In this episode Kurt speaks to Braxton Hunter on integrating evangelism in our apologetics.
Kurt: Good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. So nice to be with you here. This is episode 105. Last week, we had our two-year birthday. It was our second birthday for Veracity Hill. Very excited and blessed to be coming to you week after week. We couldn’t do this without the support of listeners and viewers like yourself. If you would consider becoming one of our patrons, those are folks that just chip in a few bucks each month, please go to our website, veracityhill.com, and click on that patron tab and donate and help to keep this program going and growing at the same time. Going and growing. Chris. I should come up with that catchphrase if no one else has yet.
Speaking of Chris, I didn’t give you a ribbing last week. I had forgotten. Two weeks ago you filled in and you sort of blanked on the tagline.
Chris: I did, a little bit.
Kurt: No matter how many episodes you’ve sat there in that seat and you’ve heard me say it over and over…
Chris: Unclear at 1:49) on the intro too, so that’s twice I hear it.
Kurt: The female voiceover.
Chris: And practically every time you’ve called me on the phone I say, “Hello” and you say, “Hello, this is Kurt, and I’m striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.”
Kurt: There you said it. Not a problem.
Chris: Now I’ve got it.
Kurt: You were like deer in the headlights, the camera’s on you and what was our tagline?
Chris: 2/3 striving for truth is okay.
Kurt: Yeah. You got the two of the three.
Chris: 60% striving for truth. New tagline for Veracity Hill.
Kurt: I forgot to give you a ribbing on that, but that’s okay. It’s a different thing sitting on this side, but again thank you for filling in a couple weeks ago. On last week’s program, we talked about immigration and how a Christian should be thinking about that topic. I didn’t have much to offer you, no specific XYZ is the solution to that but I gave you some thoughts to consider on how both sides could get better on talking to each other and engaging with each other. I also mentioned on last week’s program more about our upcoming conference. Just briefly, I want to talk about that. September 28-29, the Defenders Conference. This year’s theme is on divine genocide and Chris, if you’re able to switch over to the picture there of our speakers. You can see here some of the folks that we’re bringing in to speak on this topic. We have John Walton from Wheaton College. Clay Jones from BIOLA University, my former professor. Paul Copan, Palm Beach Atlantic University, and Kenton Sparks at Eastern University, and all these fellows have written on this topic. Kenton, maybe not precisely, but in general, and he certainly has talked about his view online so what makes this really interesting and I hope that some folks will like this idea is that we’re bringing in four different perspectives on the same topic. Each of these presenters is going to have thirty minutes to present their case for interpreting the supposed genocide commands and then I’ll interview them for about 10-15 minutes and then at the end of the event, we’re going to have a round table or panel discussion and fists will fly, heads will get red, and no. Maybe, hopefully not. Certainly there will be some sparks in the air with these gentlemen competing and arguing for why their interpretation is preferred. Maybe someone will throw around the h word, heretic. Who knows? You’ll have to come and see. Come join us. If you don’t have any plans in the late autumn, sometimes, the fall can be pretty if you catch the two weeks that is autumn in Chicagoland, maybe late September will be that this year, but we would love to have you join us in the flesh at the Christian Church of Clarendon Hills in the western suburbs of Chicago, September 28-29, and we’ve got our best prices until August 1st. You’ve got a couple weeks here to book your ticket. It’s going to be a really exciting time.
Today’s topic, we are talking about evangelistic apologetics and for those of you who have been following us, a few months ago now, we had an event in Connecticut where the theme of that event was apologetics in evangelism and this is evangelistic apologetics and so our guest today is Braxton Hunter. He is the president of Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary, and he’s a friend of mine. Braxton. How are you doing today?
Braxton: Doing great, Kurt. I’m so glad to be on this show. I have such respect for what you guys do. Thank you so much for having me on.
Kurt: Awesome. I’m glad this is the first time you are on our program and we’ve had some of your colleagues, Johnathan Pritchett or his nickname, Pritchett Prime, he’s been on the program. We’re glad that we could have you on.
Braxton: I felt like I should come on as a favor to you since you had to be traumatized by Pritchett Prime.
Kurt: It wasn’t too bad. He was wearing his hat which is kind of usual and so I think for that episode I put a hat on too. I’ve got mine here on my desk. It won’t fit over my headphones. Jonathan’s great. We had a lot of fun talking about unemployed shepherds, that was that show which was interesting. Tell me, how long have you been at the head of Trinity?
Braxton: I was a professor here of apologetics since 2012, 2013, and I’ve been in this position as president, but I still teach some, since the end of 2015, so it’s been a little bit of time for me to kind of settle into this role. One of the things that I wanted to make sure was a part of what I do is I still wanted to teach apologetics and evangelism for our school. I didn’t want to just become an administrator. I wanted to make sure I was able to….
Kurt: Be with the students.
Braxton: Yeah. That’s really what I love about this. There’s a lot of people who, they think of their job as a real drag. They hate to go to work everyday. Frankly, I can’t wait to get to work. This is the most fun I’ve ever had in my life, the position that I have right now.
Kurt: That’s great. It doesn’t feel like you’re laboring. You’re having fun. What a blessing. Some of us on the other hand…just kidding. I have a similar mentality where it is a blessing to come in and take a lot of joy and get fulfillment out of the work here that the Lord has us in. Let’s talk about this idea of evangelistic apologetics which is the title of your book that came out a few years ago. What do you mean when you say evangelistic apologetics and why is that important to you?
Braxton: Well, quite simply, it’s the inclusion of evangelism in apologetics which frankly now is not as odd an idea as it might have seemed at one time. I grew up as the son of a megachurch pastor in Jacksonville, Florida, till I was 10 years old and my father went into a full-time itinerant, evangelistic ministry, and I don’t have one of these really neat testimonies like some of our friends do who were apologetics where they really had a time of intense doubt and skepticism, but what I do have is a friend who had the same upbringing that I had. We were going to high school in Lebanon, Tennessee, which has got to be one of the most conservative places in the world because everything Lifeway prints and everything Cracker Barrel produces in[NP1] Lebanon, Tennessee, so that probably says it all right there, and we went to a Christian school so we had a very similar upbringing, but he began to experience same-sex attraction and this led for him to a degradation in his faith. He felt that he couldn’t square his same-sex lifestyle, if he were to live that, with biblical Christianity, and so as a result he had to choose between the two and he chose to give up the biblical Christianity. Over a few years, he became somewhat of an entrenched atheist, so he became very antagonistic toward my faith.
This is the way I say it. It rattled me. His comments, his arguments would rattle me, not in the sense that I wasn’t sure I believed anymore, but rattled me in the sense that I wanted to give an answer that I didn’t know I had. I wanted to be able to say something that I didn’t know how to say. At that time, I was pastoring a church, I’d been a youth pastor, I started to go into full-time evangelistic ministry like my father had, and about that time as a loud-mouthed southern[NP2] evangelist, I realized that there were a lot of people like my friend for whom just simple proclamation evangelism…
Kurt: Pushed him further way.
Braxton: Yeah. What I did was, I picked up a book like The Case for Christ. I picked up some of those sorts of things and began to read it and I found that it was really helpful in my evangelism, and this was long before I was aware that there were people out there that thought that including in apologetics in your evangelistic ministries was anathema. I didn’t know about how soteriological positions might affect your evangelism and apologetics. I just knew when I gave people reasons to believe, they were more likely to believe and so that had me looking for a way to include it practically, and I know I’m kind of droning on, so I’ll just say this. Since I became a geek for apologetics, and maybe this is true for you as well, it used to be that there wasn’t a whole lot out there for including apologetics in your personal evangelism strategies or your preaching. We’ve been experiencing this golden age of apologetics in terms of resources on offer, but people that were Star Wars geeks or Lord of the Rings geeks, became apologetics geeks, and it was for personal enjoyment or stimulation and maybe there was some affirmation of their own faith. They weren’t doing anything with it and I wanted to do something with it. That led to my desire to see is there a way and what are the reasons why it’s not happening, but is there a way for church leaders and lay church members for lack of a less condescending term to take these things on board and start using them?
Kurt: Yeah. I think we have had similar upbringings. My father was not a megachurch pastor, but in the sense that I never had this crazy conversion experience like some others had had. I did ask those deep questions of what’s the meaning of life? How do I know what is true? Those sorts of questions when I was in high school, but I never really left the faith myself, but yeah, sounds like we’ve had a similar upbringing there, and certainly, you’re right. There are just a plethora of resources available. I mean, thank God for the internet, that has been able to help people out. Of course, the internet has been used for the other side which has maybe been beneficial for them as well. Atheism and deep skepticism. That hasn’t been good, but that’s why it’s good for us to be out there on the battle lines, the figurative battle lines.
Braxton: I think one of the things that’s great about the internet is it does provide an opportunity for evangelistic apologetics, but it also has allowed to surface evidence that evangelistic apologetics works. We can now hear what scholars across the board have to say and what apologists are doing without having to go search a library or get some journal article or something. I’ve been pleased to see that people from various doctrinal positions have found that what I’m calling evangelistic apologetics, works. John Frame, for example, says there’s a lot of argument among apologetes as to how to do apologetics. I think, he says, that when you’re witnessing, apologetics is part of evangelism. Apologetics is part of our witness. He says the easiest thing to do is simply tell them what the Bible says, but you know it can become more complicated than that. William Lane Craig has a lot to say about this. Matt Slick, believe it or not, some people might think that I would not be sympathetic to some of what he says. We have different soteriological backgrounds, but this brother says nevertheless, apologetics and evangelism are related, when needed, apologetics is a means by which the way is both prepared and protected so that the message of the gospel can properly be presented. Apologetics is like the soldier who battles to protect the messenger who has the gospel to deliver. That even sounds like good preaching. It’s got a rhythm to it. He’s like a soldier who battles to protect the messenger who’s got the gospel. I think that whether it’s William Lane Craig, Matt Slick, John Frame, myself, across doctoral positions, the people that have tried to do evangelistic apologetics have found it to be helpful.
Kurt: We can see how those apologists out there, and not everyone’s called to be an apologist, at least in a public ministry sense, but do you think that there is a biblical case to be made here for the integration of evangelism and apologetics? Of course, I think I know what you’re going to say and I think I’m going to agree with you, but I still want to hear it.
Braxton: I spoke at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary last year on this very topic. I told them I was the first speaker. That’s how you know you’re low on the totem pole, when you’re the first speaker.
Kurt: You’re the opener. I don’t know what that says about whoever your first speaker is going to be at your conference, but the thing is, what I told them was, “You’re going to hear people talk about 1 Peter 3:15, 5,000 times at this conference. Just go ahead and start counting. Count the tally. We’re not secularists here, but the skeptical community watching could make a drinking game out of it.” But for us, that’s great, I like to focus on the second most thought of passage for this which is Acts 17 and in Acts 17, the thing that I think is so great about this is that you do see Paul doing something there that frankly to me looks like either a classical apologetics approach for those that re familiar with the various approaches to Christian apologetics, usually broadly divided into classical, evidential, cumulative case, presuppositional, and reformed epistemology, the great book on that is the Zondervan counterpoints book I think does a great job for that. They’re called by different names by different authors, but that’s become kind of the standard way of talking about it. I think we see Paul using either a classical apologetic approach there, showing first there’s one creator God, and then that God raised Jesus from the dead, because he does both of those things in the passage, or perhaps a cumulative case approach where he’s pointing to pieces of data that they agree with him about, and then reasoning, doing inference to the best explanation, that the best explanation for these facts is the God of Christianity. I’m not saying that Paul was aware for some kind of revelation that there’d be a Zondervan counterpoints book on this and he picked his favorite, but he does very much so. He begins by talking about the altar to the unknown god. In fact, he begins by saying I see that you’re very religious. There’s some debate among scholars about whether that should be translated very religious or superstitious. I think that the tone he was trying to strike was more along the lines of religious, because the same as it is today. If I say, “Kurt. If I hear about you. You’re a very religious guy.” You might not know if I’m saying something complimentary or not. It’s kind of neutral. Maybe I’m saying that you’re interested in theology or maybe I’m saying you’re more interested in religion than a relationship. I hate that kind of talk.
Kurt: I agree.
Braxton: If I say you’re very superstitious, that’s kind of insulting. I frankly think that from what we see him doing here, he’s trying to be hospitable where he can. I think that’s good advice for apologists. So without being too long-winded, he points to the altar to the unknown god. We know that there are some altars that we’ve discovered that we think, Ben Witherington points out the temple of Pergamum. We found what we think might have said an altar to an unknown god or unknown gods plural. It could be said like preachers say that they’re trying to cover their bases so they just add that in there or it could be that an altar got knocked down at some point because of weather or an accident and they don’t know which god that was so altar to an unknown god. Whatever the case may be, he’s pointing to something in their context that they’ve done and saying I’m here to tell you what’s the best explanation for that.
Kurt: There’s a third possibility as well in terms of methodology I think. It could be what I’m coining a soft presuppositionalism, that there is this other god that you believe in, and there’s the creator God, and we all recognize this and so I’m going to tell you more about Him. Of course, I’m having a very broad paraphrase there, but certainly not the dogmatic hard presuppositionalism.
Braxton: Right, and frankly, when I teach a class on Christian apologetics here where we go through methodology, I don’t think you have to throw presuppositionalism under the bus, but I don’t think you have to throw classical apologetics or other evidential sort of apologetics under the bus either. I think you can take what is beneficial out of each of these. My presuppositionalist friends who are willing to talk about rational argumentation, evidences that are not thought of, typically in the presuppositional category, I respect them for that. What I would really have a problem with is, and I agree with my colleague Jonathan Pritchett. Sometimes the things I don’t like about presuppositionalism is not presuppostionalism. It’s some presuppositionalist apologists themselves. I think that if someone asked you a question and you’ve got your approach and you’re trying to give a reason why somebody’s really knows deep down there’s a god or whatever and someone asks you a question, and we see this often with certain characters, I won’t name them. I don’t mind naming them…they’ll say something like what about the atrocities of the Old Testament and you’ll have a particular presuppositionalist say, “I’m not going to talk to you about that, but after you’re a Christian and after you’ll admit what you already know is true then I’ll have a Bible study with you about the atrocities of the Old Testament.” Come on, man. If you know the answer, give an answer, but yeah. There could be room for something like that. Maybe Paul did have a knowledge of the Zondervan counterpoints book through revelation and he’s trying to cover all the different approaches perhaps, but I certainly think we see what is hospitable to a classical approach and a cumulative case approach, because the next thing he does is he goes to talk about how this girl is not far from you. You can reach out and grope for Him and find Him. This is very reminiscent of Romans 1:20. He talks about their pagan poetry that says we’re all His children. I don’t think Paul is trying to preach some sort of universalism here, that they’re children in the regeneration sense, but His children in the sense that He is the source of our existence. Right? If that’s true, then what makes more sense? This is kind of where the inference to the best explanation comes in. What makes more sense of that? That the stone and metal idols are like Him, or that He’s like us, a person, obviously far greater than us, but more like us, a person, not an idol that you carve. That’s kind of a cumulative case kind of thing if I was trying to tag it, but then he goes right into the resurrection and argues, and here’s the important piece, he argues on the basis of the resurrection that because of this, they should repent. That is where it’s, and Ben Witherington agrees with this. He says on the one hand he’s doing evangelism, and on the other he’s doing apologetics. He’s doing evangelistic apologetic Witherington seems to agree.
Kurt: That’s great, because it’s not just, “Why don’t you believe what I believe?” It’s, “Hey. Why don’t you believe what I believe and turn away from your improper actions?” There’s that call to really accept the gospel message, not just say believe in proposition XYZ. I want to move here, here’s one possible objection. It comes from, and certainly some presuppositionalists have employed this passage against other methodologies. It comes from 1 Corinthians 2 and I want to read just the first five verses here.
And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
Boy. Paul really seems to be putting down here persuasive and eloquent speech and instead appears to be supporting something else, weakness, so what are we to think about that if he’s suggesting that maybe we shouldn’t be arguing with human wisdom?
Braxton: I guess it means that I’ve been wrong this whole time and this was a failed show. Right? Really, we’ve got to figure out what’s going on here, so the argument goes like this. Paul saw that he reached great failure in Acts 17 at the Areopagus because as the chapter ends, what happens is it goes off the rails. Paul doesn’t go off the rails, but his audience goes off the rails. When he mentions the resurrection, some sneered at him, some said we’ll hear you later on this, and some scholars think those who said “We’ll hear you later on this”, weren’t actually interested in hearing him later, but they were just trying to kind of in a nicer way shut him down, so we’ll allow for that, and the third category of persons there is some believed. Let’s just say, to be as conservative as we can, that the middle category didn’t really want to hear him later. You have two options later. The group that says we don’t want to hear this and the group that believed, so you’ve got two kinds of persons, and clearly, it seems like the Scripture’s telling us that the people that believed were not the majority of the people there. Is it a failure? I’ll say what preachers have been saying about this for decades first of all. For those who believed that day, I doubt it felt like a failure to them. They owed their everlasting life to having heard this message, so I don’t think it felt like a failure to them, but the argument goes that it was overwhelmingly a failure and perhaps not as successful as it could have been in terms of the establishment and spread of the church and so Paul saw that all this highfalutin philosophy and this apologetics stuff needs to be trashed and we just need to go back to a simple proclamation evangelism and that he’s so messed up about this, that’s what he’s referencing in the passage you just read, because he says I’m freaked out, I’m coming in weakness and fear and all this kind of stuff. I’m not doing any more of this. I’m just going to preach Christ and Him crucified. Okay. That’s one theory. The question is does that theory match the biblical data? I don’t think it matches the biblical data, partly because in Acts 18, the very next chapter, just a few verses later, we see what happens when he goes to Corinth and it says in verse 1, “After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth”, now this is after his huge colossal failure at the Areopagus, and it says in verse 2, “and he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife, Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them because by trade they were tentmakers.” Verse 4 is where it’s really important. “And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.” I frankly think that if we’re talking about Paul using rational argumentation to persuade Jews and Greeks to believe something that they didn’t believe, that sure looks a lot like what we mean today when we talk about apologetics, so if there was this gap in his apologetics strategy where he was so shell-shocked because of his failure in the Areopagus, I don’t see where it is. Furthermore, in verse 9, let’s see, it says, “And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you’. ” The Lord knows that Paul’s afraid. This is in Acts 18. What’s he afraid of? It says, “The Lord tells him, ‘No man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.’ ” We know in Acts 18 in the period of time that Paul is referencing in 1 Corinthians 2, he was afraid. He was freaked out. Not because he felt like he had a failure in the Areopagus, but because people were plotting to kill him, so that takes care of that, but then finally, and I know I said that I was once a loudmouth red-faced evangelist. One thing is we tend to drag on and be long-winded, but lastly I would say is it the case that he’s merely come giving up all his philosophical talk, just to preach Christ and Him crucified?
Did he really come just to preach Christ and Him crucified? Are we not to believe that Paul did not mention the resurrection? Did he just preach Christ and Him crucified? He probably also mentioned the resurrection as he goes out of his way to argue in 1 Corinthians 15, providing evidence and argument and eyewitness testimony. All those things.
Kurt: So clearly, Paul is, he’s doing something differently here than just a straight wooden reading of 1 Corinthians 2. Perhaps when he talks about human wisdom he’s talking about Greek philosophy or knowledge that comes from God’s general revelation, but is restricted by that and how there are some Greek philosophers that put forth their theories, but they’re insufficient. Maybe that’s what Paul’s talking about.
Braxton: I think you’re right on the money because in 1 Corinthians 1, the preceding chapter, he mentions in verse 22, “For indeed, Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom.” I think what he’s doing is he’s denigrating these showy speeches where it’s all about evidence and pride. I agree with David Garland who said, “We should not jump to the conclusion that Paul denigrates the human faculty of reason or thinks that faith and reason are irreconcilable. Paul instead restricts certain traditions of reason, Jewish and Greek, with the focus on wrong attitudes and behaviors in relation to the pursuit of wisdom,” So it’s these big speeches where I’m trying to impress you with my ability to use these words and these philosophical ideas. I think that’s what he’s denigrating. I think when you take into consideration the things we talked about, I don’t see it and in fact, let’s just grant Paul is just trying to have a straightforward discussion with these people, just presenting the Gospel, just simple proclamation, no apologetics. Wouldn’t he have to answer questions and answer objections even with the most hospitable crowd and wouldn’t lead that to what looks to us like apologetics? That’s what I think about that.
Kurt: Bingo. Braxton. We have to take a short break here. Before we go to break, we have one of our friends, Leighton Flowers has tuned in today’s episode. If I want to get Leighton watching my program more, I got to have you more watching more often. He says here, “Two of my favorite smart bald men.” He also forgot to add bearded, bearded bald men. Leighton. Thanks so much for tuning in today. Let’s take a short break here and when we come back we’ve got some more questions about Evangelistic Apologetics, your book that came out a few years ago, and your purpose behind it and your thoughts about how we can get others involved in this endeavor as well. So stick with us through this short break from our sponsors.
Kurt: Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. If you’d like to learn how you or your organization or business can become a sponsor, go to our website, veracityhill.com. We’d love to partner with those sponsors. We’ve got a number of them which I’ll go over at the end of the episode. One of the things we’re trying to do as we grow and enhance our program, and this will give more duties to Chris, our tech producer. We would love to air video commercial ads during our break. We started this podcast as just a straight up audio right out of my house. Remember those days, Chris?
Kurt: It was a lot of fun. My family left and went to Grandma’s house.
Chris: They’d leave the house and it was me and one other gentleman and you crammed into your upstairs study, huddled around a tiny soundboard which we have here, the Veracity Hill museum, the Behringer.
Kurt: Maybe in like fifty years if this program keeps going, we’ll make a museum.
Chris: They strive for truth 66% of the time.
Kurt: We started as a small audio, then we transitioned. We got the office.
Chris: Right. Still audio only.
Kurt: Then we went to the Mevo camera. Remember?
Chris: Which we still use…
Kurt: For events. Great. Very portable, but it was limited in what it could do for us. Then we started doing the video stuff, livestreaming Facebook. We’ve just slowly been evolving into a good vodcast and so maybe video commercial ads, that’s one of the next, it’s on the to-do list guys. We can’t do it without your help though. Please consider becoming one of our patrons. Tony writes in here, my electrician. He says, “Don’t forget to give a shoutout to the electrician listening in.” Tony. Thank you for listening and I hope that today’s episode, maybe you’re learning a few things there. I’d love to get your thoughts. If you’ve got questions, I am listening and I am reading, and if you want to get in touch with me there are a few ways you can do that. Email Kurt@VeracityHill.com or you could join our texting plan. Just text the word VERACITY to the number 555-888. Text me your guest suggestions, your show suggestions, or if you’ve got a question, please do. What do you know Braxton? We’ve got Prime listening in today. Jonathan Pritchett and Leighton. Wow. What a great honor. Man.
Braxton: I paid Prime to do things like that.
Braxton: And Leighton is also a professor for our school at Trinitysim.edu and so he has to as well, it’s required.
Kurt: Before we go to Rapid Questions which I know you know about, tell me more about the work you’re doing at Trinity.
Braxton: Well, Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary has existed since 1969 and it was begun with the plan of allowing people who can’t leave their ministry field to still get a quality theological education from wherever they are because that’s a lot of pastors, missionaries, people like that. That used to be done through the postal service, but Trinity actually was at the forefront of internet theological education in the early 90’s. We’ve been at this game as long as anybody has and I think we do it as good as anyone out there and if Pritchett was here he’d say we’re the best seminary in the world. I’ll just say we do it as good as anybody else. That’ll be as far as I go. We want to become the seminary, the school, for a lot of different kinds of people, but I want us to be the school for theology and apologetics geeks who want to learn from their favorite, their favorite folks out there. That’s why we’ve got Leighton. That’s why we’ve got Steve Gregg. We’ve got a lot of people like that. We want that to increase because we do see apologetics and evangelism in reaching people through social media, through debates, through conferences, as as important and as especially today in the 21st century as tent meetings and church evangelistic ministries used to be and still are in parts of America and around the world.
Kurt: Nice. And for those that are interested, they can go to, you’ve got a few websites out there, Trinitysim.edu and you personally, if anyone wants to learn about the work you’re doing, you can go to braxtonhunter.com. Lots of resources at that site. Videos, your podcast, your articles. A lot of content there. We’ll be sure to put those links on this week’s website post with the embedded feed of today’s program to make it easy for our listeners.
Braxton: We’re old-fashioned. We use a Youtube channel too. YouTube.com/BraxtonHunter. I’d really appreciate you all subscribing and you can see how vain I am. Braxton Hunter this. Braxton Hunter that.
Kurt: It just makes it easy to remember. In the marketing world, running a media marketing company, that’s good branding right there. I, unfortunately, can’t surprise you about Rapid Questions because I know you’ve listened to at least a couple of our episdoes. You know what’s coming here. Maybe you even know some of the questions, but we’ll see how many you can do in a minute’s time and so I’ll start the game clock. You won’t be able to hear it, so just as soon as I start my first question just get your brain rolling. Are you ready?
Braxton: I guess so.
Kurt: Okay. Here we go. What is your clothing store of choice?
Braxton: Banana Republic.
Kurt: Taco Bell or
Braxton: Taco Bell.
Kurt: What song is playing on your radio these days?
Braxton: Where The Streets Have No Name by U2.
Kurt: Favorite sport?
Kurt: Good call. What kind of razor do you use?
Kurt: What’s your spouse’s favorite holiday?
Kurt: Have you ever planked?
Braxton: Absolutely not.
Kurt: Do you drink Dr. Pepper?
Kurt: We are not friends. Would you drink a Dr. Pepper if it were handed to you?
Braxton: I suppose.
Kurt: What’s one thing you’d be sure to keep with you if you were stranded on an island?
Braxton: The Bible.
Kurt: If you could have dinner with one person you disagree with, who would it be?
Braxton: Richard Dawkins.
Kurt: What’s your inner milkshake flavor?
Kurt: If you were a baseball pitch, which one would you be?
Braxton: I have no idea.
Kurt: The Hokey Pokey, Electric Slide, or the Macarena?
Braxton: None of the above. Do I have to choose?
Kurt: Not a dancer huh?
Braxton: Macarena I suppose?
Kurt: Nice. Richard Dawkins, huh?
Braxton: Yeah. I think so.
Kurt: Why would you want to have dinner with him?
Braxton: I think it’d be nice to able to have a chance at evangelizing who is probably still the most famous atheist in the world.
Braxton: It’s all about evangelism for me. I don’t know how successful I’d be, but I believe the gospel is the power of God unto salvation so I think even for Richard Dawkins, there’s a fair shot.
Kurt: That’s right. If Saul can be killing Christians and have a drastic experience, turn it around, anybody can.
Kurt: Nice. Good. One question I forgot to ask you and this is a newer question. Pick a fictional character that you’d like to meet.
Braxton: Indiana Jones without question.
Kurt: Why without question?
Braxton: I think he had even had an impact on my desire for an apologetics career. My goodness, a guy running around looking for evidence and proof of the Christian faith whether he knew it or not? Come on.
Kurt: Let’s be honest. The dude found the Ark of the Covenant.
Braxton: We have that to thank him for.
Kurt: Hilarious. On today’s show, we’re bantering too much. On today’s program we’re talking about evangelistic apologetics and how it’s important to integrate that call, a message of the gospel, a call to repentance, and to accept the Lordship of Jesus in one’s life coupled with defending the Christian worldview. It’s not just about believing truths XYZ. I believe God exists or I believe Jesus is Lord. Even the demons believe that Jesus is Lord. It’s one thing to believe those things and it’s another thing to then really have those truths marinate in your life and to have what the Bible talks about as the fruit bearing out in your soul, in your character, in your relationships. That’s really important, so for those that are interested in apologetics, it’s important that we couple what we do with the message to have people accept the gospel. If we don’t do that, then I don’t think we’re going to have a very good effective apologetic ministry at least in reaching those that are seeking or the lost. We might just be speaking or preaching to the choir. Braxton. Do you think that there’s a danger in encouraging people who are not trained apologists to engage and converse with people outside of their worldview?
Braxton: Yeah. There is. Before I answer that, let me just say something about what you just said. I think you do need to couple your apologetic strategy with a presentation of the gospel and this is not just something to be intellectually believed, but to put your trust in Jesus, repent. I was with a very well-known Christian apologist who I’ll not name because most of your listeners will know who this person is. It’s not William Lane Craig. It’s not Mike Licona. Okay? This person said, asked me what my particular angle on apologetics was and I mentioned this, evangelism and apologetics. He said, “Huh? Evangelism and apologetics. That’s interesting. I never really thought about much about that.” I thought to myself, “What is the point of defending the gospel, but that it might be believed?” Right? Is there a danger in people who are not professional Christian apologists trained, that sort of thing, in doing apologetics? I think there is if those people are the kind of people that feel like they have to be able to say something or give an answer even when they don’t know what the answer is. That’s a big danger. There are certain people that are in our circles, yours and mine Kurt, on the internet and in the apologetics world, who would say that certain people who are new to apologetics probably shouldn’t be having these kind of worldview apologetics with skeptics. Frankly, I think the only serious concern is the same one that has always been a concern with anybody sharing a faith at all. That is, if they’re going to make stuff up or feel like they have to give an answer or be argumentative, you can argue without being argumentative, then that’s dangerous, but I found a very simple thing. Here’s what I tell people, and we have a segment now on Trinity radio, our podcast, that I think is all about this. I tell people at conferences, if you’ve never heard of Christian defense before, you may not be able to walk out of here and be an answer giver today, but you can be an answer finder for people as soon as we’re done here tonight, because you can have these meaningful worldview conversations, and if you don’t know the answer, there’s a very liberating thing you can do. You can go find those answers for them and in the meantime you can say “I don’t know.” I love I don’t know. I don’t know is my best friend. I used to be terrified to get up and do Q&A’s and do debates and do things like that until I discovered I don’t know. If I’m willing to say I don’t know if I don’t know, then guess what? I’ve got a bulletproof vest, man? I tell people that. Skeptic says something you don’t know the answer, you say “That’s a really good question. I don’t know.” The best thing about it is it disarms them. First of all, they’re impressed by your humility and you’ve somewhat validated their question. I think if you’re willing to say I don’t know and be an answer finder, then there’s really nothing to fear in asking lay people to do this.
Kurt: For those that are interested in finding answers for people, we’ve got a great website called apologetics315 which has awesome daily resources. I know Braxton, we were chatting a couple weeks ago. You have been a big fan of that website and was a place that you have been a long time visitor of.
Braxton: Oh yeah. I hope you don’t mind me saying this, breaking in, I know I keep cutting you off. I’m sorry. It just shows how much we get along. I love Apologetics315 and when I first got into apologetics, I guess, I don’t know how far back this site goes. 2006, 2008, something like that.
Kurt: Something like that, yeah.
Braxton: I was really looking for content and Apologetics315 was posting debates every day. Debates. Debates. Debates. I still think debates are one of the best ways to learn facts. I’ve told people for years I go to apologetics315 two or three times a day. It’s my visited website. I go there more often than I go to my own website. I’m a huge fanboy of that site and now that you have some more involvement, I tell you what. I couldn’t be more thrilled. I used to feel like if my name could be on the lefthand side of the page, the alphabetized list, I thought if my name could ever be there, it’d be like winning a grammy in the apologetics community.
Kurt: I’m not sure about that….We’ll see if we can change that if you’re not already on there. We’ll get you on there, Braxton.
Braxton: Been worth it.
Kurt: Evangelistic Apologetics. It’s the title of your book. What were you trying to accomplish through writing that? A book has to fill sort of a missing area? What was your purpose in writing that?
Braxton: That book is in a certain sense a streamlined version of what my dissertation had been and what I was trying to do there was, it was something like the role of Christian apologetics in the evangelistic ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention in the 21st century. I have a Southern Baptist background and I noted that this is the largest non-Catholic denomination in America anyway, and they did not have a strong apologetic emphasis in much of their denominationally endorsed personal evangelism strategies. I wanted to take the methodologies for apologetics we discussed awhile ago, and I wanted to see if there was any reason that each of those could not be integrated into the personal evangelism strategies and the doctrinal positions held by Southern Baptists. For the book, I limited the Southern Baptist influence and just went for evangelicalism in general, but what I was trying to do is really, if you really wanted to dumb it down, what I wanted for the book was I wanted to encourage Christian leaders to consider and attempt the inclusion of apologetics into their evangelism efforts, and to encourage what we might call lay-Christians to attempt to do apologetics or to learn about apologetics, because there’s a real fear, that’s a real scary thing, it’s thought of as the math and science of the Christian seminary world and there’s no way I can understand that. I have some great quotes in the book from people saying just that, and I don’t think it has to be. I think you can learn at least some basics that will be helpful.
Kurt: In the book, you advocate for a particular approach or methodology and we talked a little bit about that in the first half of the program. What does that look like when we’re sharing the gospel in our forms of personal evangelism?
Braxton: In one sense, for the book, I try though I don’t disguise the fact that I consider myself a classical apologist with cumulative case apologetics. This is going to sound really boring to first-time listeners to your show.
Kurt: Make it exciting.
Braxton: To me, that’s provocative, but to your listeners, it’s like “What did you just say?” I try to be hospitable in the book and help out people who are presuppositionalists and all that, to shove those into personal evangelism strategies as well, but I have another book that came out of that book called Core Facts in which I did try to give a personal evangelism approach using a classical apologetic model. That’s what Core Facts, my other book, Core Facts is. Core Facts is kind of an acronym, it’s cheesy, but cheesy things work, and each letter of the phrase Core Facts, stands for something else, so that if a reader or a person trying to do evangelistic apologetics could remember what each letter of the phrase Core Facts stands for, they could have a way of remembering when talking to someone. I don’t think we should be manipulative, but I do think we should be organized. The C stands for cause, the universe had a cause, so you get something like the Kalam Cosmological argument in there. O is for order, the universe has an order, a design argument, teleological order. R is for rules. The universe has rules. Not just rules like the laws of logic and things like that but moral rules. There’s a moral argument. E is an argument from experience, kind of like William Lane Craig does. It serves less an argument, but more as an invitation to have an experience with this God, to know that He’s real, and then the FACTS, because I’m a classical apologist, the word FACTS has to do with the arguments for the resurrection. CORE has to do with the arguments for God, the theistic arguments. FACTS has to do with the resurrection case. What can you do there is, if you’re talking to someone who already believes in God, they just don’t believe there’s any good reason to believe Jesus rose from the dead, just drop CORE and go with the FACTS of the faith. You could do that. I won’t belabor you with what FACTS stands for, after all, I gotta sell books. That’s kind of one approach. That’s more of the classical approach, but when I’m doing one-on-one evangelism and I’m talking to someone, by the way, I don’t always think apologetics is necessary. I think sometimes proclamation evangelism is all you need to do. If someone believes in the basics of Christianity, the mental assent kind of thing, why are you wasting your time trying to convince them of it?
Kurt: That’s right. A good apologist, apologetics is both a science and art. The science is the argument side of things, the facts, the art is having discernment over who your audience is and understanding that. I’m using audience in a generic sense. Your audience could be many people, a crowd, or it could just be one person. You really need to know and tailor your message accordingly if you want to put forth, if you want to be winsome, and to put forward a successful message.
Braxton: The cumulative case kind of approach that I take, and I think this is really effective and I can’t take credit for it, I got it from a Christian apologist named Donald J. Johnson. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Don Johnson.
Kurt: Darwin on Trial? Is that?
Braxton: He has How To Talk To A Skeptic. He used to have a really popular podcast.
Kurt: That’s Philip Johnson. Darwin on Trial. Don Johnson. Alright.
Braxton: Donald Johnson has a book, How To Talk To A Skeptic. He’s got me in the front of it. We’re kind of friendly to each other. He gave me a quote for my book, Core Facts, his strategy is what I use for a cumulative case approach, and I think it’s really cool and it could be the most valuable thing people get out of this show, but what he does is he says, you’re talking to a skeptic, let’s just say an atheist to make it easy for our discussion. By the way, feel free to cut me off at any point. I tend to ramble.
Kurt: You’re a preacher. You’ve got it in you.
Braxton: That’s right. In a few minutes, we’re going to play a tape of Just As I Am and have an altar call. But anyway, he says, the first thing you don’t want to talk past each other, and you and I both know so often, skeptics and Christians can talk past each other. The way you avoid doing that is the first thing you do is you ask the person you’re talking to explain to you how they answer the big questions of life and there are three things you can ask that are helpful here. How did we get here, like humans, what’s the meaning of life if there is one, and what happens when we die? That will give you a pretty good approximation of what their worldview is. Let’s say atheists, there’s naturalistic atheists, there’s non-naturalistic atheists, some Buddhists are atheists, it’s not helpful. You ask them those three questions, an atheist, let’s say a naturalistic atheist might say, how did we get here? The Big Bang took place, matter coalesced into stars, ultimately had a habitable planet like Earth. Abiogenesis takes hold and ultimately here we are. Okay. Fine. What’s the meaning of life? There’s not one. We just kind of make one for ourselves. What happens we die? It’s the end of existence.
Kurt: Yeah. You get a variety of answers depending upon what their worldview is. Yeah.
Braxton: Right. At this point, you say you attack here. No no no. You don’t attack. First of all, it’s the wrong attitude. Secondly, you ask clarifying questions to make sure you understood what they said. You don’t disagree. You just listen. You try to understand their position. Then when you think you’ve got a hold on your position, then you understand, “Could you say to me what you understand Christianity to be in about a paragraph?” Basically explain to me what you think my position is, what Christianity is. The reason for that is because you don’t want to be defending a Christianity that you with them also reject. Right? You want them to tell you what they understand Christianity to be and usually you’ll have to correct a few things. They’ll say something like God put these two in a garden and it seems made up because why would you put a tree there? Then there’s this thing about the Law and there’s all this weird stuff and God sends His Son, what’s that all about? God has a Son. Come on. He died for the sin of the world and if you believe that enough and you live a good enough life and don’t do enough bad things, then you get 74 virgins or something like that.
Kurt: The syncretism there with Islam at the end….
Braxton: Let me be clear. There are a lot of really smart skeptics out there. I’m going to the extreme to make a point. There are a lot of guys who would hit Christianity on the head as I would teach it and I’ve run into people like that, but you correct the things that they have wrong there. You say, “Yes. That’s right. There are brands of Christianity out there that call themselves Christianity that I don’t ascribe myself to, but here’s what I’m saying.” So now you understand each other. The great thing about this is so far for the first two steps, you have let them talk and they have been waiting for some Christian to stop preaching at them and to listen to their ideas. Right?
Braxton: I think that’s really helpful. The third step is then you say to them, “Okay now” and here’s where the cumulative case comes in. You say to them, “Alright. Would you share with me some facts about the way the world is that you and I both agree about, some pieces of data, that we both agree these are true about the way the world is, that you think your atheistic position answers better than my Christian theism. My Christian theism doesn’t really make sense out of this as well as your atheism does. Because often times skeptics, the internet atheist crowd might be more used to thinking and even Muslims and stuff, they all have their things that they expect Christian apologists to say, so they may not be prepared to think in these terms and you kind of have to try to talk to them a little bit about it. I don’t want to be insulting to internet atheists and all, but you may have to explain to them why you’re doing what you’re doing. The fact that we find certain things beautiful and other things not so beautiful. The fact that there are these near-death experience reports that are written up in the medical journals. Some of the things that we do think of as theistic arguments like the design, and we all have this moral intuition. It seems like free-will is a real thing. These are things we would bring. What would they bring? You’re asking them to give you things they would bring about the way the world is.
Kurt: Yeah, and sometimes it’s important for us to let those atheistic foundations play out and I think it’s helpful to provide resources for them, especially if you’re talking to an atheist. Say, “Look. Here’s where your position leads.” Let’s say we’re talking about free-will. “Have you read Sam Harris on that?” You know? “Have you read his position?” Let’s think through this. “You believe in free-will, but you also believe that this is all that there is. We’re just a bunch of space dust that’s been compacted together. If that’s the case, what really is free-will? We don’t say that the asteroids have free-will. In a sense, we’re no different. It’s core level if atheism is true.”
Braxton: Yeah. If naturalistic atheism is true, the universe is a closed system of cause and effect. As Alvin Plantinga and others have argued, if that’s true, evolution for example, did not result in truth locators. It resulted in survival. If determinism is true, which we would say it has to be, why do we have this sense that we have free-will and if determinism is true, can you rationally affirm your own beliefs? That’s getting down the field a little bit, but you’re right, I actually skipped ahead myself. What you want them to do, I listed some things that we would say makes sense on Christianity and not so much I don’t think on naturalistic atheism. But what could they bring? What would they say we agree are facts about the world that don’t make sense on Christianity? Here’s the thing. If whatever they bring is true about the way the world is, it makes perfectly fine sense on Christianity because you and I both know Christianity is true. I’ll tell you, often they’ll say, if we’re talking about atheists, they’ll bring up these two things. The problem of evil, which is true. That is a problem. Evil is a problem. We agree. Right? We have to respond to that, but even more often than that, science. They’ll say “Science works man.” We have to explain, “Does Christianity have a problem with science working when done right?” No. It does not. You talk that over with them and you just do worldview comparison. Inference to the best explanation as we said before.
Kurt: Yeah. And it’s a process I think. People should not in expecting to have someone accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior after even a 90-minute conversation. It doesn’t work like that. It’s going to take awhile. It’s a process. Don’t be afraid. If you’re talking to someone you know, just schedule another time you can talk together. If it’s a stranger, why don’t you give out your phone number to the person so you can keep talking about these very important issues.
Braxton: Carry around a cassette tape of Just As I Am and a tape player just in case there’s an opportunity for an altar call. I’m just kidding.
Kurt: Hilarious. Braxton. We have run out of time here and there’s so much more we coudl talk about. I guess we’ll just have to bring you on another time in the future. Braxton Hunter. Thank you so much for coming on the program and talking to us about how we can integrate the evangelistic call with our apologetics.
Braxton: Thank you for having me on the show, Kurt.
Kurt: Of course. God bless you. We’ll be in touch.
Braxton: You too.
Kurt: I’m following along here. Christine comments here who’s part of my extended family. She says, “Kurt. Honor your wife on her birthday.” Indeed, July 14 is my wife’s birthday. A very happy birthday, or as I like to say, “Congratulations to making it around the sun again”, to Michaela, my beautiful wife and for all that you do, so appreciative of that and, yes, what a great blessing marriage is. If you want to learn and think more about that, listen in on episode 103. Chris talked about marriage, some great thoughts there.
In a few weeks, I think a couple weeks time, I’ll be taking a break. I’ll be off on vacation so David Montoya will be filling in actually. I believe that’s going to be on August 4, so you can look forward to that. It really has been just a great pleasure coming to you week after week. I hope that you’ll consider partnering with us so we can continue going and growing with our vodcast. We’ve got great plans for the show and we would love for you to become a part of that.
That does it for today’s program. I’m grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the partnerships that we have with our sponsors, Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, The Illinois Family Institute, Fox Restoration, and Non-Profit Megaphone. I want to thank our technical producer today, Chris, for coming in, and to our guest, Dr. Braxton Hunter, and last but not least, I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.
[NP1]Unclear at 8:50
[NP2]Unclear at 10:00
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