“It is very easy to ask Christians perplexing questions, because from the outside Christ's mysteries appear to be mere paradoxes, and it is very difficult to solve them at this level. (The attempt leads to false apologetics.) The chief concern here, rather, should be to awaken in the questioner an elementary sense for mystery and awe."
Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Grain of Wheat
Apologetics is a word that both attracts and repels: we are drawn to the idea that we would be able to give a decisively persuasive account of the beauty, truth, and goodness of the Christian life; yet we are also perplexed at a conversation that so often turns on intricate and obscure questions that have very little to do with why we believe or how we live the life of discipleship.
The more apologetics came to mean answering difficult philosophical questions about the faith, the more it became the province of the specialist. And yet more hearts were not turned, more ground was not gained by these philosophical nuances. Christianity is still viewed as illogical at best and spiteful at worst by those outside the faith.
This is because, in tackling the questions set to us by doubters rather than attending to the heart out of which those questions arose, we were deluding into missing the point and attacking straw men. The unbeliever who asks about Hell is not, in the first instance, concerned with the integrity of Christian doctrine, but with something more fundamental, elemental, and personal.
To hear and speak to these inner questions of the heart will require ears skilled at sympathetic listening, ears that are slow to judge and quick to comfort. This course will take you through the core principles of a new approach to apologetics, one whose only prerequisite is a heart touched by the grace of God. Along the way, we will touch upon some of the more commonly raised issues with the faith and consider ways to unearth what really lies behind those questions.
Saturdays, 9:00 - 11:00 am (CST)
February 25 - April 22, 2023
(no class April 1)
registration deadline February 3, 2023
$400 / student
Week One: What's Wrong With Apologetics
“Apologetics” summons up negative associations in some quarters. Indeed, one person recently asked me: “Does anybody do apologetics any more?” This is because, as practiced in the 20th century, it was bound up in the culture wars: an adversarial stance towards all that lay outside the faith. This session will address why this approach is problematic, but it will also argue that the problems of this apologetic strategy do not reduce the mandate for apologetics as an activity of believers.
Week Two: Listening with Love and Discernment
We begin building a different approach to apologetics. This week we will discuss how to be attentive and present to the person before us, who is not an abstraction but a life. The key here is to identify the questions behind the questions, or the hurt, anger, or insecurity behind the questions. We take every question seriously, but we don’t take every question at face value.
Week Three: Here I am, Lord: But Send Anybody Else
Our own insecurities about our ability to answer questions often stands in the way of our sharing or defending our faith. This week we will talk about the various reluctances we feel, arising from social dynamics, personal insecurity, and a plain fear of making things worse.
Week Four: Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't
A discussion of Hell and judgment, and the related themes of justice and mercy. We will address the offense of Hell (“Do you think I’m going to Hell?!?”), and identify the attitudes from which these concerns often come.
Week Five: Where's Your God Now?
An in-depth discussion of the problem of evil focusing not on philosophical intricacies, but rather disorders of the intellect and will.
Week Six: Superstition and Reason
A discussion of the relations between science & theology and faith & reason. We will consider the analogues between religious faith and scientific/philosophical faith, and challenge the claim that science is objective while faith is subjective.
Week Seven: Practicum: The Gospel Message
Students will practice sharing the core Gospel message and responding to challenges raised to their presentation.
Week Eight: The Offense of the Gospel
Students will get a chance to practice responding to skeptical and hostile questions about traditional Christian claims.
Dr. Johnson’s course was the condition upon which I received a second touch from Christ that gave me fuller sight. Countless conferences in philosophy, education, and literature over the past decade barely touch the depth and personal availability that make his academy unique. While a brilliant scholar, he masterfully uses analogies and real world experience to make difficult concepts accessible on each student’s level. His genius is evident in every class, and on a multitude of topics.
Participating in a course led by Dr. Junius Johnson is a wonderful journey of exploration, seeking hidden gems in unexpected places. It is an opportunity to learn to look deeper than the surface, both in reading and in the mundane of life. A delightful feast for the mind that lasts far beyond the actual banquet.
This is a rare opportunity to hear from an articulate, imaginative thinker, who intersects his academic knowledge and his living faith in refreshing clarity. Every time I hear Junius Johnson speak, I walk away asking: "Did I forget how exciting and joyful the life of the mind can be?”
This is a friendly, informal format where you can learn and share ideas about different aspects of faith. Junius as leader is welcoming, encouraging, real, orthodox, very knowledgeable, and clearly loves the Lord and loves people.