ignorant to the point of judging someone for their beliefs, its the attitude they exhibit that is the final criteria I use.”

“I just don't like christians that feel the need to proselytize, or the ones that act "holier than thou" , or the phonies that say what great christians they are and then fool around on their spouse, etc. (hypocrites) Otherwise, most christians are okay people.

Gary Zacharias is a college English professor, married with two sons and two grandchildren, and is currently co-teaching a class on apologetics at Emmanuel Faith Community Church in Escondido, California. Check out Gary’s blog at He has other great insights to share. 

Next week we’ll see what these non-Christians say we’re doing right, and Gary’s comments—Dan .