The Women of Christian Apologetics
Christianity and Women's History
Women and Christian Apologetics
The practice of Christian apologetics has existed since the pages of Scripture were first penned. Whenever culture or scholarship has risen up to attack Christianity as a legitimate belief, the best and the brightest of Christendom have responded by showing that Christianity makes sense of the world in terms of philosophy, history, scholarship, and science.
As the Western world became more and more Christian, apologetics began to occupy the back burner of Theological discussion.
However, modern culture has become increasingly skeptical of Christian beliefs. With the increasing objections being leveled at Christianity, those within the faith have been forced to resurrect this ancient practice by familiarizing themselves with the history, scholarship, and philosophy that supports the rationality of Christian beliefs.
Women have traditionally been underrepresented in theological fields, much less apologetics. However as this becomes more and more popular in the church, both men and women have been stepping up to fill the calling to show Christians and non-Christians alike that there are actual reasons why their beliefs are true.
Women have made invaluable contributions to this field, and this writer recently had the opportunity to talk to eleven of these women about their ministries and what drives them to passionately defend their beliefs.
Not God's Type
When a hardened atheist considers the evidence and converts to Christianity, it inspires Christians and challenges Atheists.
Holly Ordway’s is just such a story.
Some atheists are convinced when studying the marvelous complexities of science. Some are convinced by historical evidence for Christ. The evidence that Holly discovered, however, was a little more exceptional. Holly explains:
“It was through reading Christian poetry and works like Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings that I got a glimpse of a richer, more meaningful world; it was through my imagination that God called me to Him, and got me interested in asking the questions that ultimately led me to discover that Christianity is true.”
Holly now sits as the Chair of the Department of Apologetics and Director of the MA in Apologetics at Houston Baptist University. She describes herself as a “teacher of teachers,” equipping the next generation of apologists for the Christian worldview.
Holly has integrated her inspiration through imagination into the work she does. Says Holly:
“…my specialty is literary and imaginative apologetics and I have a book currently in progress on that topic. I also write on C.S. Lewis and the Inklings. Finally, my apologetics work includes an element of engagement with broader popular audiences. I have a blog, Hieropraxis, I am a published poet, and I have written a memoir of my conversion to Christianity and my later reception into the Catholic Church, under the title Not God's Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms.”
While Holly is a renowned and accomplished apologist, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Dr Michael Ward, Dr John Mark Reynolds, Dr Michael Licona, and Mary Jo Sharp, Holly’s distinctive focus on the world of the imagination as evidence for a Creator has become her unique niche in the marketplace of ideas.
In her own words:
“The fact that I have a very analytical mind, yet I am also a poet, makes for a particularly useful combination for the kind of work I'm doing in apologetics. My academic background (I have a PhD in English Literature) allows me to integrate literature into the work of apologetics.”
Holly’s accomplishments have not been without their challenges. As a woman in a male-dominated field, Holly admits that she sees a variety of obstacles for women who might aspire to follow in her footsteps:
“Unfortunately there's still a bias against women intellectuals in our culture (not just in Christian communities!) so that women who are educated or interested in learning are accused of being ‘unfeminine’ or ‘too smart.’ This is one reason why it's so important for women to see role models in apologetics!
“There are other challenges. Some churches don't allow women to teach, or only to teach young children or other women, which means that women aren't allowed to fully contribute to the equipping of the Body of Christ. I feel like I can be a good role model here: as a Catholic I believe in a male-only priesthood, and in male headship in the family, and so I fully accept that women have a different role in the Church than men. In fact, as a matter of personal conscience, I won't accept speaking offers for Sunday messages, even in Evangelical churches; it feels too much like stepping into the pastor's role for me to be comfortable with that. Yet, I teach both men and women, and as head of HBU's Apologetics Department, I am a leader of both men and women. I hope this shows in practical terms that women can be leaders and teachers without necessarily being egalitarian in theology!
“Another challenge for women apologists is that the culture of apologetics is still very male-oriented. It's hard to be the only woman in a graduate class! (I'm pleased to say that our enrollment in HBU's MA in Apologetics is roughly 50/50 on men and women students.) Women can feel isolated. In practical terms, at apologetics events, there is seldom child-care available, and young children are usually not welcome in the events. We need to be more welcoming of families with children.”
If these challenges can be overcome, however, Holly speculates that the field of Christian Apologetics will be greatly enriched by an influx of women willing to take up this calling:
“Women often have different styles of relating to others, and we need to make more use of a wider range of approaches. Apologetics has tended to be very head-focused and debate-oriented, such that it's described in terms of 'winning arguments' and 'defeating atheists' and so on. There's a place for that, but it shouldn't be the only or even the main approach to apologetics; it turns a lot of people off (men as well as women). Women apologists can help diversify the ways that we share the truth, so that apologetics includes non-confrontational discussions, questioning and dialogue, and creative expression. This will also help encourage men who don't like the 'argument' style, that they have a place in apologetics too!
“Women who are mothers also have a unique and very important role in apologetics, as they are their children's first teachers. The family is the first church! Stronger families, with mothers, fathers, and children who know what they believe and why, will help strengthen the Church and help us to reach out to others with confidence and love.”
Standing Alone On a College Campus
The Ratio Christi organization works to bring Christian Apologetic resources to college campuses across the world. The challenge that Ratio Christi faces is a decidedly uphill battle. The predominant attitude at the level of higher education is that any kind of religion is a regression into anti-intellectual, unscientific superstition.
This is the struggle Jane Pantig faced when she first became a Christian:
"...it was hard to tell others about my faith because most of my friends did not think religion or faith were for ‘smart’ people. I majored in biology and often times I heard that, ‘science and faith are immiscible’ and saw the hostility towards a belief in a Creator. And because I was a new Christian I did not know how to tell a person that wasn’t true or that science and faith were compatible. One of my classmates asked me, ‘Why are you taking this class when you don’t believe in it (evolution)?’ At the time the only answer I can give to him was, ‘I need to know both sides.’”
The struggle that Jane felt in defending her new-found faith was answered a few years after her graduation as she sought out resources to address the intellectual challenges posed against Christian beliefs:
“A turning point in my life was in the summer of 2009, I went to a Ravi Zacharias International Ministry Summer Institute at Wheaton College (IL). One evening, Stuart McAllister said something that really penetrated my heart. He said, ‘We need the next generation of Apologists, and all God wants is for you to be available.’ At that moment the Holy Spirit was speaking into my heart. When I got home from the Summer Institute, I applied to the Master’s in Christian Apologetics program at BIOLA University and few weeks later I was in my first semester at BIOLA! In May 2011, I received my M.A. in Christian Apologetics with High Honors.”
Now, in a poetic turn of affairs, Jane herself works for Ratio Christi, teaching and providing resources for college Christians who, like herself, long for the intellectual foundations for their beliefs.
As a Filipino-American, Jane feels blessed by her distinct heritage. It has allowed her to reach an audience to which apologetic resources have been scarce. Her work with Filipino churches in America has been met with excitement and enthusiasm on the part of her audience to learn and share these new intellectual tools.
However, it is not only her cultural background that gives Jane a special platform for sharing her worldview:
“I had a talk with J. Warner Wallace before our event at San Jose State University and he asked [about my platform]. He was asking this question to encourage me. The first thing that popped up in my mind was that I am Filipino. He then told me that I was also a young woman and that I had a platform that men like him cannot reach.
“”Women are able to reach other women, and encourage each other since apologetics is often seen as ‘heady’ field and women are more emotional or relational. We are able to bring a more relational aspect to it.”
However, Jane expresses that the unique advantage women have in the field is not without its hurdles. In a male-dominated field, she felt intimidated as one of the very few females in her Biola University classes.
Now she is surprised to find that other women are intimidated by her and her knowledge:
“I think the challenge I had as a woman that does apologetics is that other women see me as ‘intimidating’ or that I have a ‘strong’ personality; I still don't really understand what that means. I just love learning and sharing what I learn with others so that they too will be bold in sharing their faith.”
Jane’s path on the road to becoming an apologist has been rugged. She has faced the uncertainties of a new faith in a hostile academic environment, of a Christian academic environment in which she was a minority, and of the concern of what she was to do with her knowledge and training when she graduated.
However, through it all, she feels God has blessed and led her into an exciting ministry assisting others to overcome the struggles she herself has faced.
“I teach youth group and young women at my church and I teach apologetics to college students through Ratio Christi. I am not trying to take on a pastoral role; I just want to encourage the next generation to be bold for Jesus Christ.”
From Saleswoman To Apologist
Throughout the world, there are a number of puzzling and often hostile challenges to the Christian faith. The majority of Christians are not prepared to confidently face these challenges. A wide range of approaches are necessary to reach and teach the vastly divergent Christian culture the fundamental answers to secure their faith.
Judy Salisbury is a Christian author and speaker who is well prepared to reach such a vast variety of intellectual and emotion needs. Her extensive experience and background in sales endowed her with the ability to read her audience and overcome their various objections. Her time spent as a stand-up comedian gifted her with the confidence to speak before large groups with whit - improvising as needed. Her work as a counselor brings to the table compassion and the ability to empathize and relate to people at their deepest emotional levels.
Judy has put these talents to work; authoring books and holding conferences around the country with the purpose of informing and prepare Christians everywhere.
Judy’s drive and compassion for the Christian community arose out of very personal experiences. Her youth was spent in spiritual confusion, voices from the Catholic community of her family instructing her to worship Mary; her friends toying with spirituality in the form of tarot cards, astrology, and the Ouija board; and her father relating his vaguely pantheistic views.
In her early adulthood, a Christian friend introduced her to the faith where she heard for the first time that Jesus was God. However, as no reasons were given her for this belief, she was skeptical, and unable to defend this view.
She was eventually introduced to apologetic reasoning, which she met with enthusiasm:
“… I was immediately attracted to apologetics because it was the apologetic of the Deity of Christ that won my mind. Without that answer, I would have continued to flounder in my faith. This gave me a desire to answer questions for other people who were frustrated by professing believers they met that appeared to have none. It also gave me the heart to reach people who referred to themselves as believers, but who were far from truly giving Jesus Christ their life.”
Judy has put this enthusiasm to work, founding Logos Presentations to promote her conferences and publications; lending her talents as a counselor to the American Association of Christian Counselors; and authoring as well as contributing to a variety of apologetic books.
One of Judy’s pet concerns is equipping women to be confident and forthright about their Christian beliefs:
“Part of our challenge as women is overcoming the thought throughout the publishing world that women aren’t interested in books written by women, for women, on the issue of apologetics. I believe that, as many moms are watching the culture devour their own children, they realize they must do something to offer their children an intuitive, intelligent, radical life-changing alternative to what the world is telling their kids.”
Judy believes that women who are properly trained in apologetics have a unique gift to offer the field:
“Women tend to minister to the whole person. For us, apologetics is an effective tool in our toolbox. We can use apologetics to reach the intellect or the mind, we can use our intuition and sensitivity to recognize and minister to a hurting heart, and we are not afraid or embarrassed to pray with someone on the spot to help penetrate the soul.”
Judy is a founding board member for the International Society of Women in Apologetics (ISWA) as a trainer and an advisor; and she has written a powerful book on apologetics specifically for women. This book is titled Reasons for Faith: A Common Sense Guide for Christian Women.
“As female authors and speakers in the area of apologetics, we owe it to Christian women to provide them with appropriate tools which will help them become better equipped and more comfortable to begin the task of apologetics. I am thankful to the Lord that He has allowed me, since 1994 through the work of Logos Presentations, to do just that.”
The Language of Apologetics
Ratio Christiis an international Christian organization aimed at creating chapters in colleges and universities all over the world. In any given college, an advocate with experience and training in the field of Christian Apologetics collects a group of students – Christian or otherwise – who are interested in exploring the Christian faith through reason, philosophy, history, and science.
At Rutgers University in New Jersey, that advocate is Julie Miller. Julie is a trained Christian Apologist, having graduated with Highest Honors from the Apologetics Masters program at Biola University as well as pursuing a rigorous and on-going personal investigation into the evidence that supports her Christian convictions. For 24 years, she has served in Bible Study Fellowship, a group that investigates the Bible from all angles: historically, theologically, and linguistically.
This last is appropriate for Julie, since her interest in Christian Apologetics was sparked during her years teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) for Friends International. Julie describes her experience:
“Along with our language study, I also shared the truth about God and the gospel. I had ladies from many countries, including China, Japan, South Korea, Columbia, France, Germany, Ecuador, and Iran. I soon learned that apologetics was essential. These ladies needed evidence for the existence of God and the reliability of the Bible before they would consider the truths of the gospel. Soon after this realization, we moved to New Jersey and my two teenage sons began attending public school for the first time. They encountered many objections to Christianity and needed answers and evidence and reasons for their faith in Christ.”
Unlike her ESL students, Julie did not begin her Christian Journey as an intellectual pursuit. She was raised in a Christian home where her faith was more or less passed down to her from her parents, teachers, and pastor.
It was not until college that Julie began her own investigation into her faith.
Julie has not practiced her faith in a vacuum, however. She has had to weather challenges that require her to look at the reasons behind her own beliefs. She lost her 57-year-old mother to cancer when she herself was just a young wife and mother; then later had to watch as one of her sons strayed into wayward thinking and behavior. If her faith had been simply an emotional one, these would have been reason enough for her to doubt her God.
Armed, however, with her convictions bourn up by solid evidence and reason, Julie has emerged a stronger Apologist for Christ.
Julie puts these skills into practice in her Ratio Christi chapter at New Jersey’s State University. She describes her experience there:
“We have a wide variety of students who attend our meetings. For the Christians our aim is to strengthen their faith by equipping them to give reasons and evidence for their beliefs. Their faith is challenged in the classroom and on the secular campus, so unanswered doubts can soon lead to rejecting the faith. It is unlikely that a student will continue to believe something they seriously doubt is true. The heart and soul cannot continue to embrace what the mind rejects. We also have skeptics, atheists, a Muslim, and a Buddhist who come to our meetings. For them our aim is to answer their objections and give them intellectual permission to investigate the truth claims of Christianity.”
While Julie admits that the beliefs certain Christian churches’ have about women’s place in ministry may hold those women back from pursuing their investigations into the evidence for Christ, and from sharing that evidence, she believes that women have a special role in the field of Christian Apologetics:
“I think women are in a unique position to see the value of incorporating apologetics in raising children. I have heard [Christian Apologist] J Warner Wallace say we need to stop teaching our children what to believe and start training them to be able to give reasons and evidence for their beliefs and welcome their questions and doubts. This just means in it is necessary to focus on the ‘why’ as well as the ‘what’ when preparing our children to be good ambassadors for Christ in our post Christian culture.”
Julie may be a hard-working woman who has devoted a great deal of time and effort into achieving her position of ministry and leadership, but she champions the evidence for Christianity for the edification of others, not for herself. As she, herself, states:
“…my story is not very different from others. Questions about the truth claims of Christianity, either our own questions or from others, motivate us to find answers.”
Unearthing Christian Truth
DoubtLess Faith Ministries is a Christian Apologetics organization that showcases renowned authors, speakers, and resources made available to Christians to provide sound, reasonable evidence for the truth of the Christian worldview.
DoubtLess Faith Ministries places a heavy emphasis on Biblical archaeology and comparative religions, hosting educational trips to the Holy Land as well as supporting archaeological digs and international events touring various religious faiths worldwide.
The founder and leader of DoubLess Faith is one Kristen Davis, who was able to initiate and realize her ambitious goal in sustaining such an important organization.
Kristen’s pedigree is impressive to say the least. She has her BS in religion with a focus in biblical studies - graduating summa cum laude - and her MA in Christian apologetics - graduating with highest honors.
In addition to leading DoubtLess Faith Ministries, Kristen has put her academic achievement to work as an adjunct professor of ethics for Southeastern University and also by teaching at multiple churches around Jacksonville.
Kristen was not always the confident and energetic apologist that she is today. In spite of growing up in a Christian home and being heavily involved in her local church for her entire life, Kristen was stymied by insecurities and doubts for much of her youth. To her it seemed that the evidence against the Christian worldview was so intense that her beliefs were motivated mainly out of guilt rather than confidence.
“I was the girl that the church kids called a goody two shoes, but deep inside I was afraid none of it was true. I wondered how science could prove we were descendants of monkeys yet Genesis teaches us that we are special creations made in the image of God. I wondered how we could know that Christianity was the right path when there are so many religious options. I closed my thoughts on my doubts because I was afraid it made me a bad Christian and so I ignored them and trudged on for many years. My doubts and the lack of answers eroded my faith. I graduated from high school knowing I was called to ministry but turned my back on the calling, because my doubts kept God from being real to me.”
Events sparked during her college years eventually led Kristen to the doorstep of Liberty University, a Christian school in Virginia. There she finally discovered that - although not widely known - there were, in fact, strong reasons to believe Christianity was true.
Kristen tells it this way:
“During that time I took a Creation Science class and a Biblical Archaeology class both of which blew my mind by showing me that the Bible is not only reliable but is supported by an incredible amount of science and history! I was exhilarated and my faith exploded and expanded into every part of my life! These discoveries made me so hungry for God and all He could do and show me! Apologetics removed the stumbling blocks, allowing my faith to go from nominal, at best, to a passionate love affair with my Creator! I now seek to share what I have learned with others so that they too can fall madly in love with their Creator and Savior!”
Strengthened by her new-found – and well founded – confidence in the Christian beliefs, Kristen put all of her energies into her apologetic pursuits.
Kristen describes the reasons that have buoyed her beliefs:
“…believe it or not, apologetics has helped me get through the days when I have felt hopeless more than anything else, because in my studies of the reliability of the Bible I've found that the Bible is THE single most reliable document in the entire world, throughout all of history. No other book has not only ALWAYS matched the archaeological data to a ‘T’, but also corrected secular history. Knowing the Bible is trustworthy in the historical details allows me to believe that when God says ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ He means it. That when He says He loves us more than His own life, He means it. I can trust the parts of scripture that are hard for me to wrap my head around because the things that can be historically verified have shown the Bible to be trustworthy.”
Today, Kristen’s particular interest in Biblical Archaeology has driven her to exciting pursuits that have contributed significant advancements to the field.
She began by researching and writing her master’s thesis on the religious artifacts of Tel Dan, showing they support the biblical conquest narrative; and is now an associate of a Biblical archaeology group called Associates for Biblical Research.
Kristen has been to Israel twice, once on a holy land trip and the second time on an archaeological dig - the western wall plaza excavation.
In addition to all of this, Kristen has been to India to study religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism and Islam first hand.
Kristen summarizes her passion for Biblical archaeology this way:
“…my personal area of interest is in Biblical archeology, especially as it pertains to the Old Testament and the pre-Monarchical times (before kings Saul and David). These areas (Creation, the Patriarchs, the Egyptian sojourn and Exodus, and the Conquest periods) are often times dismissed as non-historical narratives, created for the purpose of giving Israel a right to Canaan after the Babylonian exile. The problem is if these narratives aren't true then there is no sense in reading on to the Gospels. If you can't trust the beginning of the Bible, where the whole purpose and need for Christ's death is introduced and explained, then the rest can't be trusted either; nor does the rest make sense if the beginning is all fiction created to tell a good background story. Through Biblical archaeology, I seek to show people that the Bible is historically true from the get-go so that when the miraculous, hard to believe parts are encountered, there is already a framework of trust in the reliability of the document of Scripture itself to support the credibility of the more difficult parts to comprehend.”
Kristen is on the speaking team of the International Society of Women in Apologetics. She has not found the world of Christian Apologetics to be particularly unfriendly to women. As she tells it:
“I suppose some would say women face a unique challenge in the world of Christian apologetics because of the ratio of men to women in ministry being so unbalanced, however I've never personally encountered issues. Female apologists are a unique breed right now so I think we're actually a novelty of sorts to many churches and universities. The only challenge I've faced as a woman that probably isn't the case for most men in ministry is finding someone willing to mentor and walk me through growing into a strong ministry leader. Because so many misunderstandings take place between men and women that lead to ruined ministry careers, I've found most male leaders are willing to give feedback and advice from a distance, preferring to mentor those of the same gender. I can understand this and - though a challenge - it has probably been a very beneficial thing because it has resulted in me seeking feedback from a plethora of leaders rather than only a single mentor, as well as requiring me to lean on God for direction and guidance where I might otherwise have esteemed the words of a human too much.”
Kristen has shown herself to be an exemplary advocate for the Christian worldview and her ministry has shown continued growth and expansion across the years.
Letitia Wong is a busy woman.
She is a devoted mother of two, a responsibility that she takes very seriously. She also writes a Christian Apologetics blog, “Talitha, Koum!”
At Missouri Baptist University in St. Louis; she directs a student chapter which is devoted to providing those students with resources for defending the Christian worldview against cultural and intellectual challenges. In addition to helping college students, she also helps teenagers with apologetics through a local organization called Faith Ascent Ministries.
Letitia is a cohost of a weekly radio program - named TRU-Life Fridays Radio - which focuses on educating and promoting the defense of a healthy ethic of human life.
Letitia’s hard work and devotion to expressing and defending her Christian beliefs has blossomed from a struggle to understand these beliefs, especially in the light of her cultural heritage:
“I grew up as a child of immigrants who became Christians through the efforts of missionaries. Growing up in ethnic Chinese church congregations has its benefits as well as pitfalls. Every American-born child of immigrants values her cultural background but struggles with how that fits into her identity as a part of the larger and often contrasting American identity. As a Christian, I felt like I was in an even smaller subset of people, and reliance on my identity in Christ Jesus became fundamental. Everything on the outside could describe what I am, but only in Christ Jesus did I find who I am.”
Her faith was challenged at the tender age of 7, as it clashed with other faith systems to which she was exposed. Letitia was not content to simply believe that Christianity was right and all other worldviews were wrong; she wanted to know the difference and see if there were, in fact, reasons that confirmed the truth of Christianity:
“At age 13, I started studying the differences in teachings between each of those religions and Biblical Christianity. Not only that, I studied the rationale behind the belief systems as well as evaluating what I had been taught in church. Those experiences ushered me into reading many, many books on worldviews and evidences for the reliability of the Bible.”
Letitia soon had opportunity to put her education into practice as she worked with friends – many bitter and skeptical toward Christianity – to help them see the difference between Christian stereotypes and what the Bible actually teaches:
“[I] sought to answer those objections with gentleness and respect. After all, they were my friends, and I felt as though I was contending not only for their hearts and minds but for their trust.”
It is this compassion for others, more than anything else, which has driven Letitia in her apologetic pursuits:
“Two years ago, I felt the need to intensify my focus on bioethics and pro-life issues after meeting a friend whose mother had been pressured to abort him. She refused, and he was consequently sterilized as a baby. I woke up to the extent to which inhumane practices that I believed were almost unthinkable today are still present - even being revived - in secular academia and increasingly in popular media.
“Among Christian apologists, you will find a slim minority interested in the defense of life. Among those who defend life, you will find a slim minority interested in the defense of the faith. I’m interested in both and use the strengths in both arenas to speak for defending the faith as well as how to live out that faith consistent with the Christian worldview.”
Letitia is well-qualified in her specific focus on the defense of life, having studied Health Sciences at Purdue and Medical Technology at Arizona State. Letitia’s unique capacity to uphold the Christian worldview does not stop here, though:
“This is a very exciting time to wrestle with questions I think students who have grown up in church have come to believe haven’t been encouraged to ask. Such was my experience growing up, so I have a lot in common with those students.
“My cultural heritage and upbringing have allowed me to frequently challenge stereotypes. The caricature of the American Christian as a suburban raised white person who has limited cultural experiences outside his immediate milieu doesn’t quite match my life. I am able to speak about how faith in Jesus Christ transcends any reduction to mere cultural or subjective influences."
However, it is not simply Letitia’s academic and cultural backgrounds that empower her to challenge attacks on Christianity. Letitia has found that, as a woman apologist, she has a distinct voice among both Christians and non-Christians:
“Apologetics is already a narrow focus within subject matters that have historically attracted mainly just men (Christianity, theology, and philosophy) and not very many men.
“For as long as I can remember, critics have accused Christianity as a legalistic religion that is anti-woman among other things. This seems to demand that Christian women come to the forefront to proclaim that Woman was created as the completion to humankind. How appropriate, then, that women engage and complete the argument for the validity and veracity of the Christian faith. Plus, women who can communicate well and teach other women make the disciplines used in apologetics so much more accessible so that more women can become involved.
“I have many times heard women disparage apologetics study, questioning its relevance, worried that it causes people to complicate faith or be combative. I want to shift this perspective. Women tend to invest heavily in their children’s education and spiritual and worldview formation. However, they also tend to disconnect at the most crucial point in this investment, the point at which the Christian worldview relies heavily on sound reasoning about philosophical and theological matters. The need to follow through is key to bringing the heart and the mind together to apply all the knowledge of their education (history, science, and the humanities) to be able to have and share an integrated Christian worldview. Apologetics study completes what women begin in earnest in properly educating their children, and I believe what is beneficial for children is likewise beneficial for women. Apologetics bridges the gap between knowledge and application. Knowledge and application together are the key to communication of truth to a world that is skeptical about the claims of Christianity.”
Letitia has found that in her emotional and existential struggles her Christian faith is not the problem, but rather the solution:
“The times I doubt the most don’t come from intellectual challenges but personal struggles with pain and fear. During those times, when my emotions go on a roller coaster ride, God has always reminded me (most often through my wonderful husband) that He exists, and that Jesus still died and resurrected for me. After all, I have a battery of arguments and a minimal facts case to support that Jesus knows hurt and pain better than anyone could, right?”
Hope over False Hope
Lori Peters is a woman who has seen her fair share of hardships. Despite her Christian upbringing, an early indiscretion led to her becoming a pregnant teenager and a single mother at the age of 17. She married after her fiance graduated Air Force Academy, only to be told by doctors that she would never be able to have children again.
While this heartbreaking shock proved to be false, she continued to have chronic issues with her health, and one of her next six pregnancies resulted in the loss of the child after 14 weeks:
“I was incensed as to why would God allow this kind of suffering. I was angry and hurt for many weeks and really ignored God. Thankfully, His faithfulness and consistent promptings from the Holy Spirit broke my stubbornness and I turned to Him. My heart still aches even eight years later, but I know my God is still with me.”
It is possibly this struggle that has led to Lori’s heart and focus in her defense of the Christian faith:
“I am passionate about two particular areas of apologetics. The first is bioethics. Having been faced with the decision to carry to term, serving as a volunteer and then a pregnancy center director, I strongly defend the unborn and helping women.
“The second area that I am really focusing on is the problem of evil. I find the emotional problem of evil to be one of the greatest barriers to following Christ. I also believe that often times we place too much responsibility on God to either prevent suffering or to find some good outcome as a result of horrendous evil. This misunderstanding creates doubt and anger towards the only one who can truly bring lasting comfort.”
This duel focus - bioethics and the problem of pain – has caused Lori to spend time reconciling the emotional aspects of faith with the logical and reasoning aspects of apologetics. She describes herself as a “singing apologist”:
“I work both in apologetics and as a worship leader. Often apologists are considered too intellectual and worship leaders too emotional. My love for both allows me to teach others to worship the Lord with all the heart and all the mind – together. I also think that being in worship ministry helps me to see past others’ intellectual barriers and get down to the heart issue that prevents them from giving their lives to Jesus.”
While Lori is a devoted wife and mother, she is also one of the few females to lead a chapter of the College Apologetics group, Ratio Christi.
"I think one particular challenge is that there are only a few, but fabulous, female apologist mentors. For some women it can be daunting to take on a male dominated field or attend male heavy conferences. I think this is changing but I would like to see more plenary speakers filled with qualified women so that other women would be encouraged to attend these great conferences."
As a female apologist, Lori hopes to meet the need for female mentors in the field:
“I think that as women like me continue to fill the higher academic slots as students and professors we show the world that apologetics is for everybody and that Christianity does not suppress the education of women. I also think it brings new ideas and new creativity in defending the faith in a world that is constantly changing.”
Mary Jo Sharp
Before she became a Christian, MaryJo Sharp describes herself as being a non-theist. She did not hate Christians or religion in general; she simply didn’t see any relevance in these things.
Once she became a Christian, MaryJo describes a disturbingly similar attitude she saw in fellow believers:
“I began to notice a problem in the church: the people who professed that the Bible was true didn't much live like it was true. I don't just mean a misstep here or there, but rather an overall attitude that didn't reflect the truth of God's Word. I began to question if there were any real believers in God. My experiences led to emotion-based doubt. That emotional doubt eventually spawned intellectual doubt as well. I began to question why I believed in God.”
As MaryJo searched for answers to these doubts, she stumbled upon the field of Christian Apologetics. Finding answers to her questions inspired MaryJo to share those answers with others:
“I realized that if I had doubts about belief in God then other people in the church most likely had doubts as well. Therefore, I began to teach a class in my church on apologetics. This is how my interest in apologetics began.”
The indifference many Christians seemed to fall into with respect to their faith continued to be a focus of MaryJo’s efforts:
“As I gave more presentations within the body of Christ, I began to see that I must first establish the need for apologetics in the life of the Christian disciple. For a while, my focus shifted to an apologetic for apologetics. Along with this defense, I saw the necessity of training believers to think critically about their beliefs.”
Buoyed by her natural talents, MaryJo’s interest in Apologetics has taken her far. She is now among the most respected Apologists in the field, holding the position of assistant professor of apologetics at Houston Baptist University and the director/founder of Confident Christianity Apologetics Ministry. She is the author of several books and Bible studies published by LifeWay Christian Resources, B&H Academic, and Kregel Ministry.
MaryJo’s expertise in the field of Apologetics is manifold, but her primary focus is in answering objections to the existence of God, with the intent of uplifting Christian believers:
“Originally, I would say my focus was on the Resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, then I have no faith to defend. As the apostle Paul said, my faith would be ‘useless’ (1 Corinthians 15:14). Most of my apologetic endeavors, whether debating with Muslims, answering the Christ myth theory, or discussing the problem of evil, have really been centered on the foundation of Jesus' resurrection: directly or indirectly.
“A more recent focus of mine has been in training others to make good arguments, avoid logical fallacies, and offer a solid defense of their beliefs. In addition, I'm currently training believers on encountering the problem of evil in everyday conversation. “
MaryJo’s competence and the respect she has earned in the field have not come without obstacle, though:
“Just within the past year, after one of my presentations at a large church a gentleman approached me and said, ‘When I saw you on the stage tonight, it was very difficult for me to think of you as having something intellectually sound to say. My culture views women as objects of beauty, not as having intellectual value.’
“The other comment I hear frequently is that a woman of marked intelligence may come across as intimidating. I do not know the source(s) of this intimidation. I make an intentional effort to be approachable per my background in public school education, but I still hear these comments. Perhaps this comment is more indicative of lingering societal expectations of a woman rather than anything specific to an individual woman, but of this, I am uncertain.”
An expanding population of active women apologists would only enrich the field in MaryJo’s mind. Women offer a fresh perspective and value that is somewhat lacking in the current apologetics landscape:
“I have seen that women desire to know the truth from a deep-seated concern for other people. This desire is enriching to the field of apologetics, a field which can sometimes get a tainted reputation as being more concerned with arguments than with people. Women usually want to help someone when they look into an argument. So I see a missional mindset to their apologetic endeavor. Women also seem to approach the study of apologetics through a desire for personal transformation. Many women tell me that their doubts about God keep them from studying, praying, and growing spiritually.”
Even so, MaryJo sees that modern culture, both within and outside of the church, tends to restrain women from pursuing this venture. MaryJo analyzes the problem:
“This is a society that should have transformed its view of women since the women's suffrage movement; especially since we have more access to knowledge and education than ever before. However, our society appears to be reinforcing a view of women as sexual objects, in part due to overexposure: metaphorically and literally. The more access we have to pornographic and overtly sexual imagery associated with women, the less our culture seems to care about her mind and soul (even considering recent positive image campaigns targeting women). Those women who choose to engage in the marketplace of ideas will open themselves up to ridicule and attacks that are not just based in their body of work, but those that are based on their body alone.”
MaryJo has encountered vicious attacks on her blog and Facebook page aimed not at her arguments or ideas, but rather at her looks and her femininity; attacks which pinpoint the problems women apologists might sometimes encounter.
Despite these, MaryJo does not villainize those who differ from her worldview:
“Before I became a Christian, I was not an angry atheist, out to get all those 'awful Christians.' I was more of a non-theist; not having been raised in any church tradition nor having much exposure to church culture. I just didn't see a need for God. Therefore, in my current conversations, I can relate to those who have a similar perspective, as well as to those who are distrustful of and/or hurt by the church (due to my own hurtful experiences in church). Plus, I do not tend to distrust atheists, or their line of reasoning, just because they are an atheist. I remember thinking along the same lines.”
The challenges that MaryJo sees for women apologists demands more women enter the field, not less. As she says:
“By aptly handling these image attacks and carrying on with their work, women in apologetics could resoundingly disrupt the above mentioned cultural flow; resulting in what some would perceive as ‘intimidation.’ However, we are not interested in a show of intellectual prowess for the perception of power. Rather, we are creating a different path for women in our culture, one of thoughtful engagement with ideas. We are those who are concerned about the consequences of ideas; ideas which profoundly affect our souls. It is a path of loving others in spirit and truth.
“Though current women in apologetics are not the original trailblazers, we are clearing the old path of those who came before us. I thank God for my fellow apologists!”
From Unhappy Atheist to Fulfilled Apologist
Maryann Spikes’ is an all-too-common story. Growing up in a Christian church, she felt that she was born into the faith. She grew up with nagging doubts about her faith for which no one seemed to have convincing answers.
As an adult, Maryann discovered what seemed to be a tide of overwhelming evidence against her Christian worldview that finally shattered her belief.
Maryann’s life as an atheist originally found meaning in a freedom from Christian morality. She began to enjoy things that she had previously thought to be wrong.
However, Maryann’s life quickly spiraled down into existential bankruptcy. She had no purpose for existing besides those self-serving activities.
Her life in crisis and her marriage on the rocks, Maryann returned to faith due to a personal revelation and a crisis of morality.
Maryann’s return to Christianity inspired her to look into the reasons behind her belief, and she was delighted to discover that there was a firm evidential and philosophical basis upon which Christianity stood.
Maryann puts it this way:
“I realized that if God actually did show us he loves us no matter what by dying in our place, then there are answers to all the doubts that made me walk away from faith in the first place, and I'm not the only one who needs to know that.
“Before I became an atheist, I didn't know how to answer my doubts. Now that I have answers, the challenges haven't been intellectual ones, but moral ones. I no longer doubt God's existence, but my own desires and lack of spiritual discipline get in the way of fully enjoying him. I know his love never changes, and I take it for granted. He ain't done with me yet.”
While Maryann regrets many of the things she did as an atheist, the experience also gave her a valuable tool in her defense of the faith:
“I think it helps that God allowed me to know life on both sides of the fence between atheism and theism, and gave me a passion for turning ideas around and around so that they can be examined respectfully from various perspectives. Also, the way God brought me back really convinced me that it shouldn't just stop with me, and he motivated me to organize others towards the same end.”
Maryann now serves as an administrator for Christian Apologetics Alliance (CAA) blog and writes her own personal apologetics blog, Ichthus 77. She describes her apologetic focus:
“I am rather fond of the argument from desire, and a related essentialist version of the moral argument that satisfies both Plato (justified-true-belief, Euthyphro dialectic) and Hume (is-ought).
“I think imaginative apologetics is helping dispel the myth that apologetics is all about besting your debate opponent. I appreciate the work of Holly Ordway (Hieropraxis) and Tony Horvath (Athanatos Christian Ministries) to that end.”
Maryann’s journey into atheism was prompted by a lack of answers, largely due to what she sees as a pervasive anti-intellectualism in the Christian community. As an apologist, she and her associates work to combat this problem and provide Christians with the answers they so desperately need.
Science for Everyone
Can the modern understanding of biology be reconciled with the Christian Bible? The best person to answer that question may just be Melissa Travis.
One of the hardest-working women in the field of Christian Apologetics related to science, Melissa worked as a bench scientist in the fields of biotechnology and pharmaceutical research for five years after obtaining her undergraduate degree, and has spent more than a decade researching the science, theology, and philosophy pertaining to the origins debate. She is the author of How Do We Know God is Really There?, the first book in the Young Defenders series. She has also authored illustrated storybooks that teach the fundamentals of Christian apologetics to young children. She recently completed Volume 2, How Do We Know God Created Life?
Currently, Melissa serves as Assistant Professor of Christian Apologetics at Houston Baptist University. This year Melissa begins her doctoral research in the history, philosophy, and scientific thought pertaining to human nature.
Melissa has been a Christian for her entire life, growing up in a Southern Baptist church in North Carolina as the daughter of the pastor. She went on to receive her undergraduate in biology in a Christian environment, and describes her Christian beliefs as being “blind faith,” borrowed from her parents without any deep and meaningful consideration on her part.
However, as she emerged from her cozy Christian environment into the workaday world of biology research, she awoke to the challenges the secular world presented to the Christian worldview.
“I was immediately exposed to a much broader range of disparate belief systems, including materialism. It was through a series of conversational encounters with coworkers that God showed me how woefully ill-equipped I was to be a competent witness to people from non-Christian religious backgrounds and to non-theists.”
Her enthusiasm for defending the Christian faith thusly stoked, Melissa began to investigate the reasons behind what she believed with academic enthusiasm.
She earned her Master of Arts in Science and Religion from Biola University, graduating with Highest Honors. She is now certified in Christian apologetics and holds a BS in general biology from Campbell University.
Melissa describes her passion and focus in the defense of Christian beliefs:
“First and foremost, I am interested in the role of scientific evidence in the project of Christian apologetics. Human origins is my ongoing ‘pet’ research project. However, I am also intensely interested in philosophy, particularly the philosophical thought related to human nature and scientific theory.”
Due to her disparate training and fields of expertise, Melissa has some unique qualifications among Christian Apologists:
“Unlike someone trained only in a scientific field or only in philosophy, I have an interdisciplinary education that has equipped me to properly integrate these two fields. I have found that communicating the philosophical flaws in anti-theistic arguments made by scientists is key in scientific apologetics.”
More than just her training, Melissa has found that being a woman in a field still dominated by men has given her a distinctive advantage in this pursuit:
“In my personal ministry, I have found my womanhood to be an asset rather than a hindrance. Women apologists are still a novelty, and that draws some positive attention.”
While Melissa admits that women such as herself often juggle a variety of responsibilities that make pursuing academics a challenge, the rewards are well worth it.
In her own words:
“My ministry experience has shown me, time and again, that there are many Christian women who are intimidated by theology and apologetics. However, when they see a female deeply engaged in these fields, they often lose much of their hesitancy and become enthusiastic about adding an intellectual dimension to their Christian faith.”
The People's Apologist
In 1 Peter 3:15, the writer tells his readers to always be prepared to make a defense for the hope that they held. Peter was talking to every day men and women, not the academic elite or trained ministers. Clearly Peter expected all Christians to prepare themselves for the challenging questions leveled by an unbelieving world.
Pamela Christian is a quintessential example of a self-made Christian Apologist. Through rigorous study and self-training, Pamela has begun her own Apologetic ministry, and self-published her book Examine Your Faith: Finding Truth in a World of Lies, wherein she shares her studies and faith-finding for consumption of Christians and non-Christians alike. Her book has been endorsed by the likes of Josh McDowell, Dr. Craig Hazen and Dan Story; and Pamela has become a featured keynote speaker to both Christian and non-Christian audiences throughout the US.
Pamela talks about her “everyman” approach to Christian Apologetics:
“While I highly esteem the leaders in the field of apologetics with their many degrees and doctorates, and am grateful to be able to study and learn from them, my path is different. I have a certificate in apologetics from Biola, and countless years of personal study that can't be measured by educational achievements. Perhaps I'm one of the foolish things God uses, but I rather like the ‘relatability’ I have with people from all walks of life.”
Crediting her success to tenacity, Pamela says:
“…any time we give up on anything, we're giving up on God because with God all things are possible. Spiritual tenacity is essential for the victorious life Christ died to provide us. And I've found I can best remain tenacious with a continual ingesting of truth based on God's word.”
In her view, her success in becoming a self-made apologist has in no way been hindered by her womanhood. While she recognizes that the defense of the Christian Worldview has traditionally fallen to men, Pamela doesn’t think this is anything more than an illusory roadblock to women:
“Typically women are naturally more relational and nurturing so we can balance the heady, academic properties of the field. I personally enjoy being challenged with the laser-like contemplations and processes of apologetics, but again, not everyone thinks in that manner. So I choose to keep the cookies on the lower shelf where more can reach them, as Dr. Vernon McGee would say.
“… with the emphasis on ‘Christian,’ the field of Christian Apologetics should be a place where women have it better than in other fields dominated by men …I've been greatly blessed with the encouragement I've received from those men who have endorsed or reviewed my book. Overall my experience has been on the ideal side.”
Pamela’s apologetic focus has been a defense of the exclusivity of Christian claims in comparison to competing faith systems. She was shocked by a dawning awareness that people in the Western World tend to believe that all religions are fundamentally the same, and don’t take the time to really consider the consequences of such a lax approach to the most important questions of life.
About this, Pamela relates:
“I'm deeply concerned for the numbers of people who are seeking to satisfy their ‘faith tank’ with a variety of philosophies and doctrines without giving any rational thought to the validity of these claims. The popular notion that all roads lead to the same God and heaven in this culture of tolerance has allowed many, including highly educated individuals and leaders, to be woefully deceived. In fact it was an article I read with the headline, 'Americans are Surprisingly Tolerant of Religious Faiths' that roused me to write my first in a three-book series, Examine Your Faith! Finding Truth in a World of Lies. From the article I learned that today religious tolerance is not the respect of other established religions, rather it's taking tenets from different religions, mixing and matching beliefs to create a personal belief system.”
Pamela is proud of the fact that she was able to make such a difference through self-training, study, and a personal passion to advance the cause of Christ. Her success is her testament to the power of God to uplift the humble in order to glorify him, and is an inspiration to men and women everywhere who want to make a difference for Christ.
Women and the Church
The Opening of the Field
Christian apologetics is a necessary pursuit. Whether or not you believe in God, it is worthwhile to have men and women lending their intellect to explore these possibilities. This ever more essential tool for Christians would be significantly lacking if women were not heavily involved. The contribution they bring to the field is essential to a comprehensive understanding of God and the evidence that supports Christianity. And the world is blessed to have these selfless and diligent workers laboring in its midst.