I saw this post up on Pastor Matt’s blog.
William Lane Craig’s ministry has been grace upon grace to me. He is one of the apologists whose work saved my faith from the relativistic emergent church fog in which I wandered for several years as a young Christian (you can more about that here).
However, it is not just Dr. Craig’s books and debates that have blessed my Christian life and ministry but his podcasts are also outstanding. I subscribe to both his Reasonable Faith and Defenders podcast. The former is conversational in style and often features Dr. Craig answering the questions of both believers and skeptics alike. The latter is a regular Sunday school class Dr. Craig teaches on theology and apologetics.
Now the Defenders class is going to be live streamed from the church he attends every Sunday morning at 11:30 a.m. EST. You can watch here. The time may be bad for many of you on the east coast (I’ll be preaching tomorrow at that time) but perfect for those in Europe and the west coast. Also, you can watch or listen to archived classes at Reasonable Faith.
There was a recent episode of the Reasonable Faith podcast in which Kevin Harris and William Lane Craig talked about the live-streaming of the Defenders class.
Every church should have a class like this! Dr. Craig’s ‘Defenders’ class gets to the meat of the Christian life and worldview. Now, there’s breaking news concerning the class!
Here’s a snip from the transcript that explains what Defenders is all about:
Dr. Craig: We believe strongly that every Christian believer needs to be exercising his spiritual gifts in the context of the local church. There are no lone rangers in Christianity. We are part of a local body. God has gifted the church in ways that we serve and help one another. So, having a gift in the area of teaching, it would be natural for me to teach an adult Sunday School class. I thought, “Well, what might I teach on?” I didn’t want to teach a course on straight apologetics. I think that would be spiritually unhealthy, just week after week to be dealing with apologetic arguments.
Kevin Harris: Why?
Dr. Craig: Because they would not be getting any biblical input or knowledge.
Kevin Harris: You mean directly from the Scriptures?
Dr. Craig: Exactly. There would not be biblical input and teaching. So it seemed to me that it would be better for my students if I were to teach a survey of Christian doctrine. What I discovered during my doctoral studies in Germany is that when you do a survey of the body of Christian doctrine there simply naturally arises at various points along the way issues of apologetic significance that can then be addressed in passing. So, for example, if you are talking about the Doctrine of God, naturally the question will arise, “What reason is there to believe that God exists?” So you can do a sort of excursus on arguments for the existence of God. Or if you are doing Doctrine of Creation, the question will naturally arise, “How does the Christian doctrine of creation comport with what contemporary biology tells us about the evolution of biological complexity on earth?” So that will be an area, again, that you will want to address with a view toward producing what I call a synoptic Christian theology; that is to say, a theology which is integrated with the best knowledge that secular disciplines have to tell us about the world. An integrated worldview that gives a Christian perspective on science, on the arts, on literature, on history, and so forth.
So based upon my studies in Germany, I developed this survey of the whole body of Christian doctrine, or systematic theology, starting with the Doctrine of Revelation (that is to say, how does God reveal himself to us) going right up through the Doctrine of the Last Things (that is to say, the return of Christ and the final state of man into eternity), and then in between the rest of basic Christian doctrine.
Kevin Harris: You’ve done a series on the Doctrine of the Trinity, the Doctrine of Christ, fascinating things. Probably one of the more popular ones you did was a whole series (12 to 15 sessions) of Creation and Evolution.
Dr. Craig: Yes, that was an excursus under the Doctrine of Creation. Having given a theological understanding of creation, then how does that integrate with what we learn about the created biosphere from science?
Kevin Harris: Just a personal aside, the times that I’ve been in the class, it is really fun because these are the people who don’t realize that you are “The WLC,” they just know you as the carpenter’s son who lives among them. [laughter] You are just Bill! But some do come to the class and seek you out because of your work, but then you’ve got a bunch of other people who . . .
Dr. Craig: What has happened, Kevin, is initially I just started teaching this adult Sunday School class, and we just had a handful of folks who would come. People who were interested in learning about Christian doctrine. But as Reasonable Faith developed, we began to record these classes and then to put them on the website so that they could be available as podcasts. That has been a great joy to see how people from all around the world are accessing these podcasts and listening to them.
Kevin Harris: Your class asks questions. You pass the microphone around so the questions could be heard.
Dr. Craig: That’s right. One of the things that we do in the class is provide ample time for discussion. We don’t have any schedule to get through. Whether we cover a lot of material in a lesson, or just a little bit of material, doesn’t matter because we just continue the next Sunday wherever we happen to leave off. So the pace at which we move will be very much dictated by the people in the class and the questions that they have.
One of the things that we do in the Defenders class is to encourage open exploration and questioning. So when I cover a subject, I will typically give a range of views that are present in Christian theology, very often associated with particular Christian confessions. For example, I’ll say, “Here is what Catholics believe about this doctrine. Here is the Lutheran perspective. Here is what Reformed theologians say. Here is what Baptist or Methodist theologians believe.” And we look at a range of options, and then give some word of assessment about them. I think folks appreciate not being put into a cage, but presented with a range of options and then being allowed to decide for themselves which one best represents the most coherent and biblically faithful view of the subject that we are discussing.
Kevin Harris: These podcasts of the Defenders class appear at ReasonableFaith.org every Monday. So people look forward to that time when they go on, along with the new Reasonable Faith podcast. So you get Defenders and the Reasonable Faith podcasts.
You can click here to listen to it. (20 minutes)
I like his survey of opinions approach. The best sermon I ever heard was on ordinances and sacraments, and the pastor did a survey of the different views and what reasons they had to hold it. My ears perked up – you never hear anything like that in church, usually. But in the Defenders class, you hear it every week.
Now the lady I am mentoring most listens to this podcast – she is listening fro the beginning because they are all online now. She is getting better at apologetics every day, and I suspect that the Defenders class has a lot to do with that. She is listening to the 20 podcasts from Series 1 of the Defenders podcast. They are now on Series 2. If you like your theology done with philosophical and historical rigor, you’ll find it here – this is theology you can talk to a non-Christian about.
I’m sure that some people who read my blog think that church is boring, impractical and irrelevant to the real work of being a Christian. I have sympathy with you, because I used to be you – until my friend Dina encouraged me to attend church more regularly, and made me a cross-stitch (it took her a LONG time to make!) that I couldn’t refuse. Now I try to attend church and I do believe that it adds value to what I do as a Christian operator and agent, although my church does not know who I am and they do not use any of my skills. I think some of you were just like I used to be, and have had nothing but bad experiences in the church. I am not minimizing the bad experiences that serious people have in unserious churches, but eventually I do want you to go to a good church and learn something and share what you know with others. But if you still cannot bring yourself to go to church YET, then consider that this Defenders class is the corrective to the bad experiences you have had in church. You are not going to find any anti-intellectualism, feminization, postmodernism, moral relativism, etc. in this class. You will actually learn something useful in this class. Every week you are going to take home something useful that makes you better at know who God is and how to act on that knowledge in practical ways. Take a look and see for yourself what goes on!
Finally, here is a list with links to all my favorite podcasts.