July 31, 2008

The Facts about Faith: A New Day for Apologetics

"Christian apologists are beginning to make headway in telling the other side of the story."


People young and old are flocking to hear — and be changed by — winsome arguments for the Christian faith.
Troy Anderson
Christianity Today, July 2008, Vol. 52, No. 7
posted 7/02/2008 08:50AM


Despite all the recent attacks on faith --- or, perhaps, because of them --- these are definitely the best of times for Christian apologists such as Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig, Ben Witherington III, Darrell Bock, and J. P. Moreland. They are making documentaries, writing books, giving media interviews, attending debates and conferences, and presenting the public with what they say is a growing mountain of scientific and archaeological evidence documenting the truth of Christianity.

"There has been a resurgence in Christian apologetics as a direct result of the challenges Christianity has faced in the form of militant atheism in college classrooms, on the Internet, and in TV documentaries and best-selling books," says Strobel, former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune and most recently the author of The Case for the Real Jesus: A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ.

This spate of attacks has also kindled an unexpected surge of interest in apologetics among youth.

"It wasn't too many years ago that scholars were writing off apologetics because we live in a postmodern world where young people are not supposed to be interested in things like the historical Jesus," Strobel says. "The biggest shock is that among people who communicated to me that they had found faith in Christ through apologetics, the single biggest group was 16- to 24-year-olds."

As this fascination with the evidence for Christianity has piqued the popular mind, Craig, D'Souza, and others are debating some of the principal atheist philosophers and liberal Bible scholars at universities and other forums in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. These debates often draw thousands of college students. Young people are curious whether Christianity can be rationally defended.

Last year more than 2,000 students packed Central Hall in London to hear Craig debate biologist Louis Wolpert on the topic, "Is God a Delusion?" The moderator was BBC commentator John Humphrys, whom Craig calls the "Mike Wallace of Great Britain." "He was stunned," Craig says. "He said, 'As I look out at this sea of young faces before me, whether or not you believe in God, something is going on here. I have never seen this kind of interest before in religious things in Britain.' Everywhere we go the reaction has been that people want to hear both sides presented. And when [they are], they will come out in droves to hear a discussion of the existence of God or the evidence for Christianity."

Christian apologists are beginning to make headway in telling the other side of the story. D'Souza, a former policy analyst in the Reagan White House, has received international media exposure debating atheist pundit Christopher Hitchens, Skeptic magazine publisher Michael Shermer, and others.

And although Strobel and others are appealing primarily to the intellect, people are responding with their hearts. Strobel says the recent aggression against the faith has provided a great opportunity to present Christ to non-Christians. Strobel is convinced apologetics helps bring people to God. He notes that more than 700 made professions of faith during his last book and speaking tour. Many people have a spiritual sticking point --- a tough question about the faith. And once they find an answer, Strobel says, it often turns out to be the last barrier between them and God.

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