If every Christian is called to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within him, how shall we be prepared to do that? How shall we defend the Christian faith?
The answer to that has many aspects. Apologetics is a person-specific discipline. That is, no two unbelievers are alike, and we must be sensitive to the disposition, experiences, and questions of any particular person to whom we are giving an answer. The first rule of apologetics is that we, in love, treat each person as a unique individual. That means we must first master the art of listening, connecting, and learning from others.
Beyond these interpersonal skills, I want to suggest that the best way to give an answer in faithfulness to the Bible is to think of every basic belief system (worldview) as a pair of glasses. I am wearing a pair of glasses called the Christian worldview. My glasses color everything I see. They tell me how to interpret the world. My unbelieving neighbor may wear Marxist glasses or Darwinian glasses or Hindu glasses or Muslim glasses or secularist glasses or Deist glasses. Or he may have some glasses that represent a combination of many different viewpoints thrown together. But whether we realize it or not, we all have a basic framework, a worldview, a set of lenses through which we make sense of reality.
At a very basic level, I believe apologetics is showing someone else that their glasses are fuzzy and your Christian glasses are clear. In other words, you put on their glasses for a moment and look through their worldview. Then you point out some places where their worldview can’t make sense of reality. Once you have shown them that they can’t see clearly in their glasses, you invite them to put on yours, and you demonstrate how the Christian worldview clarifies the precise points that were fuzzy when they had their glasses on. That is the basic methodology that I advocate for doing apologetics.
What I hope is clear from my glasses metaphor is that there is no way to see without glasses. That is, there is no neutral vantage point from which you can interpret the world and thus appeal to a non-believer from shared common ground apart from Christian assumptions. We do not check our Christian beliefs at the door when we begin defending the faith in order to establish common ground first. It cannot be done. There is no such thing as neutrality, for those who do not bend the knee to Christ are in rebellion against him. If we find common ground with unbelievers, it must be because they are borrowing capital from the Christian worldview in their assumptions (which makes perfect sense, because Scripture tells us that unbelievers, on some level, know God, even though they suppress the truth of his revelation in creation; see Romans 1:21). We cannot go outside the Christian worldview in order to justify the Christian worldview. Nor can we base the authority of Scripture on something outside of itself. Outside evidences will confirm the claims of Scripture, but Scripture’s authority is self-attesting, because Scripture is the very Word of God, beyond which there is no higher authority.
So do not think of apologetics as an attempt to reason with an unbeliever from a position of neutrality, neither in submission to Scripture nor in rebellion against it. All of our reasoning must be regulated by Scripture. After all, we can’t see if we don’t have our glasses on.
In the next post I will give some concrete examples to illustrate what I mean.