When I became a Christian, I was immediately drawn to apologetics. Apologists are all wired a certain way, and I’m definitely wired in a way which causes me to dig deeper for answers to questions, especially those related to Christianity. I have plenty of questions which come from my own proclivity to doubt, plus there are questions from other Christians, questions from genuinely seeking nonbelievers… and then there’s the crowd of village atheists. As Christians, we need to know the questions and be prepared to give an informed response.
If you’re reading this, you most likely know exactly what I’m talking about and you want to become a better Christian apologist but perhaps can’t do it on a university level. Hopefully this will help.
Some desire to serve as a Pastor of Apologetics or become a better Sunday School Teacher. Some want to start a ministry or contribute to the community in some way. Others just have a desire to learn more about the Scripture and Christian worldview. Hopefully all of us want to be more confident and effective in our evangelism, as that is the primary reason for apologetics. It’s not so we can win a debate, receive accolades, or be smarter than everyone else. If that’s your desire, you need to get your focus on the prize.
For the young aspiring apologists or those with the time and resources, I strongly urge you to go to college and get your Bachelors. Afterward you can decide if furthering your education with a Masters in Apologetics or Doctorate is the route to take. At this point in my life I would need to get my Bachelors before even considering a Masters, let alone a Doctorate. I’m not sure if my credits from TCJC in 1996 or DeVry in 1997 would transfer, so I’d have to start from scratch. As the husband of a wife who homeschools our three young children, with a job that requires me to travel, it’s just not feasible at this point in my life.
Fortunately there are many ministries who offer phenomenal resources which are especially helpful for those of us who desire more in depth training but are unable to do so at the university level. After this slightly bloated introduction, I hope to offer some help for my fellow $1 Apologists who weren’t able to get a degree (or perhaps have a degree in a non-related field). Obviously these resources are helpful anyone looking for some good old fashioned Proverbs 27:17 iron, regardless if they have letters after their name or not.
1. Become a theologian first
In order to be an effective apologist, we must know what the Scriptures say and have a solid footing in theology before wading into the oftentimes deep philosophical and scientific waters of apologetics. I’ve seen some younger aspiring apologists attempt to tackle Alvin Plantinga without being able to name the twelve disciples or ten commandments, and their testimony suffers for it. It’s not as if one must study theology exclusively before even attempting to study apologetics, but our Biblical foundation must be firm.
Read the Bible from cover to cover, get a couple of good study Bibles, read good commentaries, study intently, stay actively involved in your local Church, pray fervently, and continue to do this for the rest of your life. I think many apologists would acknowledge these basics of the Christian life can become a challenge once we start diving into our countless apologetics studies. The earlier we get into the habit, the better Christians and thus apologists, we will be. A good apologist is only as good as his theology.
2. Find a mentor and follow solid ministries
If there isn’t an experienced apologist in your local Church, there are scores of quality ministries out there who can mentor you specifically in this area. I think it’s best early on to narrow your focus so you don’t get overwhelmed with all the information coming at you.
In my opinion, one of the best ministries to start with (and stick with) is Stand to Reason. My appetite for apologetics was first whetted by STR, and I’ve been an avid follower ever since. When I finally met Greg Koukl at the EPS Conference in Atlanta a couple of years ago, I told him he was my gateway drug into the world of classical apologetics.
Yes, I actually said that to him.
I told my mentor, in person, he was the marijuana of Christian Apologetics… That story should provide more insight into why I’m sans degree.
ANYWAY… STR really is fantastic. They provide a wealth of resources and they can recommend many other solid ministries. I believe the foundation STR provides will not only help the beginning apologist, but the most seasoned as well. Their focus is primarily on being an effective Ambassador for Christ, which is a Biblical command for ALL Christians. Obviously I am very grateful for their ministry…
Two ministries with loads of resources are Apologetics 315 and The Poached Egg. Brian Auten and Greg West have provided multiple valuable resources which will be linked to en masse below. Here is a list of blogs as well as a list of apologists and their websites Apologetics 315 has put together, as well as a directory from The Poached Egg. Most of this blog could really just be boiled down to “go to Apologetics 315 or The Poached Egg – The End”. They’re both that good.
2b. Social Networking
I put together a fairly comprehensive Twitter List with many Apologists and their ministries included. Some rarely tweet, some will blow you up, and you’ll often see the same articles retweeted by different users, but following Twitter accounts can be an invaluable source of information, not to mention the personal interaction.
3. Start listening to Apologetics podcasts
STR has a weekly podcast, and there are plenty of others depending on what you’re looking for. Apologetics 315 has a great resource page here. Be sure to check out iTunes U for some good series from Biola University (variety of apologetics topics), CSNTM (textual criticism) and RTS (Church history). Since podcasts can be lengthy, just find those that best fit your taste and schedule. Podcast Relativism is perfectly acceptable.
4. Start building your library
I’m a codex guy, but there are some books which are very advantageous to have in the Kindle version since you can tap on any word to get the dictionary definition. Again, apologists can occasionally delve into very complex philosophical and scientific areas with words and phrases you’re not familiar with (hello Latin!).
Here’s a list of books Apologetics 315 has for beginners. As Brian says, ” if you begin with these, you will have a pretty good foundational understanding of the landscape”. They also have this complete list of recommendations to start digging into once you’ve worked your way through the beginner list. The Poached Egg has a good list of book recommendations as well. If you somehow master the material in all of these books while maintaining your consistent Bible reading, you’ll make William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga look like a couple of grade schoolers… well probably not, but you’ll be an official apologetics stud (I checked, and this is an approved title).
5. Start attending seminars
If there’s one thing all Christians love, it’s a conference or seminar, and apologists are no different. We LOVE conferences, and we excel in this area. We go all year, around the world, and they’re always loaded with quality speakers. One of the great benefits to attending seminars, aside from learning, is networking with other apologists and getting to rub shoulders with some great thinkers.
It’s difficult to nail down the who/what/when on this as there are many Churches who put on their own conferences, so the best thing to do is stay on top of your Twitter and Facebook feeds. However here are a couple of resources:
The Evangelical Philosophical Society puts on a conference to line up with their annual meeting. It’s always very affordable and the lineup is guaranteed to be stacked.
Southern Evangelical Seminary has an annual conference that is always loaded. Come this year and I’ll hopefully see you there.
Unbelievable hosts seminars for our friends across the pond. This past year they hosted a Reasonable Faith tour with William Lane Craig and put on their own Unbelievable Conference featuring Reasons to Believe.
Again, one of the best ways to stay on top of this is to follow your favorite speakers via social networking and they’ll be sure to let you know when they’re speaking somewhere.
I will also put together a concise resource list. Thanks for reading!
After I finished typing up both of these posts, I found two other similar articles here and here. I hadn’t read either prior, so it was pretty cool to see some of the same advice offered by others. I believe all the articles compliment one another and encourage you to read them.