Be sure to follow the tour throughout the week:
Today also: Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
Wed. 2/18 Truthbomb Apologetics
Wed. 2/18 Apologetics.com
Thurs. 2/19 Zondervan Koinonia
Fri. 2/20 Stand to Reason
Question #1 from Brian @ Apologetics 315: What key personal disciplines, spiritual or otherwise, have played the most vital role in your development as a critical thinker, clear communicator, and effective apologist?
I have always struggled, more or less, with the classical disciplines of Christianity: prayer, fasting, meditation on the Word, etc. Consequently, I can’t say that they have had a special impact in my life, although I think my prayer life has gotten richer and more meaningful as I have gotten older in the Lord.
The thing that has made the biggest difference—that has played the most “vital role,” I think—are the mentors, near and far, who have molded me. Since the beginning I have had strong Christians around me to guide me, teach me, and especially to correct me when I needed it. For the most part, I have welcomed criticism and critique of my views, my character, and also of the way I come across to others. Even now I have people I trust looking over my shoulder giving feedback on the content and tone of these missives I am posting for Tactics. I think it is lethal to effectiveness when any Christian fails to have those in his life that can serve that role.
So, I think I have learned to be a better critical thinker, communicator, and apologist by first apprenticing myself—either directly or indirectly—to others who excel in those areas. I listen to them, watch them, hang around if I’m able, drawing from their wisdom and experience. I think about how they think, not just what they think. I listen to how they use words, illustrations, gestures, and audience interaction. I then try to imitate what I see them modeling in any of those areas. For example, I listen to Dennis Prager and pay attention to the little things he’s doing on the air that I think make him so effective, then I try to work those elements into my own style as a broadcaster.
Second, I give others close to me permission to critique all aspects of my life, and I actively seek out that information even when it’s not volunteered. We almost never see our own weaknesses, though they are frequently obvious to others. If you enlist your family, friends, and colleagues as allies in the process of becoming better in any area you’re concerned about, you will improve much faster then you thought possible providing, that is, you have the mettle for it. It is an acquired skill and I confess I haven’t always been up to it. But if you can steel yourself to hear the truth from others who care, you will greatly benefit.
Question #2 from Kyle in Plano, TX: How do you see apologetics changing in the next twenty years or so as the culture continues to change?
This is very difficult to answer since it is hard to tell what the future holds and how Christians in general will respond to the challenges to the Gospel that arise in the years to come. In one sense, nothing should change. Our basic posture at Stand to Reason—and the idea at the heart of the Tactics book—is to be God’s ambassador presenting the truth as persuasively and as graciously as we are able.
Here is how I put it in chapter one:
Jesus said that when you find yourself a sheep amidst wolves, be innocent, but be shrewd (Matthew 10:16). Even though there is real warfare going on, our engagements should look more like diplomacy than D-Day. In this book I would like to teach you how to do that. I want to suggest a method I call the Ambassador model. This approach trades more on friendly curiosity—a kind of relaxed diplomacy—than on confrontation.I then talk specifically about what the three main elements of the ambassador model:
Representing Christ in the new millennium requires three basic skills…. These three skills—knowledge, an accurately informed mind; wisdom, an artful method; and character, an attractive manner—play a part in every effective involvement with a non-believer. The second skill, tactical wisdom, is the main focus of this book.I see no reason why anything about the ambassador model should change regardless of what we face in the future. That’s why I think this approach is so helpful. New challenges may mean adding to our knowledge or adjusting our tactics, etc., but the basic model remains the same.
I do envision stylistic changes, though, especially adopting a tone that is more sensitive to the prevailing ethos. Narrative is playing a much bigger part in the process now than before, for example. Post-modern sensibilities are forcing us to be kinder and gentler, so to speak, and that’s a good thing. My fear is that as a church we will drift into a new wave of anti-intellectualism, and this is never a good thing, on balance.
Feel free to respond to Greg's answers and ask him follow-up questions.