I am a firm believer in good theological education. Quality varies from school to school. How can you know if the school you are applying to is any good? The best thing to do is to talk to someone who has been involved, either as a student or faculty. I would like to recommend three schools. The first is McMaster Divinity College. I received my M.Div., M.Th. (this is no longer offered) and M.A. degrees from McMaster. It is a fantastic school and it offers a Ph.D. degree as well, which is already getting a good reputation. Secondly, there is Acadia Divinity College. I am doing my D.Min. at Acadia and am enjoying it very much. Finally, there is Tyndale College and Seminary. I have not studied here but I have taught a couple of undergrad courses through their modular program. Tyndale offers courses at the bachelor, masters and doctoral level. I would recommend any of these three schools.
I just came across a neat school called Foundation University. There are a number of schools by that name but this one is specifically Christian. I really like the vision of this school. They provide both undergraduate and graduate degrees. They have worldwide vision for education and provide free tuition for those in countries who need it and charge tuition for those in countries who can afford it. One of the ways that they fund the education for those who cannot pay is through Foundation University Press, which also looks interesting. By the way, they are looking for volunteer faculty, if you have the background and time.
How do we fit the events of the various Gospels together to come up with a chronology of the Last Supper? Barry D. Smith provides a solution in an article from the Westminster Theological Journal. You can read the article here.
When was Jesus born? Historian Paul Maier tackles this issue in this article. He includes a discussion of the problem of Quirinius and the date of the census.
First of all, what do you mean by that? Are you saying that you want to be a “professional” apologist or you want apologetics to be a part of your life as a Christian? This is the first step, to find out what you want to do. Being a full-time apologist can look a few different ways. Some may want to be an apologetics professor in a college or seminary. That is a possibility but there are extremely few such positions. Not to mention, teaching apologetics is not the same thing as being an apologist. Others may want to have a full-time apologetics ministry, speaking and debating across the country. That is a noble vision but it is difficult to do. If God is calling you to do that, go for it. If you really want to do apologetics without having a secular job, consider becoming a pastor. There is a great need for pastors who are willing to equip their congregation to defend the faith and to preach apologetically. This is a neglected opportunity. Many others may want to be involved in apologetics, but not as a career. You may want to be personally equipped to be able to interact with friends, family or co-workers. You may want to be an apologetic resource in your church or have a ministry through blogs or other Internet opportunities. This is extremely important as well. Whatever your focus, I have some thoughts on how to go about things.
Get an education. Start taking courses, or even get a degree. There are degrees in apologetics, but you can study philosophy, theology, biblical studies, history or science as well. In fact, I would suggest a broad education, so you know what is happening out there. I understand school can be expensive and time consuming. If you want to be involved in teaching there is no getting around it. If you are just looking for your own training, there are options. There are certificate programs and degrees from non-accredited schools that will give you the training you need without giving the credentials needed for teaching in a university.
Decide what kind of apologetics you want to be involved in. Not everyone needs to debate atheist philosophers. There is a need for people focused on Old Testament, New Testament, history, ethics, science, theology, world religions, sects/cults as well as numerous aspects of philosophy. A good general knowledge of apologetics is important but you don’t have to be an expert in everything and you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing.
Get connected with other people doing apologetics. Many apologists have a presence on the Internet, get to know them. Try to meet other apologists in person as well.
Becoming an apologist is not the cure for personal doubt. If you are a skeptic, it is good to look into the reasons for the Christian faith, but that does not mean you have to debate atheists. Deal with your own issues, but don’t go looking for apologetic conversations just as a distraction from your own doubt. I think this is the reason we see a number of atheists today who are former Christian apologists.
Read widely. Read apologetics books but read in other areas as well. Read the latest books but read the classics too. Read outside your tradition and even books that you disagree with. Subscribe to some good academic journals dealing with apologetics, theology, philosophy, religion or biblical studies.
Subscribe to some good podcasts. There is a tremendous amount of resources on the Internet with lectures, podcasts and entire courses available in audio format. Redeem your time and fill your iPod.
Try to attend some good apologetics conferences. We have been blessed with some great world class apologists. Go and listen to them, attend the workshops and learn as much as you can. However, attending every apologetics conference does not make you an apologist.
Do apologetics. Seriously. There are people who are “apologetics junkies,” in the sense that they absorb everything apologetics related and are big fans of famous apologists. Apologetics is to them what Star Trek is to Trekkies. Fine, but that does not make you an apologist. Look for opportunities to either train other Christians or to interact with non-believers who have questions. You do not have to arrange a debate at your local university. It could be as simple as responding to your friends and family when they comment on all religions being the same or evolution disproving the existence of God or Jesus just being a good moral teacher. It takes a lot more courage to open your mouth than it does to read a book or listen to a podcast. But it is much more rewarding.
Listen to the skeptics you talk to. Of course you need to respond with a clear explanation of the Gospel. But do not assume you know exactly what the other person believes. Let them talk, not just as a matter of courtesy, but to learn from them. Take plenty of time to listen before you start speaking.
Pray. The great thing about Christian apologetics is that it is not just about you and your debating skills. Pray for strength for yourself, for openness of the person you are talking to, and for other Christians to come into their life who will share the Gospel in a reasonable way.
That is just a few things to keep in mind. There is lots to learn but having an apologetics aspect to your Christian life is important and arguably required.
I am currently reading the JISCA Vol. 4 No. 1 (2011) which has the following articles:
“A Beginner’s-and Expert’s-Guide to the Big Bang: Separating Fact From Fiction” by Hugh Ross
“Evangelical Anabaptism-Historical Disproof of Quinn’s Tolerance Through Uncertainty” by Kirk R. MacGregor
“Science as the Servant of Theology: An Appraisal of Alister McGrath’s Critical Realist Perspective” by James K. Dew, Jr.
“Personal Identity and the Jehovah’s Witness View of Resurrection” by Steven B. Cowan
“Eucharistic Origins as Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection” by Glenn B. Siniscalchi
Michelle Bachmann has come under fire for questioning the Kinsey Report’s figure of 10% of the population being homosexual. You can watch the video here. Before I go any farther, I would like to make two things clear. First I have no agenda to defend Bachmann. I know almost nothing about her and have very little interest in American politics. Secondly, I do not have an agenda to diminish the role of the homosexual community in society. Politicians should represent their entire society, heterosexual and homosexual, no matter what the respective percentages.
As I went to various web-sites and blogs covering this story, I saw much outrage that Bachmann would question Kinsey’s 10% but no discussion of the truth of her statement. The truth is that there are some problems with the Kinsey Report. If you know anything of surveys, you will know that including overly large chunks of your survey population from prison inmates and male prostitutes may not give you an accurate picture of the homosexual experiences of the average person in society. Plus, it is not at all clear that Kinsey claimed that 10% of the population was homosexual, but that 10% had experienced something (even if they later rejected it or had been abused) or had at least been propositioned. The actual number of people who would identify as homosexual would more likely by around 5%. A short summary of the issues can be found here. Again, I am not arguing that if the number is only 5% (or less) that homosexuals should lose their rights. My point is that something like the 10% figure has gained such a place in our culture that people do not care about the accuracy of it or the more recent and more scientific surveys that have been done. What is important is that the 10% (even if it is a fiction) is a useful tool for certain agendas. Homosexuals are welcome to fight for their rights, but they should avoid attacking people for being scientifically correct rather than politically correct.
One of my main interests is that of the pagan myth theory. One of the few other scholars working in this area is Mary Jo Sharp. You can pick up a talk she did in this area from Biola here.
I have been listening to the Darwin or Design podcast with Tom Woodward. Tom interviews a number of important figures in the intelligent design movement. It is worth checking out. You can find it here.