Atheist-turned-apologist shares how people can be equipped, successful with apologeticscomments (3)
January 30, 2014
By Kristen Padilla
The positive impact apologetics has on the kingdom of God took a visible form Jan. 18 at the SALT (Strategic Answers to Life’s Thoughts) Apologetics Conference at First Baptist Church, Montgomery. That form came from an atheist-turned-apologist by the name of Jay Watts, opening speaker and master of ceremonies for the conference.
“I was an atheist when I was younger — in my college years and my early 20s,” said Watts, speaker and writer for Life Training Institute (LTI) in Atlanta. “I became a Christian largely because of apologetic arguments drawing me toward a reasonable belief that Christianity can be reasonably considered. But since I became a Christian, apologetics has become even more important to me.”
Watts shared personal experiences as he lectured about the meaning of apologetics and how to approach it.
“As an atheist, so many Christians tried to convert me by quoting the Bible,” he said. “Then one person learned to speak the language I spoke. This one Christian was equipped to deal with me, to speak my language.”
That’s what apologetics is and equips you to do — to speak other people’s language by “answering questions, rationally and reasonably, and to give reasons for your faith,” Watts explained. Not only do apologetics help answer the questions of those seeking God but it also helps the Christian to stay firm in his or her faith.
“Apologetics isn’t just something I do on stage; it’s not just something I do in front of university crowds. It’s a part of my life,” he said. “When I have personal doubts, apologetics has helped me to settle those.
“The rational beliefs hold me even when my heart is breaking or when the world is telling me there is no answer, no solution; my mind anchors me,” Watts added.
Apologetics is not only for scholars or seminary-trained individuals; it is for the laypeople too. “You are the apologetics community,” Watts told the approximately 200 people gathered. “You are making a difference in the world as tent-makers, not professional scholars, not professional translators, but people who have jobs but are still reaching out to the community and taking the tools and everything you are being given to touch the lives of people around you.
“My goal … is to equip you … to have a strategy of approaching apologetics,” he said.
How can lay people be equipped and be successful with apologetics? Watts gives three keys to finding success.
First get a lay of the land by listening to the arguments out there and asking yourself, “What are the arguments?” The arguments aren’t new, he said, but spend time to learn what they are and “push yourself beyond your comfort level.”
Second specialize in an area of apologetics. For Watts, he chose pro-life issues as his specialization.
“When I was an atheist, one of the things that I hated about the belief in God was that I couldn’t marry it with the world that I saw around me,” he said. “It always bothered, deeply bothered me, the way human beings treated each other. And my solution for that as an atheist was just to say, ‘There is no right; there’s no wrong. We’re only animals acting within our nature.’”
Because of that worldview, Watts said he was staunchly pro-choice. But when he became a Christian he “started to understand there was a value to human life.”
“We need to find those areas that animate us … that excite us, that we want to study,” he said. “At some point, if you want to make yourself a resource for the kingdom of God (then) find those areas that are of most interest to you and begin to study them,” Watts added.
“There’ll be a time when a depth of knowledge is needed and when that time comes, the kingdom of God needs people like you to answer that call.”
Third be honest and be understood. “We should not (lie) if we represent the kingdom of God,” Watts said. “We should be honest about what we know, we should be honest about the depth of our knowledge, the limits of our arguments.”
“We should make it as a goal to be understood” more than being right.
Because in the end, “apologetics doesn’t save people. Jesus saves.”
“We use apologetics to clear the air and point them to the cross of Jesus Christ,” he said. Paraphrasing from William Rusher, Watts said, “It’s not right there that they’re going to change their minds … but what you say at that moment that lives with them for months afterwards.”
This is Watts’ story. The person whom he credits with the most responsibility in him becoming a Christian had not spoken to him for a year prior to his conversion. Yet it was this person’s words that remained with him during that year and destroyed his worldview.
“They would have seen their work in my life as a colossal failure had I not gone to them after I became a Christian and told them what they meant,” Watts said. “They were patient; they were kind.”
Their arguments remained with him, like a pebble in his shoe, “to the point I woke up one morning and all their work just came crashing down on me and I was willing to look at Christ for the first time in my life, to consider Him,” he said. “Their arguments won. I understood them and that understanding led me to Christ.”