Expectancy Theory 1: Capacity to Do the Task

Expectancy theory leads us to believe that individuals will be motivated to be involved in apologetics, first of all, if they expect they have the ability actually to learn apologetics to some degree. Our results here support that supposition as far as the survey design may reasonably be expected to do.


Respondents are much more highly educated than the general population, indicating that they have (and actually believe that they have) the intellectual capacity to understand and work with apologetics-related issues. Many respondents came right out and said their interest in apologetics was an expression of their bent toward intellectual matters.

The survey did not, of course, draw responses from any comparison group of persons who aren’t as interested in apologetics. Therefore, we can only draw informal, intuitive conclusions as to that group’s interest in intellectual matters or their level of education.

Still these capability-related themes stand out so strongly here, it seems safe to conclude this is an important factor in apologetics interest.


Further support for this aspect of expectancy theory may be found among those whose introduction to apologetics came through good books, talks, media, etc. These persons weren’t just motivated by an interest in learning, but by discovering there was something substantive to be learned, and a source from which to learn it.

It would be hard to expect anyone to gain an interest in apologetics if they have no good introduction to solid, accessible information.


This result is consistent, by the way, with biblical teaching on spiritual gifts. In very brief terms, the New Testament leads us to expect Christians to have different interests and skills, expressed in different ministries.

There’s no reason to doubt that intellectual interests and skills would tend more often to be expressed in apologetics ministry (along with other cognitive-heavy ministries, such as theology and a whole host of different kinds of fruitful work in the “secular” sphere).

Expectancy Theory 2: Valuing the Outcome

Expectancy theory suggests that persons will be motivated to a task only if they believe their work will have an outcome that they value. This appears to be supported in the responses received here.

First, from a strictly intuitive perspective based on their educational attainments, it seems likely that many of these persons value learning simply for the sake of learning. There is more, however:


Respondents’ most frequently listed motivation (38 respondents) had to do with encountering issues and errors, either with friends, family members, or online.

Associated with that were 26 respondents who said their motivation was connected with evangelism and/or very basic, early discipleship instruction. (Four respondents were counted under both of these categories: They listed both unbelief/issues/errors and evangelism as motivators).

This accords with Expectancy Theory to the extent that respondents valued sharing, explaining, and defending the truth of Jesus Christ, whether for pure evangelistic motives or not.

Questions Answered

Twenty respondents who said they began pursuing apologetics to get answers to their own questions. Presumably they wouldn’t have asked those questions if they didn’t matter, that is, if they didn’t value the acquisition of answers.

It would seem especially likely that value of gaining answers would rise dramatically when a person’s child, or a friend’s, spiritual future is at stake. Still, only seven respondents indicated they were motivated by concern for a family member’s spiritual health.

This is a motivational issue that needs further research. Intuitively it seems likely that concern for children would motivate parents to learn how to support them in their faith through apologetics. That’s untested, however, and in this group, at least, it’s not a prominent factor.

Comparing respondents’ ages with their years of interest in apologetics, though, it appears that something like one-half of them began developing their interest in apologetics by the time they’d reached their mid 30s. They were interested even before their kids (if any) would have reached an age most parents would start to see as crucial.

Relational Connections

Figure 8 indicates that for our respondents, the more AIPs they knew in their church, the more confident they were in their use of apologetics. The connection appears strong, but more research is needed to see how well it holds up with larger and more representative samples.

About one out of ten respondents said they were introduced to apologetics by a friend or family member. A number that low does not suggest that personal introductions are tremendously important in starting people in apologetics.

Did you miss taking the survey? Want to add your voice? We’ve still got a place for you to do that.

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