As a lay apologist, often times I feel confronted by a lack of authority. What I mean is, I don't have a seminary degree. I have the privilege of learning from some of the brightest men and women in the apologetics community, but to others I'm just a regular guy and that's fine because it serves a greater purpose - that regular men and women can be good Christian case makers.
However, when leading an apologetics group, this can lead to some unique challenges. Participants may ask "what makes this guy so knowledgeable?" or "well, that's just his opinion". So when writing material for a class, I like to prevent what I call "apologetics in a vacuum." I never want to give the impression that what I am sharing is just something I've come up with. But I also want to develop the skill of creating my own material to better improve my grasp of apologetics. So how does one deal with this apparent conundrum?
What I have found helpful is to treat each talk like a jury trial with a list of expert witnesses. For example, I may be speaking on eyewitness reliability. I lay out the case of why the apostles are reliable, but then I show a quick clip of J. Warner Wallace speaking on how to test eyewitnesses to make sure you can trust their testimony. Or If I'm speaking on the KCA, I may show another clip of William Lane Craig explaining the KCA.
In this way, not only do I write my own presentation going over the subject material, but I have the benefit of providing expert witnesses to demonstrate that what I am presenting is a proper argument for the subject at hand. The participants also have the added benefit of learning of other more learned apologists whom they can further their studies with outside of the group.
But it should be noted not to rely too heavily on expert witnesses as the group needs to have the confidence that YOU understand the material you're presenting and can discuss any questions that may arise. In the end, I feel like this method is good for the lay apologist to prevent the belief that you only posses a myopic view of the subject but are instead a student of the apologists you are seeking to emulate.
I must confess something. As a Christian, I was embarrassed by the supernatural. What I mean is I discounted God's intervention in our everyday lives. It was reflected in my prayer life and my thought life. Now I believed God still performed miracles, but I assumed that when I prayed about an issue, that God would give me an answer that was the equivalent of gathering Manna while discounting how the Manna got there in the first place. I thought answers came in making the right decision or what amounted to God's providence. It never really entered my mind to pray earnestly for a Miracle.
Then, I got a copy of Lee Strobel's new book, The Case For Miracles. This is one of Lee's best books to date. This book challenged me in ways I never saw coming. Interviewing people from all belief spectrum's like skeptic Michael Shermer or theologian Craig Keener, Lee craftily takes you on a journey showing that not only are miracles possible, but they are happening all over the world and with more frequency than we every imagined. Lee tells a story about a pastor named Duane Miller. Duane had lost the use of his voice after a bout with the flu. But the flu had left his vocal cords so scarred, he could only speak with a rasp. He resigned his pastorate and then lost his new job due to his inability to testify in open court.
Duane's case was medically hopeless. Even a college of Swiss Doctor's saw no hope of recovery. One day, Duane's Sunday School class asked him to preach to them - even with his raspy voice. They always recorded their Sunday School lessons and this day was no different. After reading from the Psalms, Duane suddenly regained his voice! You can hear the sounds of joy and the weeping of Duane's wife as he struggled to grasp what had happened. I remember hearing this 20 years ago and this story still moved me. But Duane's miraculous story is but one of many Lee relates. Lee also speaks about what happens when miracles do not occur. The book does not shy away from objections to the miraculous and the supernatural, but takes them head on to see if they have merit.
This book is challenging to the modern, American Christian and will renew your awe and wonder of the awesome and mighty God we serve.
This book is a must read.
When I was a kid, I was a big fan of the Osmonds (yes, cool points subtracted). I watched the Donny and Marie show every Friday night. This was where I first heard about Mormons. Later, I saw commercials for the LDS church offering the Book of Mormon as a free gift. It was advertised as another testament of Jesus Christ.
Now, I was still a bit confused since I'd never heard before that Jesus visited the Americas after His resurrection which was one of the beliefs of the LDS church that was presented. It wasn't until a few years later I became familiar with the LDS church and knew Mormons personally. You've probably seen a few Mormon missionaries from time to time in your neighborhood and maybe even had a few knock on your door. We all wonder what to say to them as they claim to be Christians just like us, but have a very different set of beliefs. A new book by general editors Eric Johnson and Sean McDowell gives some strategies for sharing the Gospel with Mormons you may know or encounter.
Sharing the Good News with Mormons is a book featuring many different Christian speakers and pastors, from Matt Slick to Mark Mittelberg, who offer different strategies for sharing the Gospel with your Mormon neighbor, co-worker, or the missionary at your door. The approach the authors take is both relational as well as tactical. It is designed to help you not just share information, but to do so in a relational way so as to be winsome and persuasive to members of the LDS church. For example, did you know that Mormons do not like their church to be referred to as the "Mormon Church"? They prefer being called the LDS church or the longer Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. These tidbits of knowledge can help you navigate Mormon culture so as to not step on any landmines before you even get started.
With 22 chapters that are divided up into 6 sections, the book makes it easy for the reader to study those methods that appeal to him/her. There is even an appendix with definition of Mormon terms.
One chapter that speaks to my preferred tactic is by Cold Case Homicide Detective and apologist J. Warner Wallace.
Investigating Mormonism: The Case Making Approach
As a detective, Jim Wallace used his skills to investigate cold case homicides - cases where the original eyewitnesses were long deceased and there were no pieces of direct evidence. All he had to go by were the original case notes. As an atheist, Jim decided to apply this methodology to the New Testament. As his step siblings were all LDS members, he also investigated Mormonism and found it lacking evidentially, though he found that orthodox Christianity was both rich in evidence for its' claims and rational in its' descriptions. "What does the evidence suggest about Mormonism?"
Jim points out that criminal investigations focus on five key aspects of criminal activity:
Is there any evidence that Joseph Smith defrauded the public? Here are just a few pieces:
Taken with the other pieces of evidence, you are presented with a cumulative case against Mormonism. It is this same approach that presented Jim with the case for Christianity.
There are many other methodologies in the book which is what makes it such a great resource as we are able to use our gifts well by plugging into one or several methods that fit us.
This is fantastic book that I highly recommend and that I hope you will pick up to begin learning to share the Gospel with those of the LDS church with grace, knowledge, and wisdom.