Reflections

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 Phys.org 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 FoxNews.com:

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:

 

 

 

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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:

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 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
imaginative-apologetics-book
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.

Contributors

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.

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 Other posts on Trends in Apologetics:

Urban Apologetics

Women in Apologetics (forthcoming)

Children’s Apologetics (forthcoming)

 

 

Reflections

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…

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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
  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.

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.”

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 Other posts on Trends in Apologetics:

Cultural Apologetics

Women in Apologetics

Children’s Apologetics

Given that this year is the 500 anniversary of the Reformation, this post by Kenneth Samples is timely:

Reflections

Martin Luther

Martin Luther is famous for posting his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg and for attempting to reform the Catholic Church, 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 Martin Luther—and why he still matters today.

Who Was Martin Luther?

Martin Luther (1483–1546) was born in Eisleben, Germany, just as the Middle Ages were coming to an end. His plan was to become a lawyer, but while experiencing the terror of being caught in a thunderstorm, he vowed to become a Catholic monk if St. Anne would rescue him. Serving as an Augustinian friar and priest, Luther was often insecure about whether God would truly forgive him. He wondered whether he could ever be assured of salvation by following the church’s practices of confession, repentance, and performing good works…

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screen-shot-2017-01-27-at-11-41-48-amI have notice several posts about getting a degree in apologetics or not.  I find the discussion very interesting.  For clarity, I do not have a degree in apologetics (see my CV here).  I have a degree in history, education, philosophy, and theology.  There are now a host of schools that offer degree in apologetics, so there seems to be a demand for them.  But, several posts have discouraged getting the degree in apologetics.  Interesting debate.  Here are some of posts with a short taste from each:

Don’t Get a Degree in Apologetics by Glenn Peoples

Dr. Peoples is adamant on his blog Right Reason that one should NOT get a degree in apologetics.  He and Max Andrews (who he started this discussion about a degree in apologetics at his blog Sententias Blog which is now dead link), Andrews is a doctoral student in Edinburgh, both discourage a degree in apologetics.  Since Max Andrews site is down, here is a bit of Peoples thought on the subject.

Seriously, don’t get a degree in apologetics.

These are thoughts that I have been dwelling on for many months now. Then Max Andrews told me that he was going to say it (and he did), so I was happy to offer a brief comment in support of what he was saying. And now I’m going to say it too. Don’t get a degree in apologetics. You shouldn’t do it. Could I be wrong about that? Absolutely, but at this point I’ll need to be persuaded of that. Getting an apologetics degree appears to be something of a new development in Evangelical academia, one that is being embraced with zeal, particularly in the United States. That fact alone means that even if I am dead wrong, it is only healthy that there be a good strong push back against this for the young and enthusiastic to consider before they commit to something like that. But I don’t think I am dead wrong at all.

His reasoning that someone should NOT get such a degree is illustrated by a list of great apologists who DON’T have a degree in apologetics:

Think for a moment about your favourite published defenders of the Christian faith of the 20th century or later, if you have any. Think about those who have reputations as being the best apologists out there (whether they use the word “apologetics” or not). Everyone’s list will be slightly different, but the list will probably include names like C. S. Lewis, Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig, John Lennox, Peter Kreeft, Richard Bauckham and others. Do you want to be a great apologist? Great. Do you think these people are / were great apologists? I agree. OK, now ask yourself what all of these people – along with probably every other person you might add to this list – lack. They probably lack a whole lot of things, but one of the things they lack is a degree in apologetics.

Why Would Anyone Get a Degree in Apologetics? by J. Warner Wallace

Wallace, author of two excellent books on apologetics (Cold-Case Christianity and God’s Crime Scene) using his training as a cold case detective, differentiates between expert witnesses and case-makers.  Expert witnesses specialize in a particular field such as the New Testament or philosophy, while a case-maker make expert testimony accessible.  His article is reacting to Glenn Peoples post above and to Max Andrews post which is not available anymore.  He elaborates on the role and function of each:

There are very few (and I mean very few) expert witnesses in the Christian community who are also popularly accessible case makers. Let’s be honest about that. Some of these great thinkers are friends of mine, and I think they would acknowledge their role quite happily. Richard Bauckham’s incredibly important work, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, has not been nearly as successful as Lee Strobel’s Case for Christ. In fact, many of these amazing expert witnesses would still be largely unread (and unknown) if they hadn’t appeared in Lee’s work. Case makers make expert testimony accessible and show how the limited evidence offered by these experts fits into the larger case. That’s what Lee has done so brilliantly over the years. It’s no coincidence we’re experiencing a renaissance in apologetics simultaneous with the success of Lee’s books. Great case makers amplify the work of great expert witnesses. In fact, you could take the book sales of everyone mentioned by Andrews and Peoples combined (with the obvious exception of C. S. Lewis and Ravi Zacharias) and they wouldn’t come close to the book sales of Lee Strobel or Josh McDowell alone. Lee and Josh are great case makers (neither has an advanced degree in a specialty area by the way); both are relying on the testimony of great expert witnesses.  . . .If you’re better suited as an expert witness, interested in specific fields of study and focused academically, get the degree in biblical studies, history, historiography, theology, philosophy, physics, or chemistry as Andrews and Peoples would suggest. God will use you powerfully to establish the foundation from which a case can be made. But if you’re more interested (and gifted) in communicating the overarching, cumulative case for Christianity (constructed from the testimony of many experts), feel free to pursue a degree in case making (apologetics). The church needs expert witnesses and case makers and these are usually two different sets of people.

Wallace make a great point for the need for both expert eyewitnesses (specialization in a particular field) and excellent case-makers (apologists).  I thought this was a nice even handed understanding both the benefits and limitations of a degree in apologetics.

Should I Get A PhD in Apologetics by Travis Dickinson

Dr. Dickinson serves as Associate Professor of Philosophy and Christian Apologetics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary which offers a MA in Christian Apologetics.  I guess since he argues against a PhD in Apologetics, the program that he teaches in that offers the MA in Apologetics does not incongruent with his thesis in the article.

The short answer is “no.” The longer answer is “for almost everyone, still no.” The even longer and needlessly provocative answer is that “any PhD gained by a Christian has (or should have) Apologetics in it.”. . . My advice: don’t get a PhD in Apologetics since the field is just simply too broad and too interdisciplinary.

How Can You Make a Career in Apologetics? by Sean McDowell

Sean McDowell, who has  PhD in Apologetics from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, lists several career options for those “degreeing” in apologetics in the context of Biola’s M. A. in christian apologetics:

Part of the vision of our Biola M.A. Christian Apologetics program is to train apologists to be a resource for the local church. In fact, our dream is that churches would consider the need for a “Pastor or Apologetics” as important as a men’s ministry leader or a youth pastor. Until this dream becomes a reality, here’s a few ways to make a career in apologetics (If you think I have missed any, please let me know): [1. Professor of Apologetics. 2. Ratio Christi. 3. Author. 4. Blogger. 5. Speaker. 6.Christian School Teacher]

I do four out of the six (3, 4, 5, 6) that McDowell lists.

Should I Get a Degree in Apologetics? by Josiah Batten

Josiah Batten, who completed an MA in Apologetics at Luther Rice College and Seminary, makes the excellent point that our goals should help inform us on whether to pursue a degree in apologetics.

In pursuing any degree, we should align our education with our goals, and our goals should be informed by our calling. For the person called to teach at the university, they obviously should pursue one specific discipline and earn a PhD (or the equivalent terminal degree) in that field. I have no argument against that. However, not everyone is called to do that, and so we should not become ensnared into thinking this is the only possible route for apologists.

While a professor should obviously specialize in their field, other goals such as a campus minister for Cru, Ratio Christi, etc. might be perfect for a degree in apologetics.  He concludes:

I am quite ready to admit that not everyone should get a degree in apologetics. Yet for many people, such a degree will prove extremely useful. And for some, it will even be the ideal means for pursuing your calling. As with any degree, we need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages. Yet, the fact that an apologetics degree is not tailored to helping one earn a PhD does not mean that it is not tailored to helping one do a great many other things which constitute worthy work in advancing the Kingdom of God.

Apologetics Training – Advise to Christian Apologists by William Lane Craig (part 2 here)

William Lane Craig, who is the model par excellence in apologetics and needs to introduction, has provided some helpful advise to Christian apologists: select an area to specialize and get a PhD.

Some popular Christian apologists make the mistake of trying to be a jack of all trades, and so they are master of none. As a result, their knowledge of the field may be very broad, but it is not very profound. While they may be able to present an initial argument for Christian truth claims, they soon wilt under the pressure of critique, especially on the part of specialists. Speaking on a university campus, they may find themselves ridden with anxiety lest a non-Christian faculty member should show up in their audience and raise an objection they are at a loss to deal with. If that does happen, they may not only embarrass themselves but also injure the credibility of the Christian faith. A merely generalized knowledge of Christian apologetics is fine for certain contexts, and certainly better than nothing, but it will limit the horizons of your ministry.

Who am I to disagree with Dr. Craig 🙂

Academic Apologetics Programs by Jacob Allee

Finally, Jacob Allee, a teacher in the Logic & Rhetoric Schools at Christian Heritage School, writer/speaker on Christian worldview at Thinking Christianly blog and podcast, has provided a list of schools offering degrees in apologetics along with some commentary on each.  He starts with programs offering certificates and moves from undergraduate to graduate degrees.  Nice list with commentary.

The Top 10 Graduate Programs in Christian Apologetics by TheBestSchools.org

TheBestSchools.org’s list of 10 top graduate programs in apologetics along with overseas programs and other notable programs.

Three Christian Classics

Posted: January 26, 2017 in Uncategorized

Brief overviews of three classic books: Mere Christianity, Pensees, and Confusions by C. S. Lewis, Blaise Pascal, and Augustine.

Reflections

When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food. —Desiderius Erasmus, Dutch Renaissance scholar and theologian

Reading books has been an obsession of mine since my conversion to Christianity as a college sophomore. I sensed my mind really mattered in serving the Lord; so I began a serious pursuit of the “life of the mind” to the glory of God. Today I have a personal library of between 3,000 and 4,000 books.

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My former apologetics professor, Ted Cabal who edited the Apologetics Study Bible, stated that we leave in the “golden age of apologetics.”  I believe that is so with many great books coming out this past year and more to come in 2017.  Leave a comment on what great apologetic books you are looking forward to in the comments below.  Here is a short list of five books I believe are worth reading this year for apologetics.

1.  Historical Reliability of the New Testament: Combating the Challenges to Evangelical Christian Beliefs  by Craig Blomberg (B&H Academic, Nov 2016)

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Blomberg, a New Testament professor at Denver Seminary, wrote the influential The Historical Reliability of the Gospels back in 1987 and updated it in 2007.  This one expands his work to include the entire New Testament coming in at 816 pages.  Starting with the formation of the New Testament, he goes on to cover contradictions in the synoptic gospels, corroboration of the synoptics, formation and evidence for the gospel of John, and then precedes to Acts and Paul’s writing.  He then discusses canonicity and and transmission, and the problem of miracles in historical texts.  Thomas R. Schreiner associate dean of the School of Theology and James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary praises the book as such:

“I cannot think of a better person to write a book on the reliability of the New Testament than Craig Blomberg. We do not have the reflections of a novice here but of a seasoned and veteran scholar, one whose work has stood the test of time. All the virtues of Blomberg’s scholarship are on display here: he is well versed in secondary sources, he is unfailingly fair to those who hold different views, and his own judgments reflect careful assessment of the evidence. Blomberg demonstrates that trust in the reliability of the New Testament is reasonable; one doesn’t have to put one’s head in the sand to find in the New Testament writings words that are true and accurate.”

2. A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos  by Geraint F. Lewis and Luke A. Barnes (Cambridge University Press, Nov 2016)

fortunate-universe

A recently produced book by Cambridge University Press was just released this month by Luke Barnes, who is a postdoctoral researcher at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy who completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge, and Geraint F. Lewis, a Professor of Astrophysics at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy and head of the Gravitational Astrophysics Group, titled A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos that continues this long discussion about fine-tuning.  The foreword by Brian Schmidt of the Australian National University, Canberra, and Nobel Laureate in Physics describes the book:

My colleagues, Geraint and Luke, in A Fortunate Universe, take you on a tour of the Cosmos in all of its glory, and all of its mystery. You will see that humanity appears to be part of a remarkable set of circumstances involving a special time around a special planet, which orbits a special star, all within a specially constructed Universe. It is these set of conditions that have allowed humans to ponder our place in space and time. I have no idea why we are here, but I do know the Universe is beautiful. A Fortunate Universe captures the mysterious beauty of the Cosmos in a way that all can share.

3. Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? What We Can Learn from Ancient Biography  by Michael R. Licona (Oxford University Press, Dec 2016)

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Licona’s last work was back in 2010 with his magisterial study on the resurrection with The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. In this work Licona does a carefully reading of Plutarch’s Lives in order to analyze how ancient biography was written in order to compare it to the biography of Jesus in the gospels.  Here are several reviews of the book from some significant scholars:

“Anyone who has looked at a synopsis of the Gospels will have wondered why the accounts of the same events in different Gospels vary. Michael Licona breaks new ground by arguing that the writers used the same compositional devices as the biographer Plutarch employed when he reworked the same material in more than one of his biographies. This is an illuminating fresh approach to understanding how the Gospel writers used their sources.”-Richard Bauckham, Professor Emeritus of New Testament Studies, University of St. Andrews

“How worried should we be by the differences between the Gospels? Do they discredit the whole story? In an exemplary crossover of classical and New Testament studies, Michael Licona shows that the answer is ‘not very worried at all’: when we compare the techniques used in Greco-Roman literature, the striking feature is the Gospels’ consistency rather than their differences. Troubled believers will find this book as important as classicists and New Testament scholars.”-Christopher Pelling, Regius Professor of Greek, Christ Church, Oxford

4. Rational Faith: A Philosopher’s Defense of Christianity  by Stephen T. Davis (IVP Books, Nov 2016)

rational-faith

Stephen T. Davis, the Russell K. Pitzer Professor of Philosophy has been teaching at Claremont McKenna College since 1976.  I really enjoyed his work on the resurrection in Risen Indeed: Making Sense of the Resurrection.  He has written and edited a host of books in philosophy, theology, and apologetics: God, Reason, and Theistic Proofs, Logic and the Nature of God, a series of interdisciplinary symposiums on the Resurrection, Trinity, Incarnation, and Redemption, and his newly reprinted Christian Philosophical Theology.  In Rational Faith provides an accessible discussion starting with truth, God’s existence, and moves on to cover the bible, resurrection, evolution, and the problem of evil.

C. Stephan Evans of Baylor University states, “In this book, Stephen Davis offers a clear and cogent case for the reasonableness of Christian faith. In a relatively short book, Davis manages to treat just about every issue that an honest person concerned about Christian faith might want to ask, ranging from reasons to believe in God and Jesus as God’s Son to problems connected to science, religious diversity and uniqueness, and evil. Davis is fair to the critics of Christianity and careful not to claim more than his arguments warrant. This is a book that will be helpful to both believers and unbelievers. The tone is personal and down-to-earth; the reader comes away with a sense of having had an enjoyable, stimulating, and possibly life-changing conversation.”  Michael J. Murray,senior visiting scholar, Franklin & Marshall College says that “with characteristic clarity, rigor, and accessibility, Stephen Davis presents a compelling defense of the Christian faith. While taking a fresh look at traditional arguments, Rational Faith also addresses cutting-edge topics in apologetics such as the implications of evolutionary and psychological accounts of the origin of religious belief. This is a valuable resource for Christian believers and skeptics alike.”

5. Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical  by Timothy Keller (Viking, Sept 2016)

makingsenseofgod

Finally, Timothy Keller, noted pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, who wrote several years back the bestseller The Reason for Godstates that his previous book, while helpful for many, doesn’t begin far back enough.  It is described as an invitation to ” skeptics to consider that Christianity is more relevant now than ever. As human beings, we cannot live without meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity, justice, and hope. Christianity provides us with unsurpassed resources to meet these needs. Written for both the ardent believer and the skeptic, Making Sense of God shines a light on the profound value and importance of Christianity in our lives.”  Topics include identity and self, justice, morality, evidence and the nature of faith, the relevance of religion, and hope.  Keller has the ability to make apologetics applicable and personal has he attempts to answer existential questions such as “Why should anyone believe in Christianity?” and “What role can faith and religion play in our modern lives?”

Honorable mentions include:

Taking Pascal’s Wager: Faith, Evidence, and the Abundant Life by Michael Rota

How to be an Atheist: Why Many Skeptics Aren’t Skeptical Enough by Mitch Stokes

No God but Allah: Allah or Jesus? A Former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam and Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi

God Among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Teacher by Kenneth Samples

Jesus Among Secular Gods: The Countercultural Claims of Christ by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale

What would you add to this list?  Comment below.