Topic Development & Research
Selecting an Apologetics Topic
The first step to writing a successful apologetics paper is to select a topic. The topic will usually be a non-Christian position or a position within Christianity that you believe is inconsistent and wish to dispute.
It is usually easier to write this type of paper if you select a position that is far removed from the Christian worldview, rather than one in which differences between your position and your “opponent” are more difficult to recognize. Choose a topic that interests you, one that you already know something about, or one that represents a position that is gaining popularity today.
Regardless of your choice, you would normally narrow your focus to a specific representative text you want to engage. For example, the topic of atheism is too broad to engage in a single essay. As a more specific alternative, you might interact with the atheism by discussing a chapter in Christopher Hitchens’ book God is Not Great. Selection of a narrow topic will make your reading, research, and writing much more manageable.
How to Read the Opposing View
Your primary responsibility is to understand your opponent’s basic concerns with sympathy and with accuracy. Your strong disagreement with the opposing view will become a hindrance if you are unable to suppress your personal feelings, with the result that you will be unlikely to truly understand him. As you read, you also want to discern what sources of truth your opponent values and does not value.
- Be on the lookout for places where the author reveals assumptions or basic beliefs.
- Note places where the author’s reasoning is cogent and insightful.
- Read actively, asking questions and making notes of passages where the author discloses his presuppositions.
You should spend the majority of your research time carefully listening to and analyzing this primary text.
Secondary Research Material
Only when you have carefully read through your primary text should you consult secondary material. As you consider how to engage the opposing view, you may find it helpful to read how others have done so, but be careful not to allow secondary research to substitute for your own thoughtful engagement!
You can find helpful material in books, journal articles, or book reviews. Because the apologetics paper is primarily a conversation between you and the opposing view, you will not normally need a large number of secondary sources.