When my wife and I started dating, we had to sort out our religious differences. She was raised fundamentalist Baptist; I, evangelical Pentecostal. She believed in once-saved, always-saved; I did not. I believed speaking in tongues was normal; she did not. We worked things out by the time we married. Now we are both Bapticostals.
I mention my personal experience because I think it illuminates a problem facing Christians in modern America. If two Christians with similar beliefs and morals have to explain themselves to one another, imagine how much they need to explain themselves to non-Christians, who do not share their beliefs and morals. If religious literacy among Christians is low, it certainly must be lower among unbelievers.
There is an additional twist to this problem. Some American unbelievers are not merely ignorant about Christianity; they are hostilely ignorant. They do not understand it, but they nevertheless want to critique what they do not understand.
This antipathy to Christianity is as old as, well, Christianity itself. Acts 2:1-13 describes the earliest Christians’ experience of the Holy Spirit, which produced supernatural, charismatic manifestations such as speaking in tongues. Many bystanders asked, “What does this mean?” They were genuinely interested in the supernatural phenomenon they were witnessing. Others, however, ridiculed the disciples: “They have had too much wine.” They critiqued what they had not bothered to understand.
Acts 2:14-15 records Peter’s response:
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!”
Notice, first of all, what Peter does not do. He does not ignore either the honest questioners or the hostile critics. Several years ago, I talked with a friend of my sister’s who, though once a strong Christian, had become alienated from the church. When I asked her why this had happened, she told me that she had been turned off to the faith by a pastor who, instead of answering her honest questions, tried to bully her into silence. I wonder how many people share her unfortunate testimony. Unanswered questions result in uncommitted lives.
Now notice what Peter does. He answers the hostile critics. They claim the disciples are drunk; he argues that the facts show otherwise. This refutation then allows him, in verses 16-41, to answer the honest questioners and explain what Pentecost means. Think of answering hard questions as a ground-clearing operation. If you want to build a house, you must first lay a foundation. And if you want to lay a foundation, you must first clear and level the ground. That is what Christian apologetics does. It clears away alternative explanations of spiritual experience—whether honest or hostile—so that the foundation of the gospel can be laid in people’s lives.
So, next time someone asks you a question about Christianity, answer it! Answered questions lead to committed lives.