6 Ideas for Teaching Apologetics in a Skeptical World

The number of atheists in the United States has doubled in the past 10 years (from 2% in 2009 to 4% in 2018–2019).1 The number of agnostics has nearly doubled, too—it’s now 5%.2

The world is becoming increasingly skeptical of Christianity. 

Are we becoming increasingly prepared to answer that skepticism?

There’s an overwhelming need, not only for biblical literacy, but also for teaching apologetics (in our homes, small groups, and churches). But teaching apologetics can be overwhelming. Where do you start? 

Here are six ways. 

1. Build the foundation.

While you can mix and match the other ideas, everything will crumble if you skip this step. Before you teach anything else, teach why you’re teaching apologetics. 

It’s not to win arguments.

Apologist Bobby Conway’s reason for learning apologetics puts it into perspective: 

I got into it not because I wanted to beat people up with answers, but because I was out sharing the gospel, and people were asking me questions that I didn’t know the answer to. So I see apologetics as a way that we love the world with our minds.3 

And, of course, there’s the ultimate example: Jesus. His purpose with the Pharisees and Sadducees wasn’t to win an argument. It was to draw them closer to the truth. 

Professor Thaddeus Williams puts it this way in Reflect: Becoming Yourself by Mirroring the Greatest Person in History:

Jesus is not about religious bullying: “I believe y and z. You better too, or else.” Rather, Jesus’ arguments take a winsome form that elicits genuine insight: “You believe in x. Great, me too. Can you see how our belief in x is the bud that logically blooms into y and z?”51 Such an invitation treats people like minds worthy of real respect. If we develop this aspect of the mind of Jesus, then we bring something to the twenty-first-century Acropolis that is sorely lacking—not a threat of blind authority but an invitation to experience firsthand the blossoming of intellectual consistency.4

2. Teach through questions and answers. 

Think through your own experiences with tough conversations, and ask your small group to think through theirs. What questions have you gotten from unbelievers? What objections have you heard?

For example, take this objection related in Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity—that the Bible never says Jesus is God, only that he is the son of God. (When the author finally met a Christian who could show him the answer, it led to his accepting Christ and becoming an apologist himself.) 

Here are a few other questions to start your small group’s list. These three come from an interview with Bobby Conway:

  • What about those who’ve never heard about Jesus; will they be saved? 
  • Can I trust the Bible?
  • If God is good, why is there evil?

These three come from Sean McDowell in Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists:

  • Has science shown there is no soul?
  • What good is Christianity?
  • Is God a genocidal bully?

3. Go through a small group study together.

An apologetics small group study helps add structure and takes some of the teaching responsibility off of you. You’ll still have plenty of opportunity for group discussion, and many small group studies even come with prewritten discussion questions and answers. (Here’s an example.)

4. Read a book together.

You can purchase a digital book for your group to read together. Then, to help keep everyone on track, you can create a shared reading plan. And what’s more, you can also start a shared digital notebook so that conversations can flow even if everyone is reading at different times. 

5. Take a course together.

An apologetics course helps your small group dive even deeper, and many are available from Logos Mobile Education.

6. Encourage “real-world” conversations.

Even after learning apologetics, it can still be intimidating to speak with people who oppose your faith. Encourage your small group to overcome hesitancy and prayerfully hold conversations in a spirit of love. 

***

Is God Just a Human Invention? Faithlife Original video study series comes included free with Faithlife TV Plus—just $4.99 a month after a 14-day free trial. (And you can cancel anytime right from your account.) Start your free trial or log in to your Faithlife TV Plus today.

clickable image for more information on teaching apologetics

  1. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/12/06/10-facts-about-atheists/.
  2. Ibid.
  3. https://blog.faithlife.com/blog/2020/08/an-interview-with-the-one-minute-apologist-7/
  4. Thaddeus J. Williams, Reflect: Becoming Yourself by Mirroring the Greatest Person in History (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017), 38.
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Mary Jahnke

Mary Jahnke is a content marketing specialist. She has a background in marketing, especially for Christian education, and feels blessed to serve the Church at Faithlife.

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Written by Mary Jahnke