To make a good case, you need to be prepared
I found an interesting post by Jim Wallace of Please Convince Me. (H/T The Poached Egg)
Wallace responds to the alarming statistics of Christians abandoning their faith as soon as they get to university, often because of intellectual doubts. He also notes that many young Christians who don’t fall away don’t really have a Biblical worldview at all.
Here’s the problem:
Many students are walking away from Christianity because they no longer believe it is true. In a survey conducted by sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Denton and recorded in their book, “Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers” (Oxford University Press, 2005), 32% of former believers said they left because of intellectual skepticism…
The young Christians who were surveyed said that they believed in the existence of a God who created and ordered the world and watches over human life here on earth. They also believe that this God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, (as they claimed the Bible teaches, and as most other world religions also teach). They said that the central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. They did not believe that God needed to be involved in one’s life except when He is required to solve a problem, and they said that good people go to heaven when they die. Not much of this version of “Christianity” resonates with the classic, orthodox truth of the Christian Worldview, does it?
And here’s his solution, passionately argued:
When asked what it means to be a Christian, few of us would respond that being a Christian means becoming a ‘defender of the faith’. Most of us shy away from challengers and those who hold opposing beliefs; many of us are uncomfortable with the potential confrontation. But being a Christian demands that we become proficient “case makers”. Think about it for a minute. We would all agree that our salvation does not depend on our ability to defend what we believe. After all, we are saved when we trust Jesus for our salvation and recognize that we are fallen, sinful creatures in need of a Savior. When we recognize that Jesus is God incarnate and paid the penalty that we deserve, we begin to embrace the promise of God to rescue us from ourselves! This trust in Christ as Lord and Savior is what saves us.
But we need to recognize that our Christian life is more than one of trust. It is also a life of knowledge and expression. God has called us to think about what we believe and defend it to those who might challenge us or simply ask questions (more on that HERE). Christian “case makers” who have accepted this challenge are often called “apologists”. The word “apologist” comes from the Greek word “apologia” which simply means “speaking a defense”. The term does have some liability, however, for a couple of reasons. First, the related term, “apology” leaves many with the impression that Christians think they have something to apologize for when they engage in “apologetics”. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. Secondly, our present culture has a tendency to view apologists as professional speakers of one kind or another. Even Christians tend to think of apologetics as something to be done by professionals, rather than an important responsibility to be embraced by each and every Christian. It’s time to recognize the fact that all Christians are called to be a Christian “case makers”; the situation couldn’t be more urgent.
[...]There’s a reason why God calls us to worship Him with our minds, understand the value of evidence, examine our beliefs until we are convinced, and then become Christian “case makers” (more on that HERE)! While it is our faith and trust in Christ that saves us, it is our ability to make the case for Christ that protects us and transforms our world. We need to become “case makers” just as Paul was a “tent maker”. “Case making” needs to be a part of our Christian identity, and all of us need to be apologists for the Christian Worldview. We cannot continue to delegate this responsibility to well known apologists and Christian authors. We don’t need one ‘million dollar apologist’; we need a million ‘one dollar apologists’. All of us can be equipped to defend our faith; it doesn’t require a master’s degree in apologetics; it doesn’t require a library full of books, or a radio show, or a podcast. It simply requires the personal commitment to learn the truth and defend it to others.
This article is pretty long, but it has a lot of information based on his experience as a cold case police detective.
Here’s a snippet that should get you to read the whole thing:
Call Witnesses Selectively
Once the Opening Statements have been made, it’s time to begin presenting the evidence to the jury. Much of this evidence will simply be the testimony of important expert witnesses. The attorneys have to select these witnesses carefully and judiciously. Each case is different and will require specific types of experts. Some cases require DNA experts, others require experts in material evidence; some cases require coroners or doctors, others require weapons specialists. The attorneys have the burden of deciding which types of experts will be needed to best make the case.
As a Christian…
I’ve got to do something very similar if I want to be a “Case Making” Christian. While I may be very familiar with the scientific or philosophical work that has been done on a particular topic, I have to be careful not to overload the conversation with the opinions of too many “expert witnesses”. I have to be specific and targeted in the way that I bring experts into the conversation. I also need to be well versed in the work that these experts have done so that I can accurately quote them.
A “Case Making” Tip:
Become a specialist. It’s important to have a broad understanding of a number of apologetic issues, but I know there are some places where I am weak, and some places where I am stronger. I try to focus on those areas that are off special interest to me and it’s in these areas that I am most familiar with the experts in the field. See yourself as the foreman on a jury. You and I don’t have to BE expert witnesses; we simply need to be able to reiterate what the expert witnesses have said once we get back in the jury room with the other jurors.
This is point #3 in his list of 7 points. He’s basically saying that you have to be able to represent the work of the experts intelligently, instead of just reading what they’ve written out loud, which could take forever. You need to read the experts, and then support your case with relevant quotes from the experts, showing how they support arguments that you understand – because you made them. And this preparation and specialization is not based on what is easy for you, or based on what you like, but is instead based on what is effective for your audience. If your audience finds science appealing, then to science you will go. Hint: most men like science, math and computers. Whatever you choose, logic, science, history – it has to be focused on demonstrating the truth of Christianity – NOT Christianity as life-enhancement.
Filed under: Mentoring, 1 Pet 3:15, 2 Cor 10:5, Apologetics, Case, Case-Maker, Christian Apologetics, Defense, Evidence, Jim Wallace, Preparation, Rationality, Reason, Witness