Often, when one learns apologetics they come to learn what my husband calls the $25 Words. These are terms used to express the specifics of apologetics. In fact, the very word “apologetics” is something few Christians understand that they do pretty much any time they are proclaiming the gospel to friend, neighbor, co-worker or family. Apologetics means “answer” or “reason” and functions as a way to defend our faith. It is one tool in the Evangelism toolbox all believers have.
Words like, Fideism, Presuppositionalism, Ontological Arguments, meta-narratives and the like, often confuse those who simply want to share their faith with others. While these terms should be studied and known it is not necessary to know all of this before even beginning to defend the faith or “do apologetics”.
Most of my own neighbors and friends are not into hearing about the Ontological Argument for God. (By the Way, ontology is the philosophical inquiry into the nature of real and unreal, for example: Are dreams real or simply part of our subconscious or imagination?) Instead, they usually want to know why we are out every Sunday morning on a regular basis. Where do we go? Are we in the big city shopping? So, over the last decade or so that I’ve focused my education on apologetics, I don’t hear philosophical arguments most of the time, rather, I hear a more “boots on the ground” type of questions. I suspect that is what you’ve heard too. While there are the occasional phone calls from my nephew the math wizard who questions the logistics of the universe, most questions are not in that vein.
Answering the questions of those who ask should be done in their language. I was recently chatting with a peer about speaking in the language that the hearer best understands. This particular person thought they’d summarize what I’d said by using the term “dumbing it down”. Well, this is not at all what I am saying. Rather, we simply need to speak with them in the language they are familiar with. I’m not going to talk to my neighbor’s 3-year old, when she comes to feed our chickens about the reasons for the existence of God. Instead, I will speak of God as the one who “made” the chickens, not even using the term creator just yet. However, when speaking with the engineering neighbor, that might just call for different language and you might have to say to them, “I’ll get back to you on that question.”
What does this mean for the Christian who has not had formal apologetic training? It means they too can defend the faith, as well, if not at times even better, than the one with a list of degrees after their name. It means they can get the unbeliever over various hurdles that they use as excuses not to believe and to that point where they have to either believe or go on unbelieving. What is that one point which every believer has? The Resurrection. We have been given a wonderful apologetic tool in the Bible that is about 5 verses long:
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. (1 Cor. 15:3-7)
Paul is referencing first, the Scriptures. That means he is speaking of all the Old Testament prophecies about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Second, Paul references an historical event: died, buried and rose again. To this event in history Paul then appeals to eyewitnesses. First to the apostles and then to 500 eye witnesses. To get such a number to agree on an event is remarkable. One of the challenges police have when following up on a accident or crime, is getting all the witnesses to tell them the same story. There are always variations and somewhere in that mix is the truth. Paul actually doesn’t have to do that. Instead, Paul says, Do you question the physical resurrection? We have over 500 people, most of whom are still alive, who saw Jesus after he rose from the dead. These tell the same story and he appealed, quite boldly, to these witnesses, in this letter, because they could verify what he was telling them.
Fast forward almost 2000 years and we can still appeal to this section of the Bible as evidence Jesus rose from the dead. Learning just a few facts: 1) 1 Corinthians was written within about 30 years from the resurrection 2) that no Jewish scholar, nor the Pharisees or Sadducees refuted this testimony 3) if the disciples were lying, how did they get 500+ others to lie too, enables you to show how they confirm the resurrection.
Now, I haven’t used any scholarly reasoning, rather I’ve appealed to history and these eye witnesses as well. We don’t need to use the $25 words, most of the time. Instead the simple testimony of the Bible can bring that unbeliever to the point where a decision needs to be made about Jesus. If he actually rose from the dead then everything he said about himself is true. If he didn’t then, like Paul said, we Christians are to be pitied the most of all humanity because we are fools. All we need to do is speak in a way that brings these truths to the unbeliever in a language which they understand the most. Answering their question truthfully while keeping it in their vernacular helps move them from their resistance to hopefully following Christ as their Risen Savior as well.
Now, do we sometimes need to know these terms? Absolutely. I’m not advocating dumbing down but rather speaking on their level. So, here’s a link to help familiarize believers with these terms so that they are better equipped to handle questions that may bring up these concepts. I encourage believers to do their due diligence and understand various reasons people have for rejecting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and it is a responsibility we have to be able to give a reason for the hope that is within us; a reason for our faith. Equipping ourselves is a wise decision and you may find that what you do learn and think to yourself, “Where will I ever use that?...”. ends up being a pivot point in your conversations in the not to distant future. In the meantime, a penny for your thoughts often works better than $25 words with your social circle.
*For those interested in learning more of these terms, check out: