1) The ineffectiveness of apologetics and its role of only being significant to believers
First, I want to agree with Brett’s stated concern that apologetics tends to be more for believers. “Apologetics” comes from terminology that means, “defense.” As believers we are to be ready to give a defense for our faith (I Peter 3:15). Furthermore, ultimately, showing the coherence, consistency, congruency, and comprehensiveness of one’s own worldview does strengthen the commitment to one’s worldview. The justification of belief is important. Why? Unjustified beliefs are easily swayed. Let’s say that we believe the groundhog can predict the delay of spring. What grounds are there for this belief? What warrants it? Unless I justified it with reasons you could “neither help me discover my mistakes nor come to share my way of seeing things (Wolfe, p. 16).” Some assertions/beliefs are more warranted than others. And, as David Wolfe states, “Only when we have provided warrant for our beliefs can we avoid changing our minds irrationally or believing irresponsibly (Wolfe, p. 15).” So Christian apologetics is an exercise in providing warrant for the assertions of the Christian worldview. Please note that the purpose is not first to persuade others but it is a “defense/justification.” So Brett’s observation about apologetics being more helpful to believers is an accurate observation. And to the degree that the Christian worldview’s justification is coherent, consistent, congruent, and comprehensive in regard to reality then the primo fide (initial assertion/belief of the Christian’s core assertions) is warranted.
Secondly, Brett’s assertion that apologetics is ineffective in converting those who don’t believe is entirely true. However, the Christian worldview never claims that apologetics would be effective. Preachers may claim so. Imprecise teachers may (I will gladly lump myself into this category). Brett apparently had a strand in his web of Christian belief systems that asserted that “well reasoned arguments would convert somebody.” Where did this assertion come from? Possibly under my ministry in which we were not careful to clearly delineate the purpose of apologetics. Perhaps it came from his own misunderstanding of Christian teaching. Inevitably, Brett experienced a time where he tried apologetics and it did not work as he believed it would. Instead of abandoning or refining his assertion, he calls into question the entire Christian worldview. His experience of reality does not warrant this leap. His experience should cause him to examine his assertion about apologetics. Alternatively, his experience is entirely consistent with what the Scriptures claim to be true about apologetics. Christian doctrine states that well reasoned arguments are not the vehicle for conversion (1 Cor 1-2). Brett’s experience of reality when he failed to get a convert while using apologetics is consistent with Christian truth claims.