The following transcript is from an Apologetics 315 interview with Douglas Jacoby. Original audio here. Transcript index here. If you enjoy transcripts, please consider supporting, which makes this possible.
BA: Hello. This is Brian of Apologetics 315. Today’s interview is with Christian apologist, Douglas Jacoby. Douglas is adjunct professor at Lincoln Christian University and author of a number of books including Compelling Evidence for God and the Bible: Finding Truth in the Age of Doubt, A Quick Overview of the Bible: Understanding How All the Pieces Fit Together, Genesis, Science & History: A Faith-Building Look at the Opening Chapters of Genesis, and Your Bible Questions Answered: Clear, Concise, and Compelling. He speaks extensively on a wide range of apologetic topics, and in this interview, I’ll be asking him about the historical reliability of the Scriptures, his debates, and his advice for those doing apologetics.
Well, thanks for speaking with me today, Douglas.
DJ: You’re very welcome. Thank you for having me.
BA: Well, Douglas, would you mind telling our listeners a bit more about yourself and your ministry.
DJ: I’d love to. I came to faith in Christ when I was a freshman at Duke University. I’m very grateful to complete strangers who took a chance on me, just willing to share their faith, and not being intimidated. I’m so glad they did, and it just took me a few weeks. I was already seeking, but I had lots of questions which I think eventually fed into my passion for apologetics.
I ended up helping to plant a church in Europe. I was on staff. Paid ministry for 20 years and now 10 years independent, teaching all over the world and also with a university.
BA: Very good. I’m always interested in people who have spoken in a wide variety of places. How did you get into apologetics in the first place, and maybe as an addition to that question, how do you see the role of apologetics training within the church?
DJ: Well, right. I think I got into it because I had so many questions, and in my personal evangelism, I was regularly meeting other people with questions. I was in college for 11 years. I think the experience of church-planting in Europe, living in Britain, Sweden, Australia, where faith is not taken for granted. As Christians, we needed to come up with really good answers, so I think the search propelled me along.
I began reading apologetics books very young, early in my faith, and I continue to do that. I’m one of those people who thinks that anyone in campus ministry, even youth ministry—high school level or middle school level—needs to know something about apologetics. It’s just the world we live in today. I would say it borders on irresponsible for someone engaged in ministry not to know something about how to defend the faith and answer the common objections.
BA: Yeah, we see the need for apologetics within the church, and we see the need for apologetics in public, you know, in the public domain where people are looking for reasons and answers. What do you think is the greatest area of need of equipping for Christians today from your experience and from your travels?
DJ: Well, it really does depend on the culture. When I’m speaking in the Muslim world, Christian-Jewish…I mean Christian-Muslim relations are very important. Jewish relations, too. In places like that, I think it’s important for believers in Christ to read the Qur’an and be familiar. If we’re in the more atheistic parts of Northern Europe, then it’s a completely different set of issues. There, we have to talk a lot more about the nature of tolerance and debunk the idea that all roads lead to God, though it’s a lovely idea. So it really depends where we are.
I live in Georgia. We’ve lived in Atlanta for coming up to ten years, and here, in a way, I think it’s even harder than Northern Europe, because so many people just assume they’re Christians because they belong to a church. We have to go back to the beginning and talk about what faith in Christ really looks like.
I think I can’t give an easy answer on that one. It really depends on the part of the world we’re in and to some extent, even the education level. From speaking to ten-year-olds or twelve-year-olds, which I love to do, it tends to be very simple. If I’m talking to an audience of PhDs, then there’s no need to hold back. So, you know, everyone’s different.
BA: Part of being a good communicator is not only being educated in your area, as an apologist in this case, but also being able to bridge the gap between recognizing what’s needed and how to fulfill that need. What would you think about that?
DJ: I think as apologists and just as Christians, whether we consider ourselves apologists or not, we need to be widely read. I don’t wanna limit the work of evidences to just one area, like the integrity of the Bible, though that’s important. We live in a world marked by diversity, globalization, and that unfortunately means we’ve got more work to do. We can’t afford to remain ignorant, for example, about the 22% of the world who are Muslims, or 1 in 6 people on the planet are Hindus. We need to branch out into multiple areas. I think we also need to address the popular ideas that are going around the universities today, like the ideas in Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code—the Bible’s been changed; there’s some huge conspiracy going on. I think we need to be acquainted with all these things, and that’s a lot of work. That’s a lot of reading.
BA: There’s certainly ongoing challenges that arise and just continue to recycle themselves, in a sense. Now, one of the areas that you’ve done work in is the historical reliability of the Scriptures. What do you think are the most common objections that you encounter when it comes to people not accepting the Bible?
DJ: One certainly of the most common one is the Bible has been changed. It’s copy of a copy of a copy. If anyone has taken some time to investigate the history of the transmission of the Bible, they know that’s not true. The Dead Sea Scrolls show that the content of the Old Testament has been preserved adequately through the centuries. The New Testament manuscript evidence is even stronger.
I just learned something a couple of days ago. I was at a Biblical scholarship conference in Chicago, and I was talking with someone who’s very well-known in the New Testament world and in the world of apologetics who pointed out that from his study, he’s seeing that the manuscripts probably lasted longer than we imagined. If you’re like me, Brian, you thought of the manuscripts as just wearing out and having been given a decent burial, because, hey, people believe this is the Word of God. They had these parchments or these papyri and eventually, they just wore out. Well, this scholar pointed out that many manuscripts were in use, because they were written on durable materials, for centuries. This was an amazing thought that the originals of the four Gospels may well still have been around and being copied, being referred to throughout the entire 2nd century.
Anyway, that’s one of the areas that gets me very fired up, you know, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the manuscripts. There certainly are other ways to talk about the integrity of the Bible, how it corresponds to reality, it’s truth content, also how practical it is, the differences it makes in life. So there are many angles. I think the important thing is to begin the conversation.
BA: Everybody might be in a different place in their own understanding when you’re engaging with them. I wonder just in general, though, how you personally would go about building a case for the reliability of the Bible. Start with Old Testament? Start with the New? Is there a certain approach that you use when you’re engaging?
DJ: I do at the beginning distinguish between the issue of the copying of the Scripture and the content of the Scripture. If the content was false, it doesn’t matter how well it’s been copied. If the copying was poor, even though the original manuscripts may have been perfect, then we’re in trouble, too. So we have to distinguish those two. And that third area, how it applies to our lives.
Most people are unaware of how much evidence there is. They imagine that the Biblical story in the Old Testament is purely legendary. It’s set in the misty time of old, and they underestimate how much the story is tied in to space and time, which means that geography (space) and history (time) are vital. When we look at the context and see how the Biblical story is actually anchored in history, we can’t really dismiss it as fairy tale anymore. I think that’s actually the starting place, particularly in the educated West, where so many people have been told that it doesn’t really matter. It’s just a book of stories with morals that you can take or leave. That’s where I would begin.
BA: Very good. You mentioned there how it’s something that happened in space and time, I think of archeology in that regard, and a lot of people might have the objection that or the assumption where, ‘Hey, archeology is showing that we can’t really trust the Old Testament. These places haven’t been found or maybe they’ve been found in the wrong spot’. From your studies, what have you found as far as the archaeological reliability of the Bible, and are there problem areas from the archaeological point of view?
DJ: I love that question. I love teaching archeology because it’s so visual. You have your PowerPoints. I even have the opportunity to lead tours about the Biblical world about once a year.
Lest we mislead others, it’s not generally the case that archeology proves the Bible’s true. It’s more that archeology illuminates the Biblical world. For example, if you see a 1st century tomb, and you see the flat, round stone that fits into the groove that closes easily but opens only with difficulty. The image that you have of Jesus’ tomb is illuminated. It’s refined, and I think that’s how archeology usually works. There are times when it certainly confirms. For example, evidence found in the last 20 years that’s indisputably proving that David truly existed. Or fifty years ago, that Pontius Pilate was an actual figure, not just a prop on a stage. Herod the Great’s tomb was identified just a few years ago. We think of the conquest under Joshua. The Biblical picture is not that it was a Blitzkrieg that totally destroyed the land of Canaan. In fact, only three cities are said to have been burned to the ground, and archeology backs that up very well.
That’s not to say that there are no difficult areas particularly in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. If people are looking for archaeological evidence of the Tower of Babel…yes, there’s the Great Ziggurat at Ur. There are many ziggurats that have been found—the stepped pyramids, temples, observatories—but there’s no evidence for one single one. If you’re trying to locate a literal Garden of Eden or find proof of Noah’s ark, I don’t believe that’s there.
Someone came to me a few days ago. I was speaking in Chicago, and wanted to know what is the evidence for the Flood. Now I know that when we’re talking about the Great Flood, this is not archeology, this is geology. I had to say, ‘I think it may be the wrong question’. There are flood stories worldwide, but they come from all different times. I think the real question is, what did that story mean to the people who received it, who were familiar with the pagan account (Babylonian or Sumerian account) of the world being destroyed because the gods couldn’t sleep? Humans were just objects. They were created as slaves of the gods, and yet the Biblical story shows that sin is the reason for the flood, and even in the midst of judgment, there’s grace. There’s some powerful theological […] (12:40).
Sometimes we have archaeological difficulties, because we’re asking the wrong question. We’re maybe looking for evidence that will never be found. But in general, the old dictum applies very well: Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Just because no proof has turned up yet doesn’t mean it won’t. We can’t argue from silence.
Is that helpful?
BA: Yes, that is helpful. You mentioned leading tours. There’s so many people who I’ve heard from who have gone to Israel and been around the Holy Land. They always come back and, ‘Wow, it’s real!’ It makes everything so real to them from the Scriptures from all the different locations. What’s been your experience in actually leading tours like that?
DJ: Exactly as you say. The eyes are opened. If you can’t go in a tour, you can still look at the maps at the back of your Bible. You can still do a little background reading, because I think the more we are able to imagine—and having a visual memory, to me, is ideal—but the more we are able to imagine, the more we are able to believe. I’m not saying that if we imagine it hard enough, this becomes a reality. This is not a post-modern kind of speculation. But if we can’t imagine it, it becomes abstract. It becomes theoretical. When we actually see the Sea of Galilee, maybe even swim in it or the Dead Sea for that matter; if we go up Mount Carmel and we can think, ‘Okay, it was here that Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal and Asherah’; when we can go to Caesarea Philippi or the Garden of Gethsemane or even stand on the Temple steps, many of which are preserved even from the 1st century, then the Biblical stories take on a different light.
So I don’t know what’s changed except that now we have the power to truly imagine what was going on, and along the way, we learned that, ‘Oh wow, there is a lot of archaeological evidence confirming the Scripture’. But that’s the experience that I think a lot of people have, especially in Israel, but it would be to, a lesser extent, in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Greece, Italy. All these different countries.
BA: Earlier, we were talking about the reliability of the Scriptures and different responses people might have. I’m thinking some people might grant the general reliability of the Bible as far as the copying and stuff but then reject the content. They won’t get into any dispute about that, but they might say something like, ‘Yeah, but why does this book have any authority in my life? What gives it any authority? This is just a story that has no application for me.’
DJ: Well, usually, when people are exposed to a Biblical story and don’t see how it relates to them or makes them uncomfortable and they want to change the subject, there’s more going on underneath the surface than they may be admitting. We have to remember, we’re in a society that is strongly committed to the pursuit of happiness or as the Yale theologian Miroslav Volf puts it, “The managed pursuit of pleasure”. I think we need to reframe the quest. It shouldn’t be the pursuit of happiness but the pursuit of holiness, and the Bible is just not very convenient, so I think this is where we can’t back off on teaching sin and repentance and discipleship. That’s vital.
When people say, ‘ Why would this book have any authority in my life?’, well, if there’s a God, wouldn’t He have some authority in your life? Most people would say, ‘Well yeah, if there’s a God, He would.’ And then I think we can make it a little easier to accept, a little bit more palatable, when we remind them that according the Bible, itself, according to Christianity, God speaks to us in many ways. It’s not just in Scripture, and not just in the history of Israel. He speaks to us through nature to some extent, through conscience, through history, and especially through the person of Jesus Christ. I think when people really look at those Gospel accounts and get to know who Christ is—and Christ is the Word of God—then the heart softens. So instead of trying to persuade them that the Bible is God’s Word (even though I believe that), when we show them how Christ is God’s Word, His message, His logos, then if their hearts are receptive, they will start to change. What was initially a moral, an intellectual objection kinda fades away as people’s hearts soften, then we’re really getting down to brass tacks, because fundamentally, all of us are sinners. We all have a problem. Whether we know it or not, we need the message that’s in the Bible.
BA: Well, I wonder how you would go about speaking with someone, in just a conversation, who says something along the lines of, ‘Well, how do I know that this is really the Truth? What actually gives the Bible authority in that regard? How can I know it’s the truth?’
DJ: We ultimately know it’s the Truth by experiencing it. This is not just a catch 22—you’ll believe it when you decide to believe it—but we know it’s true because it’s true to life. It resonates. When our hearts are opened, it is, by far, the best explanation for what’s going on in this world.
Now, so when they come from a Hindu background or Buddhist or Sikh background, or Muslim background—and this is where we get into comparing worldviews. Does the Buddhist worldview, which is in fact ultimately atheistic, do a better job in explaining the world we live in? Does the Hindu background, where ultimately our souls will be absorbed into the world’s soul, and there’ll be no distinctions and in a sense, there will be no relationships? Is that true to life? And so we challenge worldviews, and I think in doing that, the simplicity and the truth of the Biblical worldview shines.
An analogy I use sometimes is I compare the moon the sun. When you look at the moon, you see light reflected, and certainly there’s truth in every religion. I mean philosophy, even the crazy ones, always have a carnal of truth, but that’s a reflected light. When we look at the sun, it’s bright. I mean, you could go blind, because it’s incandescent. It’s not just reflected. When we look at Jesus Christ, when we look at God’s Word, that’s like looking at the sun. An analogy that was actually suggested by Malachi 4, the Messiah’s the “sun of righteousness”. When we look at the other world religions, we’re not surprised that there’s some truth there, but it’s a derivative truth. It’s a reflected light, and so those are some things that I share as I talk with people when I’m sitting on the airplane or just when I’m with friends in Atlanta.
BA: That’s helpful. Here’s another angle sometimes you get from people I think, and that’s the objection that maybe goes along with that misunderstanding you described before where people think, ‘Oh, the BIble’s been translated so many times’. Well, we know that’s not the case, but the idea here is someone will say, ‘Well, there’s so many disagreements over the wording. Christians can’t even agree on anything. Why should I trust the Bible if Christians can’t agree on it?’
DJ: Of course, they’re making a very good point. The encyclopedia of religions (I’m thinking I’ve seen this before) lists 34,000 Christian denominations. The poor job that we as believers have done being unified with fellow-believers has, I think, really made it hard for outsiders to believe. I think we need to own that.
But if the objection is that Christians don’t agree on the wording, that’s fairly easy to explode. There are different translations, but in any translation—and this would be of a classical work or even, say, someone writes a novel in German, and it’s being translated into English—there’s not just one way to put it. There’s a spectrum from strict to loose, from strong equivalents to paraphrases. So the fact that there are many translations in English (more than a hundred) doesn’t mean that there’s a problem. In fact, I would disagree that there are controversies over the wording. When scholars, for example, wanna make a fresh translation, they use the United Bible Society’s or maybe the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament (it’s coming out now in version 28). It’s just not true.
In the whole New Testament, there are only 22 verses that are in doubt, and whether they belong in the New Testament or not is irrelevant to the message. But 22 verses, that means the other 99.4% of the New Testament is established beyond dispute. The statistics are not as good for the Old Testament, but there’s still no dispute over the basic sense of translation.
I have to say this because I love the translations. I love this field, and so often I hear people saying, ‘Oh, it’s been translated and copied so many times’. But that’s not the disagreement. I think there’s very good agreement on what the text says. The disagreement is how much do we have to obey that text?
BA: Yeah, well, good. Now I wanna shift gears now and talk a bit about apologetic dialogues and debates. Now, Douglas, you’ve been in a few debates yourself, and I would wanna kinda talk about them, but can we draw a distinction between a dialogue we might have and formal debate? What’s the purpose of formal debates, and what good do they serve?
DJ: That’s a good question, and maybe like Bible versions, it’s on a spectrum. In fact, I think, a good debate should have some degree of dialogue and interchange, and yet a dialogue without any passion or any points being made, is maybe just a rambling kind of entertainment. So okay, for example, this year, I had one debate. I debated historian and virulent anti-Christian Richard Carrier. We debated back in January. In the debate, things are very structured. You know, you’ve got three minutes to say this. He’s got five minutes to respond to that. Everything is timed. It’s very strict. It’s good. It’s powerful, but for the listener, for the audience, it might be good to hear the recording again, because it’s very intense. It’s very compact.
A dialogue is more free-flowing. There are some general rules. I had a dialogue just a few weeks ago at UCLA with skeptic, Michael Shermer. It was actually our fourth time to meet, and this was informal. We weren’t standing up. We were sitting in living room kinds of chairs on a stage. There were a thousand or eleven hundred people in the audience, and they watched us disagree and agree amicably, make our points. Sometimes it was impassioned. For most of it, it was more banter and friendly.
I think whether it’s a dialogue or debate, it’s a wonderful opportunity for believers to show the world how to interact—1 Peter 3:15-16: interacting with gentleness and respect. So the point is not to slam the guy. There’s no room for triumphalism here. We make our point. We do it with love.
BA: Good point. One of the notable skeptics you’ve debated is Robert M. Price, and the debate was Jesus: Man, Myth, or Messiah. Would you mind talking a bit about that debate, and maybe say first who is Robert Price?
DJ: Okay. Yeah. Most of my debates are with agnostics or atheists, sometimes rabbis and imams. Price is an anomaly. He is a self-styled Christian atheist. He is a member of the Jesus Seminar, the group of self-appointed scholars who decided how authentic are the words of Jesus in the New Testament in which they answered, ‘Not very’. They’re really horribly outnumbered by other scholars.
Price calls himself a Christian Atheist. He used to have faith, but now he’s an atheist. One thing I asked him about in this debate (this was in Houston in 2009), ‘So why do you take communion?’ and he’s very open about that. He takes communion. He appreciates it, but then he doesn’t even believe in God. I think that’s actually symptomatic of the deeper problems in Price’s theology, but he is a Christian Atheist. He is a professor, and in high demand in television. Obviously, skeptics like someone like that. I mean, even the title, Christian Atheist? Everyone scratches his head when he hears that.
BA: Well, in regards to the theme of the debate and talking about who Jesus was—man, myth, or Messiah, I’m thinking maybe he’s thinking more along the lines of man and myth, but can you describe what Price’s view was and how he contended for that in that debate?
DJ: The way he puts in in this book, the Shrinking Son of Man, he says the historical Jesus has shrunk to vanishing point. We know possibly nothing at all about Him. He thinks that Jesus is a composite figure. He’s a construct made of bits of mythology from the ancient world. Now the problem is that these patterns, these parallels that he claims to have found don’t really exist before the time of Jesus except piecemeal. I mean you find some deities who rise from the dead, but it’s not like Jesus. These are gods who are fertility gods. They die and rise from the dead every year, and the resurrection is not to a quality of life. It’s to, for example…reigning in the underworld. He’ll claim that as a full parallel to Jesus’ resurrection. So he takes religious leaders who have disciples who teach, some of them die, and he says that’s the background for Jesus Christ. It just doesn’t work, and this is actually a viewpoint that was discounted finally by scholarship. This was maybe a century ago, so he’s dug up old arguments, and I have to say not many people are persuaded by him. It was perplexing. How do I deal with this? Do I attack the arguments he’s making or do I just proclaim the truth about Jesus?
BA: Well, that’s what I was wondering, because I’m wondering how you actually go about answering or approaching a view that’s so contrary and almost outlandish.
DJ: Outlandish is a good word. It’s exotic. It’s alien. You know, I think I’ve learned a bit since doing that debate. I’ve had a number of debates. Now my view is if someone drops a bomb, even if it’s well off the subject, generally you have to come back and deal with it. I think at the time of that debate, when people brought up things that were irrelevant or laughable, I would tend not to want to embarrass them or to clobber them. I was just trying to proclaim what we do know about Jesus.
So how do I respond to that? I would probably be a little more on the offensive actually—after what I said about respect. Funny. I would be more on the offensive from the outset, ’cause I was the first to speak. I would’ve really gone after these crazy views. I was very familiar with them, because I read several of his books before the debate. But I think you have to decide. Do we go down these rabbit holes? Do we do something with these what appears to be red herrings or do we let it go? Because in the debate, the time’s limited. If I take two minutes to respond to something the opponent brings up, then that’s two minutes less to present something that I’d thought about that’s really important. So I don’t think there’s a right and wrong on that. The way I dealt with him more gently…I think, people thought at the debate that I was probably gracious with him. Probably I would be a little tougher if we met again.
BA: Well, I suppose there is that public dynamic where you need to go after the ideas, but in the personal realm, maybe there’s a different dynamic there. It just depends on the situation. It brings to mind the element of rhetoric in communication. For instance, with Price, I think of his view, as we said, outlandish, but he’s really punchy to listen to and he seems completely convinced of his position. He makes it sound like anyone who has any strong claim to know anything about Jesus is just completely off their rocker, you know. So rhetoric, what role does it play on both sides of apologetic engagement? You’ve got the negative—contrary to Christianity kind of rhetoric that is sometimes very caustic—but at the same time persuasive to the listeners. Can that be countered? How are we, as Christians, to actually use rhetoric in a positive way?
DJ: That is a great question, because now we’re not just talking about presenting the truth or defending against false charges. We’re talking about how we do it. We’re talking about style and manner. Talking about rhetoric, when I debated Carrier earlier this year, he insisted that the Apostle Paul was psychotic and pretty much anyone who followed the Jesus Movement was psychologically unstable. When people say things like that, of course, it’s persuasive if you wanna believe it.
But that’s a great question. To what extent are we supposed to be colorful or punchy?
I find some scholars, some people I debate, like Price, are a little condescending. If you don’t agree with them, you’re dense. There’s no reason to respect you. Other people I’ve debated, they change the subject so much—I call it dancing. They just dance around, and if it gets tense, they bring up a new objection. Some are almost the opposite of Price in that respect. Some are very spontaneous, and some really never even deal with the issue. They just use this opportunity publicly to present their thoughts. So everyone’s got a different view.
I think we won’t go wrong if we’ve done our homework, we’ve read up on the person we’re interacting with, and we determined prayerfully to be gentle and respectful, and to do that—1 Peter 3:16 (and I know you guys at Apologetics 315 know about this), but we sanctify Christ in our hearts—1 Peter 3:15. When we’re very aware that Jesus is in us, and He will speak through us, then we’re not so reactionary or defensive. We won’t tend to get angry or say things that are harsh or to make cheap shots, if that makes sense.
BA: So many times—now this is just me relating my own personal experience—but so many times when I think I said something right at the moment, but then later I think, ‘No, I wasn’t walking in the Spirit’, and I think, ‘This is so important that we try to be constantly and presently walking in the Spirit so that, you know, we ensure that our responses are influenced by the right thing and with the right tone and things like that.’ But what sort of tips or advice would you have for, say, budding apologists to be better communicators?
DJ: Well, you know, most of the advice for communication would apply to anyone who’s trying to get a point across, not just to apologists. But I think in apologetics, certainly we need to know the Scripture. ‘Cause sometimes I meet people who say, ‘Yes, I wanna do evidences’, and I ask them, ‘Well, are you active evangelistically?’. ‘No, it’s not my gift’ and already alarm bells are going off. So this is someone who doesn’t really interact with outsiders very much. I say, ‘How many times have you read the Bible completely?’ and that man or woman says, ‘Well, I’ve never really finished it’ or ‘I just read it once’. I’m thinking, ‘That’s not good’, because to do apologetics, you really need to know the Scripture, and for many people, reading through the whole Bible once a year is useful. I’m not gonna make any law on that, but I think it begins with that passion, that devotional aspect of our daily lives, and our interaction with others. So the preparation begins very early.
Then I would say, in speaking, people love analogies, but not just analogies that go nowhere. We need to actually call people to think and to make decisions. And maybe the most humbling advice is to listen to yourself. Almost always, our messages are recorded and it can be painful. I bet you’ve experienced that. I certainly have.
BA: Oh, yeah.
DJ: [Laughing] You listen to yourself and you think, ‘Oh wow. I was flat. What was wrong with me? I wasn’t energetic or I wasn’t at my best’. We listen to ourselves, and we listen to others, then we realize, ‘Oh, I’ve got so far to go’.
The other humbling thing is just ask others who were present at an event or who read your article or your book, ‘What do you think? How could I have been more powerful?’. This summer I asked my Masters degree students at Lincoln Christian University, ‘So what did you think of…’ (I was referring to my debate I had with an agnostic many years ago). They loved this, and they thought I could’ve done this better. I’ll still ask for input, even though I think I’ve moved on from that point. I value that. Anyone will be a better communicator if he or she listens to those recordings and asks others for input.
I’ve given you five or six answers to your question there.
BA: We’ve talked about your speaking experience and some of these things with communication, but in general, what lessons have you learned that you wanna pass on to your students?
DJ: Well, I think having a daily devotional walk with God. I just emphasize that over and over. I find, sadly, so many who don’t have the daily disciplines of time apart to meditate, to pray, to study Scripture. If Christ is gonna be sanctified in our hearts so that we don’t give in to fear, we’re gonna have to be very devoted—certainly no less devoted than others who are trying to strive for a holy life.
I would say reading is vital. Oh, this is another question I ask. People would say, ‘I wanna be a speaker’, ‘I wanna be a teacher’, ‘I wanna be an apologist’. I say, ‘How many books do you read, say, in a typical month?’. And if they say, ‘Oh well, for me, it’s more like how many do I read in a year’, I can be pretty sure that person’s not called to apologetics, because it’s a lot of work to prepare, and then you need to keep up with the new things that are coming out.
I think going to university, having degrees is important. I guess, theoretically, you could say Peter and John were ordinary unschooled men, but I think that that passage in Acts 4 is misapplied, because they were unschooled if we mean, in a sense, the seminary of the scribes and Pharisees, but they were schooled in that they went to “School of Jesus”. If you read Peter’s sermon, for example, at Pentecost, Acts 2, he is masterfully handling the Old Testament. He knows his stuff.
So I would say reading, go to school. The more degrees, the better. If you have degrees, it opens doors, especially graduate degrees and doctorates. So for me, that enables me to teach Masters students. It leads to invitations. Last year, I was invited to speak to two different universities in Bangladesh. All the scholars I was interacting with publicly were Muslims. I don’t think they would’ve invited me if I didn’t have the connection with an institution or if I didn’t have that doctorate.
And just one more thing: Attend apologetics conferences so you can rub shoulders with other people who share this passion, and you can steal their ideas, and you can be sure that they stole them from others. Sometimes they have original insights, too, but these things are fantastic.
BA: That’s great advice and some good insights there. Now, finally, as we begin to wrap up, would you mind pointing our listeners to your website and where they might find more of your resources online?
DJ: I’d be happy to. The primary website is douglasjacoby.com. I also have quite a few clips on YouTube. Go to Harvest House Publishers, and I’ve got hundreds of podcasts as well, which are being published through iTunes and other locations, starting December 2012. That’s where I would point them.
BA: Very good. We’ll be pointing people to your resources. Douglas, thank you for speaking with me today, and thanks for doing the interview.
DJ: It’s been a pleasure for me, too. Thank you, Brian.