So You Want to Be an Apologist?

First of all, what do you mean by that?  Are you saying that you want to be a “professional” apologist or you want apologetics to be a part of your life as a Christian?  This is the first step, to find out what you want to do.  Being a full-time apologist can look a few different ways.  Some may want to be an apologetics professor in a college or seminary.  That is a possibility but there are extremely few such positions.  Not to mention, teaching apologetics is not the same thing as being an apologist.  Others may want to have a full-time apologetics ministry, speaking and debating across the country.  That is a noble vision but it is difficult to do.  If God is calling you to do that, go for it.  If you really want to do apologetics without having a secular job, consider becoming a pastor.  There is a great need for pastors who are willing to equip their congregation to defend the faith and to preach apologetically.  This is a neglected opportunity.  Many others may want to be involved in apologetics, but not as a career.  You may want to be personally equipped to be able to interact with friends, family or co-workers.  You may want to be an apologetic resource in your church or have a ministry through blogs or other Internet opportunities.  This is extremely important as well.  Whatever your focus, I have some thoughts on how to go about things.

Get an education.

Start taking courses, or even get a degree.  There are degrees in apologetics, but you can study philosophy, theology, biblical studies, history or science as well.  In fact, I would suggest a broad education, so you know what is happening out there.  I understand school can be expensive and time consuming.  If you want to be involved in teaching there is no getting around it.  If you are just looking for your own training, there are options.  There are certificate programs and degrees from non-accredited schools that will give you the training you need without giving the credentials needed for teaching in a university.

Decide what kind of apologetics you want to be involved in.

Not everyone needs to debate atheist philosophers.  There is a need for people focused on Old Testament, New Testament, history, ethics, science, theology, world religions, sects/cults as well as numerous aspects of philosophy.  A good general knowledge of apologetics is important but you don’t have to be an expert in everything and you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing.

Get connected with other people doing apologetics.

Many apologists have a presence on the Internet, get to know them.  Try to meet other apologists in person as well.

Becoming an apologist is not the cure for personal doubt.

If you are a skeptic, it is good to look into the reasons for the Christian faith, but that does not mean you have to debate atheists.  Deal with your own issues, but don’t go looking for apologetic conversations just as a distraction from your own doubt.  I think this is the reason we see a number of atheists today who are former Christian apologists.

Read widely.

Read apologetics books but read in other areas as well.  Read the latest books but read the classics too.  Read outside your tradition and even books that you disagree with.  Subscribe to some good academic journals dealing with apologetics, theology, philosophy, religion or biblical studies.

Subscribe to some good podcasts.

There is a tremendous amount of resources on the Internet with lectures, podcasts and entire courses available in audio format.  Redeem your time and fill your iPod.

Try to attend some good apologetics conferences.

We have been blessed with some great world class apologists.  Go and listen to them, attend the workshops and learn as much as you can.  However, attending every apologetics conference does not make you an apologist.

Do apologetics.

Seriously.  There are people who are “apologetics junkies,” in the sense that they absorb everything apologetics related and are big fans of famous apologists.  Apologetics is to them what Star Trek is to Trekkies.  Fine, but that does not make you an apologist.  Look for opportunities to either train other Christians or to interact with non-believers who have questions.  You do not have to arrange a debate at your local university.  It could be as simple as responding to your friends and family when they comment on all religions being the same or evolution disproving the existence of God or Jesus just being a good moral teacher.  It takes a lot more courage to open your mouth than it does to read a book or listen to a podcast.  But it is much more rewarding.

Listen to the skeptics you talk to.

Of course you need to respond with a clear explanation of the Gospel.  But do not assume you know exactly what the other person believes.  Let them talk, not just as a matter of courtesy, but to learn from them.  Take plenty of time to listen before you start speaking.

Pray.

The great thing about Christian apologetics is that it is not just about you and your debating skills.  Pray for strength for yourself, for openness of the person you are talking to, and for other Christians to come into their life who will share the Gospel in a reasonable way.

That is just a few things to keep in mind.  There is lots to learn but having an apologetics aspect to your Christian life is important and arguably required.


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11 thoughts on “So You Want to Be an Apologist?”

  1. Excellent suggestions, Stephen! Thank you for sharing them with us. We need more Christians with a passion to reach unbelievers with “reasons” for the hope that is in us.

  2. Great post and excellent advice. I began attending school to teach and train others in apologetical issues. I am finding the broad spectrum of information that you mentioned and it is very helpful and sometimes overwhelming. There is so much information and it has been difficult for me to settle on one particular discipline but I think a theological background coupled with philosophy will serve me well. Again thanks for the post.

  3. I’m encouraged, Stephen. “Many others may want to be involved in apologetics, but not as a career. You may want to be personally equipped to be able to interact with friends, family or co-workers. You may want to be an apologetic resource in your church or have a ministry through blogs or other Internet opportunities,” describes me at this point in my life. I was a teaching leader in Bible Study Fellowship 21 years and recently completed an M.A.R. through Southern Evangelical Seminary and I am reading largely as you suggest. I feel strongly called to work with smaller congregations. I am a pharmacist, retired from industrial pharmacy but working part-time at a local medical center. This allows me to minister without worrying about a stipend (mine range from pro bono to a T-shirt to a freewill offering to a check). I don’t even ask about an honorarium when I accept an invitation. Any suggestions welcome = bill@billslaterministries.org. Blessings.

  4. I’d suggest that if anyone wants to be either a lay or vocational apologist, they should focus on three things:

    1. Strive to be an elder/pastor in their church. “Apologist” is a legitimate job, but it’s not a biblical office and lone-ranger “apologists” who run off and start their own “ministry” outside of the work & guidance (and restraint) of a local church often attempt to wield an office that simply does not exist and become de-formo pastors themselves. I’ve known a few who utterly ruined churches because they were smarter than the pastor and they used the respect given them to gain power and control.

    2. Related to point 1, I’d say find someone to submit to and make it a regular practice, just to remind your own heart that God has placed people over you (and rebellion is a serious affair). Nothing is as annoying as a fella with an M.A. in apologetics going to your church and “correcting” the sermon every week or being the last guy to serve because he “has his own ministry”.

    3. Learn the scriptures as best you possibly can. I wish that around 1/2 of the apologists out there simply stopped trying to help. There are more than a few apologists with a philosophy or science doctorate who are freshmen (at best) when it comes to biblical exegesis, and they’re not doing anyone a favor.

    1. Good points. I just completed my 2nd 8-year stint as an elder, rotating off for at least 2 years (constitutional requirement which which I agree). Also SS teacher, small group leader multiple years/times. “Apologist” is a relatively new ministry for me. I am under the authority of my church elder board and report regularly to them. Got a great senior pastor from whom I learn on a consistent basis. Learning Scripture: 21 years as BSF teaching leader; read through Genesis to Revelation annually since 1972; cross-cultural missionary (long- and short-term), East/West Africa, Central America and Eastern Europe and completed an M. A. in Religion in 2009 (at age 70). All this has been of great value – would not change anything in my experience.

  5. One other possibility. Become a apologist and come to work with Ratio Christi. We are opening apologetics clubs at secular universities, and this will give an apologist the chance to work with Christian students to strengthen their faith, and with skeptics to present a reasonable defense of the Christian worldview. Check RC out at http://www.RatioChristi.org.

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