Apologetics is a person-specific enterprise. We are not trying to convince some generic Joe Blow, but specific individuals we encounter. Our apologetic should be tailored to meet the needs of the person we are dialoguing with.

For example, when someone tells you they don’t believe in God, the first thing you might do is ask them why. Their answer will help you to better direct your response. If the lone reason they reject the existence of God is because of the problem of evil, it won’t do much good to hit them with every offensive apologetic argument for God’s existence, beginning with a cosmological argument. No. You need to go straight to a defensive apologetic, showing the logical consistency between theism and the existence of evil.

If the reason they do not believe in God is because they do not believe there is any evidence for God’s existence, the first thing you should do is ask them what sort of evidence they are willing to accept. For example, the atheist might respond that he would believe in God if you could show Darwinian evolution to be false. In such a case your apologetic to this individual would revolve around this issue, as well as general science and faith issues.

Such a question also prevents you from running into the situation in which you offer argument after argument, while the atheist just folds his arms in response each time, saying, “I’m not convinced.” What you’ll find is that some atheists are not prepared to accept any sort of evidence for God’s existence, because they have unreasonably high expectations of what constitutes evidence. What they want is evidence that carries with it “absolute certainty” of its truth. This standard is too high, and unfair. Most of what we believe to be true we believe without absolute certainty. There is no reason to hold belief in God to a higher standard. Belief in God is warranted if His existence is more likely than not, given the evidence. Probing the atheist in this way will help you set reasonable expectations.