On December 31, Becky and I will be leaving for La Mirada, CA and we will be away for a little over two weeks. During that time I will speaking at two churches and a young adults retreat at a camp. The main reason for our adventure to sunny (we hope) California is so I can attend a two-week residency at Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology. This will be my second year in a three year study program. The entire course is called Engaging Mind and Culture. It is designed to take students of Scripture and teach them how to be students of culture in order to speak Truth into culture. My years at Baptist Bible College, Seminary, and Grad School have proven to be excellent background to this current (probably last) round of education.
A dear friend recently asked me what apologetics is all about and why did I choose to study it. A great question! Let me lay out some of the background and reasoning behind this decision.
About five years ago I read book called Tree of Tales. It was an anthology written by some faculty members at St Andrews University in St Andrews, Scotland. The event this little book set out to commemorate was the lecture J.R.R. Tolkien gave there in the 1940’s called On Fairy Story. Tolkien, of Lord of the Rings fame, taught that fairy stories are not just untrue myths with fantastic and unreal creatures but instead, as a genre, explores the ultimate triumph of good over evil. At the end of the lecture he explained how the Gospel is a fairy story. Some will read that and immediately disagree. On the face of it, I concur. However, for Tolkien, just because something is a fairy story does not make it untrue. He sees the Gospel as fitting into this realm because it is God’s grand story of defeating death, sin, and evil. Tolkien called this a eucatastrophe. That is something good and something terrible, the crucifixion, coming together to produce something dramatically wonderful. His presentation of the Gospel was creative and awesome.
One of the chapters in the book described Tolkien’s relationship with C.S. Lewis. They were both university professors in Oxford, England. Lewis was an atheist. He rejected a Christian worldview. Together these two men would stroll a wooded pathway in Oxford called Addison’s Walk. It was during these walks that Tolkien and Lewis would discuss philosophy, theology, epic, and myth. Tolkien lovingly and patiently explained to Lewis the one “fairy story” that would not only change his life but eternally alter his destiny. Lewis eventually bowed his knee to Christ and commented that it was his friend’s patience and teaching that helped him understand his need for a Savior. Lewis went on to become one of the most loved Christian writers and thinkers of the 20th century.
After reading I asked a question, “could I do that”? I began wondering if I had the ability to patiently and lovingly explain the one event in history upon which all of history is hinged. Did I possess the skills to not just win an argument but to engage another human being with the Gospel so that they could grasp the grandness of depth of God’s love, mercy and grace. The short answer was no.
As God was at work in my heart, He led me to enroll in the Worldviews track at Baptist Bible Graduate School. We learned together the process and development of Western thought and how it has had great impact and effect on the way people think, why they think the way they do, and how to begin to engage with Biblical truth. The design of the program taught me how to self-teach as well as opening up new vistas for further study. I wanted more.
Upon discovering the program at Biola I knew this was the course of study for me! We are not learning how to shout down someone who disagrees with our biblical perspective. We are learning how to understand the thought language of our culture to speak truth into it. Let me explain.
I Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this this with gentleness and respect”. The original recipients of Peter’s letter would have known that by “reason” he was using the word apologia. This word could mean a defensive argument in a court of law. In the context of I Peter it means giving a reasonable answer to the mild skeptic or the angry. The hope is a word of hope. Its logos or a rational reason for believing what one believes. Christians are called to have a ready, reasonable, gentle answers to explain who Christ is and what he has done. In short, there are very good reasons to place one’s faith in Jesus.
This course of study is about the reasons. We explore ethics (what is right), Christian worldview as compared to other worldviews, politics, media, epistemology (what is true), metaphysics (what is real) , and other relevant issues. We are learning to understand how people think and how to ask good questions that will lead them to the Truth. Basically, apologetics is “smoothing the road” to belief in Christ. We are learning how to teach that believing in Christ really makes sense!
My goal is is to transfer this learning to my teaching and leadership at New Life Baptist Church. As we endeavor to teach the whole council of God, with the time he has given us, we want to show over and over that believing in the finished work of Jesus Christ does not require a massive leap of faith from unbelief to belief. Instead we want to demonstrate that God calls us to a step of faith. There are so many good reasons (there is that word again) that would require pages and pages to explain. Lord willing, we will continue to do that through the scope of the teaching at New Life.
While we are gone for two weeks we will miss you, but we will enjoy being in SoCal in January! Please pray as I try to drink from the proverbial fire hose of teaching that will be offered. I know I have already used this part of my education in very real ways at New Life and there is more to come! Spoiler Alert: We will be doing a MAJOR teaching series in the fall on Christology (the doctrine of Jesus Christ). Our goal will be to teach those who know Christ already that we have solid reasons for this belief. The second goal will be very evangelistic. We want our people to invite their friends and family who have long struggled with faith questions. We want to show those who do not know Christ that there really are excellent reasons to put their hope in Him alone! Please be praying as we prepare to unleash this truth on our city. I am so pumped!
Why do you believe what you believe? It is worth thinking about.