I am sometimes asked how to get training in apologetics. Given that I am a Bible College lecturer who teaches these things it may surprise you that recommending a college course is not at the top of my list.
If you are interested in apologetics, and feel the need for more training, here are the suggestions I would offer.
First, I would say read widely. Of course you may prefer watching online videos to written words, but I doubt many competent apologists get away without the thoughtful reflection that follows the pace of reading books and articles. Reading widely includes the Bible, theology, sermons, history, politics, news, novels and, importantly, books by those who are not Christians.
Prayer and fellowship
Secondly (though first in importance), don’t neglect prayer and Christian fellowship. Prayer reminds us that we depend on God and that our walk with Him is primary. Fellowship with other believers keeps us grounded, encouraged and realistic. Some people who engage in apologetics end up hyper-critical and inflexible, something that fellowship can soften. Effective apologetics requires emotional intelligence.
Thirdly, do some philosophy. A good overview of the history of philosophers and a simple introduction to logic is enough to give us a basic sense of why ideas matter and how to spot a fallacy. With some tools like these we can watch a news interview or a political speech and evaluate the persuasiveness of an argument.
Fourthly, maintain friendships with those outside of church. Too much apologetics is an internal pursuit – Christians talking to Christians about what we believe. There is a place for that, but we are called to share our faith with those who doubt. Not only should we care for our friends who don’t believe, but our friendships with them will help us to avoid the bubble of faith that can make us lose touch with how the world thinks and why people don’t believe. The very tone we use, and illustrations we draw upon, need an awareness of the shifting attitudes in culture.
But what if you want to go further and develop more formal training? There are great courses, whether non-accredited programmes or higher-level postgraduate degrees, offered in the UK. With the rapid development of online delivery it is no longer necessary to move house or even give up a job in order to complete a relevant MA or PhD. But I would add a caution here. Even as a Bible College teacher I would discourage anyone from considering apologetics an end in itself.
Many of the greatest apologists in history have used skills acquired elsewhere for the task. John Lennox is a Professor of Mathematics, C.S. Lewis was a scholar of literature, Francis Schaeffer had been an evangelist and missionary, while Alister McGrath trained as both a scientist and a theologian. A simple observation is that some of the best apologetic material emerges from skills and expertise acquired elsewhere.
What really interests you? It could be history, politics, football, film, music or motorcycle maintenance. Develop your skills in the areas where you feel God has given you a particular calling or passion. Could you develop your expertise and depth of insight in that area as a Christian so that you can use it to share your faith, engage unbelief and make the case for Christ? Maybe the need is not so much for more Christians becoming apologists, but more Christians being the best mechanics, historians, film makers and nurses they can be and making the defence of their faith in those fields.
Chris Sinkinson is a Lecturer in Theology at Moorlands College.