“Every culture hostile to Christianity holds to a set of ‘common-sense’ consensus beliefs that automatically make Christianity seem implausible to people.” – Tim Keller
I’ve been working on new material for an Apologetics training class I’m teaching and came across this great article from Tim Keller that deals with Defeater Beliefs (that his book Reason for God deals extensively with). Defeater Beliefs are commonly held ideas that make it impossible for someone to believe.
According to Keller, since most people hold to these Defeater Beliefs, there must be 2 parts to evangelism
- “The more negative aspect has to do with ‘apologetics’ – it consists in deconstructing the culture’s implausibility structure.
- The more positive aspect of sharing the gospel is to connect the story of Jesus to the base-line cultural narratives.”
But here’s what I thought was particularly helpful:
You can’t just immediately 1) Do apologetics or 2) Present the gospel
- “If you try to do apologetics before you pull off a quick, attractive presentation of Christ, people’s eyes will glaze over and they will become bored.
- But if you try to do a very lengthy explanation of the meaning of Christ’s cross and resurrection before you convincingly deal with the defeaters, they won’t listen to you either”
Keller explains there has to be a relationship where you have a Sandwich of 3 Layers:
- “Brief gospel summary. First, the gospel must be presented briefly but so vividly and attractively (and so hooked into the culture’s base-line cultural narratives) that the listener is virtually compelled to say “It would be wonderful if that were true, but it can’t be!” Until he or she comes to that position, you can’t work on the implausibility structure! The listener must have motivation to hear you out. That is what defeaters do – they make people super-impatient with any case for Christianity. Unless they find a presentation of Christ surprisingly attractive and compelling (and stereo-type breaking) their eyes will simply glaze over when you try to talk to them.
- Dismantle plausibility structure. Alvin Plantinga wisely asserts that people avoid Christianity not because they have really examined its teachings and found them wanting, but because their culture gives huge plausibility (by the media, through art, through the expertise and impressive credentials of its spokespersons) to believe a series of defeater beliefs that they know are true, and since they are true, Christianity can’t be.
- Longer explanation of the person and work of Christ. Now, if people find you have at least undermined the defeaters in a listener’s mind, you can now return to talking at greater length about creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.”
I highly encourage reading the full article.