FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – In Matthew 22, Jesus says that the greatest commandment is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” At Southwestern’s first annual Apologetics Symposium, April 11-12, speakers explained how Christians can love God with their minds.
“Think about two folks who are in love,” Travis Dickinson, assistant professor of philosophy and Christian apologetics at Southwestern, said during the Saturday morning session. “What do they do? They talk, asking questions about each other. … Part of love is wanting to know—being curious and being inquisitive about—that person.”
Apologetics, the discipline of defending a position (in this case, Christianity), should not be about winning arguments, Dickinson explained, but is best seen and most effective as a devotional exercise. In other words, out of love for God, Christians should ask questions of Him.
Dickinson said confidence in a matter comes from questioning it. Acknowledging the paradox, he assured attendees that Christians can maintain faith in something while questioning the object of their faith.
He illustrated this point by comparing it to flying on an airplane.
“I've got some questions about how 400 tons of metal can go down the runway, lift off the ground, glide five miles above the surface, and get us to where we want to go, sometimes on time. I've got questions about that, but notice what I can do: I still fly. I have complete confidence when I’m flying. In fact, I fall asleep sometimes. I'm that confident when I fly that I can actually take a nap.”
Dickinson further clarified, “If you believe [Christianity] is true, then all we're saying here is to explore that. Further your justification for believing that it's true.”
Dickinson also encouraged attendees to begin asking questions now.
“We tend to wait until our child is on the precipice of walking away from the faith,” Dickinson said. “Or we've got somebody who's hammering us at work with questions and really causing us to struggle. … What I want to recommend to you is don't wait to ask questions.”
Christians, Dickinson said, should ask these questions simply because they love God and want to know Him more deeply. Additionally, after wrestling with the issues themselves, Christians can answer non-Christians’ questions and be more empathetic to their struggle.
“There's a way in which the barriers go down,” Dickinson said, “and you're going to be able to speak into the life of that person because it'll be clear that this [question] has capsized you, too. And I think that's going to be a much more powerful approach to reaching people with apologetics.”
Paul Gould, also an assistant professor of philosophy and Christian apologetics, gave a similar conclusion in his lecture on Friday night. Gould said that the goal of apologetics is to be a faithful witness.
“Apologetics prepares us to partake in the mission of God as we are willing, ready and able to be faithful witnesses,” Gould said.
Other speakers at the symposium included Southwestern professors Terry Wilder, Keith Loftin and Mike Keas, speaking on such topics as proofs for the resurrection, the question of whether or not the Bible contains forgeries, and whether or not science disproves God.
The second annual apologetics conference is already scheduled for March 20-21, 2015, and will feature keynote speaker J. Warner Wallace, author of Cold-Case Christianity.