What Is Apologetics and Why Should You Care?

What is Apologetics?

(Photo Credit: http://joshfults.com)

This weekend, my in-laws had our three kids for an overnight, giving us a much needed break. They picked the kids up around noon on Saturday. My husband and I proceeded to spend the entire rest of the day on the couch, alternating between napping and reading.

Napping and reading!

We are so exhausted that it’s all we could fathom doing on a cherished day free from parenting responsibility.

If you read my blog, you’re probably a parent. If you’re a parent, you’re probably exhausted like we are. I do not take it lightly that I’m going to suggest in this post you need to add more to your job description. But if you care about your kids’ spiritual development (as I know you do!), you have to hear me out.

You need to learn apologetics and be ready to train your children with that knowledge.

 

What is Apologetics?

An apologetic is a reasoned defense for a belief. Christian apologetics is the defense of why we as Christians believe what we do. The biblical basis for this is 1 Peter 3:15:

“But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”

Apologetics addresses questions like:

  • What evidence is there for God outside the Bible?
  • How do we know the Gospels are really eye-witness accounts?
  • Was Jesus really God?
  • If God is real, why is there so much evil in the world?
  • Hasn’t evolution disproven God?

Take a moment and consider if you can honestly answer this sample of questions right now. These questions barely scratch the surface of what you need to be able to address with your kids in today’s world.

 

Why Every Christian Parent Needs to Care

It’s widely known that at least two-thirds of young adults who grew up in Christian families are turning away from Christianity today. Almost all spiritual leaders agree that training kids with a foundation in apologetics is one of the most important things parents and churches should be doing to address this alarming trend.

You can probably see immediately why, in an increasingly secular world, your kids need robust answers to the tough questions of faith. Apologetics provides those answers. Instead of expanding further on the seemingly obvious, however, I’d like to give you a unique look at why apologetics is so necessary, using a consumer decision-making model that marketers have used for more than one hundred years (I’m in marketing professionally). I believe it has a lot to teach us about spiritual decision making and the role of apologetics. If that sounds complicated, don’t worry – it’s not.

The following funnel represents the psychological steps behind a person’s purchase decisions. We’re going to look at how these same steps can apply to spiritual decisions.

Spiritual Decision Making Funnel

Awareness

At this stage, a child is learning basic facts about spiritual beliefs and subconsciously assigning importance to those facts.  For example, the most basic facts might include things like God is good, God loves me, Jesus died for me, the Bible is important, and I should behave in a way that pleases God. If your kids lived in a forest with no external influences, you could closely guard their understanding of these Christian beliefs and the importance they should have. But awareness is highly impacted by external factors that add other “facts” and change the relative importance of all those “facts.”

One in four Americans under 30 describe their beliefs as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” The spiritual environment in which our kids are growing up is fundamentally changing the Awareness step in the spiritual decision-making process – frequently adding conflicting “facts” to our kids’ awareness, and often decreasing the relative importance of the things they learn from us. Visually, that change looks something like this:

Spiritual Awareness

 

Learning apologetics directly helps our kids critically evaluate the “facts” that enter their awareness so they can determine with confidence what is relevant and what is important. Without such an understanding, the sheer volume of information they are being faced with today easily leads to spiritual confusion and indecisiveness.

 

Interest

It should come as no surprise that the more confusion that resides in the Awareness stage, the less interested many people are in sorting it out. It becomes the equivalent of throwing your hands in the air and saying, “there’s just no way of knowing.” Given that large numbers of people now claim to believe in “nothing in particular,” the statistics bear this out.

Learning apologetics gives our kids tools to know they can sort out competing information in intellectually and spiritually meaningful ways; it naturally increases interest in searching for truth when a person believes there are meaningful answers available. Without developing interest at this stage, a person clearly won’t continue the path to commitment to Christ.

 

Consideration

Once people are aware of something and have gained an interest in it, they enter a Consideration stage where they compare the relative merits of it versus other options. Whereas in the Awareness stage, people are more like subconscious “fact collectors and sifters,” in Consideration they are active evaluators who are looking for solutions to problems. People often compare alternatives using mental rules such as what works the best, what they like the best, what they’ve used the most, what important people use, and what costs the least.

Apologetics, at its core, directs people toward making spiritual decisions based on what is true. We can’t make the right choice amongst competing alternatives unless we have the right measuring stick. Apologetics gives kids the right measuring stick – what is true – and gives them the tools for actually doing the measuring. The large number of competing worldviews today makes apologetics absolutely critical at this step.

 

Intent

You might think that once you are aware of something, interested in it, and consider it amongst other options (i.e., the prior three stages), you would be ready to make a decision. This is overwhelmingly not how our mental process works, however. Our intentions to actually make a decision/commitment to something often change over time, due to new information entering our awareness or because of life events that cause us to question what we thought we knew. It can cause a loop where we cycle back to the Awareness stage and start again down the path to making a decision.

Marketing research has shown that the strength of intention to proceed to commitment directly relates to the strength of underlying beliefs from the Awareness stage. Given how much apologetics strengthens the Awareness stage, it is clear that it later influences Intent as well.

 

Decision (the goal!)

Making a decision for Christ is obviously not the same as making a decision about buying a car. But the psychology behind the steps in our decision making processes have a clear relationship with spiritual decision making. At each step here, apologetics is a key lever for influencing our kids’ ultimate decisions for the Lord. We can’t just ignore that because it seems too time consuming or too difficult to learn. It’s too important. God doesn’t need defending, but our kids need help understanding.

In my next post, I’ll give several ideas for how you can get started with apologetics!

I’d love to hear if you’ve studied apologetics – if so, what questions led you to it? If not, what are your barriers to doing so?

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Comments

  1. Thanks for this great analysis Natasha!

    • Thanks for this great analysis Natasha,

      We also really believe in the necessity of knowing that what you believe is true and defensible in today’s relativistic and hostile culture. Our children are 6 and 8, but we have begun to teach them the basics of apologetics even at these young ages. This is not the only thing we are purposefully teaching them, but we feel it is a necessity. If our kids can’t answer questions like: Can I trust the Bible? Has science disproven God? Is it egotistical to suggest that Christianity is the only way? Does it matter what you think, as long as you are sincere? Does evil disprove the existence of a good God? etc, then we feel we will have failed in a large part in our upbringing of our kids. Knowing apologetics has been invaluable for us personally in evangelism, as well as in better understanding our own faith. Knowing the certainty of what you believe gives incredible confidence, which is felt by others.

  2. I really like your presentation here. I’ve studied apologetics for many years and this is such a refreshing way of seeing why apologetics is relevant in our lives. This is a good post, thank you.

  3. The questions I had were basically centered on two subjects:
    1. Reconciling origin science and the biblical interpretation I held concerning Creation.
    2. The reliability of the Bible, particularly how to know that the original writers got their description of Jesus’ life and teachings right. The area of textual criticism as it relates to the preservation of the text wasn’t really an issue for me so much as the question of whether or not the gospels are accurate eyewitness testimony.

    • Nancy Stevenson says:

      Dear Jim,

      My sister who is now in her 60″s has these exact same two questions as you had. I am a Christian that unfortunately is not equipped to answer her questions. Can you tell me what resources you found that answered these two specific questions of yours? Thank your so much.

      Best,
      Nancy

  4. David Crain says:

    Thank you for your post.

    “Marketing research has shown that the strength of intention to proceed to commitment directly relates to the strength of underlying beliefs from the Awareness stage.”

    Is this why first impressions are so powerful and often decisive? I can see how a poor initial awareness can lead nowhere and certainly not toward intent and commitment. But your statement, regarding first impressions, is made in the positive view of the power of first impressions, a much more constructive mode especially when thinking about the young who may not have any pre beliefs surrounding first awareness.

  5. Clayton Vance says:

    Being trained as a scientist and pursing a career in medicine has taught me one thing regarding research: the perspective or world view of the individual conducting the research shapes the results of the research that is being conducted. I have personally seen doctorate level Biologists assign creatorial power to evolution or to “God.” I have been studying apologetics with as much zeal as i have been studying the human body and i would like to offer a caveat to the author of this blog: I would be very careful when illustrating a point of “science says there is no God,” even under the environment of “secular.” I have seen the study of secular science turn a man to a theist. I personally believe that God and science can “go hand in hand.”

    • Hi Clayton, I agree completely! The statements in my chart weren’t intended to reflect what I believe to be true (and you’re right, there are some secular scientists who would admit that science can’t “disprove” God). But overwhelmingly, the popularized message that kids get today – outside of well studied philosophical circles – is that it’s a choice between faith and science. They are bombarded with the message that science is the antithesis of faith and that science leaves no room for God. This is the message I represented in this post – the one the average teenager/young adult (and even older adult!) would likely interpret from the bits and pieces they hear. I agree with you completely, that this is completely wrong. I’ve been reading extensively about origins science and am writing an ebook on views of creation/evolution, so it’s a topic near and dear to my heart as well. Thanks for your comment!

      • Clayton Vance says:

        I would like to share references, if you are open to it. I could recommend a myriad of profound books, on the aforementioned subject, as I am sure you could as well.

  6. This is a fabulous post. Thank you for using this model to explain the need for apologetics. Very insightful.

Trackbacks

  1. […] We want our kids to successfully navigate the competing truth claims out there today, and to have a confidence in their faith that attracts others to it.  Christian apologetics is one of the topics that I cover in this blog.  To see apologetics related activities that I’ve previously posted on, click: “Can We Trust the Bible and Its Authors?”  To read Natasha’s entire post, click here. […]

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