How does one start in the field of apologetics? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of teaching youth. Since the talk I gave Sunday at the church was the first instance these kids have of being really introduced to apologetics, I thought “What if some of them do want to study more?” If you do, you’re in luck. In our day and age it’s never been easier to do such, but as I said in the talk, it will require work. There is no such thing as success without the effort put forward. So how do you begin?
If you just have the internet, you could start with apologetics web sites. Naturally, I think my blog is a great place to go to. Of course, I’m not the only site. There are two sites you can go to to get a great look at numerous other apologetics sites. One is the ministry of Brian Auten at Apologetics 315. Another site that you can go to is The Poached Egg. The reason I mention both of these is they are largely compendiums of other sites and resources and you can go and keep looking until your heart’s content.
Naturally, there are other web sites that are wonderful resources. There is Tektonics.org, which is the ministry of my ministry partner, J.P. Holding. My father-in-law, Mike Licona, has an excellent ministry built on defending the resurrection at Risen Jesus. William Lane Craig is known for his ministry of Reasonable Faith. There are many many more that you can find online.
While you’re online, you should probably connect with a group of apologists that you can interact with. One such place to go to is the Christian Apologetics Alliance on Facebook, which I am a member of. You will find people of all levels in apologetics there. You will find professionals who have been doing apologetics for years and you will find people who are just starting to learn the skill, like yourself.
As you browse online also, be skeptical of what you see. There are two great sources of misinformation. The first is YouTube. Unless you know the person who runs the channel well and have good reason to think they’re an authority, do not take them seriously. This includes Christians and non-Christians. The second is Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the place a lot of people begin, but I will advise you to avoid it like the plague. You have no idea who has edited that Wikipedia entry. There is no reason to think the gatekeepers at Wikipedia are skilled at all the information that is being put up on the site.
Online, you can also find great debates. One great site to go to for debates is Unbelievable? Justin Brierley does an excellent job of moderating the debates that take place and you can find a debate on most any topic that you’re interested in.
Yet one of the best resources you can find is your local library. Look for books published by good publishing houses. If you want to check on that, just go to the publishing house’s web site and see what they say. Of course, not all material that is good is published there, and I say this as one with some published Ebooks, but all things being equal, go with the works published by excellent firms. Try to look at the information about the author. You want to see if the author has a Ph.D. and in a relevant field.
Of course, there are exceptions to this as well. One such exception is that I’d encourage you to check out the writings of Lee Strobel. Strobel has several excellent “case” books and in these books, Strobel introduces you to the leading scholars in the field who he went out and interviewed for his book. This is popular apologetics done right and the excellent aspect of the books is that they will introduce you to other leading minds in the field so that you will know the next place to go.
Eventually, you’ll want to go out and debate some yourself and the internet is the easiest place to do it. Here’s the warning. As you start, you are going to get your tail kicked numerous times. It will happen. You will have to have others come and help defend you. That’s okay. No one starting out studying something like martial arts can expect to defeat all of their opponents. You are going to get stumped many many times. It will happen. You’re just learning. The goal is to use this to drive you in your studies all the more.
Another resource besides books you can also use is find excellent podcasts. (Again, I’m biased, but I do recommend mine.) ITunes University is a great resource you can go to for podcasts where you can listen to seminary courses online. If you’re out driving, it’s a great way to pass your time, as it can be to find courses at your library on CD such as Portable Professor or Modern Scholar.
One mistake many apologists make is to think they have to be masters in everything. Choose one or two select fields and have an emphasis in those fields. By all means, have some knowledge in others, but realize your limitations. If you try to master everything, you will inevitably master nothing. Some of you might like history. Some might like philosophy. Some might want to deal with cults. Some might want to deal with political issues. You could enjoy answering questions relating to science. There are all manner of fields.
In all of this, don’t lose sight of other areas. Be sure to be studying your Bible for your own personal development and not just to win debates. Be sure to work on having a good prayer life. (Something I struggle with admittedly.) Something that can help you in all of this is to find someone who will be a spiritual mentor to you. I have one and I email my mentor at least once every day barring some emergency times so he can know everything that’s going on in my life and offer me advice. Note I said “He.” If you are a man, let your mentor be a man. If you are a woman, let your mentor be a woman.
As you go in this field, you will find that it is a lot of fun and you will also be hopefully growing as a Christian. Apologetics is one of the most important ministries that is out there. Peter Kreeft has said that apologetics is the closest you get to saving the world. If Christianity is true, and it is, its truth is essential to the functioning of our life on this planet. You are one of the defenders of that truth and you are one of the people standing between the opponents of Christianity and your fellow Christians who are not equipped at all to defend themselves. Fight the battle well.