Apologetics, from the Greek word meaning “speaking in defence”, is a discipline which is the use of systematic argumentation and discourse to defend the religious doctrines of the Christian faith.
In Malaysia, this important discipline has not been emphasized enough in the church. Therefore, it has become a mission for Samuel Nesan, one of Malaysia’s few full-time apologists to educate the Christians in Malaysia on how to defend one’s faith. This is much truer now, in a world that has people who are searching for answers to questions in the Christian faith and to those who want to scrutinise it.
Therefore, it is very crucial now that apologetics be taught in churches, especially among the younger generation. This is important because Christian children who are heading to universities are bombarded with all sorts of philosophies that seek to undermine their Christian faith. Whether it be from another religion or even the university courses themselves, the young ones from Christian families must be educated to combat against such teaching.
“If you are asking whether there is a need for more apologists in Malaysia, I think in a sense it is very necessary. But I am also of the opinion that the usual church sermons need to incorporate apologetics elements in them. For example, when Peter preached his first sermon in Acts 2, the sermon was very much in defence of their belief of why they believe in Jesus,” Samuel explained.
Samuel further added that he had always wanted to go into apologetics from an early age. This was because he had to encounter his friends who had questioned and asked him about his faith. Realising that the answers he had to give them were not so straightforward, this led Samuel to go deeper into the study of the Word. He was attached to the youth ministry of Calvary Assembly of God from 2009-2012 and was subsequently responsible for establishing an apologetics ministry which entailed him to speaking at Christian Fellowships at various colleges and universities on the subject of defending the Christian faith.
To better himself further in the ministry, Samuel enrolled himself for a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a Diploma in Counselling from the Bible College of Malaysia, shortly before joining the pastoral staff of Pantai Baptist Church (PBC). He then continued his studies for a Master’s in Christian Studies at the Malaysian Theological Seminary (STM).
All this was to further equip himself for the challenging ministry ahead, which is not just to defend the faith but to equip others in the fine art of being an apologist. But being an apologist is no easy task or feat. You need to have the skills, the ability to speak well and to communicate ideas in a split second to make sure your opponents or audience don’t think you are beating around the bush. This is more so for Samuel who has been invited many times to speak at forums that discuss the Christian faith. By God’s grace, Samuel shared that he got all the preparation he needed before this through his secular occupation.
“I was moonlighting as a sports commentator since 2014. In fact, earlier this year I was the sole commentator for the Thomas Cup Qualifications. I was previously trained by a guy to help me speak in proper structure in communication, which can be applied in the field of commentating and debate. But it’s not solely training that makes you a good apologist.
“I believe that to be an effective apologist, one should have some experience in the working world. The reason is that working in the secular world broadens your perspective, so you can relate to others outside the Christian circles. It helps you become a more effective apologist.
“For me, working in the media industry taught me how to open my eyes to understand what goes on in the media industry and how to captivate the audience. I also learned about the lifestyles that go on in the media industry and this makes it easier for me to connect to those in the industry and share the gospel with them. If you only mix around in the church circles, people outside can’t really relate to you. We shouldn’t compartmentalise religion as a separate part of our life for we are called to be a light of the world, and it is our duty to enlighten others with the gospel,” Samuel explained.
He added that it helps a lot to know the backgrounds of your friends’ lifestyle, and priorities in order to give an answer that would instantly get their attention.
“Here is a tip that I can teach you when it comes to apologetics. I learned this skill while I had to deal with replays of a match. You need to catch a person’s attention within a short matter of time, literally seconds, and if you don’t catch the person’s attention within the first five seconds you would have usually lost the person’s attention to whatever you wanted to say,” Samuel explained.
“And if you are not well equipped to answer their question you won’t be able to respond in that short time. Many a time a person will know you are just beating around the bush when you are responding to some of their questions. So you need to practice. Practice makes perfect, and to always be in a state of being well prepared,” Samuel said.
Samuel believes that apologetics is a discipline that all Christians should not do without.
“I remembered my lecturer in seminary, Jose Philips. He used to work for the famous apologist Ravi Zacharias. He shared how he came into the field of apologetics. It started when he became a new Christian. He was very excited when it came to sharing the gospel. He went around telling everyone that Jesus is the answer. Then one day, a frustrated friend of his retorted with a question:
“If Jesus is the answer, what is the question?”
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