On July 1, I assumed the presidency of Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES) in Charlotte, N.C.
Some have asked me whether I was retiring from the culture wars when I retired after 25 years of service to the Southern Baptists Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. My answer was, and is, an emphatic "NO!"
In becoming president of a seminary that specializes and focuses on apologetics, I am just moving from front-line combat to a training command, helping to prepare the next generation of green berets and paratroopers for the Lord's army. I fervently believe apologetics is the way we will spell Christian evangelism, missions, and discipleship in the 21st century.
Dr. Elmer Towns, Dean Emeritus of Liberty Baptist Seminary, recently sent me an email that stated, "The next great trend in the evangelical church is 'apologetic evangelism', those who can go and give a defense of the faith while they present the Gospel. That means you are on the cutting edge of the next trend in Christianity."
So what is apologetics? SES's cofounder, the incomparable Norm Geisler, has defined apologetics as "simply to defend the faith, and thereby destroy arguments and every proud obstacle against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:5). It is opening the door, clearing the rubble, and getting rid of the hurdles so that people can come to Christ."
William Lane Craig, one of America's foremost apologists, defined apologetics as "that branch of Christian theology that seeks to provide rational warrant for Christianity's truth claims. It contains offensive and defensive elements, on the one hand presenting positive arguments for Christian truth claims and on the other refuting objections brought again Christianity's truth claims."
Simply put, apologetics means loving people enough to give them reasonable and compelling answers to their honest questions. When Christians do this, they are fulfilling the Apostle Peter's admonition to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you" (1 Pet. 3:15).
One of the supreme modern examples of persuasive apologetics is found in C. S. Lewis. I personally know of several people who began a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and were converted to the Christian faith through reading C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity.
Mere Christianity is a relentlessly logical presentation and defense of the truth claims of the
Christian faith and contains one of the most well-know examples of Lewis's defense of the deity of Jesus.
Lewis goes right after the often-expressed thought in Western Culture that Jesus was a great
moral teacher, but not the Son of God. Lewis responded to such sentiments in full apologetic mode:
That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a mad man or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
Now that's apologetics!