1 Peter 3:15 calls for Christians to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks.” But does this include online forums and discussion groups? Conversations can get heated and sometimes downright ugly.
Many Christians have found the web to be a good place to exchange information and engage the culture. But experienced forum participants suggest that “newbies” should keep several things in mind:
- Take time to observe the dynamics of the group before engaging in a discussion. You will find that many well-meaning people repeat the same outdated arguments. Before jumping in, read “Problematic Apologetics” (Answers, April–June 2009) and “Arguments We Don’t Use” (www.answersingenesis.org/get-answers/topic/arguments-we-dont-use).
- Some Christians spend months or even years arguing. If the goal is to try to change narrow minds with more evidence, you are bound to fail. God’s Word and the Holy Spirit change hearts and minds, not simply evidence. People already know that God exists yet “suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18–20). So God’s Word and His Holy Spirit are the keys.
- Beware of blanket claims that use words like “all,” “every,” and “always” (and make sure you don’t make sweeping generalizations, either).
- Don’t go in with a “me against them” attitude. Understand that the real conflict is between God’s Word and the evil “powers” that promote false ideas (Ephesians 6:12).
- Don’t agree to leave out the Bible. If you do, you’ve lost before you start. God’s Word is our starting point and our sword (Hebrews 4:12; see “Fool-Proof Apologetics” on Proverbs 26:4–5 from the Answers April–June 2009 issue).
- Remember the last part of 1 Peter 3:15, to give answers “with meekness and fear.”
- Do your homework on which groups are worth your time. Ask friends or church leaders who are involved in this sort of online ministry.
- Be prepared for any scientific discussion to change course from creation-evolution questions to attacks on the Bible. Several good materials are available on the Bible’s authenticity, including the DVD series How Do We Know the Bible Is True by Brian Edwards.