Can apologetics work if the audience doesn’t care?

Is traditional Christian apologetics still relevant when non-believers simply don’t care about Christianity? The Internet Monk suggests that ambivalence about religion is more common today than outright disbelief, and that apologetics arguments fall flat because the typical atheist today just doesn’t care about the Big Questions around which most Christian apologetics is built:

I’m convinced the game is not primarily about arguments any more. As grateful as I am for Tim Keller’s great book The Reason For God and his two hour presentations on You Tube, and as happy as I am that David Bentley Hart and others have convincingly demonstrated the fallacies of the new atheist arguments, the truth is that the contemporary atheist doesn’t plan to play a game of 21 with our NBA All Stars….

Atheism is just….easier. Occam’s Razor. Theism is too much trouble. It starts to sound like someone is trying to sell you something sight unseen. Isn’t your best move just to hang up the phone and ignore the call?

If true, this leads us to an interesting conundrum: what are Christian apologists to do if their audience no longer wants to engage them?

Meaningful debate requires two people, both of them passionate about their viewpoints. But as people actively disengage from religion and lose interest even in debating it, what’s a Christian apologist to do? An apologist’s first task is now to convince them that religion is worth talking about in the first place.

I’ve seen this trend in my own conversations with atheists and agnostics. Many just don’t seem to care. They don’t wake up every day intent on proving God’s non-existence or winning an argument with a Christian. They have too many other priorities to occupy their time.

What about you? Have you encountered people who just don’t care about religion, and if so, how did you respond? Is there value in training traditional apologists when many non-Christians could care less about their well-reasoned arguments?

5 Responses to “Can apologetics work if the audience doesn’t care?”

  • I think this gives greater leverage to the point that it isn’t just arguing that convinces, but also a holy walk and an outstretched hand of service. It’s easy to ignore the arguments of someone who is simply talking, but if they’re repairing marriages, feeding the poor, and ministering to the needy, our arguments take on greater value. I think we keep plugging along with our apologetics, but also diversify our approach to substantiating our claims with hands-on ministry.

  • BenK says:

    The idea of a reasoned argument leading to faith is an illusion of the enlightenment. It is a dead-end street down which millions of evangelicals have filed. The arguments of rational apologetics more often than not find their home in debated dogma among believers (or so-called believers) and the rationalizations of midday doubts; the original apologetics were the testimonies of the apostles and show little or no similarity to the justifications laid forth today.

    As the Anglicans continue to demonstrate that orthopraxis will only grow from orthodoxy, there may be a continued need for rational argument of the tenants of the faith, in an attempt to forge unity from the mess that calls itself the church. However, there never was and never will be any practical value in attempting to make the gospel sound reasonable. What is needed is generally not apologetics but catechesis.

  • “An apologist’s first task is now to convince them that religion is worth talking about in the first place.”

    Apologetics can only follow the use of the Law of God that man may see his sin in truth. You can do the same with an audience. Once the listeners see WHY they must care, when the Law shows them they WILL face a Just and Holy God for their sins, then they will listen.
    The Law of God is perfect, converting the soul; The Law of God is for sinners to see their sin as exceeding sinful; the Law of God shuts the mouth of the siner and leaves him at the foot of the blood stained Cross of Jesus repenting and pleading for the Salvation Christ alone can offer.
    Patrick Burwell,

  • […] mainstream America as many foreign missions field would be. I would argue that is a postmodern, post-apologetic world where people simply aren’t asking questions about ultimate reality, and where […]

  • Antan says:

    Audience doesnt care about religion (Christianity allso) because The Big Questions are formulated in past and like all past things are not compatible with present.It is not corect to to call them all “atheists” or just that they “doesn’t care”. Bonehoeffer predicted form of future when believers will be “non-religious”.