Apologetics and the Layman

What does the person in the pew have to do with apologetics? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday, I wrote on why churches need apologetics. Unfortunately, I realize some readers are in areas where they cannot find churches that meet this need and will have to go it on their own. Why is it that the layman in the pew needs some training in apologetics? Let’s give some examples.

Tim is at work and is at the water cooler on his break when Bob comes up to him. Tim decides he’s going to share his faith in Jesus with Bob. His church has been doing a big series on evangelism and getting out there and sharing the Bible. Tim tells Bob about how Jesus came from Heaven, died, and rose again. Bob listens and says “I don’t follow copycats.” “What are you talking about?”, Tim asks. “Well,” Bob says. “If you’ll do some checking, you’ll find that Dionysus, Osiris, Attis, Mithra, and several others in antiquity did the exact same thing. You can also find books like Graves’s “The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors.”

Tim doesn’t know what to think. He goes home and gets on the internet that night and finds several web sites that say exactly what Bob said. He goes on Amazon and sees the book that Bob talked about. Well someone wrote a book and surely this is an educated author. Has Tim been misled all along?

Jake is on a business trip away from his wife and kids for a time and is having to stay at a hotel. Some of his co-workers tell him to come down to the local club with him for an evening. Jake tells them that he’s not really thirsty. They inform him that at this club, there are also going to be several strippers and he could have a really good time. Why not come? Jake tells them that he is married. They reply that he’s away from his home and his family will never know. Jake then tells them he just thinks sex is for a husband and wife. They tell him he can think that, strange as it is to them, but he’s not having sex. He’s just watching. What’s the harm? Jake says he doesn’t feel right about it. At this, he is laughed at by his friends, some ask if he is secretly gay, and they tell him what a prude he is.

Jake is confused as he closes the door and lies on his bed channel surfing and thinking about it. He knows the biblical mandate on sexuality, but why is he observing it when it is costing him so much? He doesn’t really know. He’s been told what not to do but not why. Besides, is this the kind of impression he wants to give to his co-workers? How willing are they going to be to listen to his Christianity when they think that it is all a joke?

Susan is a happy housewife with three beautiful children. Steven is 17. Mary is 12. Nathan is 5. She has been out enjoying her day and she comes back in from shopping with her friends to find out that there is a message on her answering machine. She listens and her face turns white. Steven had been out driving and there was an accident. A drunk driver hit him head-on. He is at the hospital. She drops everything and rushes over.

Susan is quite late however even though she came as soon as she could. She gets to hold her son, but the doctor tells her to say her good-byes. She prays, but nothing seems to happen. Steven dies as she hugs him. In tears, she goes to see her pastor. Her pastor tells her that everything that happens is God’s will and that it is just a mystery.

Susan leaves in tears. What kind of God has she been serving if he is willing to kill her son?

John is at work and is going through inventory. His manager comes to him and tells him to not record the goods that are damaged. They’ll lose money on it. Instead, treat them as if they’re just fine. John says that would be lying. He cannot do that. He is a Christian. His manager says “I understand, but I hope you also understand that I have to hire and keep around here people who are loyal to the company.”

Sherry is out with her friends talking about their husbands and one lady remarks about the same-sex couple that just moved in next door to her. Sherry remarks that she thinks marriage is only between a man and a woman. Her friend looks at her stunned and says “Are you some kind of bigot or something?” Sherry answers “I just think homosexuality is wrong.” “Why?” “Because the Bible says so.” “The Bible also says it’s wrong to eat shellfish and to wear mixed fabrics. Yet here we are having seafood and I bet your clothing is made of mixed material and you have no objections to that. Do you just pick and choose every time what you want to believe?”

Sherry doesn’t know what to say. Has she just been arbitrary? Most homosexuals she’s meet have been really good people. Is it really that big of a deal?

Edward and his wife Karen have just had a really big argument. Edward knows that many of the guys he works with have had the same kind of situation. Many of them are single now as well. He is told by them that he shouldn’t have to put up with the way Karen treats him. Just leave her and move on. Divorce is no big deal. Edwards knows that the Bible condemns divorce, but he’s just told that that was then. Times are different now. He needs to get with the modern age.

The cases could be multiplied. Many of us know of such examples. Especially when it comes to the problem of evil we can see more and more cases where that happens. Yes. I have heard of numerous pastors who have said that a tragedy that strikes is “God’s will.” We all know about the pastors who have gone on TV and said the same about national disasters being a judgment. No doubt, some are saying that about Hurricane Sandy right now.

If you are not getting a proper diet from your pastor of apologetics, and do not have a church in the area that will give it, then it is up to you to make sure you take care of yourself.

What are you supposed to do after all? You are a person with a full-time job. You have a family! You have kids! You also want to have time alone with your spouse, you want to enjoy your hobbies in life, you want to be with your friends. You can’t go off to school or spend all your time in study. You do not have it in you to be a full-time apologist.

That’s fine.

Really. It is.

Not everyone is meant for full-time apologetics, but you need some of it. Consider it with diet and exercise. You may not have time to learn how to be a fitness guru or a personal trainer, but you can do little things throughout the day to make sure that you have sufficient diet and exercise. You can avoid that extra candy bar at work. You can go and walk a mile around your neighborhood when you get home. You can make sure that you sleep well and go to bed at the proper time.

Here are some of my suggestions.

Get some good books that will familiarize you with the scholarly material. I recommend “Case for Christ” as the starting point. A number of apologists are now writing books for the layman. These include books like William Lane Craig’s “On Guard.” Some books are compilations with articles by several people in the field to give you a good and broad look at various issues under discussion.

In the age of the internet, make sure you are using good resources. Do not use sources like Wikipedia. If you go on YouTube, make sure you know who it is you are checking out. If you are viewing something like J.P. Moreland giving a talk on objective morality, that is something more reliable. If you are viewing a teenager in their parents’ house giving a talk on why Jesus never existed, that is more questionable. Of course, a teenager can be right, and I know many educated ones, but you want to sift through the arguments carefully.

In our digital age, we can get information pretty much anywhere. What about that commute to work? Consider instead of listening to music on the radio, listening to a podcast. If you go on ITunes, you can find several podcasts on apologetics. Furthermore, if you go to ITunes University, you can listen to podcasts from Seminaries where you can hear scholars give you information on theology, the Old Testament, the New Testament, church history, etc.

Maybe you don’t have an IPod, IPhone, or a similar device. That’s fine. Go to your local library and try to find a series on CD like Portable Professor or Modern Scholar and listen to them on your drive to and from work.

Try to take some time out for that book reading. If the Mrs. wants to go to bed early, I will often get out the booklight and just enjoy my reading. That can be some of my best time as it is quiet and there is no interruption from anything. After all, nothing else can be on or else it might wake her up. You might have to sacrifice some time, such as time watching TV, but no one is telling you to move into an ivory tower.

If you can, do some internet discussion. Don’t be afraid to put ideas out there and see what other people are saying. You can get your tail kicked from time to time. That’s fine. It could just show you where you need to study.

Also, try to find other people who want to do similar study with you. If the church will not establish a small group for you, then you do it on your own. If numerous people study different topics, you can share your findings with one another and reach conclusions that way so you can all benefit from one another’s study.

As you can see, there are numerous things you can do. However, the examples show that it is important. Without an informed Christianity, you are set to be caught flat-footed at any moment and you do not want that. None of us want to be embarrassed, especially for our Christianity. Remember if people see your Christianity as shameful, they will see Christ the same way. Be your best to be a witness for Him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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4 Responses to “Apologetics and the Layman”

  1. apologianick Says:

    For all concerned, a comment from an obsessed individual was deleted.

  2. Neu Hoover Says:

    Nick, I stumbled across your blog while researching something else and found this post interesting. Having been a Christian for 40 year, with a devout family and friends, a father who was a minister, and me growing up in the church, leading and teaching and spending over 15 years steeped in apologetics, I eventually “learned too much” in all my studies, become a disbeliever about 4 years ago and am now an atheist.

    Yes, I too encourage your readers to study study study if they want — but recommending “Case for Christ”, one of the dumbest apologetics books (if it can even be called that) is shameful. You can do better than that, can’t you? It would be better for your readers to instead start with C S Lewis (Mere Christianity), Geisler (such as I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist), RC Sproul (Defending Your Faith), Ravi Zacharius (Jesus Among Other gods, or A Shattered Visage), maybe even the droll William Lane Craig (God? or Reasonable Faith). They may want to read related books such as Fred Heeren’s Show Me God and Strobel’s Case for a Creator or Collins The Language of God. Maybe listen to a podcast like Craig’s Reasonable Faith. There are lots others they can read that seem to bolster the case for God and for Christianity. Your readers should think critically about long-held beliefs and the apologetics arguments. Evaluate them critically. Apply those arguments to Islam instead, or Mormonism, and see if they work just as well (does that make you uncomfortable?). I found that the more I learned about my faith the more questions I had and the more uncomfortable I became.

    After they’ve spent all that time getting REALLY well-versed in Christian Apologetics, and I mean really well-versed, they are now ready to continue their studies and start reading what the other side has to say. Read books such as John W Loftus Why I Became an Atheist as well as The Christian Delusion, Horsley’s Bandits, Prophets and Messiahs, Jenkins’ Jesus Wars, Ehrman’s God’s Problem or Jesus: Interrupted, Robert M Price’s The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man or Jesus is Dead, Karen Armstrong’s The Case for God, Wade’s The Faith Instinct, Daniels Why I Believed. For good measure add Dawkin’s The God Virus and Harris’ The End of Faith. Maybe listen to a podcast like Reasonable Doubts. There are tons others, and I’ve left out the drier not-easy-for-the-layperson-to-understand-and-finish authors. But you get the idea. Think long and hard about what they say, not reading them just looking for holes or ways to dismiss them, but read them critically.

    If your readers come out the other end of this exhaustive research period a devout Christian, I’d be shocked. So many of us who go down this road of study to defend our Christian faith spill out the other side as disbelievers. And why wouldn’t we? Think of the Muslim who really studies their faith and thinks critically about it — wouldn’t you expect them to come out the other end a disbeliever? How about a Mormon? How about a Jehovah’s Witness. You see my point.

    Anyways, happy hunting and studying. I wish you and your readers well. May you find the truth.

  3. apologianick Says:

    Hi Neu. Thanks for commenting. I do stand by Case For Christ. If you’d like to discuss this further, I do recommend coming to TheologyWeb.com and seeing me in the Deeper Waters section for better debate. We have read through Loftus there. Loftus was once even a member there and is a prime example of emotional atheism. In fact, this blog has a review of his book.

    You do sound like an atheist we can have a more reasonable conversation with, and that rarely happens.

  4. The Problem of Conversion | Deeper Waters Says:

    […] apologetics is a necessity for the “relevant” church today such as found here, here, here, here, here, and here. This is just a snippet of it […]

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