8 - a. Know What You Believe (Defensive Apologetics)
The Lord has charged us with the responsibility to evangelize the lost (Acts 1:8) and to defend our faith (1 Pet. 3:15; Jude 3). In order to do this, however, we must be able to do three things:
- We must understand and be able to explain orthodox biblical doctrine, especially the essentials of our faith (which revolve around the person and work of Jesus Christ).
- We must be able to demonstrate these doctrines from Scripture—backup what we say the Bible teaches. This requires a consistent and systematic study of the Bible.
- We must be able to defend Christian truth-claims; that is, present rational and verifiable apologetic evidences whenever necessary.
This is defensive apologetics. It entails being prepared to answer the challenges and objections unbelievers raise with regard to Christianity, as a world and life view.
8 - b. Know What Unbelievers Believe (Offensive Apologetics)
Whereas “defensive” apologetics is defending Christianity, “offensive” apologetics is challenging the unbelievers’ beliefs. This entails two steps. On the one hand, it is crucial that we know what an unbeliever believes. An analogy can be made with missions. Before a missionary goes into a foreign culture, he or she learns as much as they can about the culture: religious beliefs, the language, social customs, moral behaviors, religious and cultural taboos, and so on. Such insights help a missionary to discern the best way to initiate an evangelistic strategy.
In a similar fashion, Christian apologists must learn what unbelievers believe. This is especially necessary for apologists witnessing to non-Christian religions and Christian cults. The lesson here is to be prepared. Do your homework. Learn what you can about the religious and secular worldviews you are likely to encounter in the neighborhood, at work or school, and in social activities.
The second step is to apply an offensive apologetic tactic referred to as the “Socratic method.” It entails asking specific questions that puts the burden of proof on the unbelievers; challenges them to explain and justify their position on the issue at hand (e.g. “The Bible is unreliable because it’s been translated so many times over the centuries!” “Evolution is a fact of science!” “All religions are equal; they are just different paths to the same God!”). The idea is that once unbelievers conclude for themselves that their assumptions about Christianity (or perceptions about their own non-Christian worldview) cannot be substantiated, they will be more willing to seriously consider the Christian perspective. In a later blog, I will summarize how to employ the Socratic method—or you can read my book Engaging the Closed Minded, where I thoroughly describe this apologetic tactic. (c)