Cabal provides apologetics tips in pilot Southwesterners’ Forum
What can ministers do to extend the conversation with unbelievers who say no to the Gospel?
Ted Cabal, professor of philosophy of religion, provided ideas and counsel to answer that question and others about apologetics in the pilot episode of Southwesterners’ Forum, a new initiative of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Office of Alumni Engagement. The event, held via Zoom on Aug. 3, featured Cabal, a two-time alumnus, interacting with other alumni discussing apologetics in the local church.
Moderated by Andy Jennings, instructor of apologetics and two-time alumnus, invited alumni heard Cabal discuss the value of apologetics for all Christians, not just academic specialists, before a Q&A time in which Jennings posed questions attendees provided in advance of the forum.
“When I became a Christian, there were so few resources out there,” said Cabal as he responded to a question focused on methods and resources he would recommend to the pastors. “There are some people who say there is only one way to do apologetics, and if they are not just going straight to the Bible, I’m not going to agree with them typically. I want to help people who already believe in the Bible to know how to defend it.”
Cabal added that pastors should follow the examples of the New Testament believers as he encouraged fellow alumni to “keep it simple. Do it the way they did where they had conversations with people. Where you don’t have to be God and know everything, just ask them questions and think about it.”
“Ultimately, it is you knowing Jesus personally that grounds your faith,” Cabal responded to a question regarding internal application of apologetics. “Ninety-nine percent of Christians become Christians without ever even having answers to apologetics or knowing what it is. The reality of Christ’s power is what sustains our lives.”
Cabal provided an example from his time as a pastor adding, “In a church where we had Sunday night services, I would take a big question that was in the mind’s eye of the public like the topic of gender issues, but I would just teach on what the Bible has to say on that topic.”
Another question centered on how one can communicate the message depending on the generation of the audience being taught.
“Our goal as a Christian leader is to translate these concepts to whomever we are teaching,” said Cabal. “It became my goal when I talked to a person to get out of my comfort zone and try to understand where they’re coming from. We have to get out of our comfort zones and learn how to translate these ideas.”
The forum also allowed attendees to hear how their fellow alumni are practicing apologetics in their ministry context.
Alumnus Levi Smith, student pastor at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Big Spring, Texas, provided a comment on something that he has seen benefit students in his ministry.
“One of the things I have noticed is really helpful with students is helping them discuss with their friends the issues that pertain to ethics,” said Smith, who earned both Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees from Southwestern. “There are students who ask the question, ‘Why is my friend going to hell even if they are a nice person?’ and we need to help them communicate the answers clearly and carefully.”
Cabal provided suggestions on how to apply apologetics to the local church.
“I think that if you are in touch with your congregants and in touch with the culture they’re exposed to, you can address those things in a way that befits your situation,” said Cabal. “You have a simple teaching on how we should think about certain topics in our society, but some people just aren’t getting it. You need to address those questions often.”
The next Southwesterners’ Forum is scheduled for Sept. 25 at 2:00 p.m. with Joshua Waggener, professor of church music and worship, and Nelly Juarez Villegas, a student in the School of Church Music and Worship. All alumni will be invited to participate in this and in future forums, said Beka Hodges, associate director of marketing and alumni engagement.
“The Southwesterners’ Forum is an avenue for alumni and faculty to gather online and discuss specific ministry issues and topics,” said Hodges. “It’s driven by the needs and interests of our Southwesterners and aims to be a resource for them as they serve in a challenging and complex world.”
While this was the pilot meeting, Hodges added that “moving forward the Southwesterners’ Forum will be hosted monthly covering a broad range of ministry issues led by faculty members and co-hosted by fellow Southwesterners.”