For the past several weeks in Sunday morning study we have been learning about apologetics. Contrary to what you may think, apologetics has nothing to do with apologizing, but really means defense. The word comes from 1 Peter 3:15: “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense (Greek: apologia) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Apologetics is really about giving a defense of our faith. It’s about explaining to non-Christians what we believe and giving them the reasons why we believe it. It’s something that every Christian is called to do.
Sometimes it can seem intimidating to talk with non-Christians about things we disagree about, but it doesn’t need to be. When we look at what 1 Peter says, we can see the three key elements of good conversations with unbelievers:
- First, we speak with gentleness and respect. When someone has a different belief than us, or if they have an objection to our beliefs, we should take the time to ask them questions to understand where they are coming from. This will help us dig deeper and see what the core ideas are behind their false beliefs.
- Second, we make a defense. If the unbeliever has misconceptions about the Bible, God, or Christianity, we can explain what Christians really believe and why. If they have false beliefs themselves, we can gently point out the problems with their ideas.
- Finally, we give a reason for the hope that is in us. We’re not here to “prove” Christianity. We’re not here to win an argument. We’re here to share the Gospel of the resurrection to eternal life with people. Apologetics and evangelism go together. Not only should we defend our faith, but we should also point people to Jesus. You can’t have one without the other.
Now when we are looking for the root ideas behind other people’s beliefs, it’s important to remember that all people have their own idols—ideas, beliefs or things that they have decided to base their lives on instead of the true God. When talking with unbelievers, we need to always be looking for these idols. Although there are a lot of different religions, spiritualities, and ideologies out there, they all fall into one of three categories: moralism, mysticism, and rationalism.
Moralism means trying to find God through being a good person. You see this way of thinking whenever people talk about being loving and accepting, or if they criticize God or Christians for being “bad people.” Mysticism means trying to find God through subjective feeling and experiences, such as when people try to experience God in nature or when they search for truth in their heart. Rationalism means trying to find God or truth through the mind, rejecting anything that doesn’t make sense.
All three of these ideas are really just variations on the basic idea of trying to reach God, truth, or ultimate reality through our own power. This is bad news for the person who believes this, since we can never be good enough, have a deep enough experience, or understand enough to reach God. The good news is that Christianity offers us a solution to these three ways of reaching God. In Christ, God has come in the flesh, so that we don’t need to try and figure God out on our own (rationalism), find Him through our feelings (mysticism), or be good enough to reach Him (moralism). Christ reveals God to us, and He was perfectly good when we were not. And so we see that faith conversations really don’t need to be that hard. It’s all about showing people their need for a Savior, and then pointing them to Jesus.