It has been a while since I have put down anything in Truth in the Trenches, so I thought a status report was in order, before it is thought this blog has been abandoned. Last September I was in an automobile accident, and it has left me recovering from a TBI, which complicates a life already busy between work, school, and family. These factors, alone, left me little time to write, at least in ways I consider to be worthwhile, Truth in the Trenches is still a part of my long term plans, as an apologist. Nevertheless, part of that plan means the development and change of Truth in the Trenches, which has never been very successful. This does not mean I am giving up, it means I need to realistically evaluate how to use this platform, and how to rebuild it so that the effort that goes into writing has a return on its investment. I also believe I am going to need to seek out volunteers for help with marketing and some of the technical aspects of production. While, precise plans (other than using a podcast format of some type as a central part of the Truth in the Trenches), are still being thought out. Until then, I post as time and mental resources allow, which is, unfortunately, means posting somewhat irregularly.
But, this is a good time to look at where I was when I started in apologetics and where I am now; Truth in the Trenches has undergone some revolutions in my approaches, and it is worthwhile to spell that out.
Where I was
My first foray into apologetics was with an e-mailed monthly newsletter, while I was working on becoming a pastor. It was a response to a documentary that I had realized was both based in poor scholarship, but excellent story telling skills. The documentary was ultimately a flop, but it was the burr under my saddle. I took a hiatus to pastor, and I was run out of the church by a women’s Bible study that was motivated largely by conspiracy theories, which led to my turning a corner; that incident was the start of several years of struggling with the problem of suffering. When the Lord brought me through that valley, I started blogging on apologetics in earnest. Truth in the Trenches may not be a big ministry, but it was the ministry I had, and I came to realize that whatever it’s size or scope, God would judge me on my faithfulness, not whether I was successful in this world (and this trite claim is far easier to swallow in the abstract when it is someone else’s faithfulness and your own preconceived notions of success). I have thought of Truth in the Trenches in those terms ever since. William Carey described himself as God’s plodder, I move forward in the light of the promise, “we will reap if we faint not.”
When I first got into apologetics, my background was in NT studies. In school, I focused on Paul more than the gospels, and my studies were very narrowly focused on exegetical details and refining my exegetical technique, along with New Testament Theology. I had read very few apologists in college, it was not an important discipline in that setting, instead I read NT scholars, but I was always interested in questions involving New Testament introduction, an interest that goes back to my first experience with intellectual doubt about the truth of the faith as a fourteen year old. During this time, I also wanted to test my arguments, so I began to get involved with debates on various facebook groups, and joined several facebook apologetics groups.
Where I am
Debating Atheists, I came to realize that atheists don’t care so much about evidence, the issues come down to their premises. That is, you can type all day about the historicity of Acts, but if someone treats Hume’s argument as a premise, then all of that work is meaningless to convincing that person. This was the dilemma that ultimately led to my pursuit of a PhD in worldview and Apologetics. My first choice was Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and there were two practical reasons for this, first, I live within a few hours of Louisville, which means I can use the library and facilities quite easily, but I also was impressed by Al Mohler and the Southern Resurgence; thankfully my application was successful.
I am still, at my core, an evidentialist, that is, if you are looking for a formal defense of Christianity the evidence of the resurrection is the place I like to start. But, I’ve always been a wide reader, and between that, and a principle I use in theory selection, a bit of a theological eclectic. This applies to my approach to apologetics. If my “academic” answers to questions of the faith are New Testament evidences, there is a need to meet people where they are, and so I try to add an element of “cultural apologetics” into my discussions. Some people consider the classical approach to apologetics to have two steps, first proving that God exists, then proving it is the God of Christianity. But, I think the apologetics of the day need to recognize we live in an increasingly non-rational culture, and many of the objections today are rooted in cultural and political dogmas. We live in a day when the ethical discussions are broken, perhaps beyond repair, if rationality is considered important in ethics. We live in a day of competing worldviews, and this competition includes questions of how to interpret evidence, and what is evidence. Cultural apologetics, in a sense bypasses therefore ethical theory discussions, to point towards the “Word of God written on their hearts,” though recognizing this aspect of our conscience can be burned out with a hot iron. The evidence of the New Testament is good, people come to know Jesus Christ because of that approach, but often after years of study and examination. The point of combining this with cultural apologetics is to provide a reason for atheists to question their premises and actually examine the evidence.
I have two other major concerns with apologetics that I try to incorporate into my approach, the first is the tendency in some areas to change the faith to make it more palatable to unbelievers, this change involves two major doctrinal deviations from orthodox Christian belief, notably in discussions of the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible, and the second is the adoption of a heresy known as Pelegianism, particularly in the denial of the fall and the depravity of mankind; one of the central tenets of progressivism is the belief that human beings are basically good, Christians believe what is natural to man is to do what is morally evil and repugnant to God. Both are issues of worldview and are a move away from Christianity within the church.
My other concern is the tendency to separate our intellectual and spiritual lives into sealed compartments; that is, the apologist must not only view his activity as intellectual, but as spiritual and as a spiritual exercise, within a framework of spiritual warfare. So these are some of the themes I have been and will continue to discuss.