Apologizing with Style: An Introduction to the Rules of Debate

13 Feb

Perhaps one of the most important things that I ever learned from my mother was how to have an honest, open, friendly debate.  For years, I watched as she welcomed those of other faiths into our home and engaged them in dialogue, presenting her faith (often while enquiring about theirs) with a gentleness and finesse which left everyone feeling at ease.  Everything I know about apologetics and the rules of debate began with her.

Before I start sharing what she taught me, however, we need to take a moment for some etymology.  (“Etymology” is the study of word origins and should not be confused with “entomology” which is the study of all things creepy crawly.)  Our English word “apology” comes from the Greek “apologia” and no, it doesn’t mean saying you’re sorry.  Instead, to the Greek mind, an apology was a “defense for” something whether it be one’s actions, philosophy, cooking style, or faith.  The best orators, those who held the attention of the masses in the public square were excellent “apologists”, reasoning for their own point of view in such a manner as to convince others to embrace it as well.  It should come as no surprise then that “evangelism” and “apologetics” go hand in hand, helping us to present the Christian faith in a reasonable and ordered fashion for the purpose of bringing others “into the fold”.

In order to make a great defense, however, you’re going need to know the rules of informal debate.  For the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at these rules and how they apply in different evangelistic situations.  This week, however, we’re going to present you with just one… and it may be the most important of them all:

Rule 1 – Always Bring it Back to Jesus and the Gospel

The core of Christianity is Christ.  It is Christ Who created and it is Christ Who redeems.  Not surprisingly, this is one doctrine upon which most religions differ.  For this reason, my parents always used to emphasize the importance of keeping our focus on Jesus.  You may wander off into a peripheral issue or take a quick trip down a rabbit trail, but the conversation must always come back to its Core.

It doesn’t matter whether you agree upon mode of baptism or the importance of enforcing laws against theft – according to traditional, Biblical Christianity, those things don’t save you.  You and the Bible can be in perfect agreement upon every issue, but if you don’t stand in the same place regarding what is required to spend eternity in the presence of God, it simply doesn’t matter.  If you want to present your faith clearly, you must present Christ as its center.  Go ahead, answer the questions others have about your faith, but don’t lose sight of what really matters.  If you’re going to be an effective apologist, you’ll need to take your cue from the Apostle Paul, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)

Next week, we’ll take a look at a few more “rules of debate”.  In the meantime, take a moment to share your own experiences with conversations that did (or didn’t) follow “Rule 1” in the comment box below!

 

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7 Responses to “Apologizing with Style: An Introduction to the Rules of Debate”

  1. brittneykp August 31, 2012 at 09:47 #

    My mom emultated Rule #1 for me too! My mom loves to tell about her first conversation with some Mormon missionaries when she was a newlywed and new mom in Idaho. The two elders saw my brother and I and said “Congratulations, Mrs. Peterson – it looks like you’re going to make it into the lowest level of heaven because you’ve had kids. Would you like to know how to get into higher heaven?” She responded with, “Is Jesus in my level of heaven?” They were flummoxed, having never been asked that – they quickly called their bishop and confirmed that yes, Jesus would be in the lowest level of heaven. “If Jesus is there, that’s where I want to be. Want to know why?”

  2. Lori Ann Freeland August 31, 2012 at 11:07 #

    Love the part about bringing it back to Jesus 🙂

  3. Butch Dias September 2, 2012 at 07:08 #

    Loved your article

  4. Pamela O'Hare September 7, 2012 at 12:38 #

    I tried this with my oldest son (early 30’s) who took religion classes in college and he claims that all religions have their own Christ and it all stem’s from the same story. I don’t know about all religions. I do know some. Of course he will debate anything. I asked him if he was still a Christian. He said “yes”. Too him it meant just believing in Christ and God but he hasn’t studied the bible since Sunday school when I took him. So now I really have to dig kindly to find out if they are in the Word or not. Not saying that he still isn’t a Christian but it mean’s different things to different people now.

    • acgheen September 7, 2012 at 13:03 #

      I agree that with so many definitions of “Christ”, this can, indeed, be difficult! It is important that we be careful not to simply presume that others are utilizing the same definitions that we are and, instead, take the time to clarify what we mean.

      For example, by identifying “Christ” as “God incarnate”, we eliminate any chance that others will misinterpret us as believing that He was “merely one of many good men”. By explaining that we believe that the only way to Heaven is through faith in His shed blood alone, without the deeds of the law, we preclude the idea that one “Christ-figure” is as good as another. We are talking about a specific person who gave His life on a cross and a faith that brings Salvation only through our own total surrender.

      This type of lengthy clarification comes as a challenge to many of us, since life in our “fast food” society tends to oversimplify nearly everything! (A fault of which I have been guilty on more than one occasion!)

      I will keep both your son and your efforts to reach him in my prayers!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Apologizing with Style: The “Duh” Rules « acgheen Ministries - September 7, 2012

    […] Apologizing with Style: An Introduction to the Rules of Debate […]

  2. Apologizing with Style: When Things Get Awkward « acgheen Ministries - September 14, 2012

    […] religious dialogue.  We’ve taken a look at the importance of keeping a conversation on task in “An Introduction to the Rules of Debate” and considered a few “Duh Rules” that can be useful in keeping a debate on friendly terms.  […]

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