Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. – Matt 13:3-8 (NASB)
It is the mission of TilledSoil.org to introduce and advance Christian apologetic (case-making) training in churches and schools, as well as to interact with skeptics. This is accomplished through in-person training programs and the discussion and resources on this Web site.
(Note: If you are asking, ‘what is apologetics?’… please see below.)
Who are we and what do we do?
TilledSoil.org is an organization focused on equipping churches and schools with Christian apologetic training. Many Christian apologetic ministries ‘preach to the choir’ in that the audience they typically reach are already enthusiastic about apologetics. These ministries are critical, as budding apologists (and veteran apologists) need the training they provide. Other ministries are devoted to specialized topical areas of apologetics. Again, these are crucial because they do the deep, specialized work that few others are equipped to do. The problem is that this leaves too many Christians — like the average person sitting in the pew — unprepared to give a reason for the hope that they have in a culture that is increasingly becoming a more challenging place to do so.
TilledSoil.org focuses on this challenge by taking apologetics training into churches and schools in a concentrated manner. The intent is to have training professionals saturate geographical areas with long-term training and support, adding more geographical areas as the ministry grows. Most churches don’t have the option to add a Minister of Apologetics and most pastors have little, if any, apologetics training (or the time required to become fully equipped, given the many other demands made on their time). Our job is to fill that gap.
First, we provide basic or ‘core’ Christian apologetic training to pastors, teachers, congregations, and students to demonstrate the importance of apologetics training and to ‘whet the appetite’ for more in-depth knowledge of the substance of Christian faith. Second, we come along-side pastors and teachers to help provide whatever resources they may need to continue the growth which has begun. Third, we provide or point to more advanced resources as challenges arise and specific interests are fostered.
We are currently working out of the Prince George, B.C., Canada area. Please pray for the resources to expand this ministry to other geographical areas!
How important is this?
Well, obviously, we think it is very important. But, don’t just take our word for it.
Alister McGrath (on apologetics during a recent interview)
“Well, I think the pastor does play a very critical role here. And, apologetics is not simply about reaching outside the church and helping people realize why Christianity makes so much sense. There are many people inside church congregations who are wrestling with apologetic questions; who come to faith but haven’t had all of their questions answered. I think the pastor, the preacher, needs to realize if they want their people to be good and minister to the faith, apologists and evangelists, they’ve got to be equipped. They’ve got to be reassured about their faith. They’ve got to be helped to be able to explain it and defend it in the secular marketplace. Now maybe many pastors and preachers say, ‘You know, I couldn’t do this.’ In which case, you need to bring somebody in who can. But there’s a real need for the local church to see this kind of ministry as a priority in our present cultural situation.“1
Jay Smith (on ‘Is the Church ready to give an answer?’ during “Unbelievable? the Conference” London, UK – May 14, 2011)
“I think the church is getting ready and I think we have the material . . . Are there enough people coming up to take it on? No. And that gets back to what John Lennox said earlier this morning; there is a fear-factor. I think we’re ready; we just need the bodies, we need the teaching, and we need the gumption to get out and do it and use it.“
“I pray earnestly that God will raise up today a new generation of Christian apologists or Christian communicators, who will combine an absolute loyalty to the biblical gospel and an unwavering confidence in the power of the Spirit with a deep and sensitive understanding of the contemporary alternatives to the gospel; who will relate the one to the other with freshness, pungency, authority and relevance; and who will use their minds to reach other minds for Christ.“
“I really believe in apologetics being part of the local church . . . I do it because I’m passionate about seeing local churches effectively reach our neighbors, and friends, and colleagues, and family members with the Gospel.“2
“I frankly don’t even quite understand apologetics apart from evangelism. I know the classic statement is that apologetics is the hand-maiden to evangelism, and I really view it that way. I’m not into apologetics just for academic reasons, or to prove that I’m smart, or know something someone else doesn’t know. In fact, it’s almost the opposite; I view it as a tool to help remove intellectual barriers and bridge intellectual gaps to help people move toward the cross of Christ and ultimately toward faith in Him.” (Speaking about a shift needing to be one towards apologetics in the church culture.)3
What is Apologetics?
Apologetics is the discipline that answers the question of why someone would believe the Christian worldview, rather than one such as atheism, Buddhism, or Islam. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines it as, “reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine.” An application of it might sound like, “understanding what you believe and being able to explain it.” As Mikel Del Rosario put it, “You’ve got reasons for what you believe, and you’re ready to talk to anyone who’s got questions.”4
This word often gives the impression (if one knows what it means) of a couple academic debate professionals, verbally slugging it out in front of an audience. Certainly this has often been the case. This image, in fact, is probably counter productive to the true intentions of the discipline.5
There is a place for academic debate. In fact, that might be what happens here from time to time. Ideas do need to be debated by people well informed in their disciplines. At the same time, apologetics (in a broad sense) really needs to be part of our everyday lives. It is so easy, in our modern, media rich culture, to pick up ideas and slogans without giving them much thought. This is just as true for the religious as for the secular.
Christian apologetics need to be part of every Christian’s life. No good Christian would say that we should study the Bible, but skip prayer…. or attend worship, but never read the Bible. Yet, many modern Christians have taken on an attitude that they don’t really need to know why they believe what they do…. the point is to ‘just believe’.
This is deadly to Christian faith. There is no such thing as faith being ‘wishful thinking’ for the Christian. Even if an individual Christian has a perfect child-like trust in Jesus’ work for their salvation, they still fall short of Jesus command to ‘make disciples’ if they can’t explain their faith to others.
The Bible teaches Christians to practice a form of apologetic:
1 Peter 3:15
” … but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence … “6, 7
The key here though, is the phrase ‘with gentleness and reverence’. Some Christian apologists miss this point. Yes, an academic debate is a certain kind of animal. It is probably a necessary thing, though even there, a Christian apologist should always be kind and respectful. But, apologetics should also be part of every Christian’s daily life. When we talk to people about matters of our faith, we should be well enough informed to ground our faith in history, defend against common misconceptions, and present a reasonable image of what Christianity is really about.
Doing this is critical in our culture today. In interacting with non-believers, I have found a general lack of understanding of (and hostility towards) Christianity. This is due to many factors we will discuss on this site. The point is, though, that many people turn away from Christianity for bad reasons… before they even know what it is about. Apologetics is a discipline of clearing away that clutter so people can at least have clarity over what they are rejecting or accepting. It is case-making.
While we don’t ‘reason anyone into the kingdom’, in reality, we don’t ‘love them into the kingdom’, or ‘pray them into the kingdom’ either. Calling people into the Kingdom is God’s work! But, we are called to be instruments God uses in that process. We must reason with, love, and pray for the people in our lives.
Other pages related to ‘about’:
- http://apologetics315.blogspot.com/2011/01/apologist-interview-alister-mcgrath.html – Monday, January 31, 2011 ↩
- “Apologetics 315 Interviews Lee Strobel” April 18, 2011 ↩
- “Apologetics 315 Interviews Mark Mittelberg” Monday, September 26, 2011 ↩
- Apologist Interview: Mikel Del Rosario - Monday, September 27, 2010 - http://apologetics315.blogspot.com/2010/09/apologist-interview-mikel-del-rosario.html ↩
- see John Stackhouse’s excellent book, “Humble Apologetics” – John G. Stackhouse, Jr., Humble Apologetics: Defending the Faith Today (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2002) ↩
- other versus some use (though I haven’t studied each carefully in context…. just passing them along): 2 Cor 10:5-6, Jude 3, Colossians 4:5-6. ↩
- emphasis added, mine. ↩