I’ve heard it said several times lately that apologetics degrees are worthless and not looked well upon by others. The reasons given for this statement is that apologetics degrees are by their nature “interdisciplinary”, that is, they don’t focus on one subject but a broad spectrum of subjects and therefore those who gain a degree in apologetics are not an expert in anything. Another problem with apologetics degrees, I’m told, is that people simply don’t know what apologetics is. When you say Philosophy, Biology, Theology, at least people have some perception of what you do, but “apologetics?” Finally, you’ll never be able to teach in a secular university (and maybe not even in a lot of Christian universities) with that kind of degree, it’s just useless.
Well…is it useless? Honestly, “useless” is probably the last thing an apologetics degree is. An apologetics degree will help you be an evangelism ninja, equipped to deal with some of the most relevant and frequent questions and objections that Christians face as they share the gospel message with the world around them. That’s hardly useless.
But let’s get down to brass tacks. The real question when considering furthering your education and considering an apologetics degree is this: “What do you want to do with your life?” That has to be your starting point when making a decision about continuing (or starting) your education. So here is the God’s honest truth, if you want to do groundbreaking research on Intelligent Design, the Resurrection, God’s Existence, etc., then you don’t want an apologetics degree. If that’s your heart’s desire then get yourself a degree (probably 3) in one of the sciences, history, New Testament studies, Theology, or Philosophy. If you want to teach in the university, you are probably best served to do the same (although there is no promise of a career in teaching even with a Ph.D.). If that’s what you want to do, then an apologetics degree (or at least only an apologetics degree) will not as likely take you where you want to go.
On the flip side, if you want to serve in pastoral ministry (adults or students), if you want to be a college campus missionary (Ratio Christi for instance) or if you want to start your own apologetics ministry, or even just become a more effective ambassador for Jesus Christ while working in a secular field, then an apologetics degree has your name all over it! The beauty of apologetics training is that it equips to deal with and answer the questions and objections that you deal with every day in real life ministry. An apologetics degree will train you to be an effective evangelist who can boldly proclaim the gospel without fear of any response by an unbeliever or skeptic.
The truth is, we need both kind of apologists. We need the highly focused on one field, professional academic apologists whose presence in academia provides real challenges to secularism and who can rebut bad ideas from other Ph.D’s on the other side of the culture war. People like Dr. Michael Licona whose work on the resurrection of Jesus topples so many erroneous arguments presented by atheist, agnostic and skeptic scholars, J.P. Moreland whose mind rivals the brightest secular philosophers and who has so ardently argued for the existence of God and even the human soul, etc., these guys (to mention only two of our giants in apologetics) are needed.
But you know what else is needed? Apologists who are youth pastors, and like those who work on campuses around the country (and indeed world) through Ratio Christi and Cru, the people who will spend their lives pouring into young people the truth of God’s word and the reasons we have to believe all that it tells us. The pastors who faithfully shepherd one church for 10, 15, 30 years and who faithfully exposit the text of Scripture and reinforce their congregations faith in the word of God and the power of the resurrection! The street preacher who works a secular job during the day but faithfully, week after week, goes out to share the good news with those who pass by. These guys are needed to.
People like Ravi Zacharias, Michael Licona, J.P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, etc., these guys are like those who develop the weapons, and strategies to effectively defeat the enemy. The other group, they’re the ones who get their boots dirty every day carrying those weapons that have been developed to the battlefield and getting bloody. You tell me, which is more important? The correct answer is “neither.” In the end both kind of apologists are absolutely essential to the overall war for the truth.
I proudly throw my name in with the ranks of the foot soldiers and I admire greatly the minds who have helped train and equip me to effective fight the enemy for the sake of the gospel and all that the Christian wordview entails. So is an apologetics degree worthless? Not on your life. But which part of the battle do you want to take part in? That’s the question which you have to answer for yourself.
Jacob Allee is a Pastor at First Baptist Church in Ulysses, KS and is committed to the promotion and defense of the Christian faith and holds a B.A. in Religion and Apologetics from Luther Rice University and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Piedmont International University. Currently Jacob is pursuing an M.A. in Apologetics from Luther Rice University.