“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15 ESV
Years ago, while I was at a previous church, I was having a discussion with a fellow church member. As we were talking he began to talk about familial issues and how hard it has been on him. It was rough to hear but I appreciated him opening up a little bit to me. This is part of what it means to “do life together.”
However, in the midst of our conversation, he was talking about a family member of his who is an atheist — or at the very least a skeptic. As he continued speaking, he said: “I just told him ‘You need to have more faith.'” That answer concerned me, though I didn’t respond with concern. It wasn’t the right time.
His answer revealed what was a lack of preparedness. He was not ready to “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). He answered with a common cop-out phrase . . . “You just gotta have more faith!”
That’s not going to cut it.
“. . . the truth of God cannot get to the heart unless it is first processed by our mind,” RC Sproul said in his commentary on 1 Peter. “Our heart cannot embrace what the mind finds unintelligible.”
Sproul, who is with the Lord now, gets it exactly right in this quote, particularly the first sentence. You cannot believe in your heart what you do not know in your mind. In other words, you cannot have more faith in something that you haven’t intellectually affirmed.
A skeptic has faith — all people have faith, whether they deny it or not — but he or she does not have faith in God. Therefore, the answer of “you just have to have more faith” will not suffice. Our answer needs to be better than that. And not for the defense of God or Scripture — it’s clear God and His Word need no defending. It’s more for your progress as a Christian. It’s to strengthen your own faith.
God doesn’t need to prove His existence to an atheist — He’s already done enough of it. But you need to know how to articulate the arguments for the existence of God, Christ’s resurrection, the empty tomb, and other apologetic topics. With that being said, let me explain what apologetics is not very briefly by pointing you to a superb quote.
Compromising with the world is not ‘doing apologetics’. Actually doing apologetics is contending against the compromises of the world. Compromising on the historicity and veracity of God’s Word so that the ‘biblical story is more believable to unbelievers’ is not ‘doing apologetics’. Actually doing apologetics is defending the historicity and veracity of the Bible. No army on earth has ever won a war by continually compromising and giving up ground. The Army of the Lord is no different in that respect.”https://www.facebook.com/p.wilson.7
Part of knowing how to defend our faith is knowing how not to do it. Wilson hits the nail on the apologetic head. Apologetics does not mean compromising; it means defending. Whatever the cost.
That cost, however, must not include gentleness and respect. Christian, we don’t learn about apologetics — defending the faith — to make ourselves feel smart so we can belittle people for not believing in Christianity. We learn apologetics to strengthen our faith when we doubt. So when we do have conversations like the one above, we do so with grace.
We aren’t to rub our knowledge of apologetics in people’s faces. We should have conversations where gentleness is evident and respect is given.
With that said, Christian, don’t let your answer be “you just need more faith.” When somebody says God doesn’t exist, you should be able to explain the moral argument for God, for example. Or articulate why there has to be a God — the God of Scripture, of course. Or explain why women being the first witnesses to Christ’s resurrection has historical significance.
 RC Sproul, St Andrews Commentary 1-2 Peter, (Wheaton, IL) Crossway, 114.