Why the Apologist Should Be the First to Ask Questions

Hope While Suffering

Undoubtedly, the most referenced apologetics verse I have seen is 1 Peter 3:15.  “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (NIV).

photo credit: Nina Matthews Photography via photopin cc
photo credit: Nina Matthews Photography via photopin cc

In many instances, this verse has been plucked out of the context in which it was intended to be read.  The focus is toward having well-reasoned answers to questions about or objections against Christianity. Why I agree that this verse does instruct us to be prepared, what was Peter’s original audience facing that would prompt him to write those words?

The terms harm, suffer, threats and frightened appear in verses 13 and 14.  In other parts of the letter, Peter tells his readers that they will face trials.  It was in the midst of those trials, when the Christians were suffering for doing what was right, that Peter was encouraging them to revere Christ as Lord.  Just as it was then, Christ’s followers today are called to live in a manner different from the world around us.  We have an eternal hope that supersedes the afflictions we face in our time-bound lives.  As we act in reverence to our Lord during our struggles, we shall also be ready to tell everyone why we remain hopeful through difficulty.

We Need to Ask Questions

During “religious” conversations with people I don’t know well, I often hear that all gods are basically the same, why organized religion is evil, or how the church is all about coercing people to give money. Instead of going on the offensive, trying to show these people how they are wrong in their views, I like to ask questions to help me understand the why behind what they think.

questions photo credit: sjsharktank via photopin cc
questions photo credit: sjsharktank via photopin cc

Many times I am able to identify with the problems, disappointments and intellectual struggles these people have because I have had similar experiences as well.  When we show people that we care about them by listening to their hurts, their experiences, and their disappointment with God, we are building relationships.  I don’t want to dismiss these experiences, but rather by letting people express their thoughts and feelings without condemning them, we may have to opportunity to earn their trust. Once we are trusted, our message may be more readily received.

Giving Reasons for Hope is for Everyone

Apologetics gets a reputation of being difficult, intimidating, and reserved for intellectuals that spend their time crafting philosophical arguments to prove Christianity to be true.  While it is true that there are apologists that spend time thinking, writing and debating, the heart of apologetics cannot be practiced absent of relationships with people.  Without love for people, having answers to difficult questions and arguments for every objection against Christianity won’t persuade anyone to consider faith in Christ.

Every day, each of us has opportunities to be God’s ambassador. When we share the message of Jesus with our hearts and our actions, we will be given opportunity to use our words to give the reason for the hope that we have.

Question: Is there a time when you were willing to listen to someone’s point of view because of the interest they had previously shown in you? How do you think Christians would be received by non-believers if we showed compassion and understanding instead of self-righteousness and condemnation?

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3 thoughts on “Why the Apologist Should Be the First to Ask Questions

  1. Two passages of Scripture come to my mind in response to / support of this “relational approach” to apologetics:
    1) In 1st Corinthians 13, it states that even if I could speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but I do not have love, I am as easy to listen to as a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. That’s not going to win over anybody very easily. Likewise, I could have all knowledge and be able to explain away all mysteries, but without love, I gain nothing.
    2) In 1st Corinthians 2:4,5 Paul desires that their faith should not rest on the (persuasive words and the) wisdom of men, but on the power of God. I can deeply relate to someone I am trying to share with, but I cannot “talk” anybody into heaven. However, seeing God do what only He can do – change someone’s heart and mind – that is truly amazing!
    – B

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