Thanks to all of my readers and friends who prayed for my class at Wheaton last week. I had twelve students for a five-day intensive graduate class in apologetics at Wheaton. This is my fourth year teaching this class. (I have taught several others; e.g. revival, spiritual formation, etc.) Each class has been a bit larger and thus it becomes a real challenge to me since I seek to use a method that involves all the class in open discussion and requires the students to present and defend their own views as we go along ("The Socratic Method").
This class included a pastor from Tanzania, a missionary to France, several InterVarsity staff, several pastors, several people in the world of business or commerce and one senior undergraduate student. It was a most unusual mixture of people and the Lord blessed us as we learned together. I use four text books and one supplemental guide plus numerous hand outs of readings from things I have collected over the years. Each day we looked at various subjects that touched upon the readings and the wider range of apologetics as it relates to evangelism in a postmodern context. The four books I used are:
1. Christian Apologetics in a World Community (Wipf & Stock, 1983), William Dyrness. This older book provides a general overview and seeks to meet challenges presented to the Christian faith by naturalism, Eastern religions, Marxism and the social sciences. It particularly addresses the question of evil, which plagues all true apologetical classes and books.
2. Reasons of the Heart (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1996), William Edgar. This little volume is one of my favorite overviews. It builds on the thought of Pascal. I recommend it for churches and sundry groups that desire a "basic" class and primer on this subject. Edgar has one of the best sections on evil that I know. He concludes, "We really cannot know why God allowed evil to enter his universe" (p. 103).
3. Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture (Eerdmans, 1986), Lesslie Newbigin. The core of my teaching is rooted in the thought of Lesslie Newbigin. No single 20th century writer has more influenced my thought and approach to authority, mission, evangelism and the church than the late Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998). You simply cannot read too much of his work.
4. Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship (Eerdmans, 1995), Lesslie Newbigin. This small book summarizes my own views of epistemology and certainty better than anything I have read. And it is very accessible to general readers. I highly recommend it to you if you are interested in holding a solid Christian worldview and learning how to understand faith and doubt properly.
Some of the questions we considered included:
1. What are the questions that the postmodern person asks that were not asked 25 years ago?
2. What specific influence does Hinduism have upon the "new-age" movement in the West?
3. How can we speak about apologetics in a way that makes it accessible to ordinary people?
4. How do we approach the issue of evil with unbelievers?
5. Does conservative and fundamentalist Christianity actually pose a major problem for serious apologetics in today's world and if so how do we deal with this problem?
6. Do Marxism and radical Islam have anything in common and if so how do we address these problems?
7. How do we respond to the "So What?" responses of many postmodern hearers?
8. Does our commitment to seeking justice and mercy in society act as a form of apologetics and if so how can we do this better?
9. How do we change every sphere of society?
10. In what ways is the Christian faith "public truth" as Newbigin cogently argues?
11. Is the community of Christ our greatest apologetic and if so what does unity and John 17 have to do with this in actual practice?
These and scores of other related questions were discussed throughout the week. It made for a stimulating and intensive time. I was given twelve of the best students I have ever had in any class and the though I am tired, and needed more rest this weekend than usual, I am refreshed by the experience.
Again thanks for your prayers and your support which allows me to teach a class like this one. The pay for teaching as an adjunct is so small that no one could do this for a living. Your investments in ACT 3 make it possible for me to train and shape leaders for the wider church community. For these prayers and gifts I am deeply grateful.