Thursday, April 22, 2010

Apologetics Toolkit: Tips for the Apologetic Life #01

This begins the Apologetics Toolkit series on: Tips for the Apologetic Life. The goal behind this next series of 5 tips is to provide a few ideas on how to take the ideas studied in apologetics and apply them to "real life" situations. What good is knowledge without being able to communicate that knowledge effectively?

Tool #01: Keep it Simple

1. Use simple terms
When in conversation, avoid using specialist language if it is not needed. Don't assume all people know terms like epistemology, ontology, teleology... or apologetics. Use language that the person you are speaking with understands. Don't try to impress; seek to express. Communication that is simple and clear is persuasive. Greg Koukl is a good example of this, as he rarely uses terms that are more complex than necessary.

2. Use stories and illustrations
Jesus used parables, illustrations, and stories to reach the minds and hearts of his hearers. This made his communication memorable, clear, and powerful. This kind of communication works better for most people and takes the complex and puts it into practical terms. Ravi Zacharias is a good example of this, as he uses powerful personal stories and images to communicate ideas that word alone do not express.

3. Own what you are talking about
Perhaps the key to keeping things simple when communicating complex ideas in theology or apologetics is to "own" what you are talking about. To communicate simply, it helps to understand deeply. If you have trouble communicating your ideas in simple terms, it could be a sign that you are just repeating things in the way that you have heard others say it. Spend time making the subject your own by crafting your own illustrations and ways of communicating the subject -- and keep it as simple as possible.

What does this look like in a in everyday life? It looks like this:
You speak clearly and concisely in terms that everyone can understand. You tell your own stories and use illustrations that cause what you are talking about to be memorable and make sense. You seek a deep understanding of your subject and leave a unique imprint through your own fresh perspective.

Why tips do you have for keeping things simple?


Meg Cusack said...

Do you have ideas for an alternative word for "apologetics"? When people ask me what I do with my time, the concise explanation is that I like to study apologetics. But a lot of people don't know that word and I don't want to sound lofty.
I would like ideas on what else to use in the sentence, "I like to study...."

Peter Grice said...

My wife is having to think through this issue at the moment. She wants to begin a discussion group for women along these lines. But "apologetics" can have negative connotations even for many Christians, and a standard attitude seems to be "I'm happy that you like that sort of thing. As for me, I don't feel I need to know everything."

"persuasion" has emerged as the best general purpose alternative, but it doesn't quite fit your purpose.

Although strictly speaking it means a defense, apologetics is broad enough to involve also a positive commendation of what we believe, and indeed the critical, personal aspect that undergirds it, namely having reasons that strengthen our faith.

"Worldviews" is a useful, somewhat similar term. You may have to define it, which may be something you'd like to do. If not, "belief systems" is an alternative that will be readily understood.

"Culture" and "ideology" are also related. "Ideas" relates to ideology but risks being misunderstood as an everyday flash of inspiration ("I see - you want to be an inventor?")

But if you mean to stick with the traditional category, you could simply skip to the definition: "I like to study how to defend Christianity from skeptical challenges."

Brian said...

Hey there Meg,

Sorry I have been busy and haven't a good time to sit to comment. When I pitched the idea for a Reasonable Faith group to our church, I never used the world apologetics. When I advertised it, I never used the word once. I heard someone else refer to it as an apologetics class, which I told him was true, but just call it the Reasonable Faith Group. The reason is simply because the term comes with its own baggage: either its not understood, or it is misunderstood.

At any rate, you might consider talking about it like this...

Defending Christianity, defending the faith, being thoughtful about Christian issues, critically examining Christian truth, contending for the faith, being thoughtful about your convictions, answering the tough questions, examining worldviews, studying Christian defenses, handling tough issues, answering skeptics, discussing your convictions, persuasive evangelism, being thoughtful about the faith, showing Christianity is true, giving good answers, etc.

Maybe some combination of these sorts of things are more self-explanatory and helpful for those who are unfamiliar with apologetics as a discipline. I hope that helps!

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