Christian apologist Greg West is the founder and director of the influential Apologetics blog: The Poached Egg
interview by Mike Robinson
The Poached Egg Network is where Christian apologetics, history, philosophy, science, theology, and pop culture collide. Their goal is to help guide believers, seekers, and skeptics alike to the Ultimate Source of Truth and a better understanding of the Christian worldview.
I URGE YOU TO CONTEND FOR THE FAITH THAT WAS ONCE FOR ALL ENTRUSTED TO THE SAINTS. JUDE 3
Greg, greetings and welcome to our site. What part of the country are you originally from and where do now you call home?
Thanks for having me, Mike. It’s a real honor. I was born and raised in Southwest Missouri, where I still call home today. Although I don’t consider myself ‘well traveled’, I have been around much of the U.S. and served a year overseas in Korea back in my army days.
Were you raised in a Christian home?
Yes, as a matter of fact I was. My dad is an ordained deacon and serves as a volunteer chaplain at a local hospital. He and my mom have been married for over 50 years. We were in church whenever the doors were open. I remember that we often went to church where ever we were–even when we were on vacation.
How did you come to faith in Jesus Christ?
I’m not sure exactly how old I was—around six or seven—but I remember sitting through a sermon in Vacation Bible School and realizing that I was a sinner in need of a Savior and responding to an alter call.
What is your favorite book of the Bible and why?
That’s a tough call. It’s really hard for me to pick a favorite, but if I had to, I’d probably choose the book of John because it paints such an intimate portrayal of Jesus, the Trinity, and Jesus as God incarnate and Savior. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is John 18:37–where Jesus tells Pilate that the reason he came into the world was to bear witness to the truth. That verse is also found on one of the oldest known fragments of NT manuscripts—dating back to the early 2nd century.
What drove you or prompted you to pursue Christian apologetics?
As a young man in my twenties I turned my back on God and Christianity because I had begun to doubt that it was the “one true religion.” I spent many years as a professed agnostic before the “problem of evil” began to make me realize that Christianity was really the only worldview that lined up with what I knew of reality. I became a recommitted follower of Christ in my mid-thirties and decided that if I was going to be a Christian—and I sincerely wanted to know if its truth claims could stand up to the closest scrutiny. I began studying apologetics before I even really knew what apologetics was. I ran across Lee Strobel’s, The Case for Christ, and after that I was hooked and read everything apologetics related that I could get my hands on. I’ve been studying apologetics ever since.
The Poached Egg has posted countless resources about various topics concerning atheism, cults, and false religions; additionally, you have an avid interest in confronting secularism. What are some of the reasons for your apologetic attention regarding worldview issues?
Like I said earlier, I believe that Christianity is the only worldview that provides sufficient answers to worldview questions—such as, “Why are we here?” “Where did we come from?’” and “Where are we going?” As far as secularism goes, I think that it’s a worldview ultimately driven by selfishness, and when is selfishness ever a good thing?
Why do you believe so passionately in absolute truth?
First, because Jesus seemed to hold truth in such high regard that as I mentioned before he gave it as the reason why he came—he even claimed to be the embodiment of truth itself. And second, if there is no absolute truth then absolutely nothing matters—and if nothing matters—well, that’s a recipe that leads to anarchy, chaos… this list could go on, but ultimately to utter despair.
What are the most troubling religions that require greater Christian apologetic outreach?
I really don’t think I can single out any particular one because while some may have more followers than others, I think that any religion that is false needs to be exposed as so.
Do Christians, Mormons, and Muslims worship the same God?
No. This is the case because any religion that does not express God as he truly is in reality is presenting a false god, or a “manmade” god. That’s one thing I appreciate about Christianity—as C.S. Lewis observed: “It’s not one that anyone could or would make up.” Our God is a God of perfect righteousness and judgment. Who wants that? But he’s also a God who is perfect in mercy and grace. No god of any other religion has all the attributes of the God of the Bible.
What are some things the anti-religious misunderstand about apologetics? And Evangelicals?
I could go on for a while on this one, but I’ll just stick with what jumps out at me the most: that we’re out to rain on everyone’s parade or that we have some kind of political agenda to turn the world into a theocracy. I have no delusions about the latter until Christ returns. The fact that we’re motivated by love (in sharing the Gospel) seems to go over many people’s head, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to let my values determine how I vote—which is just as true of any person of any religion or no religion.
What are some ideas, arguments, or topics a Christian might want to explore when witnessing to false religionists?
I would first ask how they came to believe that their religion is true—is it because they just accepted what something or someone said, or because they’ve investigated how their beliefs line up with what we know of reality. Christianity is the only religion that claims to have multiple eyewitnesses from start to finish; most other religions can only claim one and others just simply accepted what they said as being true.
What is the proper tone or attitude Christians should have when witnessing to cultists?
We should realize that we were once deceived just as they are and that God wants them to know the truth just as much as he does us. We should always remember that it’s not about proving that we’re right or winning arguments: it’s about sharing Christ.
Please name any leading-edge apologetic advances, evidence, and arguments that help the apologist reveal the weakness of the secular worldview.
I think the argument from moral absolutes is irrefutable. That along with the various versions of the cosmological argument, the case for the resurrection, and the historical reliability of the Bible makes a cumulative case that Christianity is true beyond a reasonable doubt. This is why hyper-skeptics continue to make logic defying arguments that Jesus never even existed as an historical person. Do away with Jesus and there’s no need to worry about the rest.
The fact that the Bible is a collection of 66 books written over a period of 1500 or so years by around 40 different authors from many different regions and from all walks of life—from shepherds to prophets and kings, and that it is one grand story is remarkable in itself. No other book, religious or secular, fiction or non-fiction, can even come close to making that claim. Furthermore, we keep discovering manuscripts older than we had previously—and they continue to confirm that what we have today is what was written back then.
What do you recommend for a budding apologist who is considering focusing his ministry on apologetics?
First of all, study the Bible. Read it from start to finish then read it again. Read different versions—study its historical context and dig into challenging passages. You’ll be amazed at what you learn. Second, read, read, read, and never stop reading. Read things that are in opposition to your own beliefs. Start with introductory books and then work your way up to higher levels of difficulty and understanding. Pick one to three main subjects of interest and focus mainly on those, remember, you’re never going to learn everything or be an expert at everything. It’s better to learn a lot about a little as opposed to a little about a lot. Third, you don’t have to be William Lane Craig or even need to have a degree to be an effective apologist (although I would like to see more students pursuing degrees in apologetics). The church needs laypeople to volunteer to teach apologetics at their churches and make themselves available to people who have questions. If you want to be an apologist as a career, there are more options today than ever. Ratio Christi will likely never run out of positions for full time and tent-maker apologists—and it won’t break your bank or take years of college to become trained and certified to fill these positions.
With the rise of the militant atheists, are you concerned about the aggression and the influence of the New Atheists and combative Online-atheism?
I’m actually thankful for the New Atheists. It’s partly thanks to them that apologetics is experiencing a resurgence like never before in recent history. What disturbs me is when people who are experiencing doubt will see something online as awful as the Zeitgeist movie and take it on complete faith that the information given is true without looking into their claims and then think of themselves as being “intellectually enlightened.” Most of the attacks made against Christianity are either arguments from emotion, ignorance, or a combination of both. I think there are very few true atheists. Most of them are really just misotheists (God haters) trying to pass themselves off as atheists.
What do you think are some of the best ways to minister and reply to them?
If you’re not spending as much time praying for them (specific people you are reaching out to) as you are presenting your arguments, you’re not going to get very far. We have to pray that God will send his Spirit to prepare them to be open to what we have to say. The mistake many young apologists to be make is to think that it’s all about winning arguments or proving yourself right. If that’s your approach, then please just stop doing apologetics because you’re only hindering the Gospel and not helping anyone.
How essential is defending Christian truth against Islamic claims?
I’m so thankful that there are apologists who specialize in reaching out to Muslims, Mormons, JWs, and many other particular religions. I think that it’s essential to be able to reach out to everyone, regardless of their worldview or religion. Islam, being the 2nd largest religion in the world, might require more people to step up and specialize in reaching out to them—especially former Muslims.
With all the innovation and the rise of technology, what do you see as some of the biggest challenges for the Christian apologist in the coming years?
I think some of the biggest challenges lie in Christians learning how to utilize that technology for the cause of Christ. Christians always seem to be a more than a few steps behind on this… but I think that’s beginning to change. I think another challenge is in the area of bioethics. It seems we are slow to learn from the past. Most people will condemn Hitler as a moral monster without reservation, but we (as a society) seem to be committing the sins of the past with barely a second thought. Today we have advocates for sex selective abortions and getting rid of the “imperfect” or “unwanted.” We need moral apologists to help defend the defenseless.
What apologists or teachers have influenced your work the most?
Lee Strobel has been a huge influence on me. My pastor calls him “America’s Apologist” and rightly so. He was the first in quite some time to make apologetics accessible to the layman- to show that apologetics is for everyone and not just for academians—and others are following his lead. People like J. Warner Wallace, Greg Koukl, Paul Copan, Sean McDowell, and a growing list of others, are writing apologetics books, articles, and blogs that are equipping lay people (such as myself) to be more confident Christians. This helps make more confident evangelists. With today’s widespread skepticism and relativism—at least in spiritual matters—it’s nearly impossible to effectively witness to your average co-worker without knowing some basic apologetic arguments.
Do you think that there are any non-Christian scholars worth reading?
Absolutely! Today there are quite a few agnostics and even atheists who are writing books that are critical of the secular worldview or are at least asking good questions. One book I really like in particular is God and the Astronomers by the late astronomer, Robert Jastrow, an agnostic, who realized that the big bang and other recent discoveries in cosmology have huge implications and raises a lot of problems for atheism.
Describe your apologetic approach you most often employ.
I’m mainly an evidentialist, but I think that just about all approaches have their value. It all depends on what approach works best for the person you’re trying to reach. The presuppositional approach may work well for some, while with others, you may need to use a more historical or scientific approach.
Is there solid proof or powerful evidence for the existence of God? If so, what is it?
I think the Cosmological argument is a great argument for the existence of God, and some argue that can only get you to theism, but it just so happens that the Bible is the only holy book that describes a God with the necessary attributes to be the uncaused first cause. The more I ponder the cosmological argument, the more I see that it’s highly improbable for God not to exist. And again, the argument from the existence of moral absolutes is a huge problem for skeptics—although there are honest atheists out there who agree that without God there are no moral absolutes.
The Poached Egg recently has teamed-up the Ratio Christi—how has that changed the ministry? What are some of the benefits from this joint effort?
Well, as Ratio Christi operations manager, Blake Anderson put it, TPE and RC are two eggs from the same chicken! Alluding to the fact that we both share many common goals—the biggest of which is to make disciples, which, bottom line, is what apologetics is all about. I’d had a great working relationship with RC almost from the beginning of TPE. I was always eager and happy to promote what they’re doing, and they like what I’m doing. I was originally going to be a chapter director, but with the workload of TPE, it would be nearly impossible to do both and be effective at either and still maintain any kind of family life. The benefit of our partnership for them is that it gives them a larger platform to bang the drum for student apologetics on campuses, which is something I’ve always been passionate about. The main benefit for me (and my family) is that as an RC supported missionary, I’m able to raise funds to help expand TPE while providing for my family at the same time—without the headaches of trying to run TPE as a separate not for profit organization. It really hasn’t changed the ministry of TPE other than integrating it into the RC family and stepping up promotion of RC.
People will be noticing more of this in the near future as we continue to develop our focus and direction. It’s really a win-win situation for both parties and I’m so thankful to RC for enabling me to take TPE to the next level and beyond. Another thing which I’ve mentioned briefly already is that RC really opens a lot of doors for those who wish to pursue apologetics ministry as a career. RC president Rick Schenker calls it a grassroots movement and I wholeheartedly agree and I’m thrilled to be on board!
What are some of your future plans for your ministry? Do you have any projects underway?
I really want to bring a major apologetics conference to my area—that’s one goal I have and another reason that our partnership with RC is beneficial because they have a lot more experience in that area than I do. I’m also going to be traveling and speaking more. I have one local speaking engagement next month and later this month I’ll be a presenter for the Online Apologetics Conference. I’m very excited about that!
Many Christians are not able to be Christian apologists; they do not have the time or ability to devote many years to study. What would you recommend for these average Christians?
First, one could learn apologetics by spending a few minutes a day or week visiting TPE and reading the articles featured there. They might even run across some written by you!
Also, make an effort to read books like The Case for Christ or Cold-Case Christianity. It doesn’t have to take years to learn apologetics, although to be a specialist it does.
Another thing Christians can do is attend a weekend apologetics conference which are popping up everywhere with more frequency. Encourage the leadership at your church to offer apologetics related classes and small groups is another thing they can do.
Last and definitely not least, support apologetics ministries with prayer and financial support. I can’t begin to tell you how important this is!
Are there things, good or bad, that you wish you understood better before you began your apologetics ministry that you now know?
This is another question I could spend quite a bit of time on- but I’ll try to keep it brief. When I started out, I naively thought that all you had to do was just make good arguments and you would be making converts left and right. I know now that the best arguments in the world will not change most people’s minds… but as Greg Koukl puts it, the task of the apologist is to put a stone in someone’s shoe. You might speak to someone and never see them again, but what you say might open the door for them later on down the road. The fact that life is ultimately meaningless without God, and that without God there is no solution to the problem of evil, gnawed at me for quite some time before I came to the decision that it was with either all in or all out for Christ.
Are there any ways our readers can support your ministry?
Yes, help us spread the word about Ratio Christi: share TPE articles on their social networks—and please pray for me and my family as we continue to expand our reach. We also are in great need of financial support. As Hank Hanegraaff puts it, the Gospel is free but someone has to pay for the plumbing. To donate, one can go to the “donate” page on TPE to make a special or ongoing monthly donation online.
My readers and I thank you for your time and we pray for God’s blessing upon your work and outreach.
Mike, thank you so much for the opportunity to be interviewed here, and I thank you and pray for God’s blessing on your ministry as well!
The Poached Egg Christian Worldview and Apologetics Journal is a website founded and edited by Greg West. Greg is passionately committed to the cause of Christian apologetics; providing an adequate and reasonable defense of the Christian faith. The Poached Egg is a large and continually expanding virtual library of articles and essays compiled from all over the World Wide Web. Noted apologists, biblical scholars, philosophers, scientists, historians, students, and laymen all come together under this one site.
The Poached Egg derives its name from the famous C.S. Lewis quote from, Mere Christianity. “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.”
I encourage readers to support The Poached Egg’s apologetic ministry; they are ever-active resource providers and they boldly contend for the Christian Worldview against the errors of atheism, cults, Islam and false religions.
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