This blog focuses on the sixth “commandment” for doing good apologetics.
6. Avoid Distractions: Apologists encounter two varieties of distractions.
Lifestyle: Unless the unbeliever makes it an issue, don’t get distracted by a person’s lifestyle. Apologetics deals with intellectual obstacles, not moral issues. That a man or woman are living together out of wedlock should not prevent us from sharing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Nor should we let it interfere with an apologetic discussion.
I was once discussing this particular point in a class when one of my students raised her hand and asked, “I have a relative who is a homosexual. Every time I witness to him, we eventually come to this issue, and I just can’t get beyond it. What do I do?”
My answer was to go around it. God will deal with moral issues once a person sees their need to become a Christian. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts people of sin (John 16:8). He will show unbelievers' those areas in their lives that need to be changed—and then empower them to make the necessary changes—once He calls them into the family of Christ.
Sanctification is a process that begins after we’re saved—it’s not a requirement before we’re saved. A past life of sin is not an obstacle to faith, but our condemnation and threats of divine punishment can be. Jesus came to heal the “sick” (sinners) not the healthy (Mark 2:17). One would not need Christ if he or she weren’t a sinner.
Peripheral Issues: The second distraction to avoid when engaging in apologetic discussions is peripheral issues—issues that are not apologetic in nature or do not further the cause of evangelism. Some unbelievers like to argue just for the sake of arguing and are unwilling to critically examine the decisive issues: Who is Jesus Christ? Is salvation only through Him? Is the Bible true? These people characteristically interrupt, change the subject, wander off on ridiculous rabbit trails, or ask a question but won’t let you answer it before they jump to another question.
A favorite tactic is to argue over some inane matter that has nothing to do with whether Christianity is true or not, such as the death penalty. Christians involved in cult evangelism frequently encounter this ploy. In order to avoid discussing relevant issues, many cultists prefer to argue over soul sleep, blood atonement, or some other irrelevant dogma.
How do we respond to these individuals? By controlling the conversation. Keep them on tract by constantly returning to the issue at hand. Try to move the conversation to “who is Jesus Christ.” Point out that you are willing to listen to them, but they in turn must give you the same respectful attention—or there is no use continuing the discussion. Insist they let you respond to one issue before they raise another one. If they try to dominant the conversation, point out that a conversation is two-sided or it’s a lecture. Again, control the conversation.
Next week we’ll see how to apply evangelistic and missionary techniques in apologetic encounters. I develop all ten “commandments” more fully in my book, Engaging the Closed Minded. By the way, if you would like to receive automatic notices of blog postings, click on “subscribe” at the bottom of my blog page. I’ve been told that Foxfire works better than Google when using links. (c)