We’ve all been there. We are engaged in a conversation with a friend about Christ and they bring up a question that we are not prepared for. They have an intellectual objection that we never thought of and we don’t have an answer. Many Christians fear sharing their faith due to moments like this. These moments are the reason apologetics exists. Apologetics is the term given for the Christian defense of the faith. Chris Brooks is the senior pastor of Evangel Ministries and also the founder and president of the Detroit Bible Institute. He also hosts a Detroit-aired daily radio show, “Equipped For Life,”and is the newly appointed Campus Dean of Moody Theological Seminary Michigan. I recently had the opportunity to talk to Chris over about his new book “Urban Apologetics” and apologetics in general.
What caused you to become involved in apologetics?
Pastoring my church in Detroit, which is heavily involved in evangelism and missions. We have been really focused on winning the city for Christ. In 2004 we had some pretty aggressive campaigns and we would send people out and they would come back stumped by the objections they were receiving from the people they encountered. So I decided to dedicate more time to make sure I equipped them before sending them out. What you will find a lot of times is pastors are either not evangelistically driven or if they are evangelistically driven they don’t equip their people.
See it all goes back to scripture. My study of Matthew 28:19 gave me evangelistic passion. I wanted to see my generation won to Christ. That passion had me looking up answers to people’s objections. Seminary made me realize what I was doing was apologetics. So I ended up taking a class in apologetics and coming to understand this is what I have been doing all along, and then finally I graduated with a degree in apologetics.
What inspired you to write a book on apologetics?
Two things. First it comes from a passion for the gospel in the urban community. People have intellectual barriers and need answers to their questions about life, so I wanted to provide the answers from Christ and scripture because most people assume that we don’t have answers.
Secondly it stems from our members being sent out to do evangelism and coming back with the questions and objections of the urban community they were sent to. I took it upon myself to develop a specific ministry of equipping Christians to answer people’s objections regarding the faith.
Why do you believe apologetics are important for the urban context?
Answering people’s questions about the faith is not a suburban, middle class, white thing; it’s a people thing. The objections may be different but we still are called to answer them. The Ferguson issue is a prime example. Many in urban communities are asking, “Where is the God of Justice?” Evangelical Christianity needs to address that.
So I see myself as a bridge between the academic apologists and the urban community. My goal is to spark apologetics in the urban context and at the same time spark urban concerns in the academic apologists context.
Is there a distinction between apologetics and evangelism?
They are both two sides of the same coin. Evangelism is the goal. C.S. Lewis said, “Apologetics is removing the rubble.” It is clearing away the intellectual and emotional barriers. For instance many have intellectual questions such as “Is the Bible reliable?” Apologetics helps to answer those questions.
It is not about presenting a good argument or winning an argument, we are not trying to be the Great Debaters. Like I say in my book, “Apologetics without evangelism is aimless.” When people are evangelizing and sharing the gospel you do not have to motivate them to dig into apologetics. They want to because they want to provide a reasonable defense for their faith in order to win someone to Christ.
At the same time evangelism without apologetics is defenseless. If people have questions and we cannot provide a reasonable answer our evangelism may come to a halt.
What are the main issues that you deal with in the urban context in regard to barriers that keep people from receiving Christ?
There are three barriers, which I talk about in my book: Ethical, Religious, and Social Justice barriers.
The ethical barrier pertains to the morality of the Bible, this is especially true in regard to homosexuality. We have to be able to explain the Christian position on homosexuality in compassionate ways while maintaining biblical conviction. Another area is abortion. This expresses itself in a very distinct way in the urban context because there has always been sensitivity to the black woman’s autonomy over her own body. How do we do that in way that maintains the biblical affirmation of life and at the same time do justice to the history of the way black women have been treated?
The religious barrier has to do with Moorish Science Temple, 5 Percenters, Nation of Islam, Hebrew Israelite communities and Egyptologists. What is our response to the claims of these new religions, which are practiced, in an urban context?
What is the main difficulty the urban church faces in getting more of its members equipped to provide reasons for their faith?
We have to answer the relevant questions, relevant questions always get people involved. People are interested in real life issues they are facing everyday. Just like this past Labor Day the issue of income equality was at the forefront. What we do in our ministry is take a provocative topic, discuss that topic,in a respectful environment, and make it no holds barred where people are free to ask questions. People come to something like that. We have even seen non-Christians coming.
The Black church can often be guilty of over preaching and under discipling. The one who can win the heart of urban millennial is the one who can answer their questions. And we have to answer their questions based on a Christian worldview.
In your opinion what is a Christian worldview?
A Christian worldview is one that is based on scripture and especially the teachings of Christ.
What are some of the most popular false beliefs you encounter?
Most people are frustrated with Christianity. They have subscribed to some form of humanism that basically says they are god or there is no longer a need to believe in god. There is a large segment of growing black atheists and humanists. Also the issue of homosexuality, which is a hot button issue in the black church context.
What do you think has contributed to the growing segment of black atheists and humanists?
People are looking for an alternative to Christianity because their questions are not being answered.
How has Christian hip-hop advanced apologetics in an urban context?
Apologetics has historically been viewed as an academic discipline. Christian hip-hop is now addressing objections to faith in a very artistic and soulful way. In the urban context we not only need to address the questions of the head but also the longings of the heart.
Who are some of your favorite artists who are doing this now?
Reach Records (artists) especially Lecrae and Tripp Lee. Also Shai Linne. Humble Beast and Propaganda.
What kind of encouragement would you give a young person who is interested in apologetics ministry?
Study philosophy and the laws of logic. Study theology. Know what you are defending before you defend it. Study sociology. Know your community and what people are concerned about. If you answer questions in the wrong way it has the same effect as answering the wrong questions in the right way. For instance the academic realm of apologetics has had a recent focus on Mormonism but that is not a hot button issue in the hood. I would also say for any young person who is passionate to get out and evangelize
Who are some of your heroes or influences in regards to apologetics?
Ravi Zacharias, Chuck Colson, Thabiti Anyabwile, Anthony Bradley, and Wayne Grudem. Also my professor at Biola who is now at Gordon Conwell Dr. Patrick Smith is a black voice in the apologetics field.
Are there a lot of black voices in apologetics?
Yes there are actually. My goal in writing this book was to get a conversation started. To give a general overview and then have others follow up in more nuanced and specific areas. There is not a lack of strong black intellectuals. One of the common perceptions about the black church is that it is inspiration only not philosophy, I want to show we can do both. We have highly competent scholars who handle the intellectual challenges of this generation.
What books would you recommend for those who want to get started learning more about how to provide a defense for their faith?
Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig.
Liberating Black Theology by Anthony Bradley.
Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem.
True For You But Not For Me by Paul Copan.
Is there another book or upcoming project in the pipeline and when can we expect to see it?
Yes, my next book will be on urban economics. It will talk about how economic issues lead to a rejection of the Gospel and how the church can get involved in those issues.
For more info on Chris Brooks and his ministry of apologetics you can check out this site: http://www.equippedforlife.tv