Christian apologist J.W. Wartick publishes the blog “Always have a Reason” that focuses on apologetic and philosophical issues. He attends Biola University and is working towards a Master’s Degree in Christian Apologetics. Additionally he is student member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and the Evangelical Theological Society.
Information on his ministry and outreach are posted below the interview.
J.W., greetings and welcome to our site! What part of the country were you raised and where do you now call home?
I grew up in rural Indiana, and I now live in the Twin Cities area in Minnesota.
You are a son of a preacher—what was that like? What were your expectations as you were growing up?
I think there’s this general notion that pastor’s kids are supposed to have tough childhoods or higher expectations. Some of that may be true, but I never felt as though I was being watched. I was in a loving household where commitment to God was primary. I’m so blessed to have been so deeply influenced by my childhood and the fact that I was raised with a trust in God.
Besides the Bible, what are a few of your favorite books and why?
I admit that this question is always very hard for me to answer. There are just so many fantastic books out there. I’ll just pick a few and hope that people realize there are plenty more where that came from. Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig is definitely in the mix, as it was the book that really introduced to me the rational defense of the faith. Another favorite would be The Open Secret by Alister McGrath. He explores the method of apologetics and how we cannot only focus on the rational aspects, but need to also integrate the arts and aesthetics into a broad apologetic approach. Finally, I cannot answer this question without listing some fiction, and the Honor Harrington series by David Weber has to be on the list because he—a Methodist lay minister—uses science fiction to explore issues of faith, all while writing hard-hitting military sci-fi.
What prompted you to pursue philosophical facets within Christian apologetics?
When I was growing up my parents always said I should be a lawyer because I loved to argue. They were right: I love to debate. Using philosophy in Christian Apologetics provides a reason to do that debate: discussions of the essentials of the Christian faith. It basically combines everything I love into one thing.
However, the reason goes more deeply than that. Looking around at evangelicalism and Christianity today I have seen an unfortunate tendency towards anti-intellectualism which I would argue comes from the Protestant reaction against the Enlightenment. Utilizing solid philosophy in order to show the truths God has revealed to us is one way to combat this anti-intellectualism in the church at large.
You have written about numerous topics concerning atheism, cults, and false religions; additionally, you have an avid interest in “lost defenses in apologetics.” What are some of the reasons for your apologetic attention regarding past and almost forgotten work in apologetics?
I have to credit Dr. Tim McGrew over at Western Michigan University for awakening my interest in forgotten defenses of Christianity.
The reason I am so interested in this topic is because very often we moderns think that what is being written right now are the best writings to have ever been written. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that newer is better. We like new things. We like controversy. We love to think that the people who lived before us didn’t really know much; we think they weren’t very well informed.
Well, one day I got a taste of how wrong I was. Tim McGrew opened me up to his Library of Historical Apologetics and I started reading a few works he recommended from the 17-1800s. I was absolutely astounded! Here were lucid, thought-provoking answers to the very questions we continue to debate today. Very often, the answers that have been given in these books from centuries ago outshine modern defenses.
The problem is that each era has its own biases; we have our own worldviews and our own lenses through which we observe the same questions that have come up through the centuries. It is extremely difficult for us to get beyond those lenses and look outside of them. One way to do that is by looking at how people of past centuries with different lenses have examined the same questions. When I discovered works like George Campbell’s “Dissertation on Miracles” or Edmund Bennett’s “Four Gospels from a Lawyer’s Standpoint,” I was filled with joy and wonder. These authors—and others like them—think just as well as we do! Of course, this should be an obvious point, but getting beyond the bias towards modern writing is very difficult. Let me tell you: the writings of people in the past are fantastic. We simply must be reading them.
One of the things I like to tell people I interact with is this: “There is no question so unique that no one else has ever thought about it.” It’s very similar to the saying in Ecclesiastes: “There is nothing new under the sun.” No problem is so unique that no Christian thinker has ever thought on it before. We need to make use of these authors from our past in order to give us insight into the present and future.
What are some things secular Americans misunderstand about Christians? And Evangelicals?
One of the most common misconceptions about Christians is that if they sin, they aren’t Christians. People tend to think that Christians will automatically be morally better people, but that’s not the reality we find in the Bible. The Bible tells us we are all sinner-saints in the process of sanctification. We will not be perfect, but we are to strive towards being better people by the grace of God.
That said, another misunderstanding is that anyone who claims to be a Christian is one. I know this is a harsh word, but many people who say they are Christians simply are not. If someone denies the divinity of Christ, they are not Christian, period. Yet some people do this and still claim to be Christians. This is a distortion which has muddled the concept of “Christian.”
Considering general apologetics, what approach or approaches do you usually employ?
I think that there is no “one size fits all” approach to apologetics. I am very appreciative of evidentialists like Gary Habermas, classical apologists like William Lane Craig, and presuppositionalists like Cornelius Van Til. I realize that many people in any one of these camps tends to think that their method is the most effective, but I have found that in practice utilizing all of them seems to be most effective.
I favor the approach that Robert Bowman and Kenneth Boa outline in their magisterial book, Faith Has Its Reasons. In it, they argue that we need an integrative apologetic that meets people where they have needs. If their presuppositions are destroying their ability to be reached by the Gospel, we need to demolish those presuppositions. If they don’t think there is any evidence for believing in God, we need to give them evidence, etc.
Thus, I think that it is important to utilize many different approaches. I tend to favor an evidential approach, but I integrate presuppositionalism throughout my apologetic.
In the recent past there has been a lot of squabbling about apologetic methodology between different apologetic approaches—are there apologetic methods that you do not utilize but respect?
In the book I mentioned above, Faith Has Its Reasons, the authors point out that even fideism is a type of apologetic method. They cite people like Martin Luther and Kierkegaard as examples of this approach. I have respect for these men and their contributions, but I do not really utilize their approaches to apologetics.
I tend to view anyone who thinks only one approach is effective with great skepticism. Frankly, I don’t see that in the Bible. Christ himself utilized very different approaches when he interacted with the Pharisees, a Samaritan woman, and his disciples. That is because Christ, as a master intellectual, knew that people have different needs, and he met those needs.
In all of this, however, I think it is important to emphasize that every single individual is uniquely gifted to make disciples of all nations. Whether that means we are gifted in skillful arguments or simply great at being there for people, we are to utilize those approaches in our lives to bring people to Christ.
What are some ideas, arguments, or topics a Christian might want to explore when witnessing to an atheist?
One of the great contributions of presuppositional apologetics has been its focus on peoples dispositions towards truth. When Christians are interacting with atheists, if they intend to use arguments in their witness, they must be aware of the skeptics’ view of truth and reality. We cannot divorce truth claims from their contexts. We see evidence through a lens. Part of apologetics is getting people to reorient their lenses towards truth.
What is the proper tone or attitude Christians should have when witnessing to a militant atheist?
I found this to be a really tough question. I think it all depends on the context. Online, it is important to give an answer for the benefit of people who are looking on. In person, it is important to build a relationship. We do know there is a proper tone: “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). We need to be gentle with those with whom we disagree, allowing our respectfulness to shame them when they are themselves disrespectful. We must present the faith in a winsome manner.
What are some of your favorite contemporary movies and why?
I think this is a great question. I have really enjoyed some movies of late. First, The Hobbit has to make this list. JRR Tolkien was a devout Christian and that shines through even in movie adaptations of his work. Les Misrables was also an extremely powerful film about the power of grace as well as several other Christian themes. I really enjoyed The Hunger Games for a very different reason: it demonstrates what humanity becomes without God. You’ll notice that nowhere in that series does it talk about God or a higher power. Well, when we remove God, we must deal with the consequences, and the society in The Hunger Games is a poignant image of what society could become if we move beyond the robust Christian worldview. It’s horrifying, and rightly so.
Please name any leading-edge apologetic advances, evidence, and arguments that help the apologist reveal the internal or external weakness of strict naturalism.
The works of JP Moreland have been particularly effective in this regard. If I may, I’d like to point out an upcoming book, The Knower and the Known by Stephen Parrish. He has written a very comprehensive book analyzing various reductive materialist positions, and with philosophical rigor he tears them apart. I helped edit the book and I have to say it is well worth the read.
You have engaged countless non-Christians in dialogue; are you concerned about the pugnacity of the New Atheists? Do you feel that E-Atheists are making a significant impact—is their work leading to a large expansion of atheism?
I admit that I have no statistics to answer this question in a more empirical fashion, but I do think that I’ve noticed a trend of militant atheism on the rise. However, God has done powerful work through this, and I think apologetics is on the rise as well. New apologetics programs are opening across the country, and the works on apologetics are expanding rapidly. It’s an exciting time to be a Christian, as we are really in the middle of a cultural war. We may lose in the short term, but we know that God is in control, so He will direct things according to His purpose.
What do you think are some of the best ways to philosophically respond to anti-theism?
I think that it really depends on the scenario. Is the anti-theist arguing that naturalism better explains reality? Point out that naturalism cannot ground morality or even the concept of a “self.” Is the anti-theist arguing that God doesn’t exist? Point them towards powerful evidence. So much of apologetics is the relationship and finding out what barriers people have erected to keep the Holy Spirit out. It is our job to tear down these barriers.
How essential is defending Christian truth against antagonistic secular as well as skeptical claims?
Christianity is a comprehensive look at reality. When a challenge is raised from a secular cultural standpoint, then that is just as much a threat as when a challenge to a truth claim is made. We must defend Christianity on the cultural as well as the intellectual front.
I know that Stephen Parrish’s work has edified you over the years—how has his worked informed and blessed you? What other apologists or philosophers have influenced your work the most?
Stephen Parrish has been a wonderful influence on my life. I did not really know what apologetics was until I took a few classes from him. I used to think philosophy was ridiculous, but he showed me the greatness of that field of study. He continues to be a blessing as we work together for the Kingdom.
Tim McGrew has been another great influence. He was the one who introduced me to historical apologetics and continues to be a fantastic resource.
Can you name any non-Christian philosophers worth reading?
Absolutely. First, it is important to read the classics. Reading people like Plato and Aristotle will advance your knowledge of the whole of philosophical thought.
There are other great philosophers working now who are non-Christians. Thomas Nagel is perhaps the most honest naturalist out there, and his recent book Mind and Cosmos has been causing quite a stir, for good reason. Saul Kripke is a phenomenal Jewish scholar whose works have been highly influential in modal logic.
How does your wife put up with your constant research and online outreach?
She’s also studying, so we consciously make an effort to interact with each other! It’s not always easy, but I think we’re very good at giving each other the time we need.
Are there any solid proofs for the existence of God? If so, what are they?
I think your own work has really demonstrated this quite a bit: pretty much all of reality is a solid proof for the existence of God, as we know from Romans. But as far as arguments are concerned, I am partial to the Kalam Cosmological Argument (Whatever begins to exist has a cause, the universe began to exist, therefore the universe has a cause) as well as the teleological/design argument. I think these are extremely powerful arguments from which we cannot escape.
The transcendental argument is another very powerful argument for the existence of God. Without God, we fail to make sense of reality. Stephen Parrish has written on this as well in God and Necessity, and presuppositionalists have made excellent contributions in this area.
What are some of your plans for your ministry? Do you have any projects underway?
I have projects underway, but nothing I can really announce yet. The plans are still forming. For now, follow my site and my Twitter/Facebook to get updates!
Many Christians are not able to be Christian apologists; they do not have the time or aptitude to devote many years to research. What would you recommend to these everyday Christians vis-à-vis apologetics?
Every Christian is called to be an apologist. Of course not every Christian has the time to memorize countless arguments. The most effective thing that these Christians can do is to realize the importance of a relationship. By building powerful relationships, they will be able to demonstrate with their lives the superiority of the Christian worldview.
Another extremely important thing for Christians to do is to ask perceptive questions. Very often, people will say things like “There is no truth” without even thinking about it. I can guarantee these people have stumped Christians with these sayings before. But even a simple question like “Is that statement true?” overthrows the objection entirely. Christians don’t need to spend hundreds of hours researching in order to learn to think clearly and ask questions like this. Greg Koukl’s book, Tactics presents a number of excellent ways the everyday Christian can become a powerful apologist simply by asking questions.
Are there things, good or bad, that you wish you understood better before you began your apologetics ministry that you now know?
Perhaps the most important thing I wish I’d known (and something I’m still learning) is how the gentleness and respect that the best Christian apologists have. Humility is a very important element of being a good Christian apologist. We need to acknowledge that we don’t have every answer and be willing to say so. When we are stumped, it is okay to say you are, and that you’ll get back to the question after you’ve researched it more.
Are there any ways our readers can support your ministry?
I would ask for their continuing prayers. Monetarily, it looks like you’ve already linked to my donation page, and another easy way to help would be to use amazon through the links on my site when they are shopping for other things. Most of all, though, prayers as well as any encouraging comments. It always makes my day when I get comments on the blog, and knowing it makes a difference is such a blessing.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to interact via your site!
My readers and I thank you for your time and we pray for God’s blessing upon your work and outreach.
J.W. Wartick is an apologist and oversees the blog “Always Have a Reason.” He offers articles and posts that focus on apologetic and philosophical matters. J.W. is a student member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and the Evangelical Theological Society. He makes a real and regular impact in Christian Apologetics through his blog, his ministry, and his apologetic relationships.
J.W. can be reached at J.W. Wartick Always have a Reason.I encourage readers to support J.W.’s apologetic ministry; he is active, upbeat, and confidently contends for the Christian Worldview against the errors of atheism, cults, and false religions.
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