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Every believer’s an apologist, professional apologists say

Jeremiah Johnston

NASHVILLE (BP) – In an increasingly secular and post-Christian culture, leaders who make their living in apologetics are imploring believers to practice the discipline in their everyday lives.

Apologetics and Christian thinking are no longer specific topics for certain Christians, but are necessary disciplines for the spiritual walk of every believer, experts say.

Timothy Paul Jones

Timothy Paul Jones is chair of the Department of Apologetics, Ethics and Philosophy at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

At Southern’s annual faculty address earlier this month, Jones said the current state of the world makes the study of apologetics a non-negotiable.

“Apologetics is no longer limited to scholars and theologians,” Jones said during the address.

“Cultural and social changes have turned apologetics into an unavoidable consequence of living publicly as a Christian. Pursuing the Christian way of life will inevitably require a defense of this way of being in the world – not merely for apologists, but for all of us.”

The question believers face from society is no longer “Is Christianity true?” he said but rather, “Is it good?”

In comments to Baptist Press, Jones said Christians can learn much about this concept from studying church history, because a culture hostile to Christianity is nothing new.

“The early 21st century is far from the first time that Christians have faced the charge that their faith is immoral or harmful,” Jones told BP.

“This has happened before in many places around the globe, and it was that way in the second and third centuries as well. Particularly in the second century, Christianity was perceived as harmful to the civic order because Christians refused to worship the civic gods. Yet, even in those circumstances, Christianity flourished.”

Jones said the most important concept of apologetics every believer must know well is the resurrection of Christ.

“If apologetics is giving a reason for our hope, and hope is centered in the resurrection, the resurrection should be central in Christian apologetics,” Jones said.

“When the resurrection is not central in apologetics, the practice of apologetics can turn into a bad game of theological trivia, with the unbeliever raising a random series of objections until he or she ‘wins’ by coming up with a question that the Christian can’t answer.

“When the resurrection of Jesus is central, however, apologetics can never stray far from the Gospel, and we respond to the unbeliever’s questions by turning the questions toward the cross and the empty tomb.”

The study of apologetics is already beginning to look much different in the local church.

Jeremiah Johnston has served as the associate pastor of apologetics and cultural engagement at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, since April 2022.

He said it is hard to imagine Gospel ministry without some form of apologetics going forward.

“The doorway for evangelism today and sharing our faith goes through apologetics from now on,” Johnston said.

“The world today as we see it reflected around us is post-Christian, secularized, even hostile to the Christian worldview. This is our Jerusalem. This is our mission field. We have to be able to explain the Gospel through the doorway of apologetics … and we have to spread that with clarity. I can’t imagine sharing the Gospel now without marrying it with apologetics.”

Johnston agreed with Jones that the discipline is nothing new to the Christian life.

“Apologetics is necessary not only for (ministering to) those outside the Church, it is just as necessary for the body of Christ,” Johnston said.

“This is something that I think we’ve lost due to our historical distance from the New Testament world. Apologetics was essential to the growth of the Church in Acts. That means Christians were brought up with a robust Christian worldview. They had no choice but to defend their faith. We have really lost that motif about the importance of apologetics within the Church.”

In his first year in the position, Johnston has begun the work of equipping all of Prestonwood’s ministries to better defend the faith.

The apologetics ministry is dubbed by Johnston as the Worldview Task Force, which is designed to provide training and resources to every part of the church in the area of apologetics.

Additionally, Johnston helps lead interested church members through a 36-week worldview curriculum if they desire specific training.

Areas of instruction include the nature of God, creation studies, morality and truth and identity and purpose.

He said the demand for the training has been hard to keep up with and believes this points to the necessity of apologetics training in churches moving forward.

“My opinion is, churches are going to have to re-plan their priorities financially to ensure that they have some kind of official apologetics pastor on the team in the next 15-20 years, just like we have evangelism pastors,” Johnston said.

“I can’t see the Church being effective if we don’t get this right. This person in this role must be church-centric and not there to build their own platform. They are there to create a replicating program of Christian worldview in the church.”

Johnston said churches can get started in apologetics training by simply instilling confidence in their people. 

“We have to get people over their reticence or hesitation that they think apologetics is just for someone else,” Johnston said. “There are no prerequisites to own your faith better. There are no prerequisites to love God with your heart, soul, mind and strength.

“We have to get people over the hurdle of ‘You mean I can do this? I don’t have to go to seminary and I can be a Christian thinker and I can see the Great Commandment fulfilled in my life?’ The answer is 100 percent yes.”