Four Reasons You Should Attend the 2014 CrossExamined Instructor Academy

This past weekend I got to hang out with Frank Turek, a dear friend, co-laborer and mentor. Frank is the author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist, and he was here in our neck of the woods teaching several services at a large local church. Susie and I joined him afterward and we spent the better part of two days together. We ate some barbeque, ran through the local woods (we found out Frank runs faster than we do), and talked about our work and passion to train Christians to think critically about what they believe. Frank does more than train Christians, however. Frank trains trainers.

Frank’s been a teacher and cultural influencer for years, but in if you want to impact your culture exponentially, you’ve got to multiply your own efforts by creating additional trainers. That’s exactly what Frank does every year at the CrossExamined Instructor Academy (CIA). Frank has assembled a team of speakers and thinkers to help him train up the next generation of Christian Case Makers. This three day experience isn’t for beginners. It’s for people who have already started to step out and teach apologetics in their local churches and communities.  CIA will teach you how to present I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, including four categories critical to Christian Case Making: Truth, God, Miracles and the New Testament. You’ll also learn how to answer questions about those topics in a hostile environment. During these three days, in addition to hearing lectures and participating in discussions, participants will be asked to present a portion of I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist and answer questions from the instructors. Like last year, I am part of the CIA faculty, along with Frank, Greg Koukl, Dr. Richard Howe, Brett Kunkle and Ted Wright.

If you’re a tent-making Case Maker, I think you should come and be a part of this incredible opportunity for the following reasons:

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Good Case Makers Are Good Care Takers

As a Christian apologist (a.k.a. Christian Case Maker), I get the chance to travel and meet other Christian Case Making leaders around the country. Many of my fellow Case Makers are Chapter Directors for Ratio Christi (Latin for ‘The Reason of Christ’), a global movement equipping university students and faculty to give historical, philosophical, and scientific reasons for following Jesus Christ. I’ve visited a number of Ratio Christi (RC) chapters, where I’ve been asked to defend the reliability of the New Testament Gospels in large, open-campus events. Ratio Christi is a relatively new movement on university and college campuses across the nation, but it has grown exponentially. RC directors are an essential factor in this growth. Last Monday, I spoke at the Rutgers Chapter of Ratio Christi. It’s a passionate, engaged group of smart, winsome students, led by a fantastic Director, Julie Miller. Over the past two weeks, as I’ve interacted with the group on Skype and met everyone personally, an important characteristic of Case Making became obvious. Julie is a competent, well-trained Case Maker (she earned an MA in Christian Apologetics at Biola University, graduating with highest honors), but beyond that, she possesses an important attribute: Julie Miller is a mama bear. More than simply a good Case Maker, Julie is a naturally gifted Care Taker.

Most of us who are interested in Christian Case Making are familiar with the key passage animating our desire to defend the truth: 1Peter 3:15. But we typically focus on the words in this verse describing the importance of knowledge and study, while reading past the rest of the verse in its context:

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How Do I Share What I Believe? The Relationship Between Respect and Reach

I’ve investigated a number of murders over the years motivated by nothing more than an act of disrespect. The pursuit of power is one of three motivations driving criminal behavior, and it often manifests itself as a response to a simple act of insolence. When a gang member feels disrespected, for example, he may retaliate violently. As humans, all of us are repelled when we feel dishonored, insulted or belittled in some way, even if most of us won’t react as aggressively as gangsters. If you’re trying to persuade someone, it’s important to understand the relationship between respect and reach. The more we respect and honor the dignity of others, the more likely we’ll be able to reach them with an idea, concept or worldview.

Jesus reiterated the importance of respecting others in his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount:

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Does the Bible Condone Polygamy?

“Lamech married two women. The first was named Adah, and the second was named Zillah” (Genesis 4:19).

Scripture does teach us what is right and wrong (2 Timothy 3:16). But the Bible is also the history of people and a nation. It records wars, murder, rape, incest, and a host of other tragic events but does not in every case specifically point out the error and sin. It does, however, in most cases, explain the negative consequences of these actions.

Lamech, the seventh from Adam in the line of Cain, is the first recorded polygamist. His life, however, was marked by murder, rebellion, and defiance. It is clear Lamech was not honoring God’s design for marriage as stated in Genesis 2:24. Later God would record his views on the importance of men being married to one woman (the wife of their youth) in Proverbs 5:18-19, Malachi 2:14-15, Mark 10:2-8, and 1 Corinthians 7:2-10.

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God's Will: A Top Ten List

Wouldn’t it be great if you could know God’s will every day of your life? Actually, you can, at least that part of God’s will that generally applies to all people and specifically applies to all those who follow Jesus fully. Here’s a Top Ten list of those things God wants you to do: 

1.  God wants you to believe in Jesus and accept Him as your Savior.

This is number one on God’s list of things He wants you to do. Contrary to what many people believe, God doesn’t want anyone to die in their sins without knowing Him personally.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

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Has the Church Surrendered Its Responsibility to the Academy?

Last night I had the opportunity to train 80 high school students at Crossline Church here in southern California. My ministry partners (Brett Kunkle, Alan Shlemon) and I will spend a month with these students (just like last year), training them once a week to help them navigate the evidences for God’s existence and develop a Biblical worldview. After the session, I got on the phone with Brett (he’s training students at Capital Christian School in Sacramento this week), and we talked about how blessed we are to be involved in this important work. These students are capable and willing to engage the tough issues at a high level, and their churches and Christian high schools have embraced the mission. During my conversation with Brett, we talked about the growing number of opportunities students have to continue their education in Christian Case Making (Apologetics) at the University level, should they choose to do so. The number of degree programs in apologetics, Christian philosophy or Christian thought is growing every year. Students who begin training with us in high school can continue this training at the university level. While this is certainly encouraging, Brett made an important observation: The academy will never replace the Church.

We are definitely experiencing a renaissance in Christian apologetics, as evidenced by the number of programs emerging around the country. But I can’t help but wonder if Christian universities have simply recognized an important failing of the Church. These apologetics and philosophy programs aren’t, by and large, professional degree programs, after all. Few, if any, of the graduates from these programs become professional apologists (I’ve met many graduates from these universities who are working as tent-makers in other professions). The degrees they earn in apologetics will help them to think critically and develop a grounded Biblical worldview, but they probably won’t help them pay the bills. In this sense, apologetics programs are often more about personal growth than professional preparation.

Men and women often seek programs of this nature because there simply isn’t any other place where the case for Christianity is robustly studied, discussed, and evaluated. They are keenly interested in knowing more, digging deeper, and becoming more articulate so they can share what they believe with others. Gee, doesn’t this sound like something the Church should be offering? I can’t help but wonder if the explosion of apologetics programs at the university level is inversely proportional to the disinterest the Church seems to have in apologetics. As the Church continues to relinquish its responsibility to train Christians, universities are stepping in the gap. The less people receive in the Church, the more they are seeking at the Academy.

But here’s my concern. The church ought to be the place where we equip “the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13). The university ought to be a place where we can also prepare vocationally. Sadly, many of us graduate from apologetics programs, equipped with the knowledge and wisdom we should be getting in our churches. It’s not too late to reverse the trend. It’s time for the Church to take back its responsibility to equip the saints. It’s time for pastors to recognize their responsibilities as trainers and case makers. While the academy may certainly continue to offer these important and valuable programs to those who want to reach higher levels of understanding, every church member ought to receive his or her “BA in Christian Case Making (Apologetics)” while training in the pews. The Academy shouldn’t replace the Church in this mission. It’s time for the Church to embrace its responsibility to train the family of God so we can all become good Christian Case Makers.

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If You Want to Influence a Culture, Encourage a Young Colleague

While I was in Tempe last week for a Campus Crusade event as ASU, I carved some time from a very busy schedule to hang out with Matthew Mittelberg, the young son of Christian Case Maker, Mark Mittelberg. Matthew is leading an apologetics club on the campus of Grand Canyon University and is already a very gifted communicator. I’ll confess there are times when I feel like an old man in the company of young men and women like Matthew, but I love the passion and energy of young like-minded Christians, and I appreciate the opportunity to influence the culture through them.

Like my own sons, Matthew has a dramatic head start as a Christian thinker and communicator. I came to faith at the age of 35. I didn’t have a deep relationship with any Christians at the time, and I had no strong Christian influences in my life. Without a mentor or role model, I felt like I had to work through the evidence and claims of Christianity on my own. Many years later however, as I was preparing to write my own book and start a modest journey as a public Case Maker, members of the apologetics community surrounded me with support and encouragement. While I wasn’t much younger than any of them (and was, in fact, older than some), they recognized I was the “new kid” on the block and surprised me with their generosity, wisdom and assistance. I was humbled by the response, and began to look at my own sphere of influence, searching for young men and women I could encourage in a similar way.

Those of us who hope to influence the culture for Christ typically think of our own efforts to communicate and reach the world. What can I write today? What can I say? How can I effectively use the internet to promote and defend the Christian worldview? Like others, I’m guilty of viewing my influence through the narrow lens of my own efforts. As a guy who started this season in my 50’s however, I’ve come to realize the limits of my own impact and the role I can play as an encourager. My questions are starting to change: Who can I inspire as a young Christian Case Maker? What small piece of wisdom can I provide to someone who is a few steps behind me in this journey? How can I impact the younger generation of Christian Case Makers? I know I won’t be writing and speaking 30 years from now, but there are men and women out there who will be. What can I do to make them even more effective?

The young people in my life are far more likely to have a deep impact on the culture than I will. Think about the role young people play in shaping our society. Young people influence the culture through pop music, art, movies, video, and professional sports. In addition, young people are the demographic target of movie makers, media moguls, technology producers and culture shapers. Imagine if our young Christian men and women had the wisdom and experience of their older Christian brothers and sisters. I can’t help but wonder what God could have done with me if “I’d have known then what I know now”. I want to make sure guys like Matthew Mittelberg start off with more than I did.

If you’re interested in influencing the culture, start rethinking your approach to include young people. Train them. Encourage them. Mentor them. Young Christians are tested more than any other age group in the Church, but they have the potential to do more than anyone else to meet the challenges and direct the course of the culture. It’s up to us to give them the tools and encouragement they need to survive the trials and change the world.

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Why Unforgiving People Are So Unforgiving

I was in the studio yesterday with Frank Sontag for his KKLA radio program in Los Angeles. We were talking about Cold Case Christianity and the transformation I experienced when I first became a Christian. As an atheist, I embraced a moral code very similar to the Christians I knew. I didn’t have to be a Christian to recognize what was morally virtuous and what was not (Romans 2:14-15); I spent nearly a decade as a police officer before I began to investigate the Gospels. During most of this time, I was quite judgmental of the people I arrested. I drew clear distinctions between the “good guys” and the “bad guys”, and I was happy to put bad guys in jail for as long as possible. An attitude of un-forgiveness dominated my professional life, and this attitude seeped over into my personal life on occasion.

When I became a Christian, my perspective on forgiveness began to change. In fact, this might have been the most dramatic change I experienced as a Christian. My heart softened. I became more forgiving. It didn’t happen as a matter of conscious effort (I didn’t try harder because I knew I ought to). Instead, I slowly became aware of my own fallen condition, and this heightened awareness led to my transformation. The people I worked with started to notice this change in my character even before I said anything about my interest in Christianity. In fact, I hid my investigation of Christianity from my partners for months. They knew me as a vocal atheist, and I knew I would take a beating once they found out I had changed my position. As a result, they saw the changes in my character long before they discovered I was a Christian.

I remember reading the Gospel of Luke repeatedly as a new believer. It was one of my favorite Gospels because I understood how it connected Luke’s Book of Acts to the case for early dating. One of Jesus’ parables was striking to me because it explained my growing attitude of forgiveness. In Luke Chapter 7, Jesus entered the home of a Pharisee named Simon:

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“Tent-Making” Christian Case Makers on Facebook

The growing interest in Christian Case Making has resulted in an explosion of “tent-making” apologists across the Internet. If you’re beginning to recognize your calling as a Christian Case Maker, there are a number of ways you can begin to make an impact on the culture. You can teach a class at your church, begin a blog or website, write a newsletter, start recording videos on YouTube, or inaugurate a new podcast. If this feels a bit intimidating, there may be an even easier way to get in the game. Most of us are familiar enough with Facebook to navigate and interact with our friends and family. This is also an excellent platform for initiating conversations bout the case for Christianity. Today I want to feature several Christian Case Making groups on Facebook. These groups are interactive, and once members join they have the ability to post and comment on all the content being discussed within the group. All of them were started by “tent-makers”. These faithful Christians come from a variety of occupations and lifestyles (I’ve listed the administrators for each group):                                        

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An Urgent Opportunity for “Tent-Making” Christian Case Makers

The renaissance in Christian apologetics has resulted in the rapid growth of the Christian Case Making community. As Christians begin to recognize their identity as Case Makers, they have taken to the internet to make the case for Christianity. Many have even pursued advanced degrees in Christian apologetics. But not everyone is destined to become a tenured Philosophy professor or internationally recognized Christian apologist. “One Dollar Apologists” recognize their special role as “tent-making” Christin Case Makers. If you’re beginning to hear God’s call on your life to become the case maker He wants you to be, you may be wondering where all this will lead. Today, I’d like to encourage you to consider an incredible opportunity. My friend Rick Schenker leads Ratio Christi, an international Christian Case Making movement growing on university campuses around the world. They can use some help from “One Dollar Apologists” Like you and me. From the Ratio Christi website:

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