The State of Apologetics
by Lee Strobel & Brian Auten
As creator of the best website for resources to defend Christianity, Brian Auten offers a unique perspective on the current apologetics scene—the good, the bad, and the hopeful.
Apologetics 315 features a terrific compilation of material for Christians to equip themselves to better define and defend the faith. It’s full of links to resources dealing with every imaginable area of apologetics. As a regular reader of the site, I became curious what its creator, Brian Auten, thinks about the current state of apologetics around the world—and he was willing to share his insights by answering a few questions.
• Every year, the U.S. president gives a “State of the Union” address to Congress. What’s your assessment of the “State of Apologetics” today?
The “state of apologetics” today should encourage us. Not only has there been a large proliferation of publishing on both the academic and popular levels, there is a growing online presence of apologetics resources and ministries. Within the last five years the number of apologetics websites, blogs, and podcasts has increased dramatically. We have now reached the point where anyone with an Internet connect has access to more resources for defending the faith than any time in the past.
In addition, seminaries across the U.S. are offering more courses in apologetics, with some featuring Masters of Arts in Apologetics, such as Biola, Southern Evangelical, and Liberty University.
• Your website is international in scope. How do you assess apologetics in the U.S. compared to elsewhere in the world?
The U.S. certainly seems to dominate in the area of book publishing in this field. Also, when it comes to the sheer number of ministries that focus primarily in this area, the U.S. is a leader. However, Americans should also know that there are excellent ministries and apologists based in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. With the rise of secular attacks on Christianity, there has also been a surge of apologetics-based ministries to respond in a powerful way.
The thing to note is that American apologetics ministries have a strong influence internationally through their published resources in print and online. However, as an American with mission experience and as a resident of the UK, I think it is very important that Americans realize they are not the only ones doing apologetics. There are a growing number of apologetics ministries globally that are contributing in a significant way to the mandate to defend the faith.
Ministries like Ravi Zacharias International have offices around the world. Campus ministries like UCCF Christian Union in the UK provide resources and support to young people in university settings. Ministries like the Centre for Public Christianity in Australia, the Solas Centre for Public Christianity in Scotland, and Thinking Matters in New Zealand provide a defense of Christianity in the public square. The European Leadership Forum brings together Christian leaders yearly in Hungary from all over Eastern Europe and beyond to equip and to train the next generation of leaders.
• What trends do you see in apologetics?
Consider books like The DaVinci Code, writings by agnostic professor Bart Ehrman, or the various publications of the so-called New Atheists. All these attacks on Christianity have generated a lot of buzz. However, each of these attacks has been met with a strong counter-response from scholars, theologians, and apologists. Christianity hasn’t been defeated. Instead, it has weathered storm after storm. In the meantime, the resources available that answer these challenges have increased dramatically. Over and over again, what has been intended to bring Christianity down has only served to strengthen it.
But the tendency is this: too many times Christians are only responding to the challenges. That seems to be the trend. Why are we not running to the battle? Instead of just reacting to the next challenge, I long for the day when more and more Christians would equip themselves with this vast armory of resources and use it to take the battle to the enemy’s camp, so to speak. Apologetic-savvy educators, scientists, public officials, businessmen, actors, novelists, movie-makers—all people with a heart of evangelism who are able to defend and contend for the faith in the public square could have an immense impact for the Gospel.
• What do you see as the shortcomings of apologetics these days?
First, as I mentioned, there can be a tendency to simply be reactive rather than proactive. The wiser approach is to immunize our congregations to contemporary challenges to our faith rather than fighting fires.
Second, it is often a shortcoming among apologists to treat everything like an apologetics issue. Instead of there being a balanced spiritual life, the apologist can become consumed with evidences, arguments, or doctrine. Spiritual disciplines can be neglected, the personal element can be forgotten, or the prayer life left by the wayside.
Finally, our tone must reflect humility and love. It becomes a shortcoming in our apologetics if we only do the first half of the mandate found in 1 Peter 3:15 to “always be ready to give an answer to those who ask. Yet do this with gentleness and respect.”
• You’re passionate about churches starting apologetics ministries. Are you seeing more of them doing this?
I want to see churches start their own apologetics ministries because it is our scriptural mandate to “always be prepared to give an answer.” Yet there often is very little preparation going on! When challenges to faith come, people struggle to find substantive answers. This may cause some believers to resort to a sort of “believe it anyway” mentality; for others it causes them to abandon the faith altogether.
Research by the Barna Group has shown that a majority of young people walk away from the faith around the time they go to college or university. They simply have not been equipped to deal with the secular challenges that come against their faith…
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