Strategic Priorities in Apologetics

Getting the most out of your time

Some arguments or apologetics topics tend to be more productive than others. By productive here, we mean more inclined to lead the non-believer to seriously consider the truth of Christianity, and therefore the gospel. Unfortunately, some very popular apologetics topics/arguments are horridly unproductive. One should postpone discussions which are either about, or depend on, the three “B” topics:

Unproductive Topic #1: Biblical inerrancy

Only one serious argument can be brought forth in defense of Biblical inerrancy or infallibility, and it only works on Christians:

1. If God (or a spokesman of God) taught x, then x is true.

2. God (or a spokesman of God) taught that the Bible is infallible.

3. Therefore, the Bible is infallible.

While perhaps a favorite topic for non-believers, the most efficient and effective soul-winners only wrestle over non-salvational topics with their interlocutor after they accepted Christ. This is relevant because inerrancy is a non-salvational topic; no essential Christian doctrine depends on it. For example, consider these three sub-topics:

► Alleged historical and scientific inaccuracies in the Bible.

► Alleged contradictions in the Bible.

► Alleged atrocities attributed to God in the Bible (e.g. God's reported dealings with Canaanites, or sending people to hell instead of just annihilating them).

These can each be resolved by simply setting aside Biblical inerrancy.1 A saved liberal Christian is better than nothing, so reserve the above sub-topics for later—they are important, yes, but irrelevant to our best arguments for God's existence, Jesus's resurrection, and the gospel.

Unproductive Topic #2: Biological evolution

evolution We all know that evolution is widely accepted in universities today. This generally makes attempts to persuade a non-believer that evolution is false hopeless, even if you happen stump him. (Would you believe a 9/11 conspiracy theorist who stumped you?) Moreover, it will actually discredit you in their eyes, since they will think you are forwarding an intellectual equivalent of the flat-earth theory. Insofar as you will probably not have the skill, much less time, to convince them otherwise,2 reserve these particular "intelligent design" arguments for later. (Let me add that you have a virtual responsibility to ensure that your interlocutor knows that one can be a Christian while accepting evolution.)

Unproductive Topic #3: Life-Benefits of one worldview over another

The issue of whether the elimination or promotion of some worldview in a society would result in that society's flourishing—or decline—is irrelevant to the question of whether the worldview in question is true. Similarly, the would-be individual life-benefits of accepting or rejecting a worldview are also irrelevant. Unless you have reason to believe your interlocutor is too apathetic about the big questions in life to seek the truth, it is generally prudent to refrain from discussing the would-be affects of a worldview on society or the individual's life.3

Conclusion

For most conversations with non-believers, you should express a rigid nonchalance about the above topics.4 Focus instead on sequentially securing agreement on the following:

Step 1: Truth exists.

Step 2: God exists.

Step 3: God resurrected Jesus.

Naturally, you will want to follow strategies in going through these steps (see Starter kits for Atheism[Forthcoming] and for Jesus's resurrection[Forthcoming]). The goal is to conclude with this last step:

“Jesus's resurrecting and making appearances to his disciples, by the power of God, surely implies that God has vindicated Jesus and His teachings. Right? Ok. So, when this divinely vindicated Jesus and his apostles speak of God, sin, and the gospel, unless there is good reason to think otherwise, one really ought to take the message as having God's divine stamp of approval. Isn't that a fair conclusion?”

Now they are seriously considering the truth of Christianity. Don't be surprised if the productivity of your discussions skyrocket.


  1. For example, if they find God's dealings with the Caananites objectionable, offer the skeptic this simple option: “Perhaps the Hebrews chose to displace the Caananites, and were a little overzealous in their Biblical report of how involved God was.” Similarly, if they find hell objectionable, just say: "Well, why not be a universalist and say everyone is saved, or be an annihilationist and say that the condemned are simply wiped from existence?"
  2. If someone from the Flat-earth society gave you arguments for a flat earth which stumped you, would you suddenly believe the Earth was flat? Of course not. Even if you don't know the answer, you will rationally assume the experts do. Similarly, even if you successfully stump an evolutionist, he will expect the answers to be out there, so the conversation is generally going to be fruitless (at least relative to other possible conversations). This discussion can be worth having eventually after you have worked through the other arguments for God's existence, but don't expect to make any headway in one session.
  3. Discussing the so-called "absurdity of life" without God, and helping to invoke in your interlocutor an “existential crisis” might be productive in the sense that it would lead them to search harder for the truth, to bring to the fore the gravity of the questions under consideration. I would not recommend focusing on this, however, unless the individual expresses sincere apathy.
  4. The unfortunate impression that Christianity's truth depends on Biblical infallability, or some kind of creationism etc. has arguably been the single greatest cause of apostasy and general rejection of Christianity. Please don't contribute to this.

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