Wednesday, October 17, 2012

52 Tips for Apologists

This month marks 5 years of blogging at Apologetics 315. With that in mind, I went back to review a guest post I did with Cloud of Witnesses three years ago to see if the advice I offered then still sounded good to me. The question was: "What advice do you have for those who want to learn more about apologetics?  What kinds of attitudes and character traits should Christians adopt as they use apologetics in conversations with skeptics?"

Here was my answer, in 52 Tips for Apologists:

As a learner myself, I am on the lookout for good advice for learning more. My advice to others would vary depending on how involved in apologetics someone wants to get. It is such a wide subject, dealing with theology, philosophy, history, textual criticism, science, culture, evangelism, etc. Everyone is going to have a different level or area of interest, so my advice here is for those who want to learn as much as they can on the subject. Here are the things that I would have told me when I first got interested in apologetics:

1. Be first a person of prayer with a goal to know the Lord.
2. Be a continual reader.
3. Know both sides of the issues.
4. Listen to as many good lectures as possible.
5. Listen to every debate you can get your hands on.
6. Learn from the best debaters.
7. Learn from the worst debaters. (what not to do)
8. Find a mentor if you can.
9. Apologetics is not a boxing match; it’s walking along side another in dialogue.
10. You’re not in it to win arguments; you are in it to win people.
11. Be mindful of your spiritual life above your apologetics studies.
12. Allow your apologetics studies to be worship unto the Lord.
13. Your wife doesn’t want to hear about your online debates.
14. Don’t talk about apologetics at the dinner table, unless you are with apologetics buddies.
15. Find like-minded friends to fellowship with and reflect on apologetic issues.
16. Get input and feedback from other apologists and mature Christian peers.
17. Pray for the people you are interacting with. If you don’t pray for them, what do you expect to accomplish?
18. Never respond to blog comments in an emotional state. Cool off first and pray.
19. Remember, you don’t have to win the whole world.
20. Study how Jesus interacted and communicated with people.
21. Remember that you have the truth.
22. Pray all the time.
23. Spend time with your family.
24. Enjoy worship at your church.
25. Get away from the apologetics stuff for a while regularly.
26. Avoid taking extreme views and ignoring other options.
27. Study logic and critical thinking; it will help you more than you can imagine.
28. Get into public speaking and learn communication skills. And learn to spell.
29. Always seek first to win the person.
30. You don’t have to respond to every possible objection.
31. Study theology alongside or before you get into apologetics.
32. Study and understand different apologetic methodologies and don’t defend your method to the death.
33. Read Pascal’s Pensées.
34. Read stuff that challenges you to think hard.
35. Be humble; you know so little.
36. Draw from the expertise of others.
37. Specialize if you can.
38. Understand the spiritual condition of those you are interacting with.
39. Understand the psychological reasons people have for holding their views.
40. Admit it when you are wrong.
41. Realize that there is no end to the subject; get in it for the long haul.
42. Don’t rush your studies.
43. Don’t be a hypocrite. Stay pure.
44. Poor character will destroy your apologetics.
45. An apologist is ultimately an evangelist; so first know how to share the Gospel well.
46. In evangelism, start with the Gospel and use apologetics only if the need arises.
47. Realize that not everyone at your church is going to be as excited about apologetics as you are.
48. Apologetics is about loving people; remove the love from your apologetic and you fail.
49. You don’t have to know every answer, just where to go to get the answers.
50. Apologetics can bolster faith and dispel doubt, but it cannot bend the will.
51. The results are up to the Lord.
52. At the end of the day, are you walking with Jesus?

What would you add?


Michael Baldwin said...

I think you need to add a tip about prayer, Brian. :)
Otherwise, a nice list!

arguingwithfriends said...

You'll have to excuse my hair-splitting, but with respect to point #37 I think we actually need more generalists than specialists. Though, obviously, we need both; specialization will certainly be needed for some people.

Still, other than my petty trivializing, this is wonderful advice for everybody, not just Apologists. Especially the part about mentoring!

Chris Reese said...

Has it been three years already? : ) Thanks for the excellent reminders!

Norm Patriquin said...

While being discerning, be open to hearing about totally impossible ideas...don't limit what god might have done to your understanding.

1peter315 said...

I love #13. I don't follow it, but I agree with it. However, it should probably be spouse since there quite a few female apologists now. A great list. Thanks for sharing this and for all your hard work at Apologetics315.

Anonymous said...

...And i have been a regular listener and visitor of Apologetics315 for two years :-) .
My advice for all apologists are simple -
1. If you have received freely, Please give it freely :-)
2. Apologists, when someone ask you question, please don't say, that's very easy, or avoid saying, if i were your professor, i would have failed you for asking that question (Literally, this was said to me by one apologist after his lecture in my university when i asked him a question) :-(
3. Learn from Brian Auten's way of doing Apologetic, yes, apologetics315. :-)

Thanks Brian for you good works. Thanks for sharing 52 tips for Apologist, its simply Great!
God bless you!


Erik said...

What a great list. I'm a newer reader here, so this is the first time I've seen this. Great advice. #13 is definitely true. I find #15 is difficult in the group of people I'm around - either they aren't interested at all or don't think it's a worthy subject. I agree with a previous commenter that this list would be great for any Christian, since, at some level, we're all apologists.

Drew Sparks said...

Amen, it is so good to hear an apologist talk about prayer, humility, walking with God, spending time with your family, not being hypocritical. If you can't do those things, does it really matter how "good" of an apologist you actually are?

Brian, thank you for your ministry. It is a blessing to me and I am sure I speak for a lot of people in saying that you help us on a regular basis. Whenever I need a quick answer or want to learn something I come here to see the material you have. Thank you and may God continue to bless this ministry as it has blessed me and others.

Anonymous said...

Re: #19,.....But...But...I want to win the whole world:):)!!!!

John Moore said...

An opponent might suggest #21 and #35 are contradictory. You have the truth, but you know so little? I think they are not necessarily contradictory, but how would you explain it?

Brian Auten said...


I would say that one could have confidence that the Christian Gospel message is true, while humbly admitting that they know very little in many areas.

This should give them, then, a confidence in proclaiming and standing for the Gospel. But they should also have some humility in the fact that they may be uninformed, misinformed, or wrong in many areas where they are unlearned.

Ellen Quartey-Papafio said...

Agree with Erik. Thank you for a helpful list of tips. Will try to learn from it -including the ones on prayer!

pennyofathought said...

What a great list, full of so many helpful and humbling reminders. Thanks Brian.

Shawn said...

Great list! The way I say it is: The best defense of the Christian Faith is a faithful christian.

Madeleine said...

Re "13. Your wife doesn’t want to hear about your online debates."

What if you are never going to have a wife?

Glenn said...

#13 - So my wife isn't interested? But she is!
#14 - But my children need to hear!

Madeleine said...

By not adhering to 14, "Don’t talk about apologetics at the dinner table, unless you are with apologetics buddies.", Matt (the other M of MandM) and I have raised children who began being able to hold their own with atheists and sceptics and people who simply reason poorly before they reached their teens.

That said, aside from 13 and 14 for the reasons stated, I think the rest of the list is good stuff :)

Brian Auten said...

Madeleine and Glenn! Nice to see you here.
How did you manage to stumble upon this old post?

To clarify on 13 and 14: these ones I'd say are possible applications of a general principle—you need to know when it's appropriate to be talking apologetics stuff and when it's not. I think some people can make the mistake of thinking that others are just as much interested as they are, and overdo it.

But I love your points. And in thinking about it, we do talk apologetics at the dinner table with the wee ones in a teaching aspect. The idea of the points in the post, originally, was to avoid possible neglecting relationships by the imbalance of thinking/talking/doing apologetics all day.

Thanks for the feedback and input!

Veto F. Roley said...

How should I put this: be careful to defend God, not your view of God. Because we are finite we will never have a completely True picture of the infinite God as fully comprehending the infinite God is beyond the capability of the finite. Many of the attacks on God are not attacks on the infinite God, but attacks on someone's or some Christian group's view of God. It is much easier attacking the OEC or YEC God, for instance, than it is to attack the God who created the Universe ex niliho and then created life from nothing. The "how" God did this (e.g. the arguments involving OEC, YEC, age-gap, etc.) is a second-level argument while the fact that God did this is the first-level argument. Don't let the conversation stray from first-level arguments about fact, particularly since naturalists have absolutely no clue as how the Big Bang, for instance, started or how life could come into being from truly non-living organic material (IOW, they are clueless as to LUCA, except proposing LUCA had to to exist) or how random chance could add information, etc.

Also, don't get caught up in internecine warfare on second level subjects with those who agree with you on first level subjects. We can debate these second level subjects in a different (e.g. Christian) forum away from skeptics. I understand these second-, third-, fourth-, etc. level issues may be important within some contexts of Christian discussion, but they are meaningless is discussing whether or not God exists or whether or not He created the universe and can drive a wedge between Christians that harm first-level efforts when there is not a need for the wedge.

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