In the wake of the news, this past summer, of two prominent Christian leaders, either doubting or even fully leaving the faith, I thought it might be helpful to consider the state of apologetics, in the American evangelical church today. Even if you take just a quick glance at Marty Sampson’s Instagram page, one of these leaders who has been struggling with his faith lately, you get a picture of what type of intellectual questions doubters are wrestling with today, and just how much social media plays into the confusion, and just how little the local church is making an impact, in many cases.
Furthermore, in reflecting upon Norman Geisler’s death earlier this past summer, it made me wonder: Geisler was perhaps the senior “dean” of evangelical apologetics, for a whole generation of Christians. Now that he has departed this earth, who will carry on the torch, to defend the faith for a new generation?
Sure, there are still plenty of Christian apologists, earnestly upholding the truthfulness of the faith, but many of the most public ones are either about my age or older. Here is a brief list of some of those most prominent voices today, in conservative evangelical circles. I do not agree with everything the apologists below say, but these are all folks who are competent. They know their stuff (I will not hyperlink to everyone below, as there are just too many. Google is your friend here 🙂 :
- William Lane Craig: Classical and evidentialist apologetics, who is perhaps the most well known apologist of our day. If you only had time to study the arguments of one Christian apologist, I would recommend William Lane Craig.
- Timothy Keller: Combine a conservative Presbyterian pastor, with C.S. Lewis, who can actually read philosopher Charles Taylor, and who knows how New York City urbanites think, and there you have… Tim Keller.
- John Lennox: British heavy-weight sized up against Richard Dawkins.
- Ravi Zacharias: Another senior apologist, with great appeal among older generations, and intercultural.
- Lee Strobel: The Case for…. You name it.
- Bobby Conway: THE One Minute Apologist.
- Frank Turek: Mentored by Norman Geisler.
- Hugh Ross: Old Earth Creationist scientist.
- Michael Brown: Leading Messianic Jewish apologist.
- J. Warner Wallace: Cold-case Christianity from a real police detective.
- Greg Koukl: Stand to Reason, best known for the “Columbo” tactic.
- Hank Hanegraff: Hank has taken some heat, from his recent turn towards Eastern Orthodoxy. But his training as an apologist goes back to the late Walter Martin, one of the best Christian apologists of the 1970s and 1980s.
- James White: The top Reformed presuppositional apologist around.
What about slightly younger apologists, or at least those who have greater appeal among folks who are just a bit younger than me? Well, notice that all of these folks have some type of presence on YouTube:
- Michael Heiser: Semitic languages and Old Testament scholar.
- Michael Licona: New Testament scholar, and one of the best defenders of the Resurrection today.
- David Wood: Apologetics oriented towards Muslims.
- Jeff Durbin: The next generation James White.
- Mike Winger: A Calvary Chapel pastor, who has a vibrant interest in apologetics.
- Sean McDowell: Son of Josh McDowell.
- Justin Brierley: The best apologetics podcast in the UK, with Unbelievable?
- Alisa Childers: A former CCM (contemporary Christian music) artist turned apologist. I realized that I have listed no other women above, but Alisa really stands out as a very thoughtful thinker in the apologetics world, in her own right.
All of these folks contribute significantly to the world of Christian apologetics, but what about reaching the generation of students coming out of high school and college today?
- Michael Jones: Inspiring Philosophy (Michael is my personal top-pick, with over 100,000 YouTube subscribers).
- Kurt Jaros: Podcaster of Veracity Hill. Great interviews with leading scholars. Kurt is a headliner young apologist with Defenders Media. Kurt also records the most excellent Risen Jesus podcast, featuring seasoned New Testament apologist, Michael Licona.
- Cameron Bertuzzi: Capturing Christianity. Combines high quality video with great apologetic content.
- Robert Rowe: Sentinel Apologetics. Hours and hours of recorded apologetic content, from multiple leaders in Christian apologetics, all on YouTube.
- Stephen Worthey: Standardized Apologetics. Stephen has a really helpful 15-minute video on finding who the best apologists are on YouTube, that I will link to below.
There are a couple of things to note about these new, younger Christian apologists:
- Nearly all of these apologists have major platforms on YouTube. YouTube is becoming the “go-to” source for top-notch apologetic content, in the world of social media. Having a high-quality video presence really gets the message across to younger generations of people. Podcasts are great, but sharp YouTube videos are even better.
- Young apologists are primarily driven by evidentialist apologetics, more so than classical or presuppositionalist apologetics. There are a few exceptions to this trend, such as presuppositional apologist, Sye Bruggencate, as in his movie “How to Answer the Fool,” a video primer on this particular apologetic method.
Can you think of any other up-and-coming young apologists?
There is a lot of great content out there. Perhaps too much content, but here is my advice: My advice is for folks to Google (or use Bing) to find a few of these folks on the Internet, and then check out some of their content. Subscribe to a podcast or a YouTube channel you can connect with, and then check in every once in awhile to find out what they might be discussing.
Consider giving financially and prayerfully to a ministry you really like. They really need that.
There are two dangers that Christians face, as related to apologetics. One is to basically ignore apologetics, and simply base your faith on emotional feelings alone. Emotional feelings are fine, but as Dr. William Lane Craig notes, many of the recent and very public “deconversions” from Christianity are being propagated by Christians who are part of faith communities where apologetics are simply not valued as important.
The second danger is at the opposite extreme. Sometimes, we can expect too much from Christian apologetics, as the number of objections to Christianity are as plentiful as the human imagination is creative. It is impossible to have all of the answers, to every question. It is okay to say that you do not know the answer. But it is a good idea to have some type of resource available, whom you can consult, to help you have a better, more informed conversation, with someone who might have some serious questions, and who is looking for answers.
Christian apologetics should not be about winning arguments, but rather about winning people to Christ. We do not need to have a knock-out punch, in our discussion with our neighbors. What is sufficient is that we should show that faith and reason are not in conflict with one another, so as not to create an artificial barrier to someone meeting Jesus, at the foot of the Cross.
I will close with this quote from veteran apologist, William Lane Craig, as to why local churches, particularly parents who are raising the next generation, should care about apologetics:
- If parents are not intellectually engaged with their faith and do not have sound arguments for Christian theism and good answers to their children’s questions, then we are in real danger of losing our youth. It’s no longer enough to teach our children simply Bible stories; they need doctrine and apologetics. It’s hard to understand how people today can risk parenthood without having studied apologetics.
Unfortunately, our churches have also largely dropped the ball in this area. It’s insufficient for youth groups and Sunday school classes to focus on entertainment and simpering devotional thoughts. We’ve got to train our kids for war. We dare not send them out to public high school and university armed with rubber swords and plastic armor. The time for playing games is past.
Here is Standardized Apologetics with a nice run down on the top YouTube apologists: