The heart of apologetics is giving an answer to that coworker who asks how you can believe in God when there is so much evil and suffering in the world. It is making a defense of the Scriptures when your classmate challenges the reliability of the Bible. It is explaining to your neighbor that Christianity is all about the words and works of Jesus Christ, not going to church and being a nice person.
Many Christians feel that such conversations are beyond their abilities, but that is simply not true. 1 Peter 3:15-16 commands us all to prepare to give a defense for their faith. With a little bit of training and preparation, any believer can begin to answer those who challenge the truth of the gospel.
Many people feel that they must answer every challenge raised against the Christian faith. If an unbeliever asks how he can believe in something he can’t see, the Christian feels that he must come up with a good answer. This is where the thought of apologetics scares many people. The average believer is not a philosopher, so what can he say?
Rather than seek to answer the challenge head-on, a believer should respond by asking questions. A good question reveals the presuppositions of the challenger. If someone asks, “How can you believe in something you can’t see?” they are assuming that believing in something invisible is irrational. A Christian should not feel on the defensive in such a situation. Rather, he should ask questions that reveal that the challenger: 1) already himself believes in invisible things, and 2) therefore the question is really about which invisible things have enough evidence to believe in.
A response might look like this:
Unbeliever: “How can you believe in something you can’t see?”
Believer: “Don’t you believe in some things you can’t see?”
U: “No, I only believe in things I can see.”
B: “Why do you think that believing only in what you see is rational?”
U: “Because you can’t know something if you can’t see it”
B: “Do you believe in the laws of logic?”
U: “Of course! The laws of logic are what determine what is rational.”
B: “Can you see them anywhere in the universe?”
U: “No, I guess not.”
B: “In fact there are many things we believe that we can’t see. We believe that memories are real, but we can’t see them. We believe that the scientific method helps us discover facts in the natural world, but we don’t find the scientific method in nature anywhere. In fact, your belief that it is only rational to believe in what you can see is not based on anything visible. As a result, it is a religious belief, not a scientific one. So, as it turns out, it is perfectly rational to believe in some things that cannot be seen. The real question is what evidence is there that God exists. As it turns out, the evidence for God is everywhere, so let’s talk about that.”
As you can see, with just a few questions, the believer has defused the challenge and turned the tables on the challenger. This is called the presuppositional approach. Before it answers challenges to the Christian faith it seeks to show that: 1) the unbeliever’s own position cannot satisfy the demands he is making on the Christian faith, 2) the unbeliever’s position is irrational and contradictory, and 3) the Christian faith can satisfy any legitimate challenge posed against it.
In Part 2 we’ll see how to respond to other challenges by asking good questions.