Tom Gilson

Who’s Interested in Apologetics and Why? New Research Reveals New Answers

Why are some Christians more interested in apologetics than others? Do you think you know the reasons? Probably. But only partly.

The Spiritual Readiness Project has just released a research report this morning on What Motivates Interest In Apologetics?

Read it online or download the printable version.

Prepare to nod your head in agreement with some of the findings, and to be surprised at other — especially the two big factors we found that don’t seem to motivate many people’s interest in apologetics.

Why this research?

Christians working in apologetics have been asking for years, “How can we get churches more interested in apologetics?” We’ve used a naive, intuitive, seat-of-the-pants approach to figuring that out. F could name some shining exceptions, especially work led by Sean McDowell, Greg Koukl, and Brett Kunkle, plus Summit Ministries and Impact360. They’ve found powerful ways to instill interest in young people for the first time. The rest of us? For the most part our best answer has been, “Give them the resources and they will come.”

For some people, that’s exactly the answer they need. So it’s a good one; and yet for all the resources we’ve developed, we’re still not seeing churches rise up and grab hold the way we believe they should.

Enter the Spiritual Readiness Project, a multi-year research and training initiative, taking a serious problem-solving approach to the question of apologetics in the church. We’re a team of four people seriously interested in apologetics, and also trained in social sciences, seeking to understand the motivational basis of the question. We’re starting with research, and we’ll be ending with at least one book, plus conferences and web-based training and resources.

I’ll be very interested in your comments on what we’ve found. (Trolls will be thrown back under their bridge.)

8 thoughts on “Who’s Interested in Apologetics and Why? New Research Reveals New Answers

  1. Tom,

    Thanks to all involved for conducting this research study. I looked it over briefly and plan to give it some more time to absorb later on. But I want to propose something for you to consider to frame your interpretation of the findings from my own researcher/apologist perspective. I refer you to the work of Professor James Fowler on the stages of faith development.

    James W. Fowler (1981). Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning. New York: HarperCollins.

    My thought is this. Dr. Fowler found in his research that most Christians “find their permanent home” in the Synthetic-Conventional faith, which is stage 3 of six stages that he identified in his research. Your research team may find it useful to examine these natural stages of faith development to find how apologetics play a role at each stage and how apologetics serves to move people into a higher level of faith. This is appropriate since you are the Spiritual Readiness Project, so examining people’s movements along a continuum of deepening faith would be a useful paradigm.

    I also think that you need to look at your findings with a clear distinction between the role of apologetics in building and deepening one’s personal faith and relationship with God versus the “usefulness” of apologetics for the faith community and evangelism. I say this because my apologetics has played a vital role in growing my own faith, even when I have felt discouraged about how little impact I feel that I have on bringing others to Christianity or even convincing them to accept the validity and truth of Christianity. So, as a motivating factor, I believe that we need to emphasize that even if our missionary endeavors may not be successful, apologetics is important for us in our personal relationship with God and our own spiritual growth toward and mature and solid faith.

    Thanks for your work. God bless you.

  2. My baptist church in very-secular New Zealand has many very smart, well educated people, but whom know little about apologetics. I have spoken to many of them and they are generally really interested, but almost 100% uninformed. Apologetics is not taught from the pulpit, or in youth events AFAIK, but there is certainly an increased acceptance in 2018/19 in my church for having apologetics added into the pot-pourri of things the church hosts. I think the future is positive in regards to there being both openings and openness to apologetics in my church, but the change is slow, and I take a lot of the blame for this as I am the local guy who needs to be moving it forward.

  3. Remember, Job was reprimanded by God for trying to understand the complex nature of why he was being punished. God basically said that he (Job) never designed the universe so how dare he try to understand the nature of his current state. (Job thought he was being unfairly punished). Basically, we cannot understand everything. We must trust God not try to understand God.

  4. Thanks for the comment. I’m wondering, though, could you help us understand what you’re saying in light of Jesus statement that eternal life is knowing God (John 17:3), and all the hundreds of instructions in the Bible to know, study, teach, and learn the ways of God? Thanks.

  5. I am interested in knowing how Apologetics can help get millennials in particular to actually come to the church edifice to worship verses worshipping virtually.

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