Apologetics for the mind

Edited from an email I sent

It is undeniable that Christianity has made a tremendous intellectual impact during its two thousand-year history. As Christians throughout that time have tried to be faithful to both Matthew 28:16-20 and 1 Peter 3:15, they have engaged worldviews left, right and centre.

However, in recent decades, that apologetic mandate has been compromised or even denied. We can find many reasons for this (the advent of postmodernity, the flourishing of science, educational apathy, fideism, intellectual laziness etc) but we’d rather spend our energy reclaiming the rightful place biblical truth holds in the intellectual domain.

One aim of Christian apologetics is to demonstrate that the Christian worldview has intellectually valid and even superior explanatory power (notice the word “superior”. Every worldview offers explanations). In human words, it claims that the Bible holds all the real answers about the human condition, morality, the purpose of existence and other big questions we’re too busy to think about until it’s too late.

With all that, I’d like to recommend to you an entire free course in Apologetics by Philosophy Professor Douglas Groothuis. The course includes both lectures (MP3) and also lecture notes (HTML – can open with your browser or word processor). I liked how much time Groothuis devotes in putting apologetics into a biblical context, as well as occasionally sharing personal experiences from his own ministry. It’s material that goes both wide and narrow and even if you disagree with something, you will find it very helpful.

Apologetics for the heart

From an email I sent

The ultimate purpose of apologetics is to overcome intellectual obstacles to the gospel so that people can actually hear the gospel. Like every other Christian ministry, apologetics is completely and utterly useless by itself. No-one ever came or ever will come to Christ through mere intellectual agreement; it is God who opens peoples’ hearts and eyes and minds to receive the good news (John 6:44; Acts 16:14). It is good to remember that when we are halfway through esteemed Professor Schwischwarffkopf’s 6,000-page treatise on the Ontological Argument und Adam’s Navel. And yes, I made that up. Don’t go Googling it.

But here’s a thought: Are apologetics only for non-believers? Are Christians immune to doubts, unanswered questions and bewildering problems? Of course not. In fact, we often suffer the worse because that’s not something Christians readily admit.

So what happens is, we readily engage the latest assault of village atheism with unmatched zeal, but meanwhile our personal walk with Christ has slowed to a trudge. We educate unbelievers on why the Bible is historically, textually and scientifically reliable, but that seems to have very little impact anymore on the way we read it – if we do.

My point is, apologetics should be levelled first at ourselves before we start wielding those five arguments for the existence of God. Why? Because we still need to grow. We are still vulnerable. But we are supposed to be constantly transformed by the renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:2) and that goes beyond mere intellectual agreement.

With that in mind, I recommend Timothy Keller‘s sermons, which you can find here. Keller has become known for the relevant and biblically uncompromising way he does apologetics. These aren’t dry lectures – they are passionate and deeply insightful answers to some really tough questions. But it goes beyond that: Keller speaks to Christians and addresses some of the things that constantly harrow us. It’s the kind of thing you want to take notes on.