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. Pride can be so seductive. We know that even lately, we have seen the consequences of having a huge platform. If you stumble, it can cost you your reputation and people can get hurt. If you are craving attention and affirmation, than that can’t be motivation for being a player in apologetics. If I look back nearly 25 years and compare it to today, I now see hundreds of people getting apologetic degrees and those that aspire to do something within the field of apologetics. I am not saying that it is a bad thing to be encouraged and noted at all for contributions in the field of apologetics. But in reality, I really believe that God knows most of his children cannot handle a huge platform. Thus, 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? There are several apologetic ministries and to be honest, I now see people are starting You Tube Channels and deciding to start their own apologetic ministries. Personally speaking, I am employed by a mission agency which allows to do campus apologetics full time. Yes, I have an online presence. but that is not the main area of focus. Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason has an apologetics ministry. James Warner Wallace, author of Cold Case Christianity was a homicide detective and obviously has a pension. He has spoken in many venues. But he does not need to do it full time. Frank Turek, co author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist has his own ministry called Cross Examined. He does it full time but he has a large platform. Others like William Lane Craig, the late Norman Geisler and J.P. Moreland, have all taught on an academic level. They write books, speak, debate, etc. There are other such as Josh McDowell and Dr. Michael Licona have their own own ministries. Mike is also an adjunct professor at Houston Baptist University.
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? 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. And if you do travel, you need accountability. 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!” 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 apologetics ministry at your church. 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 getting an advanced degree 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 (epistemology, metaphysics, etc). Now that I look back on it, I am not opposed to getting an advanced degree 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 would say that many popular level apologists such as Frank Turek and James Warner Wallace are able to take information and break it down for the lay person. Thus, they are mostly generalists. I think we should have a general understanding of general 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 aren’t sharing their faith and they are not getting challenged.
#6: Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy
In recent years there has been a lot of discussion about the connection between orthodoxy (what Christians believe/right belief), and orthopraxis (how Christians are to live). These two orthos are intended to work in harmony with one another. Sadly, however, there seems to continually be a great tension between some Christians that tend to emphasize one side of this equation over the other.
Within apologetics, there can be tendency to solely focus on orthodoxy (correct belief/doctrine). However, if you want to really do apologetics full time (or, make a significant contribution), we need to remember we have to strive to allow our beliefs to match up with our living. We have seen what happens when those with a huge platform have a moral failure. The problem is no Christian will ever totally reflect the character of Jesus and they will fail at times to live out their faith. We aren’t in the glorified state yet. We are all in the process of sanctification (becoming like Jesus), in this present life.
One the main ways to strive to live out our beliefs is to be accountable. Find someone or others where you can confess your weaknesses and be honest about your struggles with sin. You can’t live the Lone Ranger Christian life. That model will lead to disappointment.
I hope these tips help. God bless!