In this episode of TGC Q&A, Josh Chatraw and Mark Allen address the question, “What does ineffective apologetics look like?” They discuss:
- Appealing to your base leading to polarization (0:28)
- Canned approaches (2:37)
- Addressing objections poorly (3:35)
- Avoiding ineffective approaches and giving hope (5:14)
- Defining effective apologetics (7:20)
Explore more from TGC on the featured topic of apologetics.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Mark Allen: Does ineffective apologetics look like in today’s world?
Josh Chatraw: Yeah, well, one of the things we’re dealing with culturally at this moment is this incredible polarization. Now, I think in some ways there’s been a divide in our nation, for awhile. But we’ve seen, it seems from all sides, people recognize that right now we’re at a kind of climactic moment. At least it feels that way for so many, social media, as well as just the politics. And I think the temptation can be for us, when we think about apologetics, to think about like, okay, here’s my five minute on whatever new show. And so we kind of imbibe the talking heads on 8:00 PM, 24 hour news, as like, well, that’s apologetics, that’s a type of, yeah. And really what’s happening, we need to understand what’s happening here, is that right now you get ratings by appealing to your own side. And so getting people on your own side, whether it’s politically or cultural issues, to say, yeah, basically appealing to the base.
Now, what is the goal of apologetics? You know, of course the goal of apologetics is to persuade people who aren’t already persuaded. Now there is, yeah you want to comfort and reassure, and help people gain more confidence, that’s one role of apologetics. But if we’re thinking evangelistically, the goal is persuade them to listen to the gospel, and take it serious. And yet, if we take the tactics from the kind of culture and how it’s interacting, it’s actually going to do the opposite. It just makes further polarization, for people who aren’t already in our Christian camp. And so I think one of the ways to do apologetics is just mimic how the cultural conversations going. Be extreme, appeal to your own base, don’t worry about their assumptions, just run over them.
Mark Allen: Yeah.
Josh Chatraw: And you’ll get, you can maybe get that voice from your Christian team or from your church, but you’re not likely to persuade.
Mark Allen: Yeah, I think another way. I mean, again, another way that might be ineffective is to have a canned approach.
Josh Chatraw: Yeah.
Mark Allen: Not to say that we should not have good reasons, know the arguments for the resurrection, know the basic arguments for the existence of God, know why the Bible is trustworthy. These arguments are very, very important, but the danger is maybe we have a favorite apologetic, something, some argument that convinced us and persuaded us. And we think that if we just get people to this one argument, this proofs of the resurrection or whatever it may be, that it’s effective for everyone. And so we don’t look across the table at the person in front of us and actually deal with the deepest questions of their hearts. What might have caused them to stray away from a belief in God?
Josh Chatraw: Yeah, we’ve got, so poor apologetics doesn’t deal well with where people are actually are, or it takes their objections. Another way, maybe another way to put this, is it takes their objections and responds directly to their objections, without ever getting at the assumptions that actually lead to these objections. And so you take an issue like, for instance, evil and suffering, and somebody has an objection on evil and suffering, which is a huge issue in this podcast. We’re not going to solve that, certainly. But it seems to me, one of the assumptions is that people typically may, just because of the air we breathe in our culture, is that if God, if there is a good reason for suffering and evil in the world, I should know it. Well, that’s a uniquely modern way to approach suffering, that most people in most cultures in human history, haven’t had that assumption.
And so, if we always simply respond directly to what’s being said and never dig beneath the assumptions and say, hey, consider your cultural and historical situated-ness. If there is a God and he’s anything like the God of the Bible, then he’s going to have reasons that we can’t wrap our head around. In other words, you’re dealing with the assumptions. And then, you can come in with some more things to say about that problem, and a lot more needs to be said. But, the kind of, it doesn’t play into their kind of standards, letting them set the standard. I think that’s can be a problem and apologetic if we don’t ever get to these bigger assumptions.
Mark Allen: Yeah. So as we look at these problems, how do we give people, maybe we could turn it a bit, how do we help people and lead them to hope? How do we avoid doing the ineffective ways and lead people to hope?
Josh Chatraw: Yeah, well, I think so one of the things we’ve talked about is, to start off this podcast, is polarization.
Mark Allen: Yeah.
And so, part of the issue with polarization and the issue right now with Western culture, is not only their polarization, but attached to the polarization, is this kind of abiding despair, this loneliness. I mean, if you just, you pick up one of my favorite columnists, David Brooks in the New York Times, and he’s beating this drama it seems like weekly, that kind of something’s happened relationally, the fabric of our society, where yeah, we have modern medicine and just incredible things going on. And yet people, they’re just, the depression rates are sky high, suicide rates are sky high, what’s going on? And so people seem to be in despair.
And so one of the things we need to do as Christians, is to step into their despair and give them hope.
And, if people are hungry for hope or desperate for hope, and so rather than feeding into this kind of polarization or feeding into this doomsday kind of mentality, showing them how the resurrection can, gives hope, gives meaning, give significance to life. And also gives us a reason to actually care, that this God came into our world, who cares about this world and actually died for his enemies. And so, there’s not only meaning and hope and significance, but there’s a reason actually, to not treat everyone as your enemy. There’s a reason to actually to love those, who don’t love you. So to me, that’s a hopeful vision and one that our culture is desperately in need of.
Yeah, so an ineffective apologetic would be one that we’re just trying to show and demonstrate how other people are wrong. But an effective apologetic, would not only help people to see the errors in their thinking, but also would lead them to have a place to begin to have hope.