We are in what I call the “golden age of apologetics.” Today there are books, seminars, conferences, courses, clubs, all focused on presenting good reasons and evidences for the Christian faith. This is all well and good, but we must remember to wed our apologetics with good sound theology. Ken Samples, of Reasons To Believe (www.reasons.org), has said the following about his mentor, Walter Martin:
Major in the Theological Majors
Martin talked constantly about what he called “essential Christian doctrine.” He insisted that believers learn critical tenets such as the Trinity, the incarnation, the atonement, and the resurrection. He appreciated the role creeds and confessions have played throughout church history in teaching believers the theological essentials.
Wisely, Martin kept his apologetics views closely tied to a sound and robust biblical theology. He also valued the other branches within the formal study of theology, including historical, philosophical, and systematic theology.
I learned from Martin that apologists must also be theologians. With this insight in mind, I’ve encouraged apologists with specialized backgrounds or focuses in other disciplines (history, philosophy, science, literature, etc.), to wed their field to historic Christian theology. Apologists can’t be experts in every area, but they must invest their time and energy in studying Scripture and in learning the doctrinal truths derived from the biblical text.
I wholeheartedly agree. The same is true for all other areas, including philosophy and social issues. Many a well meaning Christian has thought they were helping the church, when their theology turned out to be so bad that it hurt the church in the end.
Further, many Christians have divided over issues that are not worth dividing over. We must have discernment, which can only come from knowing which theological issues are essential, and which are non-essential.
Systematic theologies that I can recommend include ones written by Norman Geisler, W. G. T. Shedd, Charles Hodge, and Lewis Sperry Chafer.
Walter Martin’s writings and recordings are also well worth finding and learning from. They are a goldmine of clear teaching about how to distinguish between Christianity and the non-Christian cults.