Saturday, March 25, 2006

16 verbs for a 21st Century Apologetics

Michael is a thoughtful person and a good friend.
He and his wife are Godparents to The Boy [Yes, that is The Boy at his Baptism].
His blog can be found here:

But this post has but one purpose.

To encourage you to read this excellent article on Apologetics:

16 verbs for a 21st Century apologetics posted on

For summary, here are the 16 verbs:

1. Begin with prayer
2. Listen carefully, attentively and intelligently
3. Study your culture of context
4. Engage in dialogue
5. See apologetics as not an end in itself but as clearing a runway for the gospel
6. Be intellectually flexible
7. Be a critical realist
8. Assume a basic natural knowledge of God
9. Build communities of grace and live authentic Christian lives
10. Critique the beliefs of others
11. Know history
12. Appeal to the imagination
13. Know your personal testimony
14. Seek points for intersection with the Bible
15. Allow the Bible to speak dynamically
16. If necessary, say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘good point’ or ‘I’ll get back to you’

For discussion in the comments:

Anything missing in this list that you would like to add?
Any stories of ‘apologising’ that you have that might be good for us to hear?

Love, Justin.


Tiddy said...

The one I first thought of was SHOW some sensitivity. Meaning, of course, that as Christians its very easy to scoff at what someone believes... and even when the scoffing is only inferred, i think it cuts pretty deep.

Which I suppose leaves us with the task of challenging what someone believes without offending them... which can be tricky...

My other thought it is this... From my perspective at least, being an effective evangeliser is often about being a good apologetist (that's totally a word). Once again, speaking only from my personal experience, knowing the gospel and being able to explain it clearly is the most important first step, but so much more is needed... specifically, being able to tactfully and lovingly explain to someone why what they believe is wrong/lacking, and then second of all being able to to defend the gospel against all the usual arguments.

Justin said...

Tidy, Tiddy.


NickW said...

J, downloaded an awesome sermon you did on 1 Cor 13 in 2001 off the CCSI website. God was glorified by that exposition. Really challenged me. Thank you.

OK. On one level, I'd like to "challenge" points 6,7 and 10...they're excellent points IF they're done in the context of the complete authority of scripture, and the absolute sufficiency of Christ for all our needs (which, no doubt, you absolutely meant!).

So what's my point with regard to apologetics?

On pure academics, the WORLDLY would say that an ordinand level Theology degree from, say, Oxford would be of more worth than one from another, non-household name institution. But as evangelicals committed to God's word, we would doubt that assessment. Why?

Certainly the Oxford BDiv/BTh would be a CRTICIAL, INTELLECTUAL and ACADEMIC approach to the Word - which is ABSOLUTELY essential. Yet the CONTEXT of that criticism is VERY different at Oxford as opposed to, say, Moore College, Oak Hill, TMS etc. As Christians, we naturally evaluate the worth of those degrees by a different standard. We care about the quality of exegesis, exposition and faithfulness to the Word because of what it is - the very, literal Word of God. Without clear, unequivocal gospel preaching no-one is converted.

As postmodernism grows, as emerging churches explode, as dubious televangelists tout their books and tapes and "healing kits" to cater to the desire for health, wealth and prosperity, we need the sledgehammer of God's word to do what it does best - change people by confronting them with the depths of their own sin, unfettered by church growth plans, marketing and other assorted humanistic, feel-good efforts.

My conviction comes from my own experience. My Christianity was of dubious validity until about a year ago, when the power of God's Word (and the necessity to find truth to stand on in this world)was let loose in my (very dark) heart through the exposition of John Piper ( the Sovereignty of God. Piper is a brilliant, thorough academic and logician - just read his commentary on the "Justification of God" to see what I mean. BUT he is absolutely saturated, consumed and set alight by the veracity and power of God's word. That kind of fixation on Christ and his Word is virulent - totally offensive, shocking and ghastly at first, but ends up being our strength in Christ: As the hymn goes, "On Christ the solid rock I stand - all other ground is sinking sand." Even better, Ps119:160 - "The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever" Therefore, our apologetics have to be lovingly single-minded for the glory of Christ.

We need to be "offensive" with the Gospel. One of my fave verses at the moment is Jer 23:29 - Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? - Like a FIRE and a HAMMER!! It's meant to burn and hit and bruise. How else can we see our need for grace? How else do we recognise God's righteousness and holiness and power? How do we stop ourselves from falling into the pit of Mt 24:12-14? By being white-hot passionate with the Word. That's awesome! (Thanks to TeamPyro, by the way, ( introducing me to Jer23:29!)

Examples? There's certainly nothing lighthearted about Romans 8 and 9 - they are like God's thermonuclear weapon for the human heart. They are unrelenting and mercilessly challenging. They change you by showing you what you are, and who you are before Christ. They put you into the right position before God - no rights, no obligations from God to you. Only grace in salvation. Amen.

I'm humbled by the Word. Our apologetics, evangelism, witness, relationships, anything at all must be saturated in gospel truth and energized by Christ. Otherwise they are just pointless efforts to glorify our own knowledge and argumentative skill, rather than glorifying Him who opens blind (spiritual and physical!) eyes alone.

Apologetics is done to the glory of God, by the power of the Word through Christ alone. The glory is His in opening eyes to His beauty, not in the skill of our argument. Treasures in jars of clay alright.

For more on "christian academics", check out this post here:

OK - that was way longer than I'd planned, but I'm kinda excited about God's word since I got "really" saved!

Much love,

JT said...

You sir, renew my faith that Anglican ministers can be pleasantly, and outrageously, left field (the only sort of left field), and that having kids is a wild ride worthy of the price of admission.
Desire to grace, that's unnatural... I love it!


Jim said...

I would add:

"ASK questions". Although this may be covered by other points, namely 4 and 10.

But I believe by asking questions, people will sometimes contradict themselves and holes in their beliefs can become more evident. If not, what it does show is a genuine desire to understand where they are coming from.


SUDS said...

I love point 5. No point convincing people that what we believe stacks up if you are going to share the good news with them. You've got to bring it all home!

You can't spell apologetics without g-o-s-p-e-l.

You'd be left with aptic.

Think about it...

anita said...

beautiful photo of michael and the boy. we are hoping to visit them in oxford soon

michael jensen said...

Yeah - looking forward to it Anita!!

Well thanks for the comments y'all.

I myself have doubts about the assumption of some 'natural' knowledge of God point... is this really the case?

nickw said...

MP, John Frame weighs in here (no doubt you've come across it!):

Besides, Rom 1:19 & 20 claims "natural" knowledge of God in man.

Depends on how you define "natural" knowledge, I guess


phantom linker said...

Here's that John Frame link for those who are sick of cutting and pasting.

And here's another handy link for those who need lessons on how to link.

nickw said...

Like this? ;-)