Last Wednesday, July 18, Thinking Matters Tauranga hosted Dr William Lane Craig at Bethlehem Community Church’s new meeting facility. Craig presented two lectures; the first on the importance of apologetics, and the second on whether belief in God is reasonable. For a mid-week, mid-afternoon event, the first lecture garnered more people than were expected; about 100. This was encouraging to see, especially as there were not a few teenagers and young adults in the crowd. The second lecture filled the meeting facility to capacity, with a little over 200 people (if I recall correctly). It was essentially a re-presentation of the same five arguments which Bill used in his debate in Auckland, so I won’t go into detail describing it, as Jason has already blogged the Auckland events.
In any case, the first lecture was by far the better one for me. Bill talked about whether or not apologetics is necessary for evangelism, arguing that although it is not strictly required, it is very frequently a means used by God to bring about conversions. He strongly criticized those Christians who say that apologetics is not needed, or even is not biblical, pointing out that although God doesn’t strictly need apologetics to convert people’s hearts, practicing it certainly is biblical, and it is one of the primary means that God does use. He further argued that evangelism is not conducted in a vacuum, and that apologetics is necessary to maintain Christianity’s place as an intellectually respectable position in the modern world—particularly in universities, where society’s movers and shakers are largely created.
Having talked about the importance of apologetics for affirming Christianity to non-Christians, he then went on to talk about its importance for affirming Christianity to Christians. This is something particularly close to my heart, as most of my own writing is directed toward believers—and not necessarily with the primary aim of equipping them to defeat non-Christians in argumentation. It is extremely important, to my mind, that Christians have rational, defensible, articulate reasons for their belief. It is tragic to hear about people who come to Christianity on an enormous emotional high, and then crash some time later because they have no more solid foundation for their faith than that emotion.
In this vein, Bill told an anecdote of an evangelist he had met while studying for the final oral exams of his theology degree. She had a natural talent for bringing people to God, not through argumentation, but by her charisma and the earnestness of her belief. She was highly successful, and it disheartened him, since he was forced to wonder if all his hard work with intellectual study was necessary. Was he barking up the wrong tree? His conclusion, provided by a friend at the time, was that no—it was extremely necessary. All those people converted by this woman would be coming to people like Bill a few years down the line, because emotion doesn’t provide reasons to believe.
This lecture meshes very well with the first issue of our journal, which will be published soon. It was very encouraging to hear one of the leading Christian apologists in the world saying the same things that we are, and it made for a truly noteworthy and appropriate launch for Thinking Matters in Tauranga. My particular thanks to Rodney Lake for his excellent work getting the Tauranga group up and running, and for organizing the event.