Interview with RZIM’s Andy Bannister
Interview by Dan Wilton, Cal Davie and Phil Hilditch. Transcript by Dan Wilton.
Dr. Andy Bannister is the Director and Lead Apologist for RZIM Canada and a LST alumnus. He has a special interest in Islam and New Atheism.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself for our readers?
I’m tempted to say “born 1972, not dead yet”.
Until the mid 1990s I hadn’t really thought about any of the kind of things I do now. I was a youth worker, working for a group of churches in South London. Then in 1997, Jay Smith came to our church and did a presentation on Islam; one of the most charismatic communicators I had ever heard. One of the things he described is the way he was using Speakers’ Corner in London as a kind of ministry platform. I got talking to him after the seminar and he invited me to see what they did. It turned out Jay’s definition of “come and see what we do” actually meant get on a ladder next to him. So there the two of us were with 300 Muslims in front of us. I had never preached in public, never done any apologetics, or any theology really and certainly never talked to a Muslim. They destroyed me; it was incredibly bad. I remember walking home and thinking “well, I guess I need to become a Muslim because they have all of the answers and all of the questions and I’ve got nothing.” I lay awake that night–tossing and turning and wondering what to do–and at about three in the morning, my long-suffering wife poked me in the ribs and asked why I was keeping us both awake. I told her my sad little story and she said “well, why don’t you read a book, ideally in the morning.”
So I went to a Christian bookstore, bought my first book on Christian apologetics, which was Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict and read and read and kept reading. I went back to Speakers’ corner, armed with answers to every question and they had new questions… and made me look stupid all over again. We played this game for the next three months, but what God did through that was give me a love for Muslims, a love of sharing my faith and a love of learning. I hadn’t been to university–I was 28 at this point–so we thought maybe theological college beckoned. One thing led to another and that another was LST. I went to LST in 2000, got the undergrad, got the PHD and eventually that led to full time ministry.
What do you think the role of apologetics is today?
Absolutely essential would be the answer. Part of the answer depends on how you define apologetics: one of the problems we have is the word apologetics has got very tightly packed in some circles to the word philosophy. When people think of apologetics they think of intellectuals with big beards, sitting in ivory towers, churning out very carefully reasoned philosophical arguments. There’s certainly that place for it, but I think the Biblical example of apologetics is much richer. The kind of tag line we use at RZIM is that apologetics is helping the thinker believe and the believer think and answering the questioner behind the question. I think that when you understand apologetics as something designed to engage the mind, engage the heart and engage the imagination (which is the sort of way that I think someone like C.S. Lewis saw it), then it’s absolutely essential for reaching our culture…
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