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Awkward Apologetics: What You Should Never Assume

By Lisa Quintana

I was going to be giving a presentation on why the New Testament documents are reliable to a group of extremely bright university students at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. We’re talking the cream of the crop of students here – some of the brightest minds get accepted to UW Madison.

I needed to step up my game. Some audience members would be Ph.D. students, and here I was with a Master’s degree in Apologetics, walking onto a campus in a highly skeptical area. After all, Madison is the home of the “Freedom from Religion” advocacy group. They tend to foster skepticism in the city.

I was comfortable with the subject matter because I had presented on this topic several times before. I did change the presentation a bit to include more academic details that I thought these students might enjoy. “I got this,” I said to myself upon entering the room.

One of the guys who invited me was a leader in the Ratio Christi group that met at the Upper House. He greeted me enthusiastically by saying, “I wanted to let you know that we sent out an email to the whole campus inviting them to see you tonight!”

Wait…what? I thought it was just going to be the Ratio Christi crowd!

At that point, there was nothing I could do about it. I would do the best that I could, with a little help from above. Heaven knows the prayers started flowing in my head as soon as I heard the invite went out to the whole campus!

Thankfully, the audience wasn’t huge. The small room only had enough seats for a couple dozen students, and that’s about how many showed up. (I guess the rest of the campus wanted to spend their Monday night doing something other than listening to a “middle-aged mama” with a Master’s degree.)

I had a slide show to accompany my lecture. I chatted about skepticism and why many people doubt the miraculous accounts in the Gospels. I mean, who believes that a dead man could rise in three days from a sealed tomb after being brutally murdered?

I covered the reliability of the transmission of the texts, in that we can be confident that we have what the original authors wrote nearly two-thousand years ago. I talked about the thousands of Biblical manuscript evidences we have, and then briefly touched on atheist New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman.

Ehrman promotes the false idea that we cannot know what Jesus really said. He also attacks the memory of Jesus’ disciples. However, Jesus told his disciples that they would remember things with the help of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26).  I told the audience that, even though this is true, this argument is unlikely to convince a skeptic.

At the end of my presentation (which I thought went well), I asked if there were any questions. The first hand to shoot up was from a young lady sitting in the back row.

“First off,” she said, “I’m an atheist.”

Gulp… awkward! I should have considered this possibility when my host told me that an invitation email went out to the whole campus about my presentation. Oops! My bad.

She suggested I was close-minded for discouraging people from reading Bart Ehrman’s material. I listened and replied, “Well, I am glad you’re here.” And I meant that sincerely! I want skeptics to hear why the Bible is reliable, and the fact she attended was a good thing. I spoke with her and her boyfriend (also a skeptic), and by the end of the night, they had deemed me “pretty cool.” I had made an honest attempt to explain myself well to them, and I think they were impressed by that.

God used my oversight to teach me a great lesson. After this presentation, I will never assume that only believers will be in the audience to which I am speaking. I should choose to use more inclusive language, as in, not saying things like “you can’t tell a skeptic this, but….”

I hope that you too can learn from my “awkward apologetics” story. Never assume that everyone is a Christian in your audience, Bible study, or wherever you are presenting apologetics. But if you happen to make the same mistake as I did, just learn from it and make the most of it!

Disclaimer: All views expressed by those associated with this ministry or on our platforms do not necessarily represent the opinions of Women in Apologetics, Inc. or its individual team members.

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