Faith, Hope and Poetry

When I tell people that I teach ‘Imaginative and Literary Apologetics’ I am often met with a non-plussed look.

Some people are simply unfamiliar with the term ‘Apologetics’. They presume it must have something to do with saying sorry for Christianity – when, of course, it actually means giving reasons why Christianity can be considered credible.

And those people who are familiar with the term ‘Apologetics’ often assume it has just one dimension: that it’s all about giving reasons for Christianity’s credibility by showing the rationality of its claims to truth. But ‘Apologetics’ means more than that, – and for good reason. To concentrate solely on the ‘truth claims’ of Christianity runs the risk of turning the faith into a mere system of thought, a set of reasonable propositions to which its adherents intellectually grant assent.

Of course, belief in Christianity does include assent to certain propositions, and those propositions need to be grappled with by our intellects working logically and rigorously. But Christianity is more than a set of propositions. It’s not just something that’s true, it’s also something that’s good and beautiful. There are moral and artistic dimensions to Christian faith as well as philosophical dimensions. If apologists are to show how Christianity is fully credible, it needs to be demonstrated as the answer to ethical needs and aesthetic desires as well as to intellectual enquiries.

These three dimensions – the ethical, the aesthetic, and the intellectual – can’t be treated in hermetically sealed compartments when it comes to Apologetics. Indeed, part of the credibility of the faith resides in the fact there is connection and overlap and interinanimation between these three areas; the Christian life is an organic and integral whole. However, for the sake of clarity we can usefully divide Apologetics into the rational, the moral, and the artistic. Continue reading

Being a (Creative) Christian Writer

lightstock_150776_medium_user_870913What does it mean to be a creative writer? As Christians, how can we use literature and the arts for apologetics – and use them well?

These rather open-ended questions have been embodied for me (and for my students) this fall, as I teach a brand-new course on “Creative Writing and Apologetics” for the online MA in Apologetics program at HBU – a course that’s now part of the regular offerings for our MAA! As I write, we’re half-way through the semester, and I couldn’t be happier with my students and with how the course is going.

Teaching this course began with encouraging my students to think carefully about questions like: What is a writer? What does it mean to be a Christian writer? What kind of adventure are we all going on?

My course is, deliberately, designed as an introductory course – for students who are just dipping their toes into the stream (come on in, the water’s fine!) as well as those who are confident and ready to go deeper, and also for those who don’t think of themselves as ‘creative writers’ at all, but who want to learn how better to appreciate literature and the imagination as a way of sharing the truth.

The question of “what does it mean to be a creative writer?” opens up a wide range of possibilities for the course. Writing is a highly varied art!

One of the things I’ve experienced as a writer, myself, is Continue reading

C.S. Lewis’s Wit

One of my favourite books is Frederick Buechner’s Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale.

The chapter on Comedy is especially good, I think. And especially needed. Both church-life and the world of theological study are far too po-faced.

As my contribution to injecting a little humour into this situation, I thought I would do a quick survey of C.S. Lewis’s shining wit.

Lewis once wrote: ‘The English take their “sense of humour” so seriously that a deficiency in this sense is almost the only deficiency at which they feel shame.’ It must be remembered, of course, that C.S. Lewis was Irish. If he’d had the great good fortune to be born English (as I, I humbly admit, did) he would have realised how grievous a thing it is to be humour-impaired.

To lack a sense of humour is to lack a divine attribute. Lewis himself observed, in a letter he wrote in 1956, that ‘there may be some humour [in the New Testament]’. He gives three possible examples:

Matthew 9:12 – “People who are well . . . don’t need doctors.”

Matthew 17:25 – ‘Jesus said, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their sons . . . or from others’?”’

Mark 10:30 – ‘Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands – ahem, with tribulations, – and in the world to come eternal life.’

If there are other examples of dominical humour, Lewis wonders whether he, as a Westerner, would be able to spot them. He wrote, ‘I’ve been much struck in conversation with a Jewess’ – he means his wife, Joy Davidman – ‘by the extent to which Jews see humour in the [scriptures] where we don’t. Humour varies so much from culture to culture.’

So don’t worry if you don’t find this blog-post funny. Humour varies so much from culture to culture . . .

Continue reading

The Unexpected Defenders

Christianity Today's April Cover Photo

Christianity Today’s April cover photo featuring HBU faculty

Christianity Today’s April issue focuses on women in apologetics, featuring the female faculty at Houston Baptist University. “The Unexpected Defenders: Meet Women Apologists” is a significant story for our time. While many other articles have shown the groundbreaking work of women in areas such as business leadership, law, and medicine, there has been a persistent, albeit fading, idea that the Christian intellectual life is only full of men and for men. Yet, there are many Christian women interested in the life of the mind and in how to take responsibility for understanding the faith they profess. Continue reading

Mark Lanier: Christianity on Trial TOMORROW (Nov 6)

You’ll definitely want to mark your calendars because our good friend Mark Lanier will be giving the A.O. Collins Lecture for this fall. He will address his recently published book Christianity on Trial: A Lawyer Examines the Christian Faith.

This free lecture will take place on November 6 at Belin Chapel here on HBU’s campus (in the Morris Cultural Arts Center).

His lecture will begin at 7:00 pm and there will be snacks and a book signing afterwards.

We hope to see you there!

Continue reading

Paganism Rising

America is known for being a melting pot. We have people from all over the world, from every culture, nation and religious system. We are a haven for the persecuted and a delight for the imaginative, who need only an opportunity in order to do great things. We are a land of opportunity because we believe “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Yet as of late we’ve watched as many of these rights appear to be slipping away. We’ve watched our country go from a respected world influencer to one of extreme debt that is mocked by foreign nations. What has changed? What has caused this cultural shift? While to be sure there are a multitude of influencers, I believe one of the key reason is because we have lost our foundation.

I am an avid lover of archaeology, because it is a snapshot of the past. In the world of archaeology the culture is static and frozen. The people have long since passed. The places and cultural ideas are no longer shifting and changing. They are the perfect subjects of study because they stay put and do not talk back. Yet as I’ve delved deeper into archaeological study I’ve found that it is also of great insight into modern culture. Because the subject of study is static and frozen, one can view the whole picture from beginning to end, as one views a painting or the story line of a book. The plot has already unfolded and one can see how the changes affected the culture at large, and ultimately the end of a particular way of life. In this way archaeology is instrumental in apologetics, because we are able to see the end results of a particular worldview as it has already played out in another culture. Continue reading

MA in Cultural Apologetics Student Blog Shout-Out

In the M.A. in Cultural Apologetics program, we practice what we teach. Our faculty are active in speaking, writing, and ministry in a variety of fields, and we encourage our students likewise to use what they’re learning in class in their daily lives, conversations, teaching, and ministry.

One of the ways that our MAA students practice cultural apologetics is through blogging. Many of our students are already active bloggers; furthermore, several professors assign blog posts as writing assignments, so that our students are exposed to this way of engaging in apologetics ministry in a social-media world.

Here I’d like to take a moment to give a shout-out to some of our students who write blogs – it’s exciting to see the range of topics, from directly apologetics-related to cultural engagement and lots in between:

Leigh McLeroy is an accomplished writer and speaker, whose blog Wednesday Words is “an unapologetic attempt to use the events of daily life to show the beauty and truth of the gospel. In 500 words or so (short enough to be read over a cup of morning coffee!) Wednesday words prods, inspires, teaches and encourages.”

Jon Crutchfield’s blog includes a piece that came from an essay he wrote for Film, the Visual Arts, and Apologetics: “It’s a Meaningless Life: Sentimental Nihilism at the Movies.”

Elizabeth Kendrex is the writer of Leaf’s Reviews: Young Adult Book Reviews: “As a person who wants to be a YA author, I decided that reading and writing about YA books would be good practice for me, which is why I started this blog. I also want this blog to serve as a reference for those looking for books themselves, so I make sure that I include things such as Genre, Warnings, Recommended Age, and my own Rating of the books in my reviews.”

Brooke Boriack says on her blog that “The ability to think well will result in a better ability to live well. Little confidence should be placed in my own abilities, but I trust in Jesus Christ to guide my intellectual development and feed my passion for seeking out the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.” Check out this post on “Punks and Monks: Thoughts on Youth Pastors and 9th Century Monasticism”, which came from a paper she wrote for Medieval Culture and Philosophy!

Karise Gililland writes about the community of practice writing in the classroom at Book of Common Grace.

Nick Watts writes at Soul Food: Serious – and Not So Serious – Nutrition for Your Soul, where he engages with personal, spiritual, and cultural issues.

Zak Schmoll writes A Chapter Per Day, journeying through the Bible, one chapter per day. He also has a section of book reviews, including a review of Apologetics for the 21st Century, one of the required texts for his Apologetics Research and Writing class.

And there are more! We are very proud of our students!

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Interested in joining our merry band of cultural apologists and apologists-in-training? The MAA accepts students in both the Fall and Spring semester (deadlines August 1st and December 1st, respectively).

We have a fully online degree as well as a Houston residential degree, both with the same small classes (15 students), great faculty, and challenging curriculum. Check it out!

 

Mark Lanier: Christianity on Trial (Nov 6)

You’ll definitely want to mark your calendars because our good friend Mark Lanier will be giving the A.O. Collins Lecture for this fall. He will address his recently published book Christianity on Trial: A Lawyer Examines the Christian Faith.

This free lecture will take place on November 6 at Belin Chapel here on HBU’s campus (in the Morris Cultural Arts Center).

His lecture will begin at 7:00 pm and there will be snacks and a book signing afterwards.

We hope to see you there!

Continue reading

The Gospel Project: Valuing Life

GospelProject
Last year, I wrote a session for LifeWay’s The Gospel Project on “The Meaning of Life.”  That session is in the current issue for Winter 2013-2014: “A God-Centered Worldview.”  My contribution is about meaning and purpose in human lives in a world void of God. It reflects on the writings of King Solomon (Ecclesiastes), the apostle Paul, William Lane Craig, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, and others. It also looks at the value that Jesus’ resurrection gives to human life. Along with the study, I wrote some devotionals. LifeWay Christian Resources has made one devotional available online here: Valuing Life
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