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 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:
- The Baha’i Faith
- Black Hebrew Israelites
- The Nation of God’s and Earths
- The Moorish Science Temple (scroll down blog or do a word search)
- The Nation of Islam (The NOI)
- 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 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.
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:
URBAN APOLOGETICS, A NEW CHALLENGE
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.”