Apologetics Strategies: How to Select Resources to Give to Nonbelievers
Today I offer an article by guest author Krista Bontrager.
Last year, I wrote two articles outlining basic strategies for engaging in evangelistic conversations with scientists and informed hobbyists who have more knowledge or education than you in a particular field (part 1 and part 2). One of the recommendations I made was to share resources with nonbelievers. But what should you look for when selecting a resource to give to a skeptical expert? Here are three criteria to consider:
1. Provide a resource that is written by someone with a PhD in the academic discipline being discussed.
Educational qualifications are often important to experts. They generally want to hear from peers in their field. If the person you’re trying to reach is a professional philosopher, they will probably find a book written by another philosopher to be the most interesting. If the person is a biochemist, they’ll want to hear from a qualified voice in a similar discipline.
Though many of the most popular books in Christian apologetics don’t meet this qualification, that doesn’t necessarily make them bad books. Many of them can be legitimately enjoyed by Christians and can help to strengthen our faith. But these resources, though compelling, aren’t always the best resources to give to a nonbeliever.
2. Provide a resource that includes a rigorous bibliography of non-Christian works.
Though many people are content to use YouTube and Wikipedia to find information, the expert or informed layperson will likely prefer research pulled from reliable sources such as scientific journals. Scientists like careful research, so if you want to reach them with the gospel, it often helps if the message is wrapped in a more technical approach.
Experts also value doing their own research. So it really helps if the resource includes information for further study. My RTB colleagues and I have found that many nonbelievers will take the time to carefully examine the bibliographic information provided in our books in order to verify our research. What they’re often looking for is whether the quotations we’ve included are used in context and if we’ve provided accurate summaries of outside research.
3. Provide a resource that contains a respectful tone toward nonbelievers.
This might seem like an obvious criterion, but it’s still an important one to mention. While 1 Peter 3:15–16 is a key biblical passage establishing the foundation of Christian apologetics, there are a surprising number of books in the genre of Christian apologetics that don’t reflect the ethos of defending the faith with gentleness, respect, and a clear conscience. Many apologetics books and videos contain a subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) but derisive tone toward nonbelievers. Often this comes in the form of statements about dubious beliefs held by atheists or finding it incredulous that nonbelievers fail to put their faith in God.
Related to this, it’s also important to select resources that respect science as a genuine source of truth. If the book fosters doubt about the scientific establishment’s reliability or promotes conspiracy theories about the scientific community, the nonbeliever may find it difficult to trust the book’s claims.
Sharing a quality resource can be a pivotal piece in your missionary strategy with an unbelieving friend or family member. It provides a practical demonstration of humility. When Christians act like they are experts in everything, they come across as arrogant, especially when their nonbelieving friend actually is an expert in a particular field. But when Christians acknowledge their limits and share a resource from a qualified professional, it can build trust and open new doors for conversation. It also gives the unbeliever time and space to process new information.
Once you’ve shared a resource, whenever possible, it’s a good idea to have follow-up conversations. Don’t be discouraged by any tough questions your friend may have after reading or viewing your recommended resource. The tougher the questions, the more it might indicate that they are seriously wrestling through their worldview assumptions at a deep structural level.
Reflections: Your Turn
What resources have you recommended to a science-minded nonbeliever? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.
By Krista Bontrager
Krista Bontrager is the dean of online learning at Reasons to Believe. She is a teacher at heart and enjoys teaching the Bible to all ages. She has an MA in theology and another in Bible exposition from Talbot School of Theology.