A Special 2019 Apologetics Event
Remembering Thomas B. Warren
Reflecting on the past and present event opportunities afforded Warren Apologetics Center should produce deep gratitude. The words of Paul strike a chord: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).
The Warren Center, namesake of Thomas B. Warren, one of the greatest voices on behalf of Christian theism in the 20th century, challenges religious skepticism through the rich legacy of Warren’s classical (biblical) apologetics approach. He being dead still speaks (cf. Hebrews 11:4). His debate with Antony Flew, arguably the world’s foremost philosophical atheist in the 20th century, has been called the most significant debate on the existence of God during the last 100 years or more. From Warren’s flawless logical theistic argumentation, the great public interest generated by the debate, and all followed three decades later by Flew’s “conversion” to belief in God, it may very well be the time when atheism was handed its most devastating defeat since the earliest days of Christianity.
Is the Christian Faith Rational?
In 1994, or perhaps 1995, I was a student at East Tennessee School of Preaching. At the time I was having a dispute with my teacher, Al Simmons, on a logic matter. If I recall correctly, Al was teaching a hermeneutics class when the dispute arose; Al was a good student of Scripture and logical analysis. Before my enrollment in the school, I took some philosophy classes at Boise State University and one formal logic class. This was about 1990, while I was serving in the US Air Force. Since Al was the teacher of the class, I was on the short end of the dispute, but I was convinced I was right on the problem. All I knew to do was call someone of logical note, and I thought the best one to call was Thomas B. Warren. Not knowing how to get in touch with Dr. Warren, I called Garland Elkins at Memphis School of Preaching. I explained my conundrum and asked for assistance. After a few moments of conversation, he said I should call Warren, something which I was very much interested in doing. After having given me his number, I made the call.
Our Culture and Life
There are Christians who become troubled when they think about their faith and sometimes they wonder if their Christian faith is true. Too many Christians have accepted the facts of Christianity solely on the basis of trust and confidence in others (parents, friends). They have never given a close and careful consideration to examine the basis of Christianity (the Bible).
The age in which we live is both sophisticated and educated. It demands that we know what and why we believe something. Believing something does not make it true. A thing is true or not true regardless of whether anyone believes it. This is true of Christianity as of everything else.
There are those who reason that Christianity is at least non-rational if not irrational. They use Paul’s statement: “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8, ESV). However, this is an abuse of Paul’s statement. Christianity is rational. The Bible is the ground of faith. Faith in Christianity is built on evidence. Paul wrote: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17, NKJV). The Christian faith is reasonable and rational.
Someone wrote, “The culture around us has declared war on all biblical standards. . . . Some Christian unwittingly began following suit several years ago. That has opened the door for a whole generation in the churches to embrace postmodern relativism openly and deliberately.” No one will deny that our culture lacks a biblical basis and has a secular basis. To understand the “war on all biblical standards,” we mean there is no right and wrong, no true and false, no good and bad but only shades of gray. This is not the proper way of understating God’s truth. Stated above is what is called postmodern relativism. The confusion of the above concerning our culture is troubling. We believe the following observation is correct: “The United States is entering a post-Christian era and is rapidly becoming a foreign nation to committed believers” (Charisma Magazine). The question is: “How can we instill in our society a love for God’s truths.” Consider the following:
The Greatness of the Christian Life
On the evening of September 3, 1814, 35 year old Francis Scott Key was held captive on British warships while the British attempted to subdue Baltimore. On that rainy night Key watched as Fort McHenry was continually bombarded by cannon and rocket fire. When dawn broke on September 4, Key was so inspired to see the large flag still flying over the fort that he wrote a poem entitled, “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” The poem was later set to music and renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner.” On March 3, 1931, by congressional resolution, “The Star-Spangled Banner” officially became our National Anthem.
Because of the debates like that which he had with the late Antony Flew, Thomas B. Warren is remembered as a great debater. However, Thomas B. Warren was also a great preacher. I recall listening to him deliver a masterpiece sermon a few years before his death in 2000. The sermon was on the Christian life, and the text was Philippians 4:1-23. In the introduction Warren observed that there are times when we need to take lengthy passages and “follow along” in the passage to see what it is telling us. In this case, he asked, “What is Philippians 4:1-23 telling us about the Christian life?”
A THANKSGIVING MEDITATION: What Do You Have that You Did Not Receive?
In an article titled “Insights for Apologetics from Other Disciplines,” I focused on a number of things, but essentially, the necessity of good questions so as to (1) gain information from our opponents, (2) expose weaknesses in their arguments, (3) better understand what their objections are, and (4) ensure that we are discussing the real issues involved rather than missing the point.
HONORING OUR VETERANS
I recall reading the following story as referenced by Jerrie Barber. While on a short-term mission trip, Jack Hinton from New Bern, NC, was leading worship at a leper colony on the island of Tobago. There was time for one more song, so he asked if anyone had a request. A woman who had been facing away from the pulpit turned around. “It was the most hideous face I had ever seen,” Hinton said. “The woman’s nose and ears were entirely gone. The disease had destroyed her lips as well. She lifted a fingerless hand in the air and asked, ‘Can we sing Count Your Many Blessings?’”
APOLOGETICS: A FLEETING FAD OR A PERMANENT PROPERTY OF CHRISTIAN FAITH?
“A veteran is someone who, at one point in their life wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America,’ for an amount up to and including their life.”
Christianity and the Work Ethic
The following significant statements are taken from an issue of the Gospel Advocate, many decades old (September 13, 1973). The statements were penned by the late Thomas B. Warren. He wrote: “The basic thrust of New Testament preaching is apologetic in its nature. . . . It is a grievous error to conclude that the study of ‘Christian Evidences’ [apologetics] is one extraneous to the study of the Bible. The two go hand-in-hand.”
Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers...
The Sons of the World Are Wiser Than the Children of Light
Today, a battle is being waged in our culture. Christian theism (belief in the God of the Bible) is under the most severe attack that most of us have ever seen during the time that we have lived on Earth...
Warren Center Becomes Home of National Christian Press
On June 7, 2011, Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple, Inc., the American multinational technology company, made his last public appearance. Jobs died from cancer later in 2011. His last public appearance was before the city council of Cupertino, CA, for the purpose of announcing Apple’s plan to build a 2.8 million square foot office building located on a 175 acre property, the former campus of Hewlett-Packard’s advanced products division. This high tech office development will be surrounded by 7,000 trees, including apricot, plum, olive, and apple orchards, and indigenous plants—a landscape of beauty designed by a leading Stanford University arborist...
Mothering—Probably the Most Important Function on Earth
The works of Dr. Thomas B. Warren have found their new home...
Honoring the Legacy of Dr. Warren
In a 2015 book, How the West Really Lost God, cultural critic Mary Eberstadt affirms that religion is like language—it is learned through community and the first community is the family. Rod Dreher, author of a more recent book, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, agrees with Eberstadt’s conclusion. He says, “When both the family and the community become fragmented and fail, the transmission of religion to the next generation becomes far more difficult” (123).
Dr. Thomas B. Warren touched an untold number of lives through his knowledge of God's word and his ability to logically reason in its truth. It was my good fortune to sit at his feet on different occasions while I was a student at the former East Tennessee School of Preaching and Missions which is now Southeast Institute of Biblical Studies in Knoxville, TN.
At the time, Dr. Warren was preparing for a debate concerning the existence of God with Dr. Antony Flew, a renowned atheist. Warren had a team consisting of, but not limited to, Roy Deaver and Thomas Eaves who were assisting with the research, developing questions for the debate, and constructing the charts to be used. We students would sit for hours listening to bits and pieces concerning the upcoming discussion. Although the tone of these discussions was extremely serious, we were entertained by the humor of these godly men.
A President and Apologetics
In one of Francis Bacon’s Essays, he wrote of truth. His opening lines are, “What is truth? said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer.” It is a classic illustration of the observation that men stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.
According to Oxford dictionaries, “Truth is dead. Facts are passé.” This is the opening line of Amy Wang, Washington Post writer, in her article titled “‘Post-Truth’ Named 2016 Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionaries.” Wang says the folks at Oxford say post-truth denotes “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential . . . than appeals to emotion . . . [creating] an atmosphere in which [truth] is irrelevant.”
Insights For Apologetics From Other Disciplines
In his groundbreaking book on the spiritual life of Ronald Reagan, Professor Paul Kengor describes Reagan as having “faith [that] was not shallow, as his evident appetite for apologetics . . . demonstrates” (128-29). One way in which Reagan manifested this “appetite” for apologetics was in reading the books of former British atheist and apologist C. S. Lewis and assimilating and internalizing Lewis’ defense of the Christian faith.
More than 100 years before Reagan became President, another holder of the office of the U.S. Presidency, Abraham Lincoln, was also greatly influenced by a study of apologetics. The Christian’s Defence, authored by a former skeptic, James D. Smith, and published in 1843, was the result of a debate the author had with C. G. Olmsted in 1841. The Smith-Olmsted debate continued for 18 nights. Olmsted challenged Smith to this discussion because of a series of lectures the latter had delivered in Columbus, MS. The lectures carried such titles as “The Evidences of Christianity” and “The Natures and Tendencies of Infidelity.” Smith argued the case for Christianity so effectively in his debate with Olmsted that a groundswell of support convinced him to print his arguments. In 1843, this apologetics literature, which a few years later would impact the life of Abraham Lincoln, was published in two volumes...
Sweeter As The Years Go By!
This is, to be sure, an intriguing title for this essay. Nevertheless, professional apologists know that other disciplines are important in order to carry out their programs. For instance, the findings of science are significant in providing evidence to the apologist, in spite of the fact that science is not equipped to deal with the question of origins. Likewise, for Christian apologetics, theological insights are invaluable. And, the weaknesses in either area of study form valuable thematic studies also. If one denies freedom, or the nature of consciousness, then any “theological” position and/or any “scientific” position where either of these are questioned or denied exposes an impotence in the position. For, both theology and science depend upon freedom and consciousness to even begin their work! And, without freedom and consciousness, no one could expect another to either understand or accept their conclusions. How could one, for instance, “change her mind,” if there really is no consciousness or freedom at all?
A.B. Bruce (1831-1899) succeeded Patrick Fairbairn as Chair of Apologetics in Free Church College, Glasgow, Scotland. In the year of his death, Bruce published a work titled, The Epistle to the Hebrews—The First Apology for Christianity—An Exegetical Study. Four decades ago, I heard the late professor, Neil Lightfoot (1929-2012), in the very city from which I write these words, say that he esteemed Bruce’s volume on Hebrews higher than any similar work. Lightfoot, himself, wrote a fine work on Hebrews, titled Jesus Christ Today. Whether Bruce was correct, in an absolute sense, that The Epistle to the Hebrews was the “first apology” for Christianity may be debated. However, beyond dispute is the greatness of the New Testament book we know as Hebrews. Hebrews is a masterpiece in affirmation and defense of the majesty of the deity of Jesus Christ, and the manhood of His humanity...