Identifying the need for apologetics, Southern Baptists have a plan to boost the confidence of believers against widespread attacks against Christianity.
The North American Mission Board (NAMB), the Southern Baptist Convention's domestic mission agency, intends to certify as many as 500 new apologetics instructors, charging them to defend the truth and credibility of the Christian faith.
"Apologetics is an area that has been largely neglected in Southern Baptist life and the CAI (Certified Apologetics Instructor) program is a tool to help turn that around," said Mike Licona, director of apologetics for NAMB.
Apologetics comes from the Greek term apologia, meaning a formal defense. It is being able to give supporting evidence that Christianity is indeed true and that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, as NAMB defined it. Many Christians have recognized the increasing need to bring apologetics into America's churches in a culture where truth is relative and pews are being emptied.
Apologetics is more important than ever in today's culture, said Dr. Mark A. Rathel, associate professor of theology and philosophy at The Baptist College of Florida and who was recently qualified as the first CAI. Movies such as "The Da Vinci Code" have done much to foster doubt about the reliability of the Bible, he noted.
The Da Vinci Code, the bestselling novel by Dan Brown, was adapted for the big screen in 2006 with a box office opening that made it second only to the opening of "Star Wars Episode III." The controversial book, published as fiction, challenged historic Christianity and caused confusion among believers with such details as Mary Magdalene being the wife of Jesus Christ and who was pregnant with his child.
"Christianity is under so much attack today," Rathel said, according to NAMB. "I feel this will be a way to answer questions for unbelievers and at the same time, give believers more confidence and make them better witnesses."
New York Times bestselling author Dinesh D'Souza said he would like to see apologetics come to center stage in churches across the country. He said Christians need to become "bilingual" in which they are educated in both the biblical language and a secular language the world can recognize – a language anchored in history, reason and experience.
NAMB's new effort of certifying instructors takes the burden off pastors who are already stretched in their pastoral ministry and have little time to be trained in apologetics and to also train their congregations, according to Licona. The CAI program takes Southern Baptists who already have a passion for teaching apologetics to the next level both in knowledge and communication skills. These instructors will then train Southern Baptists in the area of apologetics and interfaith evangelism.
Course work is done under the auspices of Biola University in La Mirada, Calif.
The CAI credential indicates that the recipient has a good knowledge of issues related to apologetics & interfaith evangelism, is an experienced and excellent communicator, and has a strong Christian character, according to the NAMB. State Directors of Evangelism can place confidence in these individuals as being capable of meeting the need to train Southern Baptists in their state.