By Forest Antemesaris
Posted By: Dean Meadows
Everyone wants to know what the easy path to success is. The truth is, in the realm of apologetics, there aren’t really any knockout arguments. That’s not because there aren’t any good arguments for Christianity. Rather, everyone you engage with is at a different place, may see different strengths in different arguments, or might not even care. Even the best apologetic argument won’t phase someone who has already decided that they’ll never be convinced.
So, if there are secret ingredients to success in apologetics, what is it? It’s not an argument, it’s an attitude. If we want to be successful in defending the faith, we must maintain the right attitude. Otherwise, no matter our arguments and eloquence, it will all be for naught.
1. Don’t Forget 1 Peter 3:15b
First Peter 3:15 is the famous apologetics key verse of summer camp infamy. You know it by heart probably: “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” (ESV).
While we rightfully focus on the “always being prepared to make a defense” part, we cannot forget to do so “with gentleness and respect.” In fact, the oft-neglected context of First Peter 3:15 is discussing righteous suffering when slandered. Even when our friendly neighborhood antagonistic atheist slanders us, makes fun of our faith, etc., we must always remain respectful and gentle. Then, “those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Pet. 3:16).
2. Wise with Time and Seasoned with Salt
Amidst the inspired Paul’s final recorded instructions to the Colossians we read, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:5-6 ESV).
In the context of apologetics, walking in wisdom and making the best use of time includes both living consistently with our claims and not getting bogged down in the weeds of non-productive or ugly conversations. Going along with that, we need to remember to always have gracious speech. We need to be mindful about our speech—even in heated moments. We must remember that we don’t stop being a Christian to be an apologist. Our apologetics is a subset of our Christianity and should be permeated with the spirit of Christ.
3. Look to Jesus
Remember why you’re defending the faith in the first place. It’s not to simply win an argument or get a zinger in on a pesky Facebook troll. It’s to give a reason for our own hope and hopefully help one more soul to embrace the savior who died for them. Jesus was mistreated, reproached, spat upon, mocked, and slandered. Sometimes, when we are defending him it won’t be a walk in the park. We may be mistreated, mocked, etc. In these moments we have to remember that Jesus is the one who, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:23).
The secret ingredients in successful apologetics went a long way with me when I was atheist. When I gave Christians a valid reason to lash out at me and they didn’t, it made me think. And, after a while, it softened my heart and made me more open to reason together with them. Arguments matter, but attitude is key.