Restoring Apologetics to Evangelism Series by J.P. Holding

J.P. Holding, of Tekton Education and Apologetics Ministry,  presents some thought-provoking views on why personal testimony as evangelism can be “damaging, destructive, and [an] undesirable form of evangelism that ought to be abandoned” and furthermore, presents a case for why apologetics is beneficial.

Part 1:  [Personal testimony] has enabled the illogical, absurd argument that Christianity’s truth claims can be gauged by the behavior of confessed Christians.


Part 2: Evangelism based on personal testimony ties the validity of our conversion to our subjective experience.


Part 3: The use of personal testimony turns the Christian life into a spectacle and encourages legalistic behavior.


Part 4: Personal testimony is not only unbiblical, it also creates a conflict in Biblical texts.


Part 5: Personal testimony evangelism requires building a “ten ton bridge” to present the Gospel.


Part 6: A public model of evangelism.


Part 7: A private model of evangelism.

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Kurt Jaros is the Director of Operations at Apologetics.com, where he oversees various projects, including Real Clear Apologetics (which he founded). He holds a Master's degree in Christian Apologetics from Biola University and a Master's in Systematic Theology from King's College London. He teaches part-time at Naperville Christian Academy and also blogs at ValuesAndCapitalism.com, a project of the American Enterprise Institute.

2 Comments

  1. Profile photo of edwardtbabinski

    edwardtbabinski - June 20, 2013, 3:21 pm

    I agree with J.P. Holding that testimonies can be damaging to Christianity. But such an admission leads to further questions. Is their potential for damage due to the fact that personal testimonies deal too much with the real world, the untidy and confusing world we all inhabit, not the ideal world that Christian apologists inhabit?

    Anyone can see that people’s beliefs change in all directions. So it is not ideal for an apologist to dredge up such matters. Even Josh McDowell no longer included his chapter on “The Uniqueness of the Christian Experience” after the first two editions of Evidence That Demands a Verdict. (At someone’s request I once wrote a rebuttal to Josh’s “Uniqueness” chapter that appears online.)

    And it’s not only “personal testimonies” that are potentially damaging to the apologetic enterprise, there is also the “testimony of Christian history,” a history of schisms, and also of persecutions, too numerous to mention.

    And there is the “testimony of the history of Christian universities” which were founded by conservative believers yet which grew more moderate, inclusive, liberal and secular as the professors and students continued to interact with questions raised by biblical scholars from around the world.

    For instance Harvard was founded by conservative Christian ministers. Then Yale was founded by conservative ministers not pleased by the “theological excesses” of Harvard. Now look at Yale.

    Or look at Princeton, which used to be the home of the famed B. B. Warfield, a late 19th century proponent of inerrancy. Then Princeton began accepting “modernist” professors at the beginning of the 20th century, which prompted the Princeton theologian, Machen to quit and found Westminster Theological Seminary in reaction. But recently cracks began to appear in the conservative wall at Westminster, cracks such as articles by WTS graduate Paul Seely in the WTS Journal that demonstrated the pre-scientific nature of the primeval history stories in Genesis, such as the solidity of the firmament, the biblical writer’s assumption of a flat earth/cosmos with primeval waters above and beneath it, and the myth of the tower of Babel. And following on that came the book by WTS prof. Peter Enns, titled Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, which brought to the fore scholarly questions that WTS has tried to keep buried ever since the fundamentalist-modernist debate in the 1920s when WTS was first founded.

    So by all means dump the testimonies of individuals, of Christian history, and of universities founded on the basis of conservative Christianity — and only present to the world the so-called pristine truth of “Christianity,” untouched by human hands or history.

    So the questions, the visible real world ones, remain. Indeed, If you begin with a religion that claims to possess the world’s most inspired writings/teachings, and claims to possess a holy spirit that leads it’s adherent into “all truth,” and claims its adherents have been regenerated by the spirit, wouldn’t you expect more evidence in the real world, the untidy world? Instead you see Christians and Christianity falling into the same dirty ditches as other mass movements, with Christian Emperors declaring unbelievers in CatholicTrinitarian Christianity “insane” and subject to the Emperor’s persecutions. And Luther and Calvin arguing with full gusto that magistrates MUST persecute unbelievers, heretics, witches. With Christians killing more lovers of Jesus than the Romans did.

    J.P. shares no testimony. He was converted in his teens at what age and after reading what? He won’t say. But what do teenagers know about the Bible, Christianity, philosophy, history or science? I guess “the evidence was overwhelming” to him and other young converts for whom the questioning only really began after they converted.

    I have a testimony too. Like J.P. I was converted to “born again” “Evangelical Christianity” in my teens. J.P. was raised Bahai, I was raised Catholic. I had no real questions when I started hanging with other enthusiastic Christian young people who were reading the Bible like me and being moved by it. Then we wanted to go out and save the world by trying to make the world as enthusiastic as we were about Jesus and the Bible (as WE understood both). But that’s only where my biblical education began, the bare roots. Years later I decided I could no longer honestly repeat the creeds. If Lewis was dragged kicking and screaming toward doctrinal Christianity, i was dragged in the opposite direction, putting up resistance to my increasing knowledge of biblical studies, comparative religion, evolution, human psychology, and all the questions they raised.

  2. Profile photo of J. P. Holding

    J. P. Holding - June 21, 2013, 8:40 am

    As usual, Ed, you have a profound knack for squeezing as little content in as many words as possible.

    >>>Is their potential for damage due to the fact that personal testimonies deal too much with the real world, the untidy and confusing world we all inhabit, not the ideal world that Christian apologists inhabit?

    Read the series and find out, instead of posing a rhetorical question as a way to introduce one of your extended speeches. None of it has anything to do with any of what you wrote.

    >>>J.P. shares no testimony. He was converted in his teens at what age and after reading what? He won’t say.

    I say quite clearly, if you bother to read my material, which you don’t do, except to quote mine so that you can start a speech. Most of my reading was of atheist and Skeptical material, which I found to be such a joke that I realized they didn’t have the goods. Among the items I read early on:

    Cohen, Mind of the Bible Believer
    Graham, Deceptions and Myths of the Bible
    Steve Allen’s books on Christianity
    Barker, Losing Faith in Faith
    Humanist magazine

    >>>But what do teenagers know about the Bible, Christianity, philosophy, history or science?

    Good point. Which is why years ago, Chris Hallquist, for example, got such a following, right? Please. I knew a lot more than most adults at that time, and knew more than even you do now on many subjects. Not that it matters, as usual, this is your typical way of avoiding engaging the arguments, which you avoid as much as possible. For example, I’m still waiting for that answer on Pythagoras from you. The one I asked about on Tweb years ago. Did you plan to answer that any time soon?

    >>>I had no real questions when I started hanging with other enthusiastic Christian young people who were reading the Bible like me and being moved by it.

    Well isn’t that a shame. I didn’t hang out, I wasn’t “moved” by it, I didn’t mistake emotionalism for a drive to evangelize. As for your “increasing knowledge of biblical studies,” right. I’ve watched you for years. You never learn anything. All you do is repeat formulas, tell anecdotes, repeat back what you read in your preferred sources, and when challenged, come up with things like, “Well, so and so is a good Christian and he doesn’t agree with you, what do you think of that?” Like that’s an answer? It’s like dialoging with one of those coin op machines with the rotating fortune teller inside that gives you a slip of paper that says YU WILL GORK YOUR THEEBLE WAHOO TODAY.

    Skeptics like you helped convert me, Ed.

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