With the increasing diversity of the United States, anyone with religious convictions is bound to be asked at some point: “Why do you believe in that?”
Some observers are caught off guard by such questions. To combat that, many religious schools and institutions teach courses in apologetics to instruct believers how to systematically explain and logically defend their faith.
Apologetics is the study of how to best defend a given position. “The first thing we assume when we hear someone has apologized is that he or she has said, ‘I’m sorry,’” said Steven Melvin, who teaches such a course at Christian Preparatory Academy in Indianapolis. “That doesn’t reveal the whole scope of the word’s meaning.”
“Apologetics” comes from the Greek term apologia, which means “defense.” In its first centuries, Christianity met with much opposition, and early Christian thinkers such as Justin Martyr and Tertullian became known as “apologists” because of their clear and pointed defenses of their faith. Apologetics have since been integral to Christian thought.
Carter Booker teaches a course similar to apologetics at Heritage Christian School in Indianapolis. “The class I teach is not technically apologetics. We don’t call it that. We call it Worldviews, and the class is mainly focused around studying worldviews, mostly philosophically based worldviews.”
Booker’s class studies the main tenets of many doctrines ranging from existentialism to consumerism, he explained. Then he leads students in discussions around several key questions, including “How consistently does the worldview hold together? How clear are the arguments?” he said.
The class also compares these worldviews to those held by Christians.
Booker says teaching an apologetics-type class comes naturally to him. “My belief in God infuses everything that I think about. It influences how I view issues, whether they are political or social or economic or personal in any way, shape or form,” he said. “I always want my students to be thinking as Christians about the other worldviews.”
Booker says all Christians could benefit from a course in apologetics. He’s had a need for it all of his life.
He grew up in eastern Tennessee and went to a public high school. He says he was very open about his faith and sometimes found himself in conversations with peers who did not hold the same beliefs.
“I was pushed to really articulate why I felt like my faith is the true one and the right one,” he said.
Heritage Christian students may not seem to have the same need, as they all share the same faith. However, it proves useful all the time, according to two former Worldviews students, who also live their faiths, whether they’re talking with friends or doing some of their favorite activities.
Michelle Mumme, 18, wasn’t interested in apologetics until she started taking Booker’s class. Now, she defends her faith on a regular basis.
“It’s funny, before I studied it, I didn’t think it was something we would use in daily conversation or just, you know, in real life, but only in a philosophical setting. And I’ve come to find that it’s really, really practical and important to look into and figure out what you believe,” she said.
Michelle says she has many friends who are not Christian, and she doesn’t shy away from expressing her faith when she thinks it is important. She says she doesn’t do it to win an argument but rather to help them find the peace she has.
“Something really key about Christianity is the belief in eternity and a heaven and a hell,” she explained.
“And I think any Christian who truly believes that there are people that are going to heaven and there are people that are going to hell, if you don’t bring that up in your conversations and try to get your friends to agree with you so that they’ll go to heaven, I think that’s the most unloving thing you could do.”
Michael Reutman, 18, also has found Booker’s class useful. He enjoys debating with his friends about various subjects, including faith.
“I love reading stuff and just debating about philosophical matters,” he said.
Michael performs music at various venues, and sometimes people will ask him where he finds inspiration for his songs. When he tells them he is influenced by his faith, he says he sometimes sees them cringe.
“There’s kind of like this negative stereotype of Christians it seems that a lot of people hold. It’s kind of irritating at times, but it also provides the opportunity for me to really articulate the true Christian faith,” he said.
Michael and Michelle have not wavered in their faith despite the confrontations and temptations of the secular world. “I’ve noticed with a lot of my friends that they’re really apathetic,” Michael said.
“People are becoming just more and more concerned with what’s happening right now, or what’s coming on this Friday night or this weekend or something like that, that they’re not looking to the long run.”
Instead, these two continue defending their faith and wrestling with the same weighty issues that their ancestors struggled with.
“Honestly, people have been dying ever since people have been born, and so I think the importance of knowing what happens after you die, and making sure you’re right with God, that hasn’t changed at all. You know, that’s something that’s been the same forever,” says Michelle.
Assistant Editor: Jeff Hou, 15
Reporter: Danielle Hensley, 13
Copyright 2009 Y-Press