"But in your hearts set apart 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. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." ~ 1 Peter 3:15-16

Apologetics: An Interview With J.P. Moreland

The following is an excerpt from "Apologetics For A New Generation" edited by Sean McDowell (son of the man who gave us "The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict"), which I find it helpful to clarify some of the misunderstanding towards apologetics in general. In fact, I will recommend this book for all budding apologists to remain relevant and relational in the manner they provide a reason for their faith to those who ask of it. Enjoy the excerpt!

Sean McDowell: Why is it important to train people to defend their beliefs today?

J.P. Moreland: Everyone wants to have beliefs that make sense. You don't buy a house if you have absolutely no idea whatsoever if it has holes in the roof. In any decision you make in life, you at least try to look into it enough to decide whether it's a sensible decision. This shouldn't be any different with God. If we're trying to decide if we are going to give our lives for this, we should care as to whether anything can be said for it. Apologetics is a ministry of helping people overcome barriers to belief or to growing in their belief.

Sean: Does apologetics help with evangelism?

J.P.: Here is the key question: How do you develop people who have the kind of confidence and courage to abandon their whole lives to Christ, who really want to change the world, backing it up with their actions? You don't do it by having a faith that's true for me, and maybe not true for you. I challenge anyone who opts for that approach to discipleship to look and see if the people who are being nurtured in that kind of environment are radically committed to change the world for Christ and getting after it out there among the unbelieving world. On the other hand, if you find people who have received a little bit of training in defending their faith - their evangelism, their courage - they're becoming radical and counter cultural.

Sean: Can we argue people into the kingdom?

J.P.: Can you force people to become christians with an argument? No. Nothing you can do except put a gun to their heads, perhaps, would force people to become christians. But apologetics isn't about forcing people to do anything. Apologetics simply helps people find answers if they've got obstacles or difficulties in their hearts and lives.

Sean: Why do apologetics sometimes get criticized?

J.P.: First, people often misunderstand what it means to do apologetics. Many people associate apologetics with a cold, objective, didactic presentation of the facts that is meant to control what people believe. If that's what apologetics were about, you could count me out as well! This overlooks the type of reasoning of the The Chronicle of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, which is presented in story form in a very warm, passionate way. You can even engage in apologetics through presentation your own testimony while including some of the reasons you found persuasive. Second, in a culture where people are not well-educated any longer, where they know deep in their hearts that they cannot think very well of they know they really don't know why they believe what they believe, it's too painful to admit they are inadequate and need to grow. Some people also don't want to do their homework to make progress.

Sean: What happens to christians who don't know why they believe what they believe?

J.P.: They tend to retreat to a form of personal subjectivism or to a safe ground where they can't be interrogated any further. Or they will use the Bible in a way it was never intended - as a trump card. They'll say, "That's what the Bible says, and that's the end of the story." If you look in the book of Acts and observe how the apostles did evangelism, they didn't say, "Listen. Believe me. I'm an apostle. The words I'm saying are inspired by God. That settles it." Rather, they reasoned with people.