An Evangelistic Encounter
I stood on the porch, to my right was an elderly lady from our church in her 70s and my Dad. Just in front of me to the left was another lady, likely in the age group of 35-40. I was engaged in sharing the Gospel with her, and my counterparts were listening. I saw the door behind her open, a man walked outside, roughly around 40, normal build with a stubble beard and haircut. He took a glare at me, sat down in his chair, grabbed a cigarette, and seemingly puffed the smoke in my direction. He was sitting with a menacing look on his face, I felt as if he was trying to intimidate me somehow, my Dad told me later he had the same feeling. As I shared the Gospel, I calculated in my mind that this man was certainly hostile to Christianity, my gut said he was either an atheist or agnostic, and I was intrigued to see if my guess would turn out to be correct.
What ensued after that point was an hour-long conversation that was . . . well quite interesting. After I finished sharing the Gospel, I found out that my hunch about the man was correct, he in fact, did identify as an atheist. Although, about halfway through our conversation, he ended up making a reversal and decided to become an agnostic. After a couple of points in our discussion, he felt foolish for saying that there is no God. One powerful and essential lesson that has stuck with me from that day is the validity of apologetics. Now, what does that word “apologetics” mean? It comes from the Greek word apologia, which means to give a defense. Cornelius Van Til defined apologetics in this way, “Apologetics is the vindication of the Christian philosophy of life against the various forms of the non-Christian philosophy of life.” So, essentially in apologetics, we understand Christianity based on the Scripture, see other worldviews that do not align accordingly, and then engage them full-on for the defense and proclamation of the Gospel. This task is one that must be undertaken by individuals who know their Bible well, and comprehend how to articulate the truths therein.
Understanding Rightly and Defending Bravely
However, my goal in this post is not to tell you how to answer seven different arguments an atheist, agnostic, catholic, new age, or mormon individual may bring up against you in an evangelistic conversation. My intent is to trumpet the fact that you must know what you believe based on the Bible and understand how to communicate that truth. First, we are told this in 1 Peter 3:15, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” so here we see that we are told to give a reason, that is an “apologia” for the hope that we have as Christians. We are to be prepared and have a knowledge of the faith to share with others and answer their questions.
Now, notice what I am saying here, I am saying that you must have an understanding of biblical Christianity, I did not say that you have to understand all of the intricacies of every other religion and philosophical position to be able to take up apologetics. I simply said that you need to know the Word rightly! Certainly, studying specific worldviews is helpful in understanding how to engage people from that ideology. But, in reality, if you understand Christianity thoroughly, it is not overly difficult to find where someone’s line of thought goes astray and is outright illogical. I do encourage individuals to study false viewpoints, but knowing the truth is paramount. I’ll give you an illustration, one person might say this, “I think that all of the different worldviews and ideologies are correct!” A simple response would be, “so you believe the atheist who says there is no God and the Christian who says there is one true Triune God are both correct at the same time?” I did not need to have an intricate knowledge of atheism to show the lack of validity in this viewpoint, nor did I go into that viewpoint with detail, though I might if the situation dictated. However, I simply showed the individual the fallacy of their statement and the lack of reasoning behind it.
Ultimately, being able to do apologetics is as simple as being saturated in the Word of God. Different arguments for the existence of God are helpful, understanding other worldviews can be insightful, but it really comes down to rightly knowing the truths of Scripture, being able to ask good questions, comprehending biblical commands for defending the faith, and seeing a simple lack of logic in the statements of others. Deeper study in the area of apologetics is helpful, and I would encourage you to read men who have been great defenders of the faith like Van Til, Greg Bahnsen, Voddie Baucham, James White, and others.1 Focus on knowing the Word and going out and proclaiming the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Think critically about what others say, and ask them to clarify what they mean, and be certain to define what you mean throughout the conversation. Know the depths of Scripture, apply it rightly so that you may be able to refute erroneous views and proclaim the truth of the Gospel to unbelievers. Assert a full Christian worldview against the false philosophies of this world for the glory of Christ!
1 Here are some great resources you can check out for learning apologetics (none of these are affiliate links):
The Ultimate Proof of Creation by Dr. Jason Lisle
Always Ready by Greg Bahnsen
Christian Apologetics by Dr. Cornelius Van Til
Expository Apologetics by Dr. Voddie Baucham
The Antithesis podcast by Dr. Owen Strachan
Alpha and Omega Ministries
This blog post: Presuppositional Apologetics | Biblical Science Institute