Monday, October 31, 2011

International Society of Women in Apologetics

This week, in partnership with the International Society of Women in Apologetics, Apologetics315 will be featuring a series of essays from women in apologetics. The series starts with an introduction to ISWA by its founder and president, Sarah Ankenman.

Most often, while sitting at the ISWA table at Apologetics conferences, I get quite a few women who come up to me and ask me the same three questions. First, “why does there need to be something special just for women in the field of apologetics?” Second, “why apologetics at all?” which is usually followed by the statement, “all I need is the Word of God”. Finally, I get the million-dollar inquiry of, “can women even do apologetics? What about Paul saying that women need to keep silent in the church?” In the following paragraphs, I will attempt to answer those questions.

First, let me explain ISWA’s purpose. We are not inventing some new apologetic just for women. When you come to an ISWA event, or read an ISWA article, or watch a DVD of an ISWA member, you are getting the same apologetics any man would get at an apologetics conference. All of the women who teach or write for ISWA have all gleaned from, or have personally sat under, the teachings of great apologists like Dr. Norman Geisler, Dr. Gary Habermas, Greg Koukl, Ravi Zacharias, Dr. Ron Rhodes, Dr. Win Corduan, etc. I love apologetics and fortunately, God has called me into the very field I love, because through His grace He gave me one of the desires of my heart. However, I am also the mother of an energetic three-year-old. I realize that not every woman who enjoys going deeper in her studies, and loves apologetics, has the time to go to seminary. It’s difficult for even myself, and so somewhere along this journey, I realized that there needed to be something for today’s busy woman.

If you have done any apologetics at all, you have probably noticed that the conferences tend to last all day, if not a few days, and the average apologetics book is longer than the time you have to read it. Also, they tend to filled with ideas, theories, and words that are over the average person’s head, my own head included. I often refer to a dictionary or Google when I am doing research or reading, and I have been studying for nine years now. Also, even though I love theology and apologetics, if I have been up all night with my son, the last thing I want to do is sit down and read a book and try to comprehend Metaphysics. I realized that there needed to be something that teaches apologetics, but in an easy to understand manner and in smaller bites.

Enter ISWA U, an Apologetics lecture series on DVDs just for women. Each lecture is on a different Apologetics topic, and each is less than an hour long. It is specifically tailored to the busy woman, in that you can pop one in while the baby is napping, and you can even fold laundry at the same time! Each lecture is taught by a different woman apologist, most of whom specialize in that particular field. I know what you are thinking. Why not just watch the Apologetics DVD’s that are already out there? What does it matter that a woman is teaching? Well, think of it this way. When you go a bible study for women at church, who teaches it? It is a woman, right? Yet, you are getting the same Scripture teaching the men are getting over in the men’s ministry. The point is that you relate better to another woman. She will see things in Scripture, and be able to apply them to your life in a way a man couldn’t. She understands what you are going through and is sensitive to how God might want to speak to you. Along the same vein, a woman will be able to equip you, the whole woman: heart, soul and mind, in apologetics.

Next, why learn or do apologetics at all, if all we need is the Word of God? First, this is a selfish way of looking at the Christian life. Yes, the Word of God is all we need for salvation and living a godly life. But once you are saved, and you are in the process of being or have been discipled by someone, then what does Jesus call you to do? One, go out and make other disciples (Matt 28:19-20) and two, be ready to give a defense for the faith that is in you (1 Peter 3:15). Evangelism and missions are commands of Jesus. We are to tell others about Christ, and not just get saved and hang out in the comfort of the church. Now, this is not to say that you have to go live in the jungles of Africa like Mary Slessor did, it just means that you need to be Christ to your neighbors, and then have answers when people ask you why you are a Christian.
Second, there has been a dramatic paradigm shift in America. Before the Scopes Trial in 1925, everyone was a “Christian”. They taught the Bible in schools, and Jesus was a well-known household name. People just accepted that God created everything. It was easy to tell people about the Lord, and all you needed was a Bible. Not so today, as new worldviews are being created everyday. You never know what someone believes. If all you know is the Bible, but you don’t know why, you could find yourself without the answers. An example would be this: your neighbor is an Atheist, meaning she does not believe that God exists, let alone a Word of God. You can no longer use the Bible to witness to her, because she doesn’t accept it as authoritative. Also, because she is an Atheist, she believes in moral relativism. You now have to go back four steps and begin with truth. If they don’t believe absolute truth exists, than there can be no logic, no God, no miracles, no Bible, and no Jesus. That is where apologetics comes in, so you can give good reasons for why you believe in absolute truth, logic, God, miracles, Jesus, and so on. You have to be able to meet someone where they are at, and if you don’t know the reasons for your faith, you will be ineffective at sharing it.

Third, let’s bring it a little closer to home. Eighty-five percent of Christian kids are walking away from their faith in their first year of college, and some are making the decisions to walk away as early as nine-years-old. That is unacceptable. When your kids have questions, they are going to come to you for answers. If you don’t have them, Satan is plenty willing to fill in the gaps. He will do it through public schools, pop culture… he will use whatever means necessary to lead your kids away from Christ. YOU NEED TO HAVE THE ANSWERS! I cannot stress that enough. To go even further, you shouldn’t even wait for them to ask, you should be instilling the answers in them from when they are very young. Even in the world of equality we live in today, the majority of stay-at-home parents are still women. So guess what that means, Mom? You are responsible for teaching your kids the reasons for their faith. Dad is at work all day, and then he is tired when he gets home at night. Also, the kids have sports and dance on the weekends, so even if Dad has the answers, he doesn’t have the time to give them out. God is calling you, Mom, and you need to be equipped so you in turn can equip your kids.

The fourth answer to “why apologetics” is to know why you believe not just for your neighbor, and not just for your kids, but for your own times of “faith crisis”.  What happens when your child gets diagnosed with leukemia, or your husband leaves you for another woman? In your head, you are wondering, “where is God in all of this? Does He even exist? The Bible says He is there, but I don’t see Him, so what if the Bible is wrong?” Or if you are a college student sitting in Anthropology 101, you notice that there seems to be quite a bit of science to back Evolution, and your teacher is saying that science and faith are incompatible. What then? Do you know enough about Creationism and Intelligent Design to combat that dichotomy, or will you fall prey and become part of that large percentage of Christians that abandon their beliefs for the supposed “Reason” the world offers? In my own life, I can think of two times that I almost walked away, and both times, God reminded me of all the reasons of why I am a Christian. When I contemplated taking my own life as a college student, God broke through my depression, and gave me a vision of an apologetics checklist. There is absolute truth, check. God exists, check. Jesus died for me, check. The Bible is reliable, check. I could go through that checklist because I had done my homework; I knew that there were solid, irrefutable proofs for each one of those items. I got up, dusted myself off, and went back to Bible College, because I now knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that apologetics had a practical purpose. I decided to make it my life’s goal to train others in apologetics, so that in their darkest hour, they will have a checklist of their own to go through.

Finally, we arrive at the million-dollar question. Can women do apologetics? The answer to that is a loud, resounding YES!!! Above, we already mentioned how you do it practically in the world, so how does the church factor into the picture? Well, there are a few different ways of looking at it. First, we don’t do apologetics in the church, we learn apologetics in the church, and then we do apologetics in the world.  If you are self-taught, and you do apologetics with your friends, neighbors, and kids, you just go right on ahead and do what you are doing. The question only comes when you are training others in apologetics. Then you can look at it in one of two ways: one, teaching apologetics is not the same as shepherding a flock, preaching from a pulpit on Sundays, or even teaching out of the Bible. Apologetics is giving the reasons for why we shepherd flocks, preach Jesus on Sundays, and teach out of the Bible. Apologetics is giving the reasons for why Christianity is what it is. It defends Christianity’s main doctrines, like Jesus (His deity and resurrection), God, the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, creation ex-nihilo, miracles, the Bible, etc.
The second way we can look at women training/teaching apologetics in the church is by examining what Paul means when he says the word “church”. The passages in question are 1 Tim. 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34. In interpreting these verses, we just need to use a little common sense. When Paul uses the word church, the Greek ekklesia, is he speaking of a building or a facility, or is he speaking of an assembly of believers? It is obvious that he is referring to a group of believers. So if a “church” is a body of believers, then that leaves the building/facility that the church is held in free and clear for a woman to teach apologetics classes to men, women, or children. There is a huge movement currently pushing for churches to start apologetics ministries and classes because Apologetics is desperately needed in the relativistic, pluralistic world we live in today. Do I feel that a woman has the right to teach those classes or lead that ministry? Yes I do. Does that mean I feel that women should preach from the pulpit or be the head pastor? No it doesn’t. I don’t feel a need to get into that argument because it’s a non-essential of the faith. No one is saved or condemned because of what they believe regarding it. As far as ISWA is concerned, it is a moot point. (For more info, read the chapter about women in the church in Conviction Without Compromise, by Rhodes and Geisler). 

To sum up:
Why apologetics for women?
-Because what is out there does not cater to women, which is why they aren’t doing it, so a different approach is needed.
Why apologetics at all?
-Because it’s your job as a Christian, and your responsibility to your world, friends, neighbors, kids, and even yourself.
Can women do apologetics?
-Yes, because apologetics is done in the world, and is the same as being a missionary; and training apologetics is completely unrelated to the Scriptures that speak against women teaching in the church.

I’m sure that in the years to come, these questions will continue to pop up, and I look forward to the conversation that opens because of it. In the meantime, join with me in the prayer that God uses ISWA in a mighty way to equip women, so that they begin to stand up and start fighting for the faith of their children.

Let us awaken the dawn together!


John said...


Thanks Brian for the series. is it going to be gathered to gether at the end and bound as a PDF? I sure hope so. And why no audio? Anyway and aleways, God bless.

Brian Auten said...

Yes, I'll be putting it into a PDF version at the conclusion of the series.
As for audio; not sure yet. I don't have a woman reader, and I think that would be preferred for this.

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