Why We Need Apologetic Pastors, Part 2
Guest article from Dr. Andrew Corbett, senior pastor at Legana Christian Church in Tasmania
Each Sunday I have something to say to my congregation about the defense of our faith. In fact, I must say something. For example, when Lawrence Krauss was featured in the Australian media for “proving (scientifically) that God did not exist” (see here and here). I had a pastoral duty to address Krauss’ claims before my church. Largely because of what I’ve learned from Reasons to Believe (RTB), I was able to describe Krauss’ assertions in understandable language to my congregation and help them recognize how unconvincing a case these claims were for atheism.
It can’t be left there, of course. Church leaders must continually point out the truthfulness of the Bible as supported by history, philosophy, biology, astronomy, mathematics, cosmology, and geology. Pastors don’t have to preach about these things—but they are wise to intentionally draw upon them to illustrate Scripture’s reliability, in order to reach an increasingly skeptical world.
Getting Equipped for Apologetics
Discovering RTB greatly aided my journey toward pastoral apologetics (see part 1 of this series). In my opinion, this ministry is also the premier apologetics training resource for busy pastors. The RTB scholar team gleans the latest scientific discoveries from the literature of various scientific disciplines and discusses the philosophical and theological concerns of the day—all in layman’s terms that even a pastor like me can understand. One of the most attractive features of RTB’s ministry is that they offer resources in so many formats—books, articles, videos, and podcasts—so that even a car trip can be turned into an apologetics classroom!
By acquiring the skills and utilizing the appropriate resources, any pastor can be equipped in apologetics. When pastors take the time to do these things it helps to attract people in science-based professions to church and, better yet, encourages them to trust the God of the Bible. But perhaps even more urgently, it is pastors’ duty to be ready to help those in their charge who are struggling with resolvable doubts—resolvable if pastors use apologetics.
Inviting an apologist to be a guest speaker is a good way to introduce a congregation to apologetics. After Kenneth Samples visited our church in Tasmania for a weekend—where we held several apologetics events, including church services—many of our young people realized that Christianity was intellectually and philosophically rigorous. Two years later, when RTB biochemist Dr. Fazale (Fuz) Rana visited for a weekend, many of these young people invited their skeptical science buddies. Fuz rocked their worlds with evidence for a Creator from an examination of a biological cell. My congregants still talk about Fuz’s visit as a life-changing event.
This past spring RTB founder Dr. Hugh Ross was a guest at our church. He was able to build on the foundation laid by Ken and Fuz. We continue to receive reports of people who have come to faith in Christ from skeptical backgrounds and believers who can now see the concordance between faith in the God of the Bible and the scientific record.
The Necessity of Science-Savvy Pastors
When pastors commit to show their people how the glory of God can be seen in a biological cell or astronomy, they run the risk of alienating some people who have been taught that science is the enemy of the Christian faith. When my church announced Dr. Ross’ visit, it created quite a stir. Compatibility between science and the Bible is strongly rejected by some in the Christian community. But pastors should not shy away from wisely and winsomely pastoring with apologetics to show even the newest scientific discoveries give great weight to the gospel.
I recently interviewed the Reverend Dr. Gordon Moyes, Australia’s most renowned and successful preacher, for a documentary I’m producing on the life of F. W. Boreham. Dr. Moyes (now a retired leader of a church and its various ministries staffed by over 4,000 people) described Boreham as one of the greatest influences on his own life and ministry. When the main interview concluded, I asked Dr. Moyes what he would do if he were a young pastor starting out his ministry today. “Astrophysics and astronomy!” he said. “I would learn all I could about these disciplines because these are most exciting realms of science for any preacher today and they hold the greatest fascination of any of the sciences in the mind of the public!”
I returned home to Tasmania with these words ringing in my ears. I then picked up a volume written by Boreham himself, one of the most successful apologetics pastors of all time. Writing in 1938, Boreham states,
Truth can never be the enemy of truth. The truth that the astronomer discovers in the stars cannot be at variance with the truth that the geologist finds in the strata. The truth that breaks upon our vision in the twentieth century is in perfect harmony with the truth that was brought to light in the first century…For a long time the scientist interpreted Nature in one way, and the theologian interpreted the Bible in another. The inevitable discord led thoughtless people to suppose that, in some inexplicable way, a discrepancy existed between the natural and the religious view of things. Now everybody knows that the discrepancy—if indeed, there be one—is not between the things themselves, but between the faulty interpretations of those things. As those interpretations become more enlightened, more sympathetic and more intelligent, the gulf that divides them becomes small by degrees and beautifully less.1
The journey to becoming an apologetic pastor involves recognizing what Clement of Alexandria said in the Second Century, “All truth is God’s truth, wherever it might be found.” That is, the God who inspired, revealed, and uniquely authorized His Scriptures, is also the God who says in these Scriptures that the natural world reveals Him as its Creator.
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19–20)
In other words, the natural world and our careful study of it can be trusted as a source of knowledge about the Creator-God. Because Scripture states that creation reveals a God who is the Creator of the universe, apologetic pastors can and should be open to the truths revealed and confirmed in the various disciplines of science, such as biology, astronomy, cosmology, and geology.
These are not the usual subjects taught at seminary. Fortunately, the RTB scholar team frequently discusses and writes about them in a manner and length ideal for pastors seeking to include apologetics in their preaching and effectively shepherd their people in an age of increasing skepticism toward biblical Christianity.
By Dr. Andrew Corbett
Dr. Andrew Corbett received his Doctor of Ministry degree from Cambridge Graduate School (USA), in 2001. He is the senior pastor of Legana Christian Church in Tasmania and president of ICI Theological College Australia.
Find out more about Ken’s visit to Dr. Corbett’s church in Legana, Tasmania, in these previous posts: “Apologetics Down Under, Part 1 and Part 2.” You can also listen to Ken interview Dr. Corbett on the Straight Thinking podcast.
- “Pastors and Apologetics: An Interview with Dr. Andrew Corbett” – Straight Thinking, episode #256
- “Argument from Religious Experience: An Interview with Dr. Andrew Corbett” – Straight Thinking, episode #257
- F. W. Boreham, The Drums of Dawn (London: Epworth Press, 1938), 49–50.