Apologetics

A Quick Survey of Popular Online Christian Apologists

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As mentioned elsewhere, I’ve spent a large portion of 2015 ingesting all kinds of sources from famous Christian apologists who have either websites/blogs and/or some sort of app that can be used to access their materials. Partway through, I’ve begun to form opinions of some of these sources. For what it’s worth, in no particular order:

  • Dr. William Lane Craig: Arguably, Dr. Craig is to apologetics as Michael Jordan is to basketball, one of the modern greats. A research professor at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University and a professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University, Dr. Craig has authored several books on apologetics (available on Amazon) and has an online apologetics ministry at Reasonable Faith. He has debated many prominent atheists including the late Christopher Hitchens (which you can find on YouTube) and Lawrence Krauss. The Pros: Dr. Craig’s material in inexhaustible. There are hours upon hours of his lectures on just Christian doctrine alone available on his site and app, to say nothing of his tackling of topical subjects, debates, and so on. The Cons: Not really a drawback, but one needs to be in the right mindset to take on his material as it’s largely college-level content. I’ve been trying to get through his excellent recent book On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision…I need to make sure I’ve eaten a good breakfast and a couple cups of coffee before tackling it.
  • Dr. Frank Turek: I hadn’t heard of Dr. Turek until I can across his debate with American Atheists president David Silverman online. A robust debate, but as these things often go, no real clear “winner”. Like William Lane Craig, Dr. Turek debated Christopher Hitchens before his passing, and appeared on Bill Maher’s “Politically Incorrect” show. A prolific writer, Dr. Turek recently penned Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case. His website and app are called Cross-Examined, which contains his weekly articles, recordings from his weekly radio show on the AFR radio network, and an interesting “quick answers” section giving folks brief retorts to objections atheists sometimes come across, i.e. “There are no truths”. to which you’d answer, “Is that a truth?”. The pros: Unlike other apologists, whose material is wonderful but takes some work to get through, Dr. Turek’s material is easier to digest and apply. The cons: Personally, I don’t like mixing politics in Christian studies (yes, I know Dr. Turek would take umbrage with that), and Dr. Turek takes a swipe at NPR on almost every radio show, saying something to the effect of “if you’re low on the FM dial and looking for NPR, go no further…we’ll actually tell you the truth, or at least that’s our intent.” He’s also known to invoke Rush Limbaugh now and then. Dr. Turek is undoubtedly a good, Godly gent and extremely intelligent…it’s just my preference that he avoid ideology. Also, his “quick answers” are a fine idea, but I think budding apologists (like myself) can find themselves in a quandary if an adversary chose to take issue with those brief retorts and the newbie has nothing else in his quiver.
  • J. Warner Wallace: Also known as Jim Wallace, he is a now-retired “cold case” police detective from Southern California who, like me, spent most of his life away from the faith (Mr. Wallace was an atheist; I was an agnostic). At one point, he used his skills of deductive reasoning and logic to investigate Christianity and found it to be true. His book, website and apps for iPhone and Android (no iPad app…a future endeavor, I hope!) are called Cold Case Christianity. He speaks all over the US and Canada, and lectures and Biola University. The Pros: Mr. Wallace’s material is sort of “the middle”, in between Dr. Craig’s scholarly materials and Dr. Turek’s more “AM radio talk show” approach. He is folksy, well-spoken, and his material is on a level that may challenge the average listener, but not overtax them. The Cons: I find myself wishing Mr. Wallace’s website and app were better – or perhaps differently – organized. This is splitting hairs, but compared to other apps/sites, I find Mr. Wallace’s online material a little harder to navigate. The apps are prone to crashing as well. And again, an app for tablets would be swell.
  • Greg Koukl: Mr. Koukl heads the Stand to Reason apologetics ministry and has penned several excellent books including Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, and his most recent work, The Story of Reality: How The World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important That Happens In Between. Mr. Koukl is an excellent Christian case-maker who specializes in the “how” apologetics along with the “why”.. He seems to avoid classic debate formats but nonetheless has engaged with top critics of Christianity like Deepak Chopra and Michael Shermer. Pros: Like Mr. Wallace, Mr. Koukl is folksy and engaging, and his material is generally easy to consume. Cons: I can’t really think of any, to be honest. The str.org website and app are well designed and organized. If Greg is not available for his main podcast/radio show which airs Tuesdays at 4pm Pacific, he has terrific speakers in his ministry able and willing to pinch-hit for him including Brett Kunkle and Alan Shlemon. J. Warner Wallace has been known to guest host as well.

There are more materials out there, including SES’s app, the excellent Got Questions site and app, and so on. Perhaps I’ll review these at another time. Until then, God bless.

An Introduction Is In Order

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Greetings, I’m Sean. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

I’ve been a Christian for about 7 years now. It has definitely been the road less traveled.

I’ve always been the type of person who usually doesn’t do anything rash. Except the time I moved my family to Hawaii…but that’s a story for a future post. No, I’m the person who won’t just jump into a pool. I start in the shallow end, going down one step at a time…slowly. With each step I give my body enough time to acclimate to the cooler temperature. Maybe after 10 minutes when I’m about belly-deep, I’ll sink up to my neck and then finally dunk my head. It’s excruciatingly, embarassingly tedious.

My path to Christ wasn’t very different.

I grew up in a loving but faith-less home in Northern California. My parents made a half-hearted attempt to send me to Sunday School somewhere around 4th grade, but when the church began asking for 10% of their income, my Sunday School career came to a screeching halt after 2 weeks. Instead, I would become a critical agnostic until my beer-bellied, balding middle age. Mention the word “Christian” to me, and I’d immediately think of a hypocritical, judgmental person. The spectacular failures of Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker helped cement this view. The few kids I knew in high school who were at all religious were Mormon, and in some of them I would see hypocrisy as well.

My first serious girlfriend was, surprisingly, a Christian. She persuaded me to attend church with her once in a while. Everyone was nice, but I never connected with the sermons and couldn’t wait for the end. More sinisterly, I delighted in introducing my girlfriend to less-Christian activities: alcohol, weed, and sex (for what it’s worth: we were each other’s first, and were together a year before becoming intimate). We planned on getting married, but after about 3 years together, she broke up with me. In hindsight it was definitely for the best, though I took it pretty hard. It happened on the day of the space shuttle Challenger disaster; the metaphor was laughably appropriate. The girl and I remain friends to this day; she stepped away from the faith…but well after our relationship ended.

I met my wife in December of 1998. She has been a Christian since high school, but had drifted from the faith by the time we met. Eventually she made her way back to Christ. She voiced her desire for me to come to church with her, but never pressured me. My wife is originally from South Korea and attended Korean-speaking churches, so I had the convenient excuse of not having to go with her as I don’t speak the language.

A month or so before our wedding was the September 11th terrorist attacks. I remember newspaper articles about the significant uptick in church attendance. I was tempted to attend myself; the horror of that day was seemingly on a continuous loop on television. Of course, time would soften the pain of yet another tragedy, and church attendance dropped back to “normal”. Our wedding was a secular one, on Maui, with our nuptials presided over by our gay wedding coordinator.

We had a son 2 years later; by then, my wife was going to church regularly. Her sister and her husband, also Christians, bought us a Bible in both Korean and English, hoping I would participate with her one day. I did acquiesce to our son being brought up in a church community; even a non-believer like me knew how sinful the world was (is). After moving around a bit and settling on the Central Coast, the pastor of my wife’s church retired, making for an ideal opportunity for her to switch to an English-speaking church.

By this time I had – finally – begun exploring the faith. It was tough going. The first church we tried was a Baptist church in our town. I went in hopeful, with an open mind. The sermon was given by a guest pastor, who wasted no time blaming the nation’s ills on liberals and homosexuals. I felt like I was throat-punched. I glared at my wife, who could only shrug in embarrassment. I’m generally a left-leaning centrist, hence my disappointment.

I began reading left-leaning Christian books (a bit of an oxymoron at times, I realize). One book made arguments supporting subjects that many nonbelievers take issue with, like abortion, evolution, hell (or absence thereof), etc. While these books seem quite unbiblical in retrospect, they did help me on my path back to Christ.

It might surprise you that I prayed sometimes, since 1996…well before my conversion. My dad had been diagnosed with lung cancer at that time, and my career started to require a great deal of travel, so I began a preflight prayer ritual. I prayed just to God, not including Jesus or the Holy Spirit, asking Him to watch over and heal my dad and take care of my loved ones in the event something happened to me. Even after my dad passed a year and a half later, I continued my preflight prayer. It’s something I still do today though, obviously, in a more biblical manner.

My job is a stressful one – in sports television – and eventually I came to pray before each game I was working began. On one particular day, before an NFL game, I was freaked out more than usual. My machine wasn’t working correctly and I had a lot of things to remember to do during the game. I was stressed almost to the point of hyperventilating. In my mind, I cried out to God to help me. Suddenly, inexplicably, I felt a sudden sense of calm along with the words “Relax. Everything is going to be okay.” I didn’t doubt for a second that my prayer was heard and answered.

Despite its lack of biblical accuracy, that left-leaning Christian book I mentioned earlier contained the Sinner’s Prayer which, if you don’t know, is the prayer that acknowledges your sin and need of a Savior. After my incident at work, I recited this prayer and (finally) accepted Jesus in my heart.

That was 2008. In the years since, we’ve found a church in which we’re comfortable. One that doesn’t bad-mouth other groups, or urge people to vote a certain way…just loving guidance steeped in His word. I even serve frequently.

Even so, I struggled with parts of the faith I now professed.  Especially the uncomfortable stuff. Hell…the idea that my dad and other loved ones who’ve passed are in eternal torment is not a pleasant one to say the least (though I have hope…my dad began taking communion while in the hospital). Pluralism…for a time, I believed that there were many paths to God. Homosexuality…I have wonderful friends with whom I grew up with that have since come out. I looked for ways to reconcile these things, even distancing my self from the faith at times, using the cop-out phrase of “I’m a Christian, just not a very good one.”

While I would eventually come to terms with these misgivings, I still seemed to keep myself from completely submerging myself into Jesus until recently. At the beginning of 2015, He placed on my heart the feeling of “More”. More service, more study, more evangelism, more walking in step with Him. I’ve taken a leadership role in my area of service (broadcast production, what else?), began attending a bible study group as well as daily morning bible readings with my wife before she goes to work.

The evangelism part is the tough one. My mom and my siblings, all of whom are still non-believers, all live in Hawaii. I’ve suggested books that I felt would speak to them, like Dan Kimball’s excellent Adventures in Churchland and J. Warner Wallace’s Cold-Case Christianity, but without actually being there to initiate discussion, answer objections and let them see His light shine through my family and me, the books are of little use. I feel that my family is seeking, but I’ve been unable to assuage their objections in my brief annual visits.

Which brings me to this blog. I feel that to be an evangelist, one must also be an apologist. You can cite scripture all day, but this isn’t going to convince a non-believer, especially one who is hostile to Christianity. My personal mission is to persuade my family and friends to see what I have learned: that there are “many convincing proofs” (Acts 1:3) that:

  • God created the universe
  • Jesus is the Son of God, sent to live a sinless life among us and die as payment for our sins
  • Jesus rose from the grave, witnessed by many people including those who had no reason to make up what they saw
  • That God sent the Holy Spirit to indwell in those of us who accept Jesus
  • That the Bible is the inerrant Word of God
  • That Heaven and hell are real
  • And much more

I’ve since been devouring books and other materials in apologetics. Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ, Dr William Lane Craig’s On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision, and the aforementioned Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels, along with hours of podcasts from Dr. Craig, Mr. Wallace and Dr. Frank Turek, among others.

I realize that, at some point, I’m going to have to get past “analysis paralysis” and put what I’ve learned into practice. This blog (and if you’re still reading this, I am impressed) will document my progress, in addition to discussing subjects in apologetics as well.

In most things in my life, I’ve slowly immersed myself like my swimming pool ritual. In apologetics, I feel I’ve already jumped in headlong.