Advice For Younger Apologists

What do I recommend younger apologists do? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I had my friend Evan Minton stay with me for Defend, so I read his review of his trip. In the middle of that, he mentioned this blog post by Chris Stockman and Will Hess. I resonated with a lot of their concerns. I figured it would be helpful to say some of my thoughts on the subject.

Generally, I have tried to make it a point to avoid specializing in in-house debates. I have taken a strong position against a number of issues such as the idea of how God is supposed to normatively communicate today and against beliefs like the rapture. Generally, this is about more than just going against the viewpoint, but trying to deal with something that I think does more harm than good and to reassure other Christians.

Recently, I wrote about Satanic Panic, for example. This is because I know of many Christians who live in paralyzing fear by well-meaning Christians and because this distracts us from the bigger problems out there. I am much more concerned about kids who get caught up in Instagram than I am those who get caught up in Pokemon.

The only time I can think of when I got directly involved in a debate that was in-house with major ramifications was when Norman Geisler went after my then father-in-law. For one thing, this was my family. I also did this at great sacrifice to myself. Despite all this, when Geisler died, I made sure to write a tribute to him because he did do a great service for us.

I also happen to have a number of friends who are Catholic. I meet with them regularly on Thursday night for a Zoom meeting where we discuss Aquinas, relevant to me seeing as I am a Thomist. They know I am one of the token Protestants. Sometimes, I’m asked my view on a passage as it relates to something like Marian dogmas or praying to saints. I disagree with those positions and yet, I make it a point to not be antagonistic. Not only that, but usually, there’s not pushback. I give my two cents. I move on.

I’m not saying all Catholics are Christians, but I also don’t say all Protestants are Christians. My ex-wife used to attend an Orthodox Church and I went with her and I formed great friendships with the people there. Did I disagree with them? Yep. Do I think they’re still my brothers and sisters in Christ? Yes. Do I think they’re all Christians in the Orthodox community? Not at all, but again, that is true for the Protestant community as well.

One of the big debates I see going on on Facebook now is the minimal facts approach vs the Maximal data approach. I have made it a point to not enter into this. Why? Because for one thing, I still am on good terms with my former father-in-law and I remain a great friend of Gary Habermas. On the other hand, I have the utmost respect for Tim McGrew and one of the great delights I have in Defend is when he comes by.

So which approach do I recommend?

Both of them.

For one thing, it depends on the situation one is in. If someone starts talking about problems in the Gospels, well we go to the Gospels. I am prepared to defend them. However, if someone wants to talk about the resurrection of Jesus directly, I normally go with the minimal facts approach. I prefer to have as many arrows in my quiver as possible.

The authors of the piece talk about how Frank Turek is a target regularly. I did read years ago¬†I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist. I found it helpful for where I was. Would it help me today? Probably not, but would I encourage someone starting out to read it? Sure.

Not only that, but also, Frank Turek is incredibly personable. Whenever I have met him, he has been nothing but kind to me and I remember him giving freely of his time in Charlotte to invest in young people so they could know better how to answer opponents. Will they learn how to answer specialized opponents from that? No. But will they learn how to answer their peers? Yes. That’s what matters.

Interestingly, this is in many ways the same thing Tim McGrew does when he comes to Defend. He has specialized talks, but then he has talks where he just invites people to come and discuss coffeeshop style and many of those are younger people. Not all of these people are going to specialize in apologetics. They just want to know what to say to their peers.

I also do understand that part of having your ministry is putting yourself out there. I have to do fundraising sometimes as an apologist. I hate it. I really do. I hate having to talk about myself and why you should support my Patreon. Despite what some of you might think, I do try to avoid anything that could increase pride in me. I know it’s a struggle.

It has to be done to some extent though, but if I am going to build my reputation in the world, the last way I want to do it is by tearing someone else in the apologetics field down. When it comes to many of these issues that we disagree on, I tell people I am fine to disagree with them, but when it becomes a divisive area between us, I am done. If I am discussing with Jehovah’s Witnesses and atheists and Catholics and Orthodox come alongside me, I am happy to unite forces with them against the one who is outside of the faith in the hopes of either winning them over or defusing their arguments so the weaker can see how weak they are.

Are there a lot of pathetic arguments going around against the faith now? Yes, and we need to answer them. We do need to answer people like Dawkins, Dennett, and Hitchens. Most people are not going to bring up objections from Mackie and Oppy, and this includes atheists themselves. I realize that many New Testament scholars don’t know how to answer mythicists, which I think is a shame, because these are the common arguments that are being floated around on the internet and that their audience is encountering.

Also, keep in mind that though you disagree with someone, they can still teach you a lot. I try to make it a point to learn from everyone that I meet. My therapist here at the seminary is I am sure more than a decade younger than I am. Don’t care. I have a lot to learn. I am older than some of my professors here. Don’t care. I have a lot to learn. For my own personal reading, I am going through probably more than ten books at the time, and not all of them are academic. Some are just fun books. I happen to love reading mysteries.

By the way, my fellow seminary students, if the only reading you are doing is the reading you are doing for class, please re-examine what you’re doing with your life. You should be trying to learn something always. I have even made it a point to get the syllabi in advance for my classes so I can go ahead and do the reading and get started on the work.

Ultimately, I just want to encourage those coming up to try to spread more light than heat. Never forget the people that you are really doing this for. No matter how well you know something, you should always be capable of explaining it in terms anyone can understand and if you can’t do that, then I have to question if you really understand it.

If you disagree with other Christians who are recognized in the field, do so respectfully as best as you can. For all the time you go after them, make sure you go even more after the real opponents out there. Never lose sight of where the battle really lies.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

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