Interview with Author Jay Lucas
As a Christian teen in a liberal public school, Jay Lucas was intimidated by the thought of being asked questions he couldn’t answer. So he never shared the gospel with his classmates. Since then, Jay has come to realize that unbelievers struggle to defend their beliefs, often even more than Christians do. With that fact in mind, he developed a way to help believers overcome the fear of unanswerable questions. It’s called Ask Them Why (ATW) and is available in the new book Ask Them Why. ATW is more than an evangelistic tool; it’s a means of making apologetics* practical for the person in the pew.
An interview with Pastor Lucas reveals the history behind ATW and the benefits of learning this method for yourself.
*Apologetics is a branch of theology devoted to the defense of the divine origin and authority of Christianity.
How can believers today learn to, as your book says, “articulate the superiority of the Christian worldview over mankind’s false systems”?
We would hope that the teaching ministry of the local church would be addressing these issues. Fundamentally, we need to understand the things that our unbelieving neighbors believe and the inconsistencies in their beliefs. That’s not as complicated as it may sound, because most unbelievers have never really asked themselves tough questions about what they believe. For the most part, unbelievers are far less equipped than we are to defend what they believe. Half the battle is just knowing what questions to ask an unbeliever. Many times, the reason Christians are hesitant to witness is they’re afraid. We’re so afraid that we’re not going to know the answers. So by simply learning a few basic questions to put to the unbeliever, it becomes much easier to defend what we believe.
What prompted you to write the book Ask Them Why?
First, in four years as a teenager in a liberal public school, I never shared my faith with anyone because I did not feel equipped to justify what I believed. I recognize that Christian teens today are in the same situation that I was in all those years ago.
Second, after I graduated from Bible college and went to different secular schools, I saw the open hostility toward Christianity. So I have a burden for college and university students.
Third, as a pastor all these years later, I recognize that even now that we’re in our thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, and seventies, we are still surrounded by people who need the Lord.
This is a great need that, for the most part, is not being addressed by our local churches.
How did you gain insight into the various worldviews?
I owe a great debt of gratitude to the professors I had at Baptist Bible College and then later at Baptist Bible Seminary. After my years in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, I was also a student at the University of Scranton, at the State University of New York, and then at Xavier University. The best education I ever received was in Bible college. The men and women invested their lives in me. That, I think, is still the greatest single influence on my life. So as far as any insight that I’ve gained, it’s mostly just because of the quality of instruction I had at Bible college.
It’s great if you go to Bible college or seminary, but that’s such a small portion of the Christian community. What are we going to do to help everybody else?
Explain how people without your background and experience can use the ATW method.
Ultimately the power of being an ambassador for Christ is a supernatural power that God gives to any believer who wants to be used. That power is found in God’s Word and in His Spirit working through us. If we love the Lord and spend time in His Word, that’s where the real power comes from.
Then, second, as I said, most nonbelievers are even less equipped when they have to field these questions than Christians are. There are, of course, some skeptics and unbelievers who are highly trained in these areas. But the typical person is not an expert either.
Unfortunately, when I look at most of what’s being written in the field of apologetics, it’s written by experts for other experts. There’s a place for highly technical writing. But I don’t think apologetics is so complicated that it would be beyond teaching it in our local churches.
Will studying your book give a person all he or she needs to defend his or her beliefs in addition to what the Holy Spirit does?
The thing a person really needs the most is a love for God and then a love for other people. That love overcomes more than any book on apologetics ever could. But assuming that a believer wants to honor the Lord and is genuinely concerned about the unsaved people around them, yes, I believe—for the typical layperson—this book provides much of what that person would need.
Can the ATW method help someone who doesn’t think fast on his or her feet?
I believe so. Because when you think of what “ATW” means—“ask them why”—it’s not just about preparing ourselves to have the answers. It’s a lot easier to ask a question than it is to give an answer.
One of the things my father taught me is that if you don’t know something, ask. All a question is, is seeking information that you lack. So the very nature of ATW assumes that we’re not experts. Acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers and that’s why you’re asking questions.
ATW is not some kind of trick so that we don’t have to answer questions. We ultimately want to answer other people’s questions. For those of us who feel like we don’t even know how to begin to answer questions, we can be the ones asking the questions.
Why do we need ATW? Why isn’t just saying, “God loves you and you need to get saved” and quoting some Scripture verses sufficient?
Sometimes it is. But it’s part of declaring the whole counsel of God. And there are other commands in Scripture that tell us that we need to be prepared.
We can look at the example of the apostle Paul when he goes into the city of Athens in Acts 17. Paul clearly had spent time thinking about the worldviews of non-Christians and how to reach the groups that profess those beliefs. The Bible itself indicates to us that part of being a disciple includes knowing how to confess what we believe and to share it with others. Yes, the power of salvation is ultimately in the hands of God, not our arguments. But at the same time, God uses His people to accomplish His ends.
Why did you include fictional encounters in your book?
The vast majority of apologetic material is fantastic at teaching the theory and so forth, but what good is it if you don’t have a means of putting into practice what you’re learning? The fictional encounters [recorded on the accompanying audio CD] are designed to show people how to put into practice the things that they’re learning.
That summarizes the whole Christian life—that we’re not just hearers of the Word, but we’re doers of the Word. And so it should be with apologetics—that we’re not just students of apologetics but that we practice apologetics.
How can the book best be used by an individual? by a group?
Individual: Most of the encounters, although they’re fictional, are based on real people I’ve known over the years or unbelievers I’ve interacted with over the years. As you read this book, keep in mind two or three unbelievers who you want to reach for Christ. Chances are that one of the fictional encounters will resemble the people you’re thinking about. And then you’ll know what kind of questions to ask those people.
Group: A group working on it together can practice, play the role of an unbeliever, and start asking questions. There’s no substitute for practice. I believe the book lends itself to discussion and role-playing.
How is this book different from other books on apologetics?
First, in no way do I want to come across as saying this is the best book. Second, most material is too technical to be effective for the person in the pew; on the other hand, the material that tries to be practical sometimes is too shallow. Ask Them Why tries to be balanced.
What benefits do you see this type of apologetic tool having in the life of an individual or a group that uses it?
In my life, the benefit of studying apologetics has been far more what it has done for me than what I’ve been able to do for unbelievers.
Initially we tend to think, “Apologetics—that’s geared for reaching the unbeliever.” And that’s a big part of it, but I think the greater benefit is the reassurance that it provides in the hearts of God’s people.
If somebody is considering reading this book and they say, “This book is supposed to help me witness to my friends,” yes, it is. But that’s not the greatest benefit of apologetics. Apologetics is more important for what it does in the life of a believer.
Jonita Barram is an editor for Regular Baptist Press.