My Goal as an Apologist

The arena of Christian apologetics is experiencing a rise in popularity.  That is not to say that every person who calls himself an apologist is one. But, a quick glance will show that there is an opportunity for almost anyone interested to learn about apologetics easily.  Most of the Southern Baptist seminaries now have apologetics programs.  The NAMB began the CAI program that I am a part of, programs in apologetics at Biola and Liberty are thriving, and there is simply a rise in interest in the topic. In fact recently Lee Strobel said he believes that, “we are on the cusp of a golden era of apologetics.” If you are a reader of this blog, you realize that recently I launched an apologetics ministry of my own. Why would I do this if I believe there is a trend of a rising awareness in apologetics, and if apologetics is becoming more popular and maybe more successful?  There are a couple of reasons.  One is that I believe God has gifted me as an apologist.  Although, I hope it goes without saying that I would not launch a ministry if I did not believe I was gifted for it.  The most significant reason I have decided to launch an apologetics ministry is because I have the opportunity to fill a gap that I see in the current state of Christian apologetics.

Maybe I should say it like this, I’m not trying to be, or to compete with, William lane Craig or anyone of his ilk. My desire is not to engage in public debate with atheists or Muslims or anything of the sort.  Although I have begun writing a book, it is not academic in nature.  I believe that type of ministry which is largely academic is noble and wonderful, but it is not where my gifting lies, and it is not my goal as an apologist.

My goal and desire as an apologist is to encourage the church.

My call to the ministry was to the church.  I believe that God has gifted me to teach and explain in simple terms the concepts of apologetics, and I believe that these concepts are needed in the pews of our churches.  My desire is to come into a church for an apologetics weekend and at the end of the weekend those in attendance will be able more able to defend their faith than they were at the beginning.  I desire for people in attendance to have more confidence in the reasonableness of their faith.  I want church people to not have their confidence shaken by every atheist they hear from on TV.

I believe that there is plenty of room for a ministry of this sort in our churches and I believe that even if we are a cusp of a golden age of apologetics, it has not made it to the pews.  I have some anecdotal evidence of this.  Just look at this poll from my website.

Apologetics for every day – The Answer (Finally)

A few weeks ago I told of an encounter I had with someone who had a “Karma is real” sticker on her desk.  I asked you how you would attempt to begin an evangelistic conversation with her.  Literally one person is interested in this question so I decided to finally answer with my approach. I love Christian apologetics, and for people like me, it is rather easy to get caught up in the wonky, philosophy and argument-making version of apologetics.  This stuff has a place and it is even valuable in the right setting.  However I believe that for apologetics to be worth pursuing it must have for its goal, evangelism.  In other words, if I take an opportunity to use my apologetics training to destroy someone in an argument and make them feel stupid, I have done nothing for the kingdom of God.  I have alienated them and at best I have demonstrated to them that Christians are smart jerks.  This version of apologetics is divorced from evangelism and is wrong.

Having said all that, this question is both an apologetics and evangelism question.  Fundamentally this is a question about worldviews that work and worldviews that don’t.  My goal in trying to witness to this lady is not to tell her how stupid her worldview is, but merely to get her to question it so that she will be open to a worldview that is actually true.  If I were to tell her that she is stupid she will not be inclined to listen to me.  In love, I need to appeal to the truth which makes the logical conclusion that her worldview is false.

Since this entire exercise is intended to suggest that her view is false, it will be inherently offensive. (The gospel message is inherently offensive.)  So the approach has to be delicate.  Again, my goal would be to make her question the validity of her worldview and to offer to her the Christian worldview.  True for false.

If I had this opportunity again, I would ask her if she found that statement, karma is real,  to be true in her life.  Does it seem to her that good people prosper and that bad people suffer?  To me it seems like all people suffer and there is no correlation between goodness and prosperity.  I would suggest to her that Jesus says that it rains on the just and the unjust alike.  And that sinfulness does not figure into the way suffering is handed out on earth.

I realize that this is far, far away from a full gospel presentation, but again, the reason I called this an apologetics exercise is that my goal is to get her thinking about the worldview she holds and replacing it with one that works.

I welcome your comments.  Does this approach seem right to you?

Apologetics for every day - the question

Last week I had an encounter with someone working in an office and on her desk was a sign that read "Karma is real."I have spent quite a bit of mental energy in the last week thinking how I could have best broached the gospel with this lady.  So I think I'll toss this question to you, my reader.  Tell me. What would you have said to begin the process of evangelism in this case?

Later  I'll tell you what approach I have decided on.

Making Progress

In this world there are not many things I am actually good at.  In fact the list of things I am terrible at is very long.  I am terrible at anything that takes physical coordination.  I don’t play church league softball because I bring nothing to the team (anyone can ground out to the second baseman 3 times) I am pretty much horrible at every athletic endeavor.   Although I enjoy them, I am not very good at video games.  I have a terrible singing voice, and I don’t play any instruments.  I am not particularly mechanically inclined.  (Currently I can’t even get my lawnmower to start.) I think that is probably enough examples to make my point without being depressing. Even though the list of things I am bad at is extensive, there are a few things I am quite good at.  Fortunately, I know what those few things are.  I believe one of them is that I am a gifted teacher.

I believe that because of that gifting, God has called me to a profession that allows me to use it.  I would be a sin to allow the tools I have go to waste.

I love God’s word and I love apologetics.  You may recall I once posted about this love and the way that my life has progressed to where I get to teach regularly on apologetics.  Because of these 2 factors, I have for some time had a desire to become a NAMB Certified Apologetics Instructor. (CAI)  I think this is a noble attempt by the NAMB to have a certified group of apologists to recommend as it becomes more and more necessary in a culture which is moving further from being “Christian.”  This certification may turn out to be merely a stamp of approval from an organization I respect, but I believe that God has put this desire in my heart.

Part of the CAI certification process is a required course on public speaking.  It is called Dynamic Communicators workshop and it is put on by the Ken Davis Association. Next week I will post about my experience at this workshop and how I believe it has benefited me.  But in this post I want to ask my readers a favor.

Help me complete my certification.  I have completed steps 1 and 2.  All that is left is step 3.  In order to become a CAI, I must speak 30 times.  Currently I don’t have a church home so I have freedom to travel and speak in a variety of places.  (There is a church I attend regularly, but not where I am a member) Let me speak in your church.  I can do 1 lesson on apologetics or 30 if you want.  I can speak to youth or to adults.  You don’t have to pay me, I’m trying to complete my certification. (although it would be nice to get mileage if you are very far away)

If you recommend me to your pastor or to your church you will be helping me to realize a dream and to do what I believe is God’s will for my life.

I’ll conclude with just one word.


Dual Book Review: The God Question & The Reason For God

I recently read The God Question: An Invitation to a  Life of Meaning by J.P. Moreland and The Reason for God: Beilef in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller.  These books do not just have similar titles, they are very similar books. J.P. Moreland is a professor of Apologetics at the Talbot School of Theology, and strictly speaking is a better apologist than Keller.  Keller however is a Pastor.  He started the Redeemer Presbyterian church in New York City.  As a pastor, his book addresses issues he has seen in the pastorate.

I read a lot books that fall under the rubric of apologetics.  And in truth, all of them have some similarities.  Modern day apologists are still expanding on the work of Aquinas and secularists are still attacking his methods.  He has been dead for 8 centuries, and books still keep coming.  So there is bound to be some overlap.

Both The God Question and The Reason for God are written in a similar fashion.  Both address the reader directly, make wide use of first person and both tackle life’s most basic questions.  Moreland uses the story of his personal journey to Christ.  And Keller answers questions about the Christian faith that have arisen from his years as a pastor in Manhattan.

In the first part of The God Question Moreland addresses the reason why Americans don’t know how to be happy.  He even diagnoses the problem.  We don’t know how to be happy because we have decided to reject the notion of moral right and wrongness.  And addressing the reader directly he transitions into a work of apologetics.  This direct address to the reader as “you” is an approach I have never seen before.  Though Moreland does his best to be gentle, the subject is inherently offensive.  I wonder how effective this approach is to someone who is a committed agnostic. (Is that an oxymoron?)  At any rate It is a novel approach and the book remains interesting.  Moreland ventures into territory rarely addressed by apologetics as well.  He discusses the reality of demons and the importance of prayer and worship.  These topics are usually not found in apologetics books.

In The Reason for God Keller uses the introduction to admit that there are genuine differences in those who are skeptics of God, Christianity, and religion and Christians.  He explains that in his view doubts are not bad because they lead us to seek answers.  If we seek answers we will find the truth; God is real and Christianity is true.  In the first section of the book he addresses a host of doubts that people have expressed to him. Then in the second section he builds the case for Christianity.

I have some disagreements with both authors but nothing that would really temper my recommendation. I am comfortable recommending either book.  But if I was forced to only recommend one, it would be The Reason for God because it is written by a pastor and reflects a pastor’s heart.

How Things Work Out

In 1992 I was 17 years old and a member of Concord Baptist Church in Hopkinsville KY.  One evening our pastor invited in a guest speaker named Fred Overton.  During the PM service he gave a lecture called "Is the Bible Reliable?"  This was my first ever exposure to something called apologetics, and I was fascinated. The lecture was 2 days long, so I invited my mom to come along with me to the Monday night session.  Normally, Mom went to another church, that's why I remember this story.

After the session we bought the workbook and I recall on the ride home saying that the seminar was completely fascinating and that I would like to do apologetics for a living, but, "Nobody could make a living doing that."  Smart, I know.

Mom's reply was predictable.  "He does."

This was long before I really had any idea what I wanted to do with my life and long before God called me into ministry.  At that point I was just concerned with where I would go to college. (Even though I never seriously considered any school other than UK.)  In fact, at that time I was fascinated with chemistry, and began college as a chemistry major.

Then in 1997, God called me into the ministry, and I answered.  (Just an aside here - I hate the term "surrendered" to the ministry.  That sounds like I lost some fight.  I just agreed.  There was no battle needed.)  My calling was clear, I was called to youth ministry, but that doesn't mean I have no other interests.  I was convicted further that in order to be the best youth minister I could be, to the glory of God, I needed to attend seminary.  I went to Southeastern Seminary and began in the youth ministry program.  During my second year, President Akin came on board and his administration began some curriculum changes.  When the M.Div. in Christian apologetics was added, I didn't even need to pray about it.  I changed my major within the week.

So what's the point of all this?

Yesterday I began teaching a course in Christian Apologetics at Carolina Bible College.  Though it is a very small class at a very small college, it felt like a dream realized.  It is amazing how God can work the circumstances of our lives to bring things about.  The ramblings of a very silly 17 year-old become reality 16 years later.   I for one, am excited about the future and to see where God will lead me next.

p.s.  I have shared with this blog before my dream of becoming a NAMB Certified Apologetics Instructor.  Fee free to click here to see how close I am financially.  (You'll probably need to use my gmail address)

Am I the Key Vote?

One of the major concerns we hear about in Southern Baptist life is the lack of “young leaders.”

You often read that people under age 40 feel somehow alienated by the processes of the SBC. I am under 35, and seminary educated, but I don’t feel either jaded or disenfranchised with the processes of the SBC.

I have no idea what all the commentators mean by “leader” but I’m pretty sure I don’t qualify on that front. I’m the youth minister at a small church, and I have no ambition to ever preach the convention sermon, but I do want to see the Southern Baptist Convention be the best it can be. I obviously am a blogger, (hopefully the stigma from that label is gone now) and I read a handful of SBC blogs. Some I agree with, some I don’t. I would very much like to one day earn my PhD and my readers already know I want to be a certified apologetics instructor. It would be great to have a bunch of readers on my blog, but this blog is too often about fishing to ever catch on in a big way. So, surely I am not a “leader.” All I want is to bring glory to God in whatever position He puts me. And if that means being a youth minister to 10 kids, then hopefully I can help them to grow closer to Christ and have an impact on their world.

Despite not being a “young leader” I believe I am the very person that many people are concerned about. As an under 35, seminary educated, Southern Baptist, I am interested in what happens, and deeply concerned with the baptism decline. I hope this doesn’t sound arrogant, really I just believe I fit the mold. I’m sure there are many like me.

I will be attending the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis, and I can honestly say that I do not know who I will be voting for for president. There are 6 candidates. (<update>I am only seriously considering 3 </update>of them.) I am genuinely undecided. This is your opportunity to lobby for my vote. Use the comments to convince me that your choice for SBC president is the one who will best lead the convention.

Here are some things you may want to know about me before you begin your defense. Some of this is a repeat.

  • I am a blogger
  • I read many of the SBC blogs
  • I am not a 5-point Calvinist
  • I am not afraid of the 5-pointers (i.e. I don’t believe they are going to destroy the convention)
  • I admire all of the candidates for president
  • I admire some of them more than others ;-)
  • I can see nothing but evil coming from consuming alcohol
  • I really like the BFM 2000
  • I do not think megachurch pastors as presidents are bad for the convention
  • I do not think you have a to be a megachurch pastor to be a great convention president
  • I believe the cooperative program is the best funding device ever conceived for evangelizing the world
  • I believe that almost every state convention keeps too much CP funds (I’m talking to you BSCNC)
  • I believe that money sent directly to the SBC should count as CP giving (see the above item)
  • Did I mention that I believe consuming alcohol is pretty much indefensible
  • I am very disturbed by the baptism decline
  • I believe that the baptism turnaround will happen on the church level not the convention level
  • I am concerned about regenerate church membership. We should be honest about the size of our churches and convention

Let the lobbying begin

Want To Help Me Out?

I am but a lowly part-time youth minister, and I make very little money. But I have a dream. I want to become a NAMB Certified Apologetics Instructor.

To do so, I have to complete three requirements.

  1. Complete a Certificate in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. I have an M.Div. from Southeastern Seminary in Christian Apologetics, so I’m exempt from this requirement. (WooHoo!)
  2. Complete the Dynamic Communicators Workshop presented by Ken Davis.
  3. Practicum – 30 lectures on apologetics
  4. Get at least three character references

I need some financial help to complete item #2. The next time the course is offered is in October and it is rather expensive. The course itself is $800 plus $500 in lodging, and I have to get myself to Colorado Springs. (Today that looks like a $275 ticket.) As you can see, this is quite expensive. I have already asked, I am not allowed to begin the practicum before I complete the workshop. I tried though. I could be getting in some lectures now, but they won’t let me.

Let's be honest. I have a pretty small readership, but I would like to make a buck or two from this blog so that I can live the dream and become a certified apologetics instructor. (This is a wordpress.com blog so I can't put up a store or use google adsense) Here’s where you come in. I’m not asking for donations - though I wouldn’t turn them away - really what I want is when you buy stuff from Amazon.com, anything at all, you can go through this site. Or you can just attach the following piece of text to the end of any product address if you re going to buy something.


If you use this, I’ll get a few cents, and I promise to use it all to complete my part of the CAI program.

Any questions?

Here’s an example

An item at amazon

http://www.amazon.com/a lot of gibberish and numbers and stuff

an item with this code

http://www.amazon.com/a lot of gibberish and numbers and stuff&tag=jersweb-20

See, you just stick it on the end.