Tom Gilson

Apologetics In Your Teaching: Start With the Questions That Matter

Fourth in a series on “How to Use Apologetics In Your Teaching Without Scaring Anyone Away.”

If you want to help your hearers know the answers to their questions, it pays to start with knowing what they’re asking. These questions — their questions — are the questions that matter.

Discovering these questions used to be difficult. Not any longer.

Now, I’ve been encouraging pastors and other teachers to bring apologetics into their churches. I don’t care if you actually use the word apologetics; in fact it’s better if you don’t. I’ve been told the word has only been in use for a little over a hundred years anyway. If the Church got along without it that long, your church can get along without it now.

What if you’re not the pastor or the teacher…

… but you still want to help bring apologetics into your church from where you are?

You can start working that direction, and you can help others in other churches everywhere do the same, too. Check out the Spiritual Readiness Project, and especially the best step you can take right now: Take Your Pastor to Lunch!

But it can’t get along with serious unanswered questions. And I’ve heard many horror stories — they never come out well in the short run, though God does redeem them sometimes — of people whose questions have been ignored.

But how do you know their questions? As I said, it used to be harder. College students would come home with challenges from their professors that no one at your church had ever heard before. Rumors would circulate out of some news magazine or cable channel show, and you’d almost have to track all of them to keep up with the latest.

Good News and Bad

As for today, well, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the challenges are easy to find. They’re all over the Internet. They fly thick and fast on Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, and all kinds of blogs. So you can find the questions easily enough.

Need I tell you the bad news? If you can find the questions, so can everyone you’re trying to teach.

One effect of the Internet, though, has been to create a cycle of commonly-raised challenges against the faith. Atheist Guy P. Harrison published a helpful (if misnamed) list of 50 Simple Questions for Every Christian.

Don’t buy the book; it’s misleading in multiple ways, one of which is that there aren’t just 50 questions. Each of the 50 chapters is maddeningly stuffed full of questions, or at least that was my impression as I began to read it. A writer that devoted to questions ought to bother spending time gaining some answers, because even though his questions are many, most of them are simple.

But the list of 50 is good material for you. Go to the book’s Amazon page, click on “Look Inside,” and skim through the Table of Contents.

A Starter List To Know

If you’ve been involved in discussing Christianity on the Internet you’ll find the list sounds very familiar. If you haven’t been, the list is still familiar to many of your church members. They really do wonder whether Christianity is sexist; and they really do believe that if it is, that’s good reason to reject it. The same goes for charges of Christianity and violence, racism, slavery, anti-intellectualism, exclusivism, and historical credibility.

Well, there, I might have just given you a starter list of questions myself!

I’m not saying you need to start a sermon series on these topics — though soon I’ll be blogging about a pastor who’s doing that. I’m saying that whether you teach through the Bible or take a topical approach, you ought to be very aware of opportunities to touch down at least lightly on these issues. You’ll show your church or your class you’re not afraid of the questions, and they need not be either,

Image Credit(s): Véronique Debord-Lazaro.


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