William Lane Craig: churches should focus on apologetics to attract more men

I saw that Triablogue quoted this passage from William Lane Craig’s April 2013 newsletter, which made me very excited and happy.

Here it is:

One overwhelming impression of these engagements is the way in which the intellectual defense of Christian faith attracts men. Both at Texas A&M and again at Miami every single student who got up to ask a question was a guy! I wondered if the girls are just shy. But then I remembered a lengthy clip Jan and I watched of cast members of Downton Abbey doing a Q&A with an audience in New York. Almost every person who came to the microphone at that event was a woman! It wasn’t until late into the evening that a man finally asked a question, which was remarked by all the cast members. Why the difference between that session and the ones I experienced?—simply because the Downton Abbey program is highly relational, which is more appealing to women, whereas my talks were principally intellectually oriented, which is more appealing to men.

Churches have difficulty attracting men, and the church is becoming increasingly feminized. I believe that apologetics is a key to attracting large numbers of men (as well as women) to church and to Christ. By presenting rational arguments and historical evidences for the truth of the Gospel, by appealing to the mind as well as the heart, we can bring a great influx of men into the Kingdom. I’m so pleased that the church in Canada seems to be awakening to this challenge! I’m convinced that we have the opportunity to revolutionize Western Christianity by reclaiming our intellectual heritage.

I could tell you many, many stories of what it was like for me being shut down by churches who were overly sensitive to the desires of women. In college, I and the other male students had every attempt to bring in scholars to lecture or debate shut down by female leadership. Every single week it was prayer walks, testimonies, hymn sings… over and over. Eventually, the more manly Christians just quit going. Later on, I witnessed apologetics being shut down in the church from the top down and from the bottom up, as well.

I remember one week an excited male friend invited me to his church because his male pastor was giving sermons using Hugh Ross and Gerald Shroeder books. He was trying to tie in the existence of God to cosmology. Well, I showed up the next Sunday to hear, and was disappointed. I could tell that the pastor wanted to go back to that subject, but he never really did. Later on, we found out that a female parishioner had complained that too much science and evidence had ruined her experience of feeling good and being comforted.

I could go on and on and on telling stories like this. To this day, I cannot stand being in a church unless that church has organized things like apologetic training classes, public lectures, public debates or public conferences. But that’s the minority of churches. The fact is that churches are attended far more by women than by men, and pastors are catering to women more than men. Not only will apologetics not be mentioned, but elements of feminism will creep into doctrine (egalitarianism) and all political issues will be avoided. Church has become a place to have good feelings, and it is far divorced from anything like evidence or politics which might be viewed as judgmental and divisive.

Commenters on Triablogue think that Dr. Craig will draw flak for his comment, but he’s not going to draw flak from mature Christians. What he said is correct. Mature Christians are right behind him on this point. Christian men who have tried to act to defend God’s reputation in public know that there is something wrong in the churches. And eventually, men just tune out of church because we know that there is nothing there for us. If women want men to come back to church, then they have to change the church away from what it is now.

13 thoughts on “William Lane Craig: churches should focus on apologetics to attract more men”

  1. You know, we should probably not use the word “apologetics”, because most people think that means we should apologize for being Christian, as if there is something wrong with that. Other than that, I agree with the article. My only caveat is that we let the Bible “apologize” for itself. I have found myself resorting more and more to just quoting Scripture and then letting people figure it out for themselves. Of course, only the Holy Spirit can give them that kind of discernment. But, then, we are told in Scripture that the Word is the Spirit’s means to work in a heart and mind. Trying too hard to clarify Scripture sometimes makes it muddier or even makes it say what it doesn’t actually say. We have to know, going in, that some seed is going to fall on the hard path and no amount of apologizing is going to change that.

  2. And, by the way, it doesn’t help that we keep feminizing the Scripture. Stop apologizing that God is a he, Jesus is a he, the apostles are he’s and that all are sons of God in Christ. That would go a long way toward being correct Biblically and not politically. There are reasons for the maleness, and this is where true apologetics is needed.

  3. Yes, the Church does coddle women. I thought the large non-denominational church I attended for about 10-years was different, however I realized all the “Public Witnessing” on Sundays were Men. They admitted to all sorts of things they (the man) did to create marital issues, NONE over the years were women admitting anything to cause marriage issues or divorce. Men, get sick of this (unless they are wimps).

  4. I have tried to have apologetics in my church several times. My pastor has been supportive and interested but few others are. We recently had the movie “Flight the Genius of Birds” and just as many women wanted to see it as men. Although the whole Logic vs Intuitive does often follow gender lines many men also seem disinterested in apologetics. I see apologetics as part of discipleship in the early church but then discipleship hasn’t been practiced very well in many modern churches either. When people ask we should be equipped to give reasonable answers to at least some of the basic questions. As it is many Christians feel that they are unequipped to even share the gospel. This has caused evangelism to be a process of reaching out to your neighbor or coworker and inviting them to church so that the pastor can witness to them. Although this is part of evangelism it isn’t the whole thing. What if they are unwilling to go to church? What happens to those people that have questions that Christians are unequipped to answer? I see apologetics as loving God with our minds and not just our hearts (Matthew 22:37)

    It’s important in the church and the world that we are all things to all people just as Paul says. Not compromising in issues of sin but relatable to people who may be wired differently. We also have to work on making apologetics appealing to men, women, youth and children. We live in a time that anti-theists are often more committed to learning how to proclaim their beliefs and worldview than most Christians.

  5. Later on, we found out that a female parishioner had complained that too much science and evidence had ruined her experience of feeling good and being comforted.

    This woman just makes me roll my eyes,too much science & evidence -is she serious? I feel sorry for her

    1. This happened to me, I was there. My friend Solomon was the one who invited me. At that time, all my college friends were trying everything to get me to go to church.

  6. This isn’t specifically pertinent to this post, but is there a reason your posts are reposted from time to time? For example, in the Related links, the content of this post has essentially been posted three times previously. Is it for new readers? Just curious.

    Now, related to the post, I’ve been thankful to recently discover that a student in our youth group (gal) recently created a test on apologetics for her private Christian school, which was REALLY exciting to hear about. Hoping to talk more about it with her this weekend.

    As for what I’ve seen, I think a number of people in church have a general interest in apologetics, but don’t know where to start, both for guys and gals. I’ve been blessed to point people to different resources I think would be helpful for them to sink their teeth into. I’ve injected apologetics resources in our church’s weekly links page, so that there’s a foundation for discussing these matters more in-depth, should the opportunity arise.

    Similarly, I think showing people the need for apologetics is crucial. I’m sure you’ve heard of Stand to Reason’s Brett Kunkle play a Mormon or atheist to unsuspecting youth groups, and see the sad responses or lack of responses of the students. But once they find out he’s actually a Christian, they breathe a sigh of relief and become VERY interested in learning how to defend the faith. Our youth group knows I’m Christian, so it may not be as effective, but as I’ve had opportunity to teach, I’ve done my best to incorporate critical thinking and apologetics into my messages, and have yet to see fruit born in them with regards to interest, but I trust that God will use His Word and truth to awaken in them a strong need to grow in their understanding of Scripture and the call to defend the faith. Warning them early about what to expect, should they go to college, has been my entry point for introducing apologetics (I even think middle schoolers, and now elementary-aged kids need to learn it now).

    For what it’s worth, pastor Voddie Baucham is coming out with a book called Expository Apologetics: Answering Objections with the Power of the Word (May 2015) that focuses on the use of Scripture with regards to apologetic conversations, which I’m sure would interest many who follow this blog. I think Baucham is a stellar example of one who uses apologetics in his preaching that is bold and uncompromising.

    Though I am presuppositionalist, I wholeheartedly agree with Craig’s view, and hope and pray that God use apologetics as a tool to equip and embolden men in the church, drawing more men in. I would also hope he uses it to also give a vision of how faith is more than just wishful thinking, and vague platitudes that seems to be popular today among women (and I would include men), though that certainly isn’t the case at my church.

  7. I think a big reason people (men and women) aren’t interested in apologetics is Reformed theology which seems to believe that the Holy Spirit only convicts from Scripture and evidence is useless. Just read Van Til and you’ll see that those who appeal to evidence are tainted with the Armenian delusion that people have a choice. Another reason is pure laziness. It takes effort to read and think. Watching football or playing video games is easier and more fun.

    Frankly, men who are interested in apologetics need to step up and teach it. It’s not right to expect “the church” to provide it or blame women for men failing to lead, especially since a lot of churches only allow women to lead women’s and children’s ministries. The church is the body of Christ, not the pastors. My father-in-law puts our church down because there is too much teaching and not enough emotion. He has not been feminized and is very conservative. Emotional men do exist and so do rational women. From my experience a lot of men aren’t interested in expanding their minds and would rather be lazy. To blame one gender for the woes of the church is unbalanced. Besides, only a wuss allows himself to be wussified by a woman.

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