Studying Apologetics

My kids take Apologetics in high school, as I mentioned I would explain in the last post: “Hows that College Bible Class?“. My daughter only had a couple of years in Apologetics, but her younger siblings will be taking Apologetics from 8th-12th grade (yes, each year). The reason for taking it every year is that understanding and maturity grows; the answers to these questions (listed below) develop a greater depth over time. The distinction is clear after listening to a 17 or 18-year-old who has studied and researched these questions, and believes them, and some of these teens, quite frankly, are amazing. Plus, the list of definitions and topics is very long, and most students cannot complete them all in one year. As they grow and research, their understanding grows as well.

Below is what my kids study in middle/high school for Apologetics. The list below is taken from their speech and debate league. In our league, Apologetics is one of 11 speech categories in which a student may compete.

At a tournament, there are 3 preliminary speech rounds with Apologetics (or any of the 11 speech categories). The student walks into a room, and draws a slip of paper with 2 of the topics (from any of the 5 categories) below listed on them. The student may choose one of those topics to deliver his speech. The student has 4 minutes to prepare a 6 minute speech. The student may only bring in previously prepared note cards that are 5″ x 6″ or smaller, and a Bible. They can do as much research and preparation as they like beforehand, but can only bring in cards of that size, and must verbally mention any outside sources in their speeches. They may not use computers or phones or other electronic devices to research; all research must be done beforehand, and hand-written or printed on note cards. Most students bring in a small index card box with their cards contained within, and a Bible.

At a tournament, the top winners from the three preliminary rounds advance to the next round, called the Semifinals round. At a typical tournament, about 16 students advance to this level. The top 8 Semifinalists will then advance to the Finals round. Those 8 students do another speech round for a panel of judges.

At the Awards ceremony, the students who were semifinalists are recognized as “semifinalists”, but the top 8 are given placings of 1st – 8th. It is quite difficult to place 1st in any category, as there can be only one winner. Typically we see different students placing first at a tournament, but we may see the same students advancing to the semifinals or finals rounds. Occasionally we may see the same winner in a category win 1st in multiple tournaments, but that would more likely occur in an Interpretative event or a Platform speech, not a limited preparation speech like Apologetics. Limited prep speeches are more variable; it depends on the topic drawn and the preparation of the speaker on that topic. Platform and Interps are memorized speeches and are the same speech delivered from tournament to tournament, but can be tweaked as students receive feedback and find areas of improvement.

There are 5 main categories in Apologetics, and in each category are definitions, general questions, and statement analyses. Remember, students must answer these questions in 6 minutes or less, with 4 minutes of prep time. For example, here is Category 1.

Category 1: EXISTENCE AND NATURE OF GOD

Definitions

1. Explain the meaning and significance of the trinity.
2. Explain the meaning and significance of the omniscience of God.
3. Explain the meaning and significance of the omnipotence of God.
4. Explain the meaning and significance of the omnipresence of God.
5. Explain the meaning and significance of the transcendence and immanence of God.
6. Explain the meaning and significance of the eternality of God.
7. Explain the meaning and significance of the holiness of God.
8. Explain the meaning and significance of the righteousness of God.
9. Explain the meaning and significance of the sovereignty of God.
10. Explain the meaning and significance of the grace of God.

General Questions

1. In what ways has God revealed Himself to man?
2. If God is real, why can’t people see or touch Him?
3. If God is holy, why did He allow evil in the world?
4. How can God be both merciful and just?
5. Why is the unchanging nature of God critical to who He is?
6. How does a Christian account for natural disasters?
7. Why do bad things happen to good people?
8. What is the role of the Holy Spirit?

Statement Analysis

1. Analyze and respond to the statement, “The Old Testament God is a God of hate while the New Testament God is a God of love.” –Anonymous
2. Analyze and respond to the statement, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.” –Voltaire
3. Analyze and respond to the statement, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” –A.W. Tozer
4. Analyze and respond to the statement, “God set the universe in motion but He has no interest in it.” –Anonymous
5. Analyze and respond to the statement, “If God understands my humanity and sin nature better than I do, why does He still hold me accountable for what I cannot help doing?” –Anonymous
6. Analyze and respond to the statement, “As an atheist, I don’t believe there is a God.” –Anonymous

The four remaining categories are: 

Category 2: SCRIPTURES
Category 3: THE NATURE, PURPOSE AND DESTINY OF MAN
Category 4: SALVATION or HOW TO KNOW GOD
Category 5: THE PERSON OF CHRIST

In total, there are over 100 definitions, questions and statements to answer.

We do this as part of our speech competition, but the underlying purpose for this category is to learn how to defend one’s faith. Imagine going through these questions over a period of 5-6 years with a student and how much they learn and grow over time. And, we’ve had discussions on these topics at home.

It is encouraging, inspiring, and informative to hear students who can answer these questions excellently and concisely! As I listen to these students, including my own, I realize I personally cannot answer most of these questions. So, I did start reading Systematic Theology with my older son (though he is way ahead of me of in the book.)

A friend challenged me to read that book about 15-16 years ago. I was not ready at that time. I saw the size of the book and said, “No way.” Honestly, it looked intimidating (and boring), and I thought “theology” wasn’t anything I needed to know, that it was something only people went to seminary to study, and it had no relevance for me. But this friend challenged me. She asked me questions. I had not considered “free will” or “arminianism”. (I had never heard of these.) I hadn’t considered the foreknowledge of God, the will of God, etc. She gave me articles to read on these topics. She was definitely a Calvinist-leaning individual, and I had to come to own conclusions (and it took me a very long time). Not that I know the answers, but boy, did I wrestle with the Calvinist and free-will question for several years. I’m at peace with where I am, but she asked me questions, challenged me, opened the doors to topics and ideas and questions I didn’t know about, and I’m thankful for that. (A little bit about this friend: she obtained an MBA at a prestigious business school, worked in the business field for a number of years, and now leads a women’s ministry organization. Even when she worked in the secular business environment, she led Bible studies with co-workers.)

My kids are way, way ahead than I ever was at their age. I’m thankful they can learn these things sooner, and even just learn them at all. Maybe a day is coming when we will lose that freedom, so learn it now! With the training these students receive in apologetics, and in general in speech and debate, I believe that these students are being trained to be voices of truth in their future (and current) spheres of influence. I just can’t imagine it otherwise. These students, hundreds from all around the country, aren’t being taught and trained to be silent voices; they are being trained and taught to speak up for truth, and being given tools to do so.

How about you? Can you answer any of these questions? (Or even answer them in 6 minutes or less?) I think it is a good challenge for adults, too. The question I am asking myself is: am I prepared and ready to answer these questions? The answer for me is: no, I’m not ready and prepared to asnwer them, at least not answer them well. After all, we are commanded to be ready to answer:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. – 1 Peter 3:15

I do know that I will regret not studying this with my kids while they are also doing so and while they are still at home. I tend to put other things ahead of this in our schedule or our day, but this should come first. What a rich thing to do while they are still with me, at home, before they leave. :)

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