It’s time for Christianity to reclaim the intellectual high ground we once held. That means you and I have a lot of work to do. Chances are some of it will be different from what we’ve been doing. There is a new frontier in
apologetics today. The big questions are no longer what they used to be. And most of us are just beginning to see it.
It’s no longer mostly about discovering new reasons to believe in Christ, and it’s not primarily about finding ways to counter atheists’ objections. Those are still important questions, but they’re not the big one; they’re not at the frontier. The reason is simple: that work’s been done. No, I don’t mean there’s nothing new to discover, far from it—I’m working on a new version of the moral argument myself. What I mean is that generally speaking, with just a few exceptions, for every hard question out there we already have a good answer. Several good answers, actually for most questions.
But there’s one huge question we’ve hardly begun to think about. When we finally do get our minds on it, I believe we’ll see the world change before our very eyes. What is this next frontier, this next world-changing question? Actually it’s three questions, not just one:
What do we dream of the world looking like five years or twenty-five years from now, as a result of our efforts? Is it a God-sized dream? And what will it take to see that change happen?
Here’s my answer, which I would imagine is similar in many ways to yours:
My prayer is that when anyone in the Western world (or the widely Western-influenced world) thinks of Christianity, they would think of the intellectual credibility of the faith and Christians’ intellectual leadership in community and culture.
We’re a long way from that point. Intellectual strength is not the first thing that comes to mind when most people think about Christianity. It’s a God-sized dream to hope it might happen. But why not? God is God, and we have the truth! Why shouldn’t his truth be the kind of thing the world knows it has to contend with?
Unfortunately that vision has competition. I’m not talking about competition from secularists, but from within myself. I have another dream that competes with that one: That I will be widely published and well known, have lots of face time with famous Christian leaders, and receive lots of requests to speak, for handsome fees.
Maybe you experience the same thing. Unless you’re shy of notoriety or can’t bear the thought of standing in front of a crowd—neither of which is likely in our field of apologetics—you probably feel at least some of that. God made us to respond to positive feedback, especially when it has a quick turn-around time. It takes discipline to remind ourselves just how small these aspirations for prestige really are, compared to the big picture of what God really wants to accomplish through us. They shrink us both spiritually and strategically.
I didn’t really need to remind you of that; you knew it already. I brought it up because I think you might be at least somewhat like me, with small visions of personal glory trying to crowd out what should be great ones for God’s glory.
That’s not the only way, though, in which we apologists tend to think small. We focus on the current engagement: the question we’re addressing in this article or that, the crowd we’re speaking to, or the debate we hope to win. There’s nothing wrong with that, on one level. It’s a very good thing to equip, to encourage, or to persuade in the name of Christ. It’s just that taking things one engagement at a time isn’t enough for the need of the day. We need to be working on turning around Christian intellectual culture, to the end that every church can engage its own people or its own community from a position of strength. Winning over one group at a time—our usual tactic in apologetics—isn’t going to get us there.
There are some among us who are thinking more strategically, but we all need to begin taking a higher and broader view of what God could do through us.
How do we begin doing that? First, by assessing our dreams. Are we dreaming of the big publishing contract, the big crowds, and the triumph in debate? Sure, I’ll admit I like seeing myself in that picture. If that’s part of your dream, acknowledge it. Then decide whether it’s helping or hindering you from accomplishing something far bigger and more significant.
What is the far better vision God has for you? Are you dreaming of something bigger than the engagement—bigger than you could manage on your own? That’s what I’m praying and working toward. And I couldn’t imagine my dreams coming to pass apart from God doing it.
The new frontier, today’s biggest question in apologetics, is how can we be far more strategic than we have ever been?
I’ll ‘fess up: I’m a dual-vocation minister, working in both apologetics and strategy. I’ve been helping others in the apologetics community thinking more about strategy. That’s my first goal, simple as that: If you’re wondering about God’s vision for your ministry after reading this letter, or if you’re worried about what to do with the vision you have, then this letter has accomplished part of its purpose. I’m only taking this a step at a time, so I’ll leave it there for now.
But if you’re really worried about this, and really wondering about how to enter the new frontier of apologetics, feel free to get in touch with me. I’d be glad to come work with you. Keep your eye on the Christian Apologetics Alliance for further discussion on this, too; for there are meetings on this new frontier in the works. Maybe we’ll be able to bring all this together sometime soon.
Until then, grace and peace to you.