Opinions on apologetics? Defending your faith in college?

I remember in high school, I was interested in apologetics because my church wanted the young people to defend their faith. When I got older, I became less enthusiastic about apologetics at my church because my views about biblical inerrancy, interpretations, science, and other things changed. My church is not anti-science, and my church people often try to find honest answers, but it is not an easy quest when they worry about the faith of young people in universities.

Despite my changing views, I attended an apologetics conference last year (I think in November) with my pastor and some friends. I think it was hosted by an organization named Stand to Reason (my church prefers this group). The guest speaker was Jim Wallace, the writer of Cold Case Christianity, and he is pretty cool. I even got two autographed books from him. However, I did not agree with some things the other speakers say. For example, one of the speakers said that he was a realist and not an alarmist, but he sounded pretty alarming when he warned the young people how the secularists will try to undermine their faith in universities.

Sometimes my faith did get challenged by things I learned in history (I am a history major), but I never seen anyone out to get Christian students except for one time when a geology professor acted like all Christians believe that Earth is 6,000 years old (uh, no we don’t). In the past year since that apologetics conference, I read Biologos blogs more regularly, and I found their information to be generally more helpful.

This time, my pastor invited me to join another apologetics conference that will take place this Saturday, and it is also hosted by Stand to Reason. I felt pretty meh about it, but I wonder if I should go.

If you don’t think you would get that much out of it, do you think your participation would be helpful to other people from your church community who will be going?

Some have observed that apologetics are primarily for the believer, as it supports the idea that faith is a rational choice, and I agree. It has value, but not in arguing anyone to God, as it just doesn’t work that way, rare exceptions excluded.

While my college experience was in the mid 1970s, I only felt pressure from one English teacher who disliked both Christianity and doctors which doubly cursed me as I was pre-med. She gave me a B in the course which I still blame on her prejudice, and to a pre-med student, a B is disaster. I am still working on forgiving;{) My science teachers on the other hand never showed religious intolerance, even the comparative anatomy prof., though the subject matter was essentially a lesson in evolution.

If I were to give advice, I would probably say I wished I had spent more time on the theology rather than apologetics, and would read the books recommended on this site, with Walton and N. T. Wright at the top of my list for reading.


Hi Thanh C

Unless things have changed Stand to Reason (Greg K) is not a friend of BioLogos because of BioLogos’ openness the theistic evolution: discussing wether or not Adam / Eve existed, etc. (You may remember Greg’s quip about theistic evolution - something like where is God in the TE process - just add a leprechaun!). I’d suggest listening to Unbelievable podcasts hosted by Justin Briefly out of England.

I’d add to James’ and the other helpful posts with this. Read books by biblical theologians as opposed to systematic theologians. There is quite the difference between biblical and systematic theology. (I apologize for stating the obvious since you don’t post anything about your theological training/background). I’d also add Peter Enns to the authors James suggests.

Larry Schmidt

Well I am a complete novice, and I don’t even know the difference between biblical and systematic theology (I had to look it up right at this moment). I am interested in reading Walton’s books because I recently acquired the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible which he greatly contributed to. I heard of Peter Enns, but I know people have disagreements with him. Nevertheless, I am open to many points of view. I just want to read good theology and history books.

Hi Thanh C,

Speaking quite generally these are my observations. It seems that Apolegetics can be quite invested in systematic theology’s “systems” which inhibits them looking at how the original receipients of the scriptural narrative would have heard and understood the original text.

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I have disagreements with Peter Enns. I still recommend Peter Enns books. It’s good to read books you have disagreements with on some points, it helps you clarify your own views.

Michael Bird’s Evangelical Theology is a really nice textbook that pulls together a huge amount of Christian thought and Scripture passages and helps you digest it. Since Bird is a New Testament scholar not a systematic theologian, it comes out a little different than most systematic theologies. He is a blogger who is very conversational with some of the more progressive controversies that have been hot topics with younger Evangelicals. (He is my age, about 40, which I’m sure is old and ancient to you college kids, but it’s not as old and ancient as most folks who write these kind of books.) Plus he has nerdy theology humor sprinkled throughout, which I find quite entertaining.


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