It's been thrilling, too, to meet people who have come to Christ through reading something I've written. For example, when I was speaking in Moscow a few years ago I met a man from Minsk in Byelorussia. He told me that shortly after the fall of communism he had heard someone reading in Russian my book The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe over the radio in Minsk. By the end of the broadcast he had become convinced that God exists and yielded his life to Christ. He told me that today he is serving the Lord as an elder in a Baptist church in Minsk. Praise God! Recently, at Texas A&M University, I met a woman attending one of my talks. She told me with tears that for twenty-seven years she had been far away from God and was feeling hopeless and meaningless. Browsing in a Border's bookstore she ran across my book Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? which contains my debate with John Dominic Crossan, co-chairman of the radical Jesus Seminar, and bought a copy. She said that as she read it, it was as though the light just came on, and she gave her life to Christ. When I asked her what she does, she told me that she is a psychologist who works in a Texas prison for women. Just think of the Christian influence she can have in so desperate an environment!

Stories like these could be multiplied. So those who say that apologetics is not effective with unbelievers must be speaking out of their limited experience. When apologetics is persuasively presented and sensitively combined with a gospel presentation and a personal testimony, the Spirit of God condescends to use it in bringing certain people to himself.

So Christian apologetics is a vital part of the theological curriculum. Our focus in this book will be on the theoretical issues rather than on practical "how-tos." At the same time, I recognize that there remains the question of how to apply the theoretical material learned in this course. I've always thought that this problem was best left to each individual to work out according to the type of ministry to which he feels called. After all, I'm interested not only in training pastors but also systematic theologians, philosophers of religion, and church historians. But it has become clear to me that some people simply don't know how to translate theory into practice. Therefore, I've included a subsection on practical application after each major section of the course. I know the theoretical material is practical because I employ it often in evangelism and discipleship and see God use it.

Two Types of Apologetics

The field of apologetics may be broadly divided into two sorts: offensive (or positive) apologetics and defensive (or negative) apologetics. Offensive apologetics seeks to present a positive case for Christian truth claims. Defensive apologetics seeks to nullify objections to those claims. Offensive apologetics tends to subdivide into two categories: natural theology and Christian evidences. The burden of natural theology is to provide arguments and evidence in support of theism independent of authoritative, divine revelation. The ontological, cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments for the existence of God are classical examples of the arguments of natural theology. e goal of Christian evidences is to show why a specifically Christian theism is true. Typical Christian evidences include fulfilled prophecy, the radical personal claims of Christ, the historical reliability of the Gospels, and so forth. A similar subdivision exists within defensive apologetics. In the division corresponding to natural theology, defensive apologetics will address objections to theism. The alleged incoherence of the concept of God and the problem of evil would be the paramount issues here. Corresponding to Christian evidences will be a defense against objections to biblical theism. The objections posed by modern biblical criticism and by contemporary science to the biblical record dominate this field.