Imagine you and a friend are sitting in a room. There is another room on the other side of the wall that you’ve never been in. Your friend explains that there’s a man in the room next door. How would you know if he is telling the truth?
Your friend then gives reasons to believe that someone is in the other room. “The room that we are sitting in was built by this man,” he explains. He goes on to say that you can learn about this person by observing the room around you. He pulls out an autobiography that claims to be written by the person in the other room. Finally, your friend recounts the story of how he met this person. He then implores you, “Don’t just take my word for it. Go knock on the door yourself and see if he answers.”
Three Types of People
I’ve often heard a shorter version of this story as an analogy concerning God’s existence. There are three types of people: theists, agnostics and atheists. Theists believe that there is someone in the other room. Agnostics are unsure whether someone is in there or not, while atheists believe that the room is empty.
It’s easy to blur the lines between atheism and agnosticism. Many atheists say that since there are no good reasons to believe in God, then He must not exist. Even if your friend’s reasoning is unconvincing, however, someone could still be in the other room. This would make you an agnostic and unsure if God exists. To move into atheism, you need to have reasons to believe that the room is empty.
So how do Christians show that someone is in the other room? The study of apologetics seeks to answer this question among many others. The word “apologetics” comes from the Greek word apologia, which means “a verbal defense.” Peter calls believers to always be ready “to make a defense [apologia] to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). As Christians, we must be prepared to defend our faith.
Three Approaches to Apologetics
The reasons given in the story above represent three basic approaches that Christians can take to show that someone is in the other room. The first approach is to provide evidence for God’s existence through reason and the experience of nature, also known as Natural Theology. In this approach, you invite others to see God’s handiwork by examining the universe around them. For example, you could argue that the apparent design in the universe points to a Designer (teleological argument).
The second approach is to show that the person in the other room wrote a book about himself. As Christians we believe that God has revealed Himself through the Bible. We can point to the Scriptures and show that they are reliable and inspired by God. Specifically, we can point to the historical person of Jesus and show that there is evidence to believe that He rose from the dead.
The third approach is to share our own personal experiences of meeting the person in the other room. Paul shared his testimony before King Agrippa as an example of the Gospel’s power to change hearts (Acts 26). Believers have a personal relationship with the risen Jesus and should invite others to knock on his door.
All three approaches to apologetics are rooted in Scripture and have their place when dealing with unbelievers. Paul argued that we can know there is a Creator by examining creation (Romans 1:19-20). The Gospels are based on eyewitness accounts written by those who knew Jesus personally (Luke 1:1-4). Jesus invites all to knock on the door: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11:9-10).
As we talk with unbelievers, we should use all three approaches when applicable. Above all, we must preach the Gospel, inviting unbelievers to knock on the door and meet the person in the other room.
Vine, W. E., Merrill F. Unger, and William White. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words: With Topical Index. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1996. Print.