Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What Do You Mean By "Apologetics"?

   One consistent theme that runs through my writing, my teaching, and my pastoral work is my love of New Testament Apologetics.  A lot of folks are unfamiliar with the term, so I thought I'd spend a little time explaining what apologetics are, and why I find the field so fascinating.

   First of all, "Apologetics" doesn't mean that I am somehow apologizing for the contents of the New Testament.  That's a much more modern usage of the word.  In this context, "Apologetics" refers to the field of study in Christian scholarship that focuses on defending the historical accuracy, authority, and inspiration of the Scriptures.  Given the wholesale assault on the Bible waged in pop culture, academia, and the media for the last century or more, it's a field that has more and more relevance as young Christians demand to know: How much of what I was taught to believe is really true?

    I discovered apologetics right out of high school, when I read some of Josh McDowell's early works.  I've heard Josh speak twice in person and even got to have a short conversation with him once, years ago, and he was and is a most impressive and eloquent man.  His personal story is very compelling: the son of an abusive, alcoholic father whom he despised, McDowell was an angry young man who bitterly resented religion in general and Christianity in particular.   After debating some students who were involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, Josh set out write a book demolishing the historical claims of the Bible once and for all and proving Christianity to be an outright fraud.  But, the more research he did, the more he found the evidence leading him in the opposite direction.  In the end, his book, EVIDENCE THAT DEMANDS A VERDICT, showcased the many, compelling arguments in favor of the Bible's accuracy.  Since then, McDowell has authored many books and spoken and debated all over the world in defense of the faith.  I've read many of his books and they are all remarkable.  He has been an enormous intellectual and spiritual inspiration to me.

    Another writer who deeply influenced me is Lee Strobel.  Like McDowell, Lee was a former atheist - a journalist of some repute, serving as chief legal correspondent for the Boston Globe at one point - who decided to investigate the claims of the New Testament after his wife became a Christian (an event that irritated him a great deal at the time).  The more he studied, the more experts he interviewed, the more he became convinced that the New Testament did indeed accurately preserve the words and deeds of Jesus and His apostles.  So Lee also became a noted author and speaker in the field of apologetics.  I own four of his books that I have read over and over - THE CASE FOR CHRIST, THE CASE FOR FAITH, THE CASE FOR A CREATOR, and THE CASE FOR THE REAL JESUS.  One thing I love about Lee's books is that while he keeps his narrative on a very easy to follow level for the layman, he also references scholarly works that back up his summaries with years of research by scientists, scholars, and archeologists.  I would challenge anyone who believes that life on earth evolved by pure chance to read THE CASE FOR A CREATOR.   Unlike Dr. McDowell, I have never had the privilege of meeting Lee Strobel - but I certainly hope to some day!

    These two, and many other authors have inspired a passion for apologetics in me, but at the same time, what can I offer on this subject that other, more qualified men have not already done?  I don't have the expertise in Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac to research the primary source documents, I don't have the budget to travel to the Middle East for extended visits to research and look for new clues to the Gospel narrative.  I wanted to strike a blow for the authenticity of Scripture - but how? 

  Well, there is one thing I can do, and that is tell stories.  So in 2012, I sat down and began writing THE TESTIMONIUM - a tale of faith, archeology, romance, and terrorism.  But in the narrative of the exciting dig on Capri and the discovery of Pontius Pilate's long-lost report to Rome about the crucifixion of Jesus, I wove into the dialogue many of the arguments on apologetics that I had absorbed and engaged in over the years.  My hope was that many people who might not pick up a non-fiction work purporting to defend Christianity might instead pick up a thrilling story about a team of archeologists making an earth-shattering discovery and winding up in the crosshairs of an Al Qaeda assassin.  And when they do, maybe the will find the apologetics dialogue between my characters intriguing enough to make them want to do a little digging of their own . . .

    Did I succeed?  Read for yourself and find out!