Archive for February, 2017

I come across these “objections” repeatedly online, in conversation, in debates, talk shows, and the like.  These are such silly objections against the existence of God that it is ludicrous that an answer has to be brought up.  But, since they keep appearing and reappearing, they must be dealt with.  In the interest of being fair, as well as over compensating, I double with a list of four silly arguments Christians should avoid which are graciously provided by Dr. Douglas Groothius at the bottom of this post.

1. “Believing in God is like believing in a flying spaghetti monster”

This is a real objection one can find online, and it is as silly as it sounds.  There is even a church dedicated to this objection (more of a parody than to be taken seriously) which is also called Pastafarianism.  It is a common meme found online as is seen from the “inspirational” poster here.  It has even been manufactured for car decals.  The Flying Spaghetti monster argument is meant to parody belief in God by showing that since there is no evidence for a Flying Spaghetti monster, you shouldn’t believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster.  Likewise, since there is no evidence for a God, you shouldn’t believe in God.

Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason responds to this silly objecton:

Dr. William Lane Craig responds to this objection in his weekly Q&A:

“God and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Q#33” Reasonable Faith. Dr. Craig concludes by:

The real lesson to be learned from the case of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is that it shows how completely out of touch our popular culture is with the great tradition of natural theology. One might as well be speaking a foreign language. That people could think that belief in God is anything like the groundless belief in a fantasy monster shows how utterly ignorant they are of the works of Anselm, Aquinas, Leibniz, Paley, Sorley, and a host of others, past and present. No doubt part of the fault lies with equally ignorant Christians who have no answer when called upon to give a reason for the hope within and who therefore give the impression of arbitrary and groundless belief. But it must also be attributed to poor education, intellectual laziness, and a lack of curiosity. Given the revival of natural theology in our day over the last half century, we have no excuse for such lame caricatures of theistic belief as belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The origins of the Flying Spaghetti Monster actually goes back to a response to Intelligent Design (ID) in 2005.  This following video provides the context as well as the Dr. Craig’s response to it as a critique to ID:

“5 Reasons The Flying Spaghetti Monster Parody Doesn’t Make Sense” by Richard Bushey | Therefore, God Exists, December 24, 2015 – A taste of this article:

In an attempt to mock and ridicule religion (as is the great commission of the atheist as prescribed by Richard Dawkins at last years’ Reason Rally), atheists will compare belief in God to something ridiculous, that anybody would regard as false, like Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy, or even what they call the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The Flying Spaghetti Monster came as a response to the advocacy of Intelligent Design being taught in schools. The very concept is as ridiculous as teaching students about the Flying Spaghetti Monster. However I think there are at least 5 reasons the Flying Spaghetti Monster parody doesn’t make sense.

“Conclusion: Why the ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’ Doesn’t Fly”

  1. Sure, there is no evidence for a flying spaghetti monster, but there are plenty of arguments for the existence of God.  So this argument from a spaghetti monster does not counter any argument for God’s existence, because the spaghetti monster example is assuming that there are no arguments for God. Now, that doesn’t mean any of the arguments for God’s existence are good arguments, but that is what needs to be investigated.  Spaghetti monsters don’t provide evidence against God.
  2. The spaghetti monster is physical, temporal, and material and the concept of God is non-physical, eternal, and immaterial.  Since the spaghetti monster is a material object extended in space and time and can’t be the cause of space, time, matter, and energy.
2.We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.

Richard Gervais, the comedian (who is “obviously” an authority in philosophy and religion [please read that with sarcasm]) recently proposed the “one god further” objection with Stephen Colbert (relevant information at 2:20):

This quote apparently originated with Stephen F. Roberts in 1995.  Common Sense Atheism also has utilized this argument:

What I mean is that if you apply the same reasoning to your god as you do to every other god (your “common” sense) then you’ll see that your god doesn’t exist, either.

In short, this argument states that the only difference between a Christian and an atheist is that the atheist is just like the Christian theist, but they just believe in one less god than the Christian.  So Christians are atheists when it comes to the belief in Baal to Zeus, so they are just as atheistic as the full atheists. Bill Vallicella of Maverick Philosopher summaries the argument:

The idea, I take it, is that all gods are on a par, and so, given that everyone is an atheist with respect to some gods, one may as well make a clean sweep and be an atheist with respect to all gods. You don’t believe in Zeus or in a celestial teapot. Then why do you believe in the God of Isaac, Abraham, and Jacob?

one-god-futherRationalWiki even has a list of gods that Christian don’t believe in from Aabit to Zurvan for a total of 1,637 deities that Christians are atheistic towards.  This is suppose lead to the conclusion that the God of Christianity doesn’t exist either.  I am not sure how it does this, but that is the claim.  This is just a non sequitur.  Richard Dawkins has used this argument in The God Delusion:

None of us feels an obligation to disprove any of the millions of far-fetched things that a fertile or facetious imagination might dream up. I have found it an amusing strategy, when asked whether I am an atheist, to point out that the questioner is also an atheist when considering Zeus, Apollo, Amon Ra, Mithras, Baal, Thor, Wotan, the Golden Calf and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I just go one god further.

Here are some responses to this objection:

Ricky Gervais Makes the Usual Atheist Mistakes” by Tom Gilson | Thinking Christian Feb 17, 2017. Tom Gilson answers almost all of Ricky Gervais points in the Colbert clip, but answers the one god objection under the heading of “The Arithmetical Argument.”

Brett Kunkl of Stand to Reason posted this entertaining video answering this silly objection:

Debunking the One God Further Objection ” by Edward Feser | Strange Notions.

Here is a quick video of Dr. Craig’s response to the “we are all atheists” objection:

Why the ‘I Just Believe in One Less God Than You’ Argument Does Not Work” by Michael Patton | Credo House April 13, 2011 – Michael Patton differentiates the important distinction between belief in other gods and the belief in the Christian God.

On the Statement That ‘We Are All Atheists’ ” by J. W. Wartick | Always Have a Reason April  4, 2011. – Wartick examines three problems with the statement “we are all atheists to other religions, we [atheists] just take it one step further.”  The problems are:

1) The statement is false

2) The statement is irrational

3) The statement–as with many false or irrational statements–proves too much (or too little).

“Conclusion: Why the ‘One God Further’ Objection Doesn’t Add Up”

  1. If one takes the argument to mean we are all atheists to multiple gods, but the skeptic is just an atheist of one more god, then the argument just confuses what is means to be an atheist.  The Christian theist (or Muslim or Jew) are NOT atheists.  Atheism is the believe that God doesn’t exist.  Theists (whether Christian, Islamic, or Jewish) or not atheists at all.
  2. This claim that it is irrational to believe in Odin, Thor, Zeus, Baal, etc. is irrational, thus belief in theism is irrational fails to grapple with the arguments for theism.  It is just an attempt to avoid the work of looking at arguments for (or against) God.

As this last point points out, both objections are just attempts to avoid looking at arguments for God’s existence, which there are plenty (kalam cosmological argument, moral argument, teleological argument, ontological argument, contingency argument, and dozens of others).  Both of these objections against theism have run their course and (unfortunately) will pop back up here and there because of the internet, but please, lets put these to rest.


Arguments to Avoid in Defending Christianity” by Douglas Groothuis.  Dr. Groothuis calls each argument a non-starter:

Nonstarter #1: Since we do not know everything, no one can disprove the existence of God. God might be somewhere outside of our knowledge. Moreover, if we knew everything—which is the only way to disprove God—we would end up being God ourselves and, thus, atheism would be false!

Nonstarter #2 People do not die for a lie. But the apostles died for their belief in the resurrection of Jesus, so they must have died for the truth.

Nonstarter #3: Evolution (meaning Darwinism) cannot be proven because it is not scientific. Science demands repeatable and empirical observation: things that can be observed through a microscope or a telescope or chemical reactions in a test tube. Therefore, evolution is unscientific and has no final claim on reality.

Nonstarter #4: You cannot argue with a changed life. A Christian’s testimony is the most powerful and irrefutable apologetic. (Some say it is the only apologetic needed.)

Grootuis is author of Christian Apologetics, Truth Decay, On Jesus, Philosophy in Seven Sentences, and others. Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary since 1993. Head of The Apologetics and Ethics Masters Degree Program and Co-Director of The Gordon Lewis Center for Christian Thought and Culture.


John Calvin - Christian Theologian

John Calvin was one of the great voices of the Protestant Reformation, but what exactly did he believe, and what else did he contribute to Christianity? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of John Calvin—and why he still matters today.

Who Was John Calvin?

John Calvin (1509–1564) was born in Noyon, Picardy, France, to a devoted Roman Catholic family. He studied the liberal arts at the University of Paris, but his father wanted him to study law, so he went on to receive a law degree at the University of Orléans. Because John Calvin didn’t want to be a lawyer, he returned to the study of classical literature. In Paris, he left the Roman Catholic Church and became part of the Protestant Reformation movement that was then spreading through Europe. He later moved to Geneva, Switzerland, where he became one of the leaders of the emerging Reformed…

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This is the fourth part of a series I am doing on Trends in Apologetics.  I have covered Urban ApologeticsCultural Apologetics, and Women in Apologetics.  This post will focus on Children’s Apologetics.

Children’s Apologetics

“Already Gone”

It has been highly promoted that between 50% to 70% of Christian students will abandon the faith in college.  It depends on the study but the findings are seeming consistent: a startling high number of college students are leaving the church.

To counter this trend much focus has been placed on college age and the teenage demographic.  It has come to be recognized that this might be to late.  Ken Ham and Britt Beemer with Toll Hillard identify the middle school and preteen years as the critical moment in Already Gone (first chapter).

This has prompted many to being apologetics even earlier than high school and middle school.  This is Children’s Apologetics.

“Children’s Apologetics”

The earliest attempt at Children’s Apologetics that I could identify is in 1991 with the publication of David Walters’ book Fact or Fantasy: A Study in Christian Apologetics for Children. The age range (according to is 4-9 years of age.  This is very young. The description states “A children’s and teen’s Bible Study book on Simple Christian Apologetic’s (defend your faith). It helps answer the questions your friends ask you about what you believe.”

Then came along Lee Strobel’s “Case for . . .” series: The Case for caschristkidsChrist (1998), The Case for Faith (2000), The Case for a Creator  (2004), and The Case for the Real Jesus (2007).  He quickly followed up this works with student editions.  The success of these series is hard to estimate, but it is large nonetheless. This was duplicated for kids in The Case for Christ for Kids, The Case for Faith for Kids, and The Case for a Creator for Kids in 2006 (updated and expanded in 2010).  The target age for these books is age 9-12.  I have utilized these books with fourth and fifth graders and find them very useful.

Just before the Case series for Kids was published Josh McDowell edited his tome Evidence that Demands a Verdict for kids in Children Demand a Verdict in 2003.  It looked like things were slowing down for bit on the Children’s Apologetic front after the Case for series for Kids but recently a book on apologetics for kids was written by a detective and a book for parents to train their kids in apologetics was published by a mom:

kidsgodsside                   ColdCaseKids.png

Natasha Crain is blogger at Christian Mom Thoughts that focused on training up children in apologetics and theology.  Post included such topics like “14 Ways I Teach Apologetics to My 5-year-Olds.”   She was approached by Harvest House Publishers to write the book Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith in 2016 as well.  Her book is for parents and helps them “empower their children to respond well to the hard questions that threaten their faith. It’s no secret that children of all ages are being exposed to negative criticism of Christianity as they spend time at school, with friends, or online.”

J. Warner Wallace, the former cold case detective and author of Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Examines the Claims of the Gospels and God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universewrote Cold-Case Christianity for Kids: Investigating Jesus with a Real Detective in 2016.  Not only is this a book on apologetics for children between the ages of 8-12, Wallace (along with his wife Susie) have developed a webpage to guide the readers through the book with videos, printable activities, leader guides, and certificates of completion. A trailer for the book and activities can be viewed:


More books for kids by Wallace are to come such as God’s Crime Scene For Kids and Forensic Faith for Kids.

Wallace and Crain were recently featured on November 26, 2016 on Frank Turek’s podcast/radio show CrossExamined titled “How to Teach Your Kids Apologetics.”

Apologetical Resources for Kids

The Case for Christ for Kids by Lee Strobel

The Case for Faith for Kids by Lee Strobel

The Case for a Creator for Kids by Lee Strobel

Cold-Case Christianity for Kids: Investigating Jesus with a Real Detective by J. Warner Wallace and Susie Wallace

Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith by Natasha Crain

Jesus is Alive! Evidence for the Resurrection for Kids by Josh and Sean McDowell

Children Demand a Verdict by Josh McDowell and Kevin Johnson

 Other posts on Trends in Apologetics:

Urban Apologetics

Cultural Apologetics

Women in Apologetics



Saint Bonaventure

St. Bonaventure was one of the great thinkers of the Middle Ages, but what exactly did he believe and what else did he contribute to Christendom? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of St. Bonaventure—and why he still matters today.

Who Was St. Bonaventure?

St. Bonaventure (c. 1221–1274) was born in the Tuscany region of Italy during the High Middle Ages. Bonaventure studied at the University of Paris and became the most eminent theologian of the Franciscan order (named after St. Francis of Assisi) in the Catholic Church. Like his theological colleague, Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure was also one of the great philosophers of the scholastic era, serving as both a scholar and a church official (minister general of the Franciscans). His theological thinking reflected a deep commitment to Augustinianism joined with an acceptance of elements of Catholic mysticism. Some reports convey that he died mysteriously during the…

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dssA twelfth cave has been found!  Craig Evans, of Houston Baptist University reports its importance:

The last Dead Sea Scrolls cave, linked to the ruins on the marl shelf at the mouth of Wadi Qumran, was discovered in 1956, bringing the total number of caves to eleven — eleven caves containing the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, ceramic jars, and a number of other artifacts.

For sixty years archaeologists and looters have been searching for a twelfth cave. Would another one ever be found? Most didn’t think so. This is what makes the announcement from Hebrew University so astounding: A twelfth cave has been discovered!

In 1947 one of the most significant archaeological discoveries ever found was the Dead Sea Scrolls.  This short video is a great summary of the discovery:


Eleven caves were discovered containing artifacts, some included scrolls of the Hebrew Scripture (i.e. The Old Testament) and other writings, and some did not.  This discovery, the first in over 60 years to discover a new scroll cave and to be properly excavated, apparently contained at one time Dead Sea scrolls.  Christian Post reporter Stoyan Zaimov, writes:

Since being discovered in a series of findings between 1947 and 1956, nearly 900 manuscripts and thousands of fragments containing biblical text, written on animal skin and papyrus in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, have been analyzed by researchers.

Dov Smith at reports:

Numerous storage jars and lids from the Second Temple period were found hidden in niches along the walls of the cave and deep inside a long tunnel at its rear. The jars were all broken and their contents removed, and the discovery towards the end of the excavation of a pair of iron pickaxe heads from the 1950s (stored within the tunnel for later use) proves the cave was looted.


Johnston and Evans fills in the backstory of the Dead Sea Scrolls at

Bedouin shepherds in a cave near Khirbet Qumran made this amazing discovery in 1947, about one mile inland from the western shore of the Dead Sea.

By 1956, a total of eleven caves had been found at Qumran; however, no caves have been discovered since, until now.

Here are some short videos on this discovery:





Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

50 People in the Old Testament Confirmed Archaeologically

History Has Gone to the Toilets-The Ancient Latrine of Lachish

Virtual Unwrapping of Levitical Scroll

City of Geza

Philistine Cemetery

Ancient Shopping List Provides Evidence of When Bible Was Written

Hezekiah Bulla

This is the third part of a series I am doing on Trends in Apologetics.  I have covered Urban Apologetics and Cultural Apologetics and will look at Children’s Apologetic in a future post.

Women in Apologetics

Given the proliferation of men in apologetics, the questions that begs to be answered is “are women interested in apologetics?”

screen-shot-2017-02-08-at-12-56-19-pmThe short answer is yes. An example is the International Society of Women in Apologetics (ISWA).  ISWA is a loosely-connected group of Christian women who are theologically, philosophically, and apologetically inclined, and have a passion for encouraging and equipping other women in the church who are interested in learning how to think more deeply and intelligently about their faith.) There website is Women in Apologetics.

Women in apologetics is actually not new because Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957) was an avid defender of orthodox Christianity.  Louis Markos (one of the leading lights of Cultural Apologetics) has an excellent chapter on Sayers contribution to apologetics in Apologetics for the 21st Century.  Nevertheless, this trend of women in apologetics is much more self-aware and intentional by its practitioners.

Christianity Today has touched on this new trend with the article “Meet the Women Apologists: Apologetics has long been a bastion of men—until now.” This article chronicles the exciting growth in this trend.  Houston Baptist University is spearheading this trend.  The faculty at HBU include “Nancy Pearcey, author of Total Truth and Saving Leonardo; Mary Jo Sharp, director of the ministry Confident Christianity; Melissa Cain Travis, a national speaker and author for Apologia Press; Kristen Davis, an engineer who runs DoubtLess Faith Ministries; and [Holly} Ordway, an Inklings scholar with a PhD in literature.”  The article goes on to say:

“These women are expanding the scope of apologetics beyond the traditional male bastion,” says Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christ and now on faculty in the MAA program. He sees his colleagues as building a movement that’s “cutting across gender and racial barriers” to draw more people to faith.

“Women bring a deep relational intelligence to apologetics,” says Kelly Monroe Kullberg, founder of the Veritas Forum, a university-based organization that hosts apologetics events across North America and Europe. “They bring a sense that biblical truth is the highest love for human beings.”

“The next big breakthrough in apologetics will come from women,” says John Mark Reynolds, HBU’s [former] provost and former Biola University philosophy professor.

Some of the publication and output from these women apologists have included books, conferences, ministries, and bible studies:

Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms is by Holly Ordway which is the touching story of her remarkable move from atheism to Christianity. Convinced of the truth of Christianity by reason and imagination.

Mary Jo Sharp of HBU wrote a study of Lifeway called Why Do you Believe That?: A Faith Conversation which is a video-driven women’s bible study.  The trailer for the study:

Sharp also wrote Defending the Faith: Apologetics in Women’s Ministry for Kregel Ministries Press.

This past November this was a women’s apologetic conference: No Pat Answers.  Other conferences on women’s apologetics have included DC Women’s Apologetics Conference hosted by the C. S. Lewis Institute, and the Women Teach Women Apologetics Conference by Ratio Christi in New Jersey.

Other Articles on Women in Apologetics

“Oxford’s Unapologetic Female Apologist” by Katelyn Beaty | Christianity Today April

“Women in Apologetics – Sisters Who Defend the Faith” by Mikel Del Rosario | Apologetics Guy March 14, 2014 – Ironically, this post on women in apologetics is on a website called the Apologetics Guy. Irony aside, Mikel is genuine pleased and sympathetic to women in apologetics.  He posts:

Just as the testimony of women sparked an investigation of Jesus’ empty tomb in the 1st century, so the testimony of women in the 21st century leads many to consider the evidence for the claims of Christianity.

I’m pleased to know some outstanding women who are beginning to make history in our field–a field which has long suffered from the stereotype of being “just a guy thing.”

The Women of Christian Apologetics” by Joel Furches – HubPage, March 9, 2017

Some of the Women in Apologetics

ISWA’s website has a list of women who are active in apologetics.  Here is just a sampling of some notable female practitioners in apologetics:

Amy Orr-Ewing – The UK Director for RZIM Europe and Curriculum Director of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA). She gained a first class degree in Theology at Christ Church, Oxford University before receiving a Masters degree in Theology at King’s College, London. She is currently working on her Doctoral Thesis at Oxford University. Amy has written two books exploring key questions in apologetics: Is the Bible Intolerant? which was shortlisted for the 2006 UK Christian Book Awards, and Is Believing in God Irrational?

Here is a video of her lecture on “Can I Trust the Bible?”:

Mary Jo Sharp – Mary Jo is the first woman to become a Certified Apologetics Instructor through the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.  An assistant professor of apologetics at Houston Baptist University, Mary Jo found the ministry Confident Christianity.  Here is fun clip by Brett Kunkle of Mary Jo:

Lydia McGrew – With PhD in English literature from Vanderbilt, Lydia  is a full-time housewife and home schooling mother living in Michigan. She has published in the field of analytic philosophy, with specialties in theory of knowledge and probability theory. Her philosophical publications, some written alone and some jointly with her husband, Tim McGrew, have appeared in journals such as Erkenntnis, Philosophical Studies, and Philosophia Christi. She writes on political, cultural, and religious topics at What’s Wrong With the World and at her personal blog, Extra Thoughts.  One of her outstanding contributions to apologetics his her co-authored chapter in Blackwell’s Companion to Natural Theology,  2009, edited by J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig titled “The Argument from Miracles: A Cumulative Case for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth” and the new book Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts which is a revival of an argument for the historical reliability of the New Testament that has been largely neglected for more than a hundred years. Undesigned coincidences are casual, yet puzzle-like “fits” between two or more texts, which the best explanation is that the authors knew the truth about the events they describe.  Here is a lecture she gave on Undesigned Coincidences:

Melissa Cain Travis – Featured alongside other women in apologetics in the Christianity Today cover story “Meet the Women Apologists”, Melissa Travis serves as Assistant Professor of Christian Apologetics at Houston Baptist University. She is a Contributing Writer for Christian Research Journal and author of the Young Defenders apologetics storybook series. She is currently writing a popular level science and faith book for Harvest House Publishers that will go to print in early 2018. Pursuing a PhD in humanities, Melissa earned the Master of Arts in Science and Religion from Biola University in 2012.  Her website.

Holly Ordway – Dr. Ordway was featured in my post on Cultural Apologetics.  In brief, Ordway is Professor of English and faculty in the M.A. in Apologetics at Houston Baptist University specializing in cultural and imaginative literary apologetics. Here memoir is Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms.  Here is her story telling of her journey from atheism to faith:

Nancy Pearcey  –  Pearcey has been involved in apologetics, journalism, worldviews, and science since the early 1990s, but she is now professor of apologetics at Houston Baptist University.  Here official website. Some of her works include: Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning, and most recently Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes. Here is a short clip with Pearcey:

 Other posts on Trends in Apologetics:

Urban Apologetics

Cultural Apologetics

Children’s Apologetics (forthcoming)

This is the second part of a series I am doing on Trends in Apologetics.  I have covered Urban Apologetics and will look at Women in Apologetics and Children’s Apologetic in future posts.

Cultural Apologetics

What is Cultural Apologetics?  Answering this can be a little tricky.  So, given that this tricky I will let someone else answer the question: Holly Ordway.  Dr. Ordway is the professor of English and on the faculty at Houston Baptist University in the M.A. in Apologetics program. She specializes in cultural and imaginative literary apologetics:


In this short clip by Dr. Ordway she describes “Cultural Apologetics [as] the approach to defending the truth of the Christian faith that involves engagement with all aspects of our culture. From literature, the arts, the media, film, all the way into the political realm, to economics, to science and the way we understand those kinds of questions.  The questions how can we present the truth in such a way that is understandable and in such a way that it can be lived out in every aspect of our lives and not compartmentalized. So, culture apologetics strives to do that and do that in every sphere of activity.”

That is a good start and as I analyzed and researched what was involved in Cultural Apologetics I notice that instead of Cultural Apologetics being a narrow sub-discipline of Christian Apologetics that it is much broader and multi-disciplined.  It seems that traditionally (or sometimes termed philosophical, classical or historical) apologetics has focused, understandably, upon rational arguments for God’s existence and the veracity of Christianity.  The focus is on reason and argument.  Cultural Apologetics understands that human experience is much broader than just reason.  It’s not an irrational approach, but a wholistic approach.  Humans are more than just rational beings, we have emotions, imagination, creativity, as well as intellect.

Houston Baptist University is spearheading this movement of Cultural Apologetics with a M.A. track in the field.  They define Cultural Apologetics as focusing on integrating imaginative and rational apologetics, studying a range of issues in philosophy, literature and the arts, and cultural issues in order to analyze and engage with culture for apologetics at both the intellectual and popular level (including creative work).

Here is Dr. Ordway and Dr. Ward, two leading lights in the movement, describing Cultural Apologetics and its distinctives for Houston Baptist University’s program in apologetics:



Rational Apologetics “vs.” Cultural Apolgoetics

The “vs.” in the heading above is not meant to denote that they against each other but that there is a between them.  In a great article by Ordway, she describes the pairing of reason with imagination for a complete Cultural Apologetic:

Theologian Austin Farrer sums up the role of Reason in apologetics: “Though argument does not create conviction, the lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.”

Rational apologetics includes philosophical arguments, such as the arguments from contingency and from morality; evidential arguments, such as the arguments for the Resurrection based on historical evidence; and scientific arguments, such as the argument based on the fine-tuning of the universe for human life. However, no argument is complete in itself. For instance, while the Kalam cosmological argument and arguments from design suggest that it is reasonable to believe in a Creator, these arguments do not in themselves suggest anything about what that Creator is like, or draw people to desire a relationship with Him. Scripture-based arguments can show more of who God is and how He has acted in history, but these arguments are only helpful if people care about what the Bible says – if they are interested and willing to listen. We can’t automaticallly assume that people are interested, or that they have the adequate context to understand Scriptural references.

The best approach for the challenges of the 21st century is to provide a holistic argument involving different, complementary, mutually supportive arguments, which build up to a convincing overall picture.

ordway-photo-300x292-1Another way to approach Cultural Apologetics is put succinctly in this interview of Dr. Ordway who is recounting her conversion experience:

When I was so firmly an atheist, I would not have listened to the arguments that ultimately convinced me. I found the very idea of faith to be so repellent that I would not have listened to any arguments.

However, although I was not interested in apologetic arguments, I had, without knowing it, been experiencing the work of grace through my imagination. As a child and young adult, I read fantasy, fairy tales, and myths, and I especially fell in love with the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. I didn’t know that I was encountering God’s grace through those books, but in fact I was. Later, I wrote my doctoral dissertation on fantasy novels, and had Tolkien’s great essay “On Fairy-stories,” with its powerful statement of the evangelium, the Good News, at the heart of it. Later I began to teach college literature, and in re-visiting classic poetry for my class preparation, I was deeply moved and intrigued by the writings of specifically Christian poets. I had to admit that whatever it was that these authors believed, it was not simplistic or silly. Eventually, I realized that this question of ‘faith’ was more complex, and more interesting, than I had thought – and I decided to learn more.

There were a lot of questions that I needed to ask and have answered before I came to accept Christ, but Imagination opened the door. As George MacDonald’s novel Phantastes baptized C.S. Lewis’ imagination, so Lewis, Tolkien, Donne, and Hopkins had baptized mine.

Further examination reveals some distinctives in Cultural Apologetics. There seems to be a distinction within Cultural Apologetics between Imaginative Apologetics and Literary Apologetics.

Imaginative Apologetics

“Imaginative Apologetics” and “An Example of Imaginative Apologetics” by Gene Veith | Patheos June 9 and 10, 2015

Here is a series of articles on Imaginative Apologetics at Transpositions, which is the blog site for the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts (ITIA) which is one of the leading centers in the world for bringing together the study and practice of theology and the arts.  It contains articles from some of the leading scholars in cultural apologetics such as Holly Ordway, Michael Ward, and Louis Markos discussing issues like how imagination and reason relates, how the myth made fact in the local congregation, and the impact of Austin Farrer.

Imaginative Apologetics: Theology, Philosophy, and the Catholic Tradition published by Baker Academic attempts to provide a fresh, contemporary introduction to apologetics.  The back of the book describes it as:

A Fresh Introduction to Christian Apologetics
This timely introduction argues for a version of Christian apologetics that is theological, philosophical, and “catholic” and that embraces the whole of human reason. It emphasizes a foundation in theology that is both confident and open and makes reference to philosophy in an accessible way.


John Hughes on proofs and arguments for faith and reason
Andrew Davison on Christian reason and Christian community
Alison Milbank on apologetics and the imagination
Donna J. Lazenby on apologetics, literature, and worldview
Michael Ward on C. S. Lewis’s view of imagination and reason in apologetics
Stephen Bullivant on atheism, apologetics, and ecclesiology
Craig Hovey on Christian ethics as Good News
Graham Ward on cultural hermeneutics and Christian apologetics
Richard Conrad, OP, on moments and themes in the history of apologetics
Alister E. McGrath on the natural sciences and apologetics

Dr. Ordway just recently finished a book titled Apologetics and the Christian Imagination: An Integrated Approach to Defending the Faith with Emmaus Road Publishing:

apologetics and imagination


Literary Apologetics

Much of Cultural Apologetics focuses on the literary brights of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, G. K. Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, and others.  Holly Ordway, again, helps delineate this subfield:

As a poet and an English professor, I am most interested in the way that poetry and narrative can be ways to present the experience of knowing Christ.  That is, I work primarily in literary apologetics.

By that term, I mean the presentation of the truth of the Christian faith in and through literature. When I speak of doing the work of literary apologetics, I am speaking as an apologist, not a writer: I am talking about exploring Christian ideas through great literature that someone else wrote.

“Literary Apologetics: The Legacy of G. K. Chesterton and Dorothy Sayers” by Louis Markos | Christian Research Journal Vol. 34, No. 11 (2011)

This article by Markos begins:

If I were asked to identify a single root cause for the success of C. S. Lewis as academic, novelist, and, especially, Christian apologist, I would respond that the key to Lewis was his ability to fuse reason and imagination, logic and intuition, the rational and the emotional. Unlike such quintessentially American apologists as Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel, who are at their best when collecting data, sifting arguments, and marshalling witnesses in favor of Christ, the Bible, and Christian doctrine, Lewis took a more literary approach to defending the faith. Rather than divorce the facts of the Bible from the power it exerts over us, rather than separate the historical claims of Christ from the mythic force of His status as God-Man, rather than distinguish between the forensic evidence for the resurrection and the numinous awe that the event provokes in those who contemplate it, Lewis combined the testimony of head and heart, thinking and feeling, adult ratiocination and childlike wonder.

“Holly Ordway: Literary Apologist” Interview by Marcia Bosscher | InterVarsity: The Well Dec 13, 2012

“What is Literary Apologetics?” by Holly Ordway | The Christian Apologetics Alliance Aug. 19, 2012

Scholars in the Field of Cultural Apologetics

Michael Ward

Holly Ordway

Louis Markos

Gene Veith

Resources for Cultural Apologetics

“In Defense of Imaginative Apologetics” by Anthony Horvath | Athanatos Christian Ministries April 20, 2016

“Literary Apologetics” by Louis Markos | Christian Research Journal 2011

“Dr. Holly Ordway and the Power of Cultural Apologetics: An Interview” by Zak Schmoll | Entering the Public Square Jan 5, 2017

Be on the look out for Holly Ordway’s book Imaginative Apologetics which is to published this year (2017) by Emmaus Road Press.

 Other posts on Trends in Apologetics:

Urban Apologetics

Women in Apologetics (forthcoming)

Children’s Apologetics (forthcoming)




Examining the Slides in the Miscroscope

As the nonscientist on RTB’s five-person staff scholar team, I sometimes feel like the odd man out. Because I’m a philosopher, I often look at things and think about things very differently than my science colleagues. The questions that I tend to ask, even about science, usually inquire about things from a very different perspective. I typically gravitate toward asking more philosophically oriented questions that focus more on logical relationships than science’s emphasis upon observational relationships. Yet I recently came across a provocative analogy that I think helps to show the broadly common way that my science colleagues and I both seek to discover knowledge and truth.

Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft draws this interesting comparison in his book on logic:

“Logic is one of philosophy’s main instruments. Logic is to philosophy what telescopes are to astronomy or microscopes to biology or math to physics. You can’t be very good at physics…

View original post 604 more words

I have been noticing some trends in contemporary apologetics that are exciting and interesting.  I believe it shows the vitality and versatility of the discipline.  This will be a multi-part series covering each trend beginning with Urban Apologetics and then covering Cultural Apologetics, Women in Apologetics, and Children’s Apologetics in subsequent editions.

Urban Apologetics

Urban Apologetics has just recently come on the scene.  Both D. A. Horton and Christopher Brooks have been spear heading this movement that seems to be gaining steam. Urban Apologetics can be defined as dialoguing and answering new questions of the gospel that ethnic minorities are fielding that traditional evangelical apologists have not engaged. As churches are being planted in urban areas such as Detroit, Chicago, and Philadelphia, church planters such as Christopher Brooks, D. A Horton, and Eric Mason begin to notice challenges that weren’t being addressed in seminaries. An urban context for those in poverty and ethnic minorities was needed in apologetics.  D. A. Horton recounts a story illustrating this need for Urban Apologetics when he was telephoned late at night from a friend:

I answered the call opening with the hood-recognized salutation “what up fam?” and was greeted in return with a barrage of questions about Church history, slavery in America, and Roman Catholicism’s European roots. When the conversation slowed down I asked my dude what his motivation was for asking these questions. He told me he had just left the barber shop where a group of men who were affiliated with the Moorish Science Temple dominated the conversation. My friend, who was working towards a degree in Biblical studies at the time, was frustrated by the fact that he has never been informed about this movement while in Bible College. He went on to tell me that he felt compelled to call me because in our past conversations I included details of talks I had with people who had different types of beliefs that I encountered while out street witnessing after outreaches I rapped at.

This movement is a reaction to the lack of preparation many pastors and evangelists received at bible college and seminaries for this urban context.  In response, Horton and others have begin developing answers to this questions and challenges.

Examples of the Trend

Brooks, who graduated with a master’s degree in Apologetics, wrote in an article for Biola Magazine titled “The Need for ‘Urban Apologetics'”:

When I first became active in apologetics — the art of commending and defending the Christian faith — I quickly realized that in the minds of most urban pastors this type of ministry was an unnecessary pursuit. To many of my peers, apologetics seemed far too detached and abstract from the church work they were doing on a daily basis. Although I disagreed with their assessment, I did see some genuine concern in their critique.

Brooks recounts that during an evangelistic endeavor that his church participated in that many of the parishioners came back with many more questions that they couldn’t answer: thus the need for apologetics in an evangelistic context.  These challenges were culturally and ethnically specific.  For example, the Black Hebrew Israelite Movement, Nation of Gods and Earth, Rastafarians, and the Nation of Islam are infiltrating predominately black communities drawing them away from traditional Christian orthodoxy.  If you aren’t familiar with some of these movements or haven’t even heard of some of them (which was the case for myself as well), you are beginning to see the need for Urban Apologetics.

D. A. Horton reveals that “there are many unreached people in the urban context who hold to systems of beliefs that are not being talked about by Evangelicals let alone written about either.”

In short, Urban Apologetics is addressing the challenges and objections to the truth of evangelical Christianity in ways that are contextualized to those in an urban setting that don’t arise for other Christians.  Issues in Urban Apologetics can range from poverty and crime (essentially the problem of evil in a specific context) to challenges in the African-American community from the the Nation of Islam, Moorish Science Temple, and Black Hebrew Israelite Nationalism.

Overwhelmed with a call to action, Horton has been posting on issues concerning Urban Apologetics covering issues such as:

  1. Rastafarianism
  2. The Baha’i Faith
  3. Black Hebrew Israelites
  4. The Nation of God’s and Earths
  5. The Moorish Science Temple (scroll down blog or do a word search)
  6. The Nation of Islam (The NOI)
  7. Ausar Auset Society (Black Kemetism)

Other issues in the urban context for apologetics would include Ma’at (God is a Woman Theology), Secret Societies, Sub-Culture Theologies (i.e. Temple of Hip Hop, Street Theology), 4th Wave Latin Liberation Theology, and Santeria.

Several articles and books have and are coming out specified towards Urban Apologetics.  The first book on the topic is urban-apologeticsUrban Apologetics: Why the Gospel is Good News for the City by Christopher Brooks.  In this work Brooks, the Senior Pastor of Evangel Ministries of a thriving 1600 member church in the heart of Detroit, covers urban issues such as abortion, sexuality, family, religious pluralism, and social justice.  The back cover of the book describes it:

“A unique and timely guide for relating the gospel to the complex and distinct issues of inner city America

Much of the New Testament was written in urban settings, in which the Christian communities had to deal head-on with issues such as race, equality, justice, sexuality, money, and economics. But much of today’s apologetics (engagement with the questions that people are asking about Christianity) come from suburban churches and academic studies. Urban believers—those who live and minister in America’s inner cities—often face unique issues, not often addressed by the larger Christian community. These questions aren’t neat or easy to answer but need to be addressed by applying biblical truth in the culture and challenges of urban life.”

Christianity Today published an article about Brooks and urban apologetics titled “Why Apologetics is Different-and Working-in the Hood” by Andy Crouch. It begins:

In 2007, members of Evangel Ministries in northwest Detroit went out into the surrounding neighborhoods to share the gospel in a summer-long program called Dare to Share. They came back with reports of new connections and conversions—and new questions. Many of their neighbors had voiced powerful objections to the faith.

Senior pastor Christopher Brooks realized that the apologetics he had studied at Biola University, and later at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, needed to be placed in a new context. “We realized that we needed to respond to not just the historic topics of theology and philosophy, but also to the pressing, present question: ‘Does the Lord see what’s happening in the hood?'”

Jimmy Butts who has ministered to adherent of African American religions for more than than a decade penned as article for the Christian Research Journal entitled “The Origin and Insufficiency of the Black Hebrew Israelite Movement.”  The synopsis in the journal states “The Black Hebrew Israelite movement has infiltrated black communities on the basis of two principal claims: (1) All African Americans biologically descend from the ancient Hebrews, and (2) The means of salvation for African Americans is obedience to the Law of Moses. Although Black Hebraism addresses important issues in black communities, their worldview has no foundation in history or Scripture.” Here is another article with the The Gospel Coalition on the Black Hebrew Israelite movement:

9 Things You Should Know About Black Hebrew Israelites” by Joe Carter | The Gospel Coalition May 19, 2017

The Frequency Conference has successfully run the past two years in Philadelphia hosting speakers such as Brooks, Dr. Eric Mason, Dr. John Perkins, and H. B. Charles.  In 2016 the theme was “Contending for the Faith” dealing with urban issues such as Black Nationalism, Panafricanism, Scientology, Hebrew Israelites, Moorish Temple of Science, Hispanic Nationalism, and racism.

There is even a website titled Urban Apologetics (under the direction of Muhammad Tanzymore, a Christian apologist, bible teacher and member of Epiphany Fellowship) and even has his own Twitter account: #uapologetics.

BOLD TV – Preston Perry is an apologist, poet, and musical artist you publishes videos of his poetry, apologetic encounters, and lessons on BOLD TV:

Articles, Blogs, Podcasts on Urban Apologetics

“Doing Apologetics from an Urban Perspective” by Ramon Mayo | Urban Faith

“Apologetics in the Hood (with Christopher Brooks)” by George Willis | Urban Theologian Radio Dec 15, 2015 (pocast)

“Urban Apologetics-Special Guest: Eric Mason”Jude 3 Project Oct 6, 2016 (podcast)

“Detroit Pastor Envisions an ‘Urban Turn’ in Christian Apologetics” by Joseph Gorra | Patheos April 26, 2014 (interview with Christopher Brooks)

D. A. Horton is interviewed in this video by Liberty University’s Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement:

Projections in Urban Apologetics

This past January 2-6 New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary had its “Defend” Apologetics Conference.  Robert Stewart, director of the Institute of Christian Apologetics at New Orleans Seminary and organizer of the conference,  promised in a summary about the conference that next year will include a track for Urban Apologetics:

Robert Stewart, ICA director, said next year’s conference would include a track for urban apologetics with “significant” time devoted to addressing apologetic issues relevant in an urban context.

“Many people of color and others living in urban communities are increasingly facing challenges from groups like the so-called Black Hebrew Israelites and claims like ‘Christianity is a white man’s religion’ that most apologists as well as most books on apologetics, to say nothing of apologetics conferences, fail to address,” Stewart said. “It would be irresponsible not to address these new challenges.”

 Other posts on Trends in Apologetics:

Cultural Apologetics

Women in Apologetics

Children’s Apologetics