A ways back I remember reading an article by William Lane Craig about advice for people who want be an apologist. In all honesty, Craig probably knows many people who have come to him asking for advice. I think he would admit that many of them want to live the life he has and is living (e.g., lots of speaking gigs/debates, lots of fans, lots of attention, etc). As I have said before, given the overload of reality TV shows and celebrity worship, the last thing we need are apologists who have a narcissism problem. If you are craving attention and affirmation, than that can’t be motivation for being a player in apologetics. I am not saying that it is a bad thing to be encouraged and noted at all for contributions into the field of apologetics. However, we need to check ourselves in this area. However, let me state the following: Given where we are at as a culture and in the local congregation, we need apologetics more than ever!
The more I have thought about this issue, these are the kinds of questions that come up in my discussions with others on a regular basis:
#1: Can you do it full time?
When I mean “full time” I mean being an apologist is how you make a living. In other words, if you have a family, being an apologist is how you support your family. How many apologists actually do this? Not many! Ravi Zacharias is one. Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason is another. James Warner Wallace, author of Cold Case Christianity was a homicide detective and has started to derive an income from speaking on his book. Frank Turek, co author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist has his own ministry called Cross Examined. He also has a job consulting business on the side. Others like William Lane Craig, Norman Geisler and J.P. Moreland, have all taught on an academic level. They write books, speak, debate, etc.
What’s my point? To do it full time, you have to be a good fundraiser. Do you like getting in front of people and asking them for money? Do you like communicating your vision in a public or private setting? Do you want to be dependent on others to give to you and the apologetic ministry you are involved with? Or, you can always work a job and do some apologetics on the side. That’s what the majority of us do. Given that many in the church are still incredibly uneducated about the nature and role of apologetics, there will always be need to educate the local church on the topic. I have written more on the issue of why opposition mostly comes from the church here.
Something else to think about is the issue of traveling. Let’s say you write an apologetics book and people want to book you to speak at a conference or somewhere else. Are you open to traveling? Do you have a young family? Or, are you starting a family? Many apologists such as Frank Turek and James Wallace are empty nesters. Same with Michael Licona. This means they have some flexibility. Remember, your first ministry is your family. The last thing a wife wants is a husband that is away every week while she stays home and tries to raise the kids. And no, it won’t matter when you say “But I am called to do this!” And of course, your kids need a parent that is engaged with them. Now having said that, I am not opposed to some travel. But it is a weekly thing or once or twice a month? Just remember that it won’t matter how well you can do apologetics if you can’t minister to your own family! Think it through and plan well. Perhaps you can just do some apologetics ministry at a local level. Get involved with a Ratio Christi chapter or start an apologetic ministry at your church. Brian Auten at Apologetics 315 has given us many tips about these issues here and here.
#3: Apologetic Degrees
I have some personal experience with this one. When I enrolled at Southern Evangelical Seminary to get a degree I thought an M.A. in Apologetics was perfect. But as I began to tell people about the degree I was working on, it became apparent the word ‘apologetics’ caused mass confusion. I also realized that a Masters in Apologetics might not open many doors to teach on an academic level. So I opted for an M.A. in Religious Studies. Granted, I had already been reading and studying apologetics for several years before I even got a degree. Also, in my degree program I did take some apologetics and philosophy classes (e.g, epistemology, metaphysics, etc). Now that I look back on it, I am not opposed to an M.A. in Apologetics. But you have to think about where that degree will take you. Do you want to teach? Do you want to be a lay apologist in your church? Is your church have a favorable view of apologetics? Many ministry leaders are still in the dark about this field. Do you want to write? Do you plan on doing more graduate work? Do you want a degree to help you be a more effective evangelist? Do you want to direct a Ratio Christi chapter? Remember that most churches aren’t hiring apologists.
#4: You Can’t Learn Everything!
Remember, when it comes to apologetics, you can’t learn everything. In other words, you can’t be an expert on every single topic (e.g., philosophy, ethics, history, science, cultural apologetics). I think we should have a general understanding of these topics but then specialize in a few areas. For example, I tend to specialize in early Christology, Messianic Prophecy, cultural objections, the resurrection, worldviews, Jewish objections to Jesus, etc. Now I do love to dip into the science stuff as well. But most of us don’t have time to master every topic. And remember that there will always be questions!
#5: Get Out and Do Apologetics
The best way to learn apologetics is by doing it. You can read books and learn the material. But if you aren’t engaging people, you won’t see how well apologetics works in practice. Granted, I have been on a campus for many years and had many discussions with students about these topics. But all of us should be committed to sharing our faith and engaging people on a one on one level. That’s where the rubber meets the road. In my personal experience, many Christians aren’t motivated to defend their faith in the public square because they are ashamed of the Gospel.