What is apologetics and how do we do it well?
Apologetics refers to the defence, commendation and translation of the Christian message to non-believers and sceptics so that they may be persuaded of its truthfulness and relevance for themselves and the rest of the world. It takes on many forms, some of which require extensive theological and philosophical training, but at its basic level it is any interaction between Christians and non-Christians in which the validity of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is demonstrated through logical argument, critical thinking and existential relevance. Apologetics is also closely associated with evangelism. Indeed, some would argue that you cannot and should not have one without the other. They argue that for effective evangelism to occur it is usually necessary for it to be preceded by effective apologetics. Once apologetics has removed any ‘intellectual’ roadblocks it is usually much easier for people to see Jesus for who he really is. This is not to say that all intellectual difficulties associated with Christianity must be dealt with before a person decides to become a Christian; nor does it suggest that a sceptic can be argued into the being a Christian. Rather, apologetics provides the foundation upon which people build their faith. Martin Luther once used the analogy that if faith was like getting into a boat to sail to a distant island than apologetics was the process by which you were convinced that there really was an island; that the boat was seaworthy; and the trip was worth taking.
Aim. The purpose of this topic is to briefly introduce the scope and practice of Christian apologetics. It will help us identify key challenges and avenues for apologetics in our lives and cultures, stressing the often forgotten tact of gentleness and respect. As an old Indian proverb says: “There is no point giving a man a rose to smell after you’ve cut off his nose.”
Many times, it is not the lack of evidence that causes people to disbelieve in God, but rather it’s what they do with the evidence when they receive it that makes all the difference. For example, many atheists claim that they don’t need to provide evidence for their atheism; that it’s up to the theist to prove that God exists. “Our belief is not a belief,” says the late Christopher Hitchens, arguing that their belief system is characterised by ‘the absence of belief’ rather than the belief in the non-existence of God. Sound confusing? It’s because most people fail to realise that having faith in someone or something, whether that be in God or a set of principles, is the common denominator found in all worldviews (i.e. the lenses with which we see the world, shaped by our unique cultural and religious upbringing, our family, friends and socio-economic status). Everyone has a worldview. Everybody has the responsibility of providing evidence for their belief system, even if they claim it’s not a belief.
Aim. The purpose of this module is to help the aspiring apologist to (a) recognise the various worldviews in contemporary society, and (b) appreciate that in many instances a person may exhibit a number of worldviews to which they are largely unaware of. By the end of this module, the apologist should be confident in engaging respectfully with others who hold alternative worldviews, being able to skilfully identify and point out inconsistencies or flaws in their position.
Science and faith are generally perceived to be incompatible with each other with many New Atheists claiming that science is rational and faith is ‘believing in what you know ain’t so’. The introduction to this module will challenge this long-held paradigm by explaining the nature of science, faith and evidence; highlighting that faith is practiced by everyone who makes inferences on the world around them, not just those who believe in God. It will also take a brief look at the history and philosophy of science; showing that great Christian Scientists were responsible for its initial success. After this general overview, we will spend quite some time looking at several key topics in this debate, including: (i) the Big Bang Theory, (ii) Fine-tuning and the Multiverse Theory, (iii) Evolution and the Origins of Life, (iv) Miracles, and (v) Evolutionary Psychology and the rise of consciousness.
The field of Philosophy is perhaps one of the oldest and most fundamental of all disciplines. At its most basic level philosophy is the art of ‘thinking about thinking.’ It tries to explain both the external observations we see ‘out there’ and the internal observations we see ‘in here.’ Philosophy is not restricted to what we can prove scientifically, but works on laws of logic like: (i) the law of non-contradiction, (ii) the law of identity, and (iii) the law of the excluded middle. For this reason many Philosophers claim to answer many of the questions science cannot. These questions are usually concerned with pain, suffering, morality, aesthetics, meaning and purpose. This module will look at each of these philosophical topics to determined what conclusions can be drawn (if any) and which worldview fits most comfortably with these conclusions.
The historical nature of Christianity is perhaps one of its greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses. On the one hand, there is no other religion in the world that can boast that its beliefs are so well grounded in historical reliability and archaeological evidence. On the other hand, critics have been quick to point out the human origin of the bible, and the various inconsistencies, proves that this is not a divine text written by God.
Aim. This module will explore the fundamental Christian belief that the bible is the revealed word of God, yet at the same time, written by imperfect human beings prone to error. It will begin by looking at the bible as a collection of books, written by a variety of authors, in numerous genres over thousands of years. We will ask what it takes to read the bible well and how we, as apologists, can communicate God’s overriding story from Genesis to Revelation.
History & Biblical credibility
Are all religions fundamentally similar and superficially different? Or are they fundamentally different and superficially similar? This module will take a detailed look at the World's five major religions - Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism - to see how and where the points of similarity and divergence lie.