Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Apologetics Toolkit: Advice on Writing Letters to the Editor from Dr. Douglas Groothuis

Christian philosopher and apologist Douglas Groothuis once published an Apologetics Manifesto (PDF here). It includes 16 theses, all of which are worth considering. Today's post is an unpacking of point 12, which reads:
Because apologetics is meant to be the public presentation and defense of Christianity as true, reasonable, pertinent, and knowable, apologists should attempt to offer their arguments in as many public venues as possible. Therefore, qualified Christian apologists should learn to become public intellectuals: thinkers who have mastered their material and are willing and able to enter public discourse and debate in a way that challenges and engages the non-Christian mind as well as galvanizes other Christians to hone their apologetic skills.
Dr. Groothuis then goes on to list 8 areas of engagement. The first he mentions is "letters to the editors  of newspapers and magazines." Dr. Groothuis was gracious enough to elaborate on these points for today's blog post...

What impact can letters to the editor have?
It is difficult to track in precise terms the influence of ideas through various media. Over many years, though, I have had people comment on my letters, either in person or in subsequent letters to the editor. I also use some of these letters as object lessons for my students on how to give apologetic arguments in a short compass. One hopes that a thoughtful and well-crafted letter to the editor will raise important issues, clarify important ideas, and briefly advance pro-Christian arguments.

What subjects are good topics for letters to the editor?
I stick to issues of considerable import, and try to avoid pet peeves. Any topic related to philosophy or religion, broadly conceived, is on my radar.

Can you suggest the tone and approach that the letter should take?
Most letters should be respectful and try to make only one main point. There is no room for much more than that in most cases. However, satire and parody also have a place, if one is skilled enough to make this work.

What should a letter to the editor not attempt to do?
They should not attempt to make more than one good point. They should also be written good taste.

What would be your exhortation to apologists to be involved in the public square?
Take the truth out into the streets by out-thinking the world for Christ. Give good apologetic arguments in as many forms as you can: lectures, discussions, debates, books, articles, book reviews, blogs, Facebook, letters to the editor, and more. In each venue, exegete the strengths and weaknesses of the particular medium and act prayerfully act accordingly. Realize that your words count for eternity. This is why the Bible says so much about the power of our words, written and spoken.

[Check out Dr. Groothuis' blog here, resources here, books here, and interview here]


bcstractor said...

So which version of "Christianity™" should they write letters about? The RC church is selling evolution this week. The Mormons are selling homophobia. You'd think with an inerrant God they would speak with one voice.

Wouldn't it be better if the Christians got together with all the other religions and decided which was the right one before they begin their sales pitch - otherwise it just a cacophony of noise. If only one religion is true then the rest are a bunch of money grabbing liars.

Right now I cannot tell which one is which.

DMC84 said...

Though seldom realized, this is one of the most important questions that one can raise today, just below that of "Which religion is true/valid?" This is the case because after one comes to the conclusion that Christianity is the sole world religion that effectively addresses humanity's most meaningful questions and grants a relationship with the God of the universe, one must then wade through the "cacophony of noise" (per the poster above) that is encountered in the various "Christian" denominations vying for position and increased membership.

However, the same principles that eliminate religious pluralism as a viable approach to religion likewise invalidates the notion of "Christian pluralism." The Law of Non-contradiction (appealed to by many apologists arguing against religious pluralism) and harmony with the testimony of the Bible apply just as much here as in the religious pluralism discussion. Statements such as "Christ died for all" and "Christ died for the limited number of the elect," and "Infant baptism is permissible" and "Infant baptism is not permissible," and "Salvation is at the point of faith in Christ" and "Salvation is granted at the point of faith's expression in repentance and baptism" are statements that cannot all be true at the same time and in the same sense. Someone has to be wrong.

How to tell the difference? One must go to the source, namely, the Bible. How does the Bible express the "reach" of Christ's atonement (cf. John 1:29, 1 Jn 2:2)? How does the Bible view the prerequisites to baptism (cf. Mk 16:16, Acts 2:38, Acts 18:8)? How does the Bible view the terms of forgiveness or the means by which men and women were saved under the direction and teaching of the apostles (cf. Acts 2:38, 3:19, 8:12, 16:15, 16:30-34, 18:8, 22:16)?

The "cacophony of noise" has been raised due to humanity's habitual disregard for biblical authority (even while claiming, as many denominations do, a deeply devoted regard for biblical authority). When men begin to exalt their own opinions, or the opinions of others, over the testimony of the Bible, then confusion and division inevitably result. Such results are witnessed today in the denominational world.

A pointer in the right direction: Investigate the churches of Christ. While still comprised of imperfect men and women, they at least attempt to reproduce in doctrine and practice what was delivered by the apostles during the "infancy" phase of the church before the corruptions of "regular" men began encroaching upon the doctrines and practices previously deposited. I recommend starting here if truly interested in getting behind the "noise" of modern day denominationalism.

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