Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Quick and Easy Guide to Getting Started in Apologetics

So you want to get into apologetics and you don’t know where to start? There’s a plan for that. And it’s not a difficult plan, but it will require you to get to work.

It’s a common question that people ask me: “What’s your advice for someone just starting out in apologetics?” It might seem like the answer would be complex or deep in some way. However, the answer I give is simple. Here it is, step by step.

THE PERSONAL STUDY PLAN
Here’s what you need to do to get started on your own personal study plan to get started in apologetics.

First, get three books. These are The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, and The Case for a Creator, all by Lee Strobel. (Interview with Lee here.) Why? Because these are not difficult to read and each book covers a good range of topics that every apologist should be familiar with. Being a good apologist, at minimum, entails thinking through and being familiar with the pertinent issues. These books accomplish this basic goal.

Second, get the DVDs that go along with the books. Yes, there are DVD versions of all the Lee Strobel “Case for...” books. Why the DVDs? Because they help you to learn in another way besides reading. You may even watch these DVDs in tandem with your reading to enhance your comprehension and retention of the material. The goal is to internalize the main issues, get an idea of the apologetic questions and the common Christian approaches to each. To go even deeper, you could get study guides.

Third, begin to engage with the issues that you are most drawn to. Talk about the subjects with church members, family, friends... anyone who is open to engaging with the ideas. The goal doesn’t have to be an on-the-offense engagement; rather, you are seeking out ways to interact with the information, discuss it with others, teach, and verbalise the content. The goal here is to begin to own the content so it is not simply information or a set of answers. You want to let it become yours by digesting it and letting it become part of you until you own the answers for yourself.

Finally, dig deeper in the areas that interest you most. This is easily done. Whatever topic(s) that you found most intersting, or whatever topics that appeal to you the most from the “Case for...” books—dig into the books by the authors in those fields. For instance, if Strobel was interviewing Craig Blomberg on the reliability of the Gospels, then dig into the books by Craig Blomberg. Likewise, if you are fascinated by arguments for the existence of God that were presented by William Lane Craig, then begin to dig into the work of WLC found online. The goal here is to begin the “drill-down” process on the topics you want to become most familiar with.

THE DRIP-FEED LEARNING PLAN
To supplement and to augment your personal study plan, here’s what I suggest for continual learning and growth in apologetics.

First, alongside your reading, subscribe to Apologetics315. You can use the RSS feed to get daily updates, or become a Facebook fan and get updates there. There’s also a Twitter feed where the best apologetics links are shared throughout the week. The goal here is to plug in to a “drip feed” of the best resources. Sure, you can surf the net all night to find resources, but I find that a steady flow method allows you a means of being constantly up-to-date with available resources.

Second, take time to listen to lectures and interviews, watch debates, and read blog posts that are of particular interest and which align with your learning goals for the “drill down” part of your personal study plan. These supplemental materials will deepen your grasp of the issues you want to master.

Finally, subscribe to podcasts that are going to keep good material readily available for learning. Apologetics 315 Interviews is designed to introduce you to the work of the best apologists. This is the perfect way to redeem the time while driving, doing chores, or exercising.

CONCLUSION
The conclusion to this quick and easy program is that this is just the beginning. Yes, more can be said about getting started. But the limited goal with this plan is just to get the sparks flying and the kindling burning.

What tips would you want to share for those getting started in apologetics?

6 comments :

Russell said...

Thanks for the list Brian. I would offer one suggestion to any budding apologists. Make sure that Bible reading is a regular, hopefully daily, part of your study. I think apologetics can become more of a sport than a defense of the faith if this integral step is left out. I found myself very familiar with the arguments, but without the proper foundation. I could wax eloquently on the dating and authenticity of the new Testament, but I couldn't give a strong description of what it was actually saying. I, like many others on this site, prefer listening as opposed to reading as I have a job that allows me to do so as well as a fairly long commute. I have found the Zondervan NIV audio Bible to be one of the best for listening. It has voice overs for each character and subtle sound effects, and seems to help me with keeping my focus a little bit. Also, not to sound like an add for Zondervan, but their audiobook versions of the "Case for..." books Brian mentioned above are amazing. They are the first apologetic works I ever listened to, and I am currently re-listening to the Case for Christ. Many audiobooks and lectures lose my attention fairly easy, but the narrator for the Zondervan versions (Dick Fredricks) has been simply captivating in my case.

Achulotsela Tsela said...

Excellent as it is always!! Thanks Brian for this helpful post. I'm doing my final year graduate school. God's willing, by next year or so, i'll start one here in India. Best regards!

Unknown said...

I think a good audio version goes a long ways to understanding the Bible, and hence can really help Christians in their apologetics. I've personally enjoyed Inspired by the Bible Experience, for its great sound, voices and music. Samuel Jackson's voice isn't the only great voice on it... I've gone through about half of it so far.

Derek said...

Russell, I was thinking the same thing... Sometimes I need to be reminded not to forget a steady diet of good plain Bible teaching. We (or at least I) can get so academic that we let the more spiritual side get a little weak. Even if I know all the arguments for my chosen topic, I am going to have a weaker apologetic if I don't feed on the Word and know/understand it well. Even, or especially at the beginning stages, get your Bible time on!!

Scott Watson said...

Start with Scripture. Then try to tackle some of the great thinkers (CS Lewis, Chesterton, NT Wright). And take your time with them. Listen to debates. I also subscribe to Ravi Zacharias' podcasts as well as William Lane Craig's. During regular Bible studies, I try to interject how to respond to opposing views as well. Finally, have some very good, honest friends who can gently humble you when you get to full of yourself and forget the "with gentleness and respect" portion of 1Peter 3:15.

Anonymous said...

My quick summary of some of the points above, with a little alliteration.

1. Delve into the Strobel Series: Case for Faith, Case for Christ and Case for Creation
Read the books and watch the DVDs
2. Discuss the issues with others
3. Dig deeper into issues of interest
4. Don't forget to "read" the Bible

I put "read" in quotation marks because listening to the Bible is also a great way to go.

NOTE: I also love the Inspired By audio version of the Bible. When you listen to Job, it is as if you are actually listening to Job, live, with tears and all. (You forget it is an actor...) And I've never heard someone portray Jesus so convincingly. He really had a lot of style and flair that frankly I missed when reading silently.

In any case, listening to the Bible can go a long way in brining it to life and helping you get a sense of the flow of Scriptures.

JC

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