Interview with J Adam Johnson by Mike Robinson
Christian apologist J Adam Johnson is an online debater and is philosophically and theologically active on social media. Information on his ministry and outreach are posted below the interview.
J, greetings and welcome to our site. Where are you originally from and where do you now reside? What do you think of the spiritual needs of the area?
I am originally from a small town in central Pennsylvania called Morrisdale, which is about 45 minutes outside of State College PA. I grew up in a home that was secluded in 42 acres of beautiful woodlands.
I have since moved my family, wife and two children, to Pittsburgh PA. The area where I live, is in transition from a middle-class, white, catholic neighborhood into a non-religious or baptistic, poverty-level, minority neighborhood. The area is in need of a consistent approach to the Gospel and good community involvement by Christians. We have opened our home to many of neighborhood kids and plan to start a community outreach ministry here with our Church.
More commonly, what do you find are the most pressing intellectual challenges for philosophy in the America and the West, looking both within Christianity and outside it?
The most pressing issues in Western thought, as it effects Christians and non-Christians, is dealing with the centrality of the human will and mind.
I feel that neo-kantianism and physical realism are at the base of this assault giving a man-centered approach to reason and will which will only lead to solipsism and/or skepticism.
It affects Christians by pushing them towards Arminianism and Deism. This tendency, though explicit in some circles, is also present implicitly in many Reformed churches, which is a great concern of mine.
How did you come to faith in Jesus Christ; what is your personal testimony?
I feel that God saved me by Grace through faith in the redeeming work of His Son Jesus Christ, the day that I accepted the five points of Calvinism as a comprehensive unit. This did not come until I accepted the doctrine of limited atonement. It was at this time that my old notion of God had died and I realized my dependence on God’s sovereignty, my sinful nature, and my need for Christ’s blood. I truly believe these doctrines are at the center of the Gospel and I know this experience is a contributing factor to that conviction.
What prompted you to pursue Christian philosophy?
I had a disappointing encounter with an atheist college student while I was working making sandwiches at a subshop after I first got married. This disappointment drove me to an obsessive desire for both knowledge and skill in apologetics and therefore philosophy. I have since debated that same individual three more times and I feel that I have adequately demonstrated the Christian worldview’s supremacy in those debates.
Do you tend to identify yourself as an apologist rather than as an up-in-coming philosopher? Is there a particular reason for your preference?
I prefer philosopher, the main reason: I intend to develop Christian concepts in the field of philosophy, though I am also an apologist since God has called me to defend these positions.
To be honest, I would much rather be known as a Godly man who serves the Lord, though I am unworthy of that title, this is far more appealing to me than being known as a mere intellectual. We have enough intellectuals, we need more Godly men.
Why and how did you get involved in apologetics ministry?
Well, my ministry, “The Mars Hill House of Intellectual Discourse,” was inspired by Francis Schaeffer’s L’Abri Ministry. I designed it to engage grad students from the various universities and seminaries in Pittsburgh while also providing them affording rooms in my family home in East Pittsburgh.
Simply, the idea originally developed out of a sincere need to support my family while I attend school. Though the full provision has yet to be met, I have faith in God’s will for this ministry.
Considering popular apologetics, what approach do you think is most faithful to scripture?
Van Tillian Presuppositionalism—no question; although it is in need of some overhauling and expansion.
Are you concerned about the bellicosity and the influence of the E-Atheists?
I am more irritated than concerned, I know God will silence them in the end, but I am irritated that so few Christians are standing up to challenge them at the lay level.
What do you think are some of the best ways to respond to them?
Challenge atheists and unbelievers to formal debates or civil debates. The latter is difficult on websites and blogs, I think formal debates with moderators are to be preferred because they allow structure, length/time limits, and prevent interruptions. It also helps people following the discussion to see the discourse in a simple-to-read and easy-to-digest format.
I also think that challengers should be cold, calm, precise, and analytic. The excessively compassionate Christian cannot and will not perform well in debates with the malicious and analytic methods of most secular apologists. We need men in these positions, not choir boys.
What are some unscriptural as well as ineffective apologetic methods?
I think Clarkianism in its anti-empiricism is self-refuting and therefore both ineffective and unscriptural. Similarly I think the Reformed Epistemology movement is not Reformed at all and it very dangerous since it offers no positive argument for God, only a negative rationalistic case for fideism. Classical proofs don’t show the necessity of the Triune God and could be accepted under the presuppositions of various heretics and heathen cults. Evidentialism assumes much about the physical world that should be questioned, such as the existence of matter and causality and tend to argue for a grand designer, not the Christian God.
How essential is defending Christian truth against aggressive secular claims?
It is of the utmost importance because God commands us to do it.
What apologists or philosophers have influenced your work the most?
John Frame’s critical approach to Presuppositionalism is brilliant and I, like most apologists, am a fan of Greg Bahnsen.
Lately, my primary influences have been George Berkeley and Jonathan Edwards and recent thinkers in this area of phenomenal idealism, such as John Foster. They definitely have a lot of good contributions to make in helping to complete a comprehensive Christian approach to philosophy.
When the perspective of God’s revelation is rejected, then the unbeliever is left in foolish ignorance because his philosophy does not provide the preconditions of knowledge and meaningful experience. To put it another way: the proof that Christianity is true is that if it were not, we would not be able to prove anything (Greg Bahnsen: PASD).
Any non-Christian philosophers worth reading?
I think they are all worth reading, but I’m a phil-nerd. I am also of the opinion that in order to do apologetics well, you must understand the bible well, people well, and philosophy well.
Describe your apologetic approach.
Well my approach is to be aggressive and analytic throughout the entire debate and to introduce the Gospel of Christ in the closing statements.
What is the proof for the existence of God?
I use a variation of the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God which is based on John Frame’s Tri-Perspectivalism and is influenced by Berkeley’s Idealism. I am in the process of getting it reviewed and possibly published.
What is the most difficult argument against your position?
I think the necessity versus sufficiency argument is a huge challenge. Demonstration of Christian presuppositions as necessary, and not just sufficient, for human thought is a daunting task.
What are your academic goals?
I am preparing to start classes for my Master of Divinity degree at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary this fall and I am still finishing a few credits up in my B.A. in Philosophy. I have some connections at the University of Pittsburgh, so I plan on getting my Ph.D in Philosophy from there.
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else (C.S Lewis: one of J’s favored quotes).
What is your vision for your ministry? Do you have any debates or projects underway?
Well I try not to dwell too much of future desires since it tends to lead me into sinful pride. At this point, I feel that I need to focus on my family and work on my studies while God sets up the rest.
I am always debating, but nothing formal at this time. I am about to post some notes titled: The Case For Theocentric Occasionalistic Idealism, and A Covenantal Argument Against The Prevention of Pregnancy. Should be some fun conversations coming up on those posts!
Many Christians are not able to be a Christian philosopher; they do not have the time or ability to devote many years to study. What would you recommend for these average Christians?
Trust God by faith that He will give them the answers when they need them; that God will instill in them a desire to learn more. Likewise, they should realize their own limitations with humility and not be afraid to tell even the cruelest opponent that they need to study more on a particular topic. It is better to bow out of a conversation than to disgrace the name of Christ, create a stumbling block to others, and bring judgment upon oneself.
Are there any ways our readers can support your ministry?
Oh my yes! Prayer is of the most importance to me, but I definitely won’t refuse monetary support for my work. My address is on my FaceBook site. Please keep following my discussions and debates.
J Adam Johnson is an apologist, philosophy major, and debater who has dialogued with numerous atheists as well as Christians.
Visit J’s always interesting FaceBook page: HERE
I encourage readers to support J’s apologetic ministry; he faithfully contends for the Christian Worldview.
Truth is the cry of all, but the game of few (George Berkeley).