By Dr. Douglas E. Potter,
I never intended to be a professional apologist, professor, or even administrator in a Christian school of higher education. I just wanted to learn more and be better equipped so Christ might use me more effectively. I now have two earned degrees in Christian apologetics. I have been employed for 15 years at an institution of Christian higher education that specializes in teaching apologetics. Over those years, I have held positions in admissions, registrar, and a teaching professor of apologetics and theology. As you can imagine over those years, I have spoken with a few perspective and current students, and while I have been asked many questions, one question I am almost never asked is “why should I get a degree in Christian apologetics?” There is a good reason for that. They usually have already answered that question and decided to do it by the time they speak with me. They are already convinced they should get a degree and are now concerned about the details: “how do I get admitted?” “How will I pay for it?” “How long will it take?” etc.
What I have rarely been able to do is to reach out to those who like apologetics, use apologetics in ministry, see the increasing cultural and worldwide need for it, but for whatever reason do not see the value and importance of professionally studying the subject to maximize their effectiveness in ministry. Therefore, I would like to offer three reasons you should consider not just pursing, but achieving a degree or certificate in Christian apologetics.
Reason #1: You cannot learn everything you need to know about apologetics by just reading books and listening to talks.
I was this person before going to seminary. I read every book and listened to every talk, radio, TV program I could. While I knew the Lord was using me, I also knew I was missing something. Before going to seminary, I was a schoolteacher and knew I did not learn to do that by just reading books and listening to inspiring talks. Do not get me wrong, there is an important role for books and conferences. I remember my first year in seminary. My professor answered another student’s question, and that student responded by saying, “Why is that not in the textbook?” (―which my professor authored). Then my professor retorted, “Not everything is in the textbook; that is why we have class!” While in Seminary, I experienced constant correction and being put in uncomfortable, but safe positions, so I could learn from my failures and successes in a way that the knowledge and practice of the subject became second nature. As an educator, I can attest to you that that will only come in a controlled educational setting with standards by which you are held accountable and by which you are measured. Textbooks and talks alone will not give you that.
Reason #2: Not all apologetics is created equally.
Before going to seminary, I could tell that not everyone was doing apologetics the same way. Nevertheless, I did not know why, nor could I discern all the different ways. Nor did I even think it was important. Only after studying the history and controversies related to the subject under professors that knew the right way from the wrong ways, was I able to see the importance of classical apologetics, how it supports and integrates into classical theism and all other subjects to create a systematic worldview that was defensible. Indeed, it is possible (but not probable) that I may have figured it all out by myself. However, by studying it under the guidance of seasoned professors, I was motivated to learn it more effectively, efficiently, and comprehensively.
Reason #3: A degree is not a waste of time or money, and it is more than a piece of paper.
Over the years, I have interacted with hundreds of our students and graduates. Many have said to me that their biggest struggle was “how will I pay for this?” or “how will I find the time?” However, somehow, by God’s grace and providence, they did it. None of them have ever communicated to me, especially after being involved in ministry, that their time and
money spent on their education was for nothing. Most would probably agree that going to seminary was one of the most important things they ever did and would do it again if needed. Hence, that diploma is a historical record of their learning experience that is like no other. Dr. Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, has often said, “We want to prepare Rangers, Green Berets and paratroopers.” How would you feel if the U.S. Army decided all their soldiers need to do is read books and hear talks about war and combat before actually doing it? Is that all they need to face any threat and defeat any enemy? Even Jesus Christ spent three years training His disciples to change the world with the Gospel.
Southern Evangelical Seminary’s mission is to “train men and women, based on the inerrant and infallible written Word of God, for the evangelization of the world and defense of the historic Christian faith.” Our Seminary is not just for pastors. It is for high schoolers, homeschool parents, Sunday school teachers, lay ministers, lay missionaries, and of course, the professional Christian school teacher, minister, missionary and pastor. If that is what you are or want to be, why not start today?