Apologetics as Dance

images-1In this sound-bite age, engaging in thoughtful dialogue with others about issues that matter most is difficult. We lack patience. We want morsels of knowledge packaged in 240 character epigrams. Rarely do we know what we believe about God, the world, or self. Even more rare is knowing why we believe what we believe. For those of us who are Christians—and know what this means and why it is true—the question becomes: how does the gospel get a fair hearing in the age of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram? How can we engage others in a conversation about things that matter most in such a way that progress is made toward truth?

Simply having the truth, as Christians do, is not enough. We must learn how to be effective communicators so that the truth of Christianity will be (1) understood and (2) seen as plausible and desirable. In short, we must add to knowledge of the truth an artful method of communicating the truth. We must learn how to gently take our partner (read: the person you are having a conversation with) and lead them toward the truth. We want to help them hear the music of the gospel.

A book that I have found very helpful in this area is Greg Koukl’s Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions. Koukl argues that being a good ambassador for Christ in our day requires three basic skills:

  • Knowledge: an accurately informed mind.
  • Wisdom: an artful method.
  • Character: an attractive manner.

 

To this I say a hearty amen! So much of apologetics these days focuses on the content of Christianity. Rightly so, after all Christianity is a knowledge tradition and we Christians think that knowledge of reality matters. Less attention (but see Os Guinness’s recently released Fool’s Talk) is given to having an artful method. Koukl’s Tactics is therefore a must have/must read/must practice tool for those who want to be effective apologists.

The book is filled with helpful advice, real-life anecdotes, and easy to employ tactical questions and maneuvers for leading others to the truth.

Do you need time to think or understand someone’s view? Then ask a Columbo question “What do you mean by that?” or “Why do you think that?” Are you being bullied by a steamroller that won’t let you get a word in and interrupts you when you do? Then apply Koukl’s tactics: stop him, gently confront him, or leave him. Are you being charged with holding views that you don’t even hold and asked to defend them? Shift the burden of proof. Are you confused about what to think from a professor who smugly proclaims that science has disproved God? Apply the Rhodes Scholar tactic. Do you spot an inconsistency in your dialogue partner’s worldview? Take the worldview for a test drive, take the roof off, and point out the inconsistency. Are you being bullied with assertions that are false? Then supply Just the Facts Ma’am. Each of these tactics (highlighted in bold) and more are discussed in a way that, through practice, can be applied to any conversation with wisdom and tact.

The overall point is this. Begin to think about apologetic conversations as a kind of dance. As you listen to the music of the gospel in your own life, let its rhythm overflow and move you to dance. And as you dance, invite others into conversation. Help them hear the music of the gospel. Take their hand and help them feel the rhythm. Help them see the truth. Help them begin to hear for themselves the music of the gospel, the only balm for a weary, bent, and broken soul.

Turn up the volume, listen to the music of the gospel, and invite others to join in the dance.

Here is one of my favorite videos of all time. It powerfully illustrates how we love to dance. Music moves us. And the music of the gospel, the good news of God’s mercy and grace to us, ought to move us to dance as well. Invite others to the dance.

 

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