The Table Briefing: Dialogical Apologetics And Difficult Spiritual Conversations -- By: Darrell L. Bock

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 176:703 (Jul 2019)
Article: The Table Briefing: Dialogical Apologetics And Difficult Spiritual Conversations
Author: Darrell L. Bock

The Table Briefing: Dialogical Apologetics And Difficult Spiritual Conversations

Darrell L. Bock


Mikel Del Rosario

Darrell L. Bock is senior research professor in New Testament studies and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas. Mikel Del Rosario is a doctoral student in New Testament studies, project manager for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary, and adjunct professor of Christian apologetics and world religion at William Jessup University, Rocklin, California.

An old Indian proverb says, “You don’t cut off a man’s nose and give him a rose to smell.” In a Table episode called “Cross-cultural Evangelism and Apologetics,” Ramesh Richard, professor of global theological engagement and pastoral ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary, applied this saying to a defense of the faith, observing that in the midst of discussing God, Jesus, or the Bible with skeptical neighbors, some believers seem to “destroy them in the process of contest and debate.”

Apologists often cite 1 Peter 3:15, focusing on the command to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you,” but many seem to neglect the rest of the command, “yet do it with gentleness and respect” (ESV). As a result, apologetics training usually focuses on philosophical, theological, and historical issues, while less attention is given to the personal aspects of practical engagement. How can we approach difficult spiritual conversations? A number of Table podcasts have explored the concept of dialogical apologetics—a practical approach that sees apologetic engagement not as debate but as genuine dialogue.

In this briefing, we share four key lessons: (1) See apologetics

as ministry; (2) engage in dialogue, not debate; (3) consider a different kind of persuasion; and (4) always reflect God’s character.

See Apologetics As Ministry

While some Christians seem reluctant to discuss their faith with their skeptical friends, others seem all too eager to dismantle objections and refute challenges. What attitude should we have as we prepare for difficult spiritual conversations? How can we alleviate some of the tension and avoid becoming defensive? On an episode called “How to Engage in Spiritual Conversations,” Darrell Bock talked with Houston Baptist University assistant professor of apologetics Mary Jo Sharp about these questions:

Bock: When [some Christians] get the opportunit...

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