John Dickson Interview Transcript

The following transcript is from an Apologetics 315 interview with John Dickson. Original audio here. Transcript index here. If you enjoy transcripts, please consider supporting, which makes this possible.

BA: Hello, this is Brian Auten of Apologetics 315. Today, I’m speaking with John Dickson, director of the Centre for Public Christianity in Australia. He is also Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Ancient History in Macquarie University and Senior Minister at Saint Andrews, Roseville.

John is also author of a number of books including The Christ Files: How Historians Know What They Know About Jesus. That was also made into a major television documentary. In this interview I’ll be asking John questions about historical Jesus Studies as well about his work with the Centre for Public Christianity and his advice for Christian apologists.

Alright well thanks for joining me from Australia today, John.

JD: Fantastic to be with you!

BA: Now are there any particular Aussie greetings our listeners should be aware of today?

JD: Well you need to be able to say G’day. I mean that’s basically compulsory. We don’t let you into the country unless you can. And you basically got to do it as one syllable. It’s G’day!

BA: Okay.

JD: It’s not Good Day. It’s G’day!

BA: Well. I’ll work on that privately and then I’ll get back to you. Now John, you’ve got quite an eclectic background ranging from being a musician, an Australian rock band to having a PhD in Ancient History, being active in media production, writing books. Maybe first off I could ask you just to give our listeners an idea about you background.

JD: Well. I started out singing in a band when I was about 18 years of age and that became full time pretty quickly and so had a wonderful life with my best mates playing music around the world for about 5 or 6 years and at the end of that time because the guys in that band were Christian believers, people used to write to us all the time. We were known to be Christians as well as musos. People would write to us and ask us questions about the faith and then people would invite us to speak, not just sing, but you know, to give talks – to give talks in universities and prisons and schools and whatever.

And it dawned on us that we didn’t really know all that much. We could be impressive if you turn the PA all the way up and we played our best songs, but depth of our knowledge was not really there, so we disbanded and went and first did a degree in Theology. So we went to a well-known theological college in Australia called Moore College and I completed that degree and to my surprise did reasonably well at it and loved it and became really fascinated in – not the theology as much as the history behind the New Testament and the birth of Early Christianity.

So after my degree, I went to Macquarie University which is a large state university here in Sydney and has the largest Ancient History department in our country and it is well-known for its Classics (actually its 3 subjects) including the origins of Christianity. So this is a totally secular Christian environment but they specialize in Early Judaism and Christianity in the Roman world. And I thought that would be the perfect place to go crazy with a sort of historical study and so I went there and my supervisor was Judith Lieu whom anyone involved in the New Testament will know. She is now at Cambridge University. And I studied how Early Christianity spread in antiquity against the background of what Greeks and Romans and Jews were doing to spread their philosophies and religions.

So it was a fascinating five year study of, I guess at one level you could call it evangelism but another you could call it propaganda. What were the missionary impulses in antiquity? What were the propaganda impulses in antiquity and how did the Christians compare and I guess ultimately try to contribute to the question of how on earth did Christianity expand so quickly, because this remains a puzzle. This tiny little group in the boondocks of the Roman Empire, within three centuries became a dominant social movement. So I am trying to plug into that question.

BA: One of the books that you have written is called The Christ Files: How Historians Know What They Know About Jesus. And that was made into a major TV documentary as I understand. How did that come about and what made that book into a documentary?

JD: Well as I looked around the scholarly scene, it seemed to me that there was no very straightforward account about how historians know what they know about Jesus. What are the sources for the study of Jesus and what are the methods employed by scholars?

It seemed to me that the only books you got on the popular market about this question were either way out on what you might call the left fringe of scholarship – skeptical scholarship, or way out on the right fringe of scholarship, what we sometimes think of as sort of fundamentalist apologetics. The left fringe tend to try and use the scholarly craft to disprove everything and the right fringe tend to use the scholarly craft to prove everything in the New Testament. And it sort of troubled me that mainstream scholarship was never represented in this popular literature and yet that is where the real action is.

So it troubled me that the general population, either America, UK or Australia had the impression either that we could prove everything in the New Testament or if you read the other stuff that no one believes anything in the New Testament and neither of those propositions is true and because of my years in an Ancient History department where I was well aware how seriously my colleagues who aren’t Christians take the New Testament. It seemed that there needed to be a popular level book that fairly represented what mainstream scholars are saying about the Historical Jesus.

The book did pretty well and so it was picked up by a media group here in Australia who wanted to turn it into a documentary which was a dream come true for me because they let me host the thing and I got to play with some very precious ancient documents and got to interview twelve of the scholars whose works sit on my bookshelf and I thought I would never meet. People like Géza Vermes from Oxford University, the famous Jewish scholar. James Dunn at Durham University and very famous New Testament scholar and I got to play with the earliest copies of Paul’s letters in a library in Dublin. One of the rare copies of Josephus, the 1st Century writer, whose works are in Cambridge and the Gnostic Gospels over in Cairo so we went to a beautiful little museum over there and I got to play with the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Thomas and so it really was a dream come true and it was just an extra bonus that I got to show it on Australian TV and now it’s a DVD.

BA: Well. Phenomenal! Now before we go on I want to ask you some more questions along those lines but where can people find that online if say they are in the States or in Europe whatever and they want to find this DVD or the book, what’s the best place that you would point them.

JD: Well. I am thrilled to say that Zondervan, many in America will know, has bought the rights to both, the book and the DVD of The Christ Files, so it’s all there. The beautiful thing about The Christ Files DVD, it that it not only has the four part documentary, but we have the full length interviews with all the scholars. Obviously in a documentary, you can only include about 5 minutes of each scholar but we have a whole extra DVD in the set that gives you the full 1/2 hour interviews that we did with these men, so including Martin Hengel, Richard Bauckham, James Charlesworth, Géza Vermes, Adolfo Roitman and so on – just a wonderful wonderful resource. So if you don’t like me in the documentary, just go to the second DVD and watch all the interviews with the great ones.

BA: Great. I am going to get my hands on that. Now, you mentioned there that there are these ones in the far side of the spectrum that denies anything in the New Testament and then there is the other side that says you know “We can prove everything.” Well. Whereabouts in between those two points do you think that we actually land when we are talking about mainstream historical scholarship? What if it is possible, can you give us a nutshell version of what we know and how we know it about Jesus?

JD: Well, let me start with what we know. I think you will find that most mainstream scholars and perhaps I should stop there and try and define what I mean by mainstream scholars. I mean someone who is still publishing in the peer review literature. There are about a hundred journals you could get published in, in this area. And to get published of course, you need to write a piece that goes to objective referees and then its published. The referee system, the peer review system is a way of making sure that, you know shocks ?? (10:18) don’t get published in a peer review literature.

And so my definition of a mainstream scholar is someone who is still part of that mainstream peer reviewed scholarly conversation. And there is quite a spectrum within that. There are some who are you know, top peer reviewed scholars who tend toward the skeptical spectrum and then there are others who tend toward the more evangelical or even fundamentalist spectrum, but at least they are all playing the same basic game. They are not trying to pull the wall over our eyes. They are not trying to bring theology or atheology – anti-theology – into the conversation. They are just trying to say, “Look. here is the data and here is where I think it points us.”

So if you ask yourself the question, “Ok. Well given that there is still a spectrum within mainstream scholarship, what would most of them really agree are the facts about Jesus? And it would basically go like this. And I am taking my list from Ed Parrish Sanders, of Duke University, who no one could accuse of being a Christian apologist. He is a scholar who is quite happy to disagree with all sorts of things in the Gospels. He doesn’t approach the Gospels at all as divine word. He treats it only as a human word, but even he would say “The facts about Jesus basically include the following: that he was a Galilean, that he lived during the time of Tiberius, and his ministry around the time when Pontius Pilate was governor, that he had quite a ministry in Galilee.” And he would list the factors including things like, “He preached the Kingdom of God as a core part of his teaching.”

Sanders would even say “Virtually everyone would agree that Jesus had a reputation as a healer.” Perhaps we can talk about that later. Basically everyone is happy to say, “We don’t know what explains it, but He had a reputation as a healer.” “He collected a group of 12 disciples around him who appeared to be a deliberate sign of the renewal of the 12 tribes of Israel. He was a friend of sinners and that was an accusation made constantly against him. He around the year 30 came to Jerusalem where after a significant dispute with the temple authorities in particular, He was arrested, tried and executed by Crucifixion.”

And then E.P. Sanders would also add the fact that shortly after the Crucifixion, those closest to him were claiming to have seen him alive again. Now Sanders doesn’t say whether a resurrection could take place. He seems a little bit skeptical about the miraculous but he at least says it’s a historical fact we have to confront. That within a very short period of time, people were saying that they had seen Him alive.

So that’s the broad data set if you like, that virtually everyone dealing with this question would say, is historically more than plausible, is probable.

BA: Now maybe some people who are listening might get the wrong idea and say “Wait a minute. Are you saying that all the things that aren’t on that list didn’t happen or are you saying that these are, these are the, to borrow a phrase, the minimal facts so to speak that are historically substantiated that we can legitimately say, ‘Hey. This is kind of the bedrock that we can stand on and build on.'” How would you put that?

JD: Yeah I’d put it just how you put it. Well done. Thank you! I don’t mean to – I don’t mean to say these are the only things that happened about the life of Jesus. I am just saying, if you take a mainstream scholarly approach that doesn’t assume the New Testament is in anyway a divine text – if you don’t privilege the New Testament, you just come to it like any other text from the period, then you can be very confident about that data set that I just listed. We would say that those items are beyond reasonable doubt. Just approaching it with the tools we use to approach any other writing from antiquity whether its Josephus or Tacitus or whatever.

Now I walk a kind of funny line here and I am always asked the question that you just put to me because on the one hand I have am a firm evangelical believer but on the other, I want to be a professional historian and so what that means is when I am being asked historical questions as an historian, I have to leave to one side lots of stuff I believe about Jesus and just focus on the stuff that whether you believe that the New Testament is sacred or not you can arrive at the same conclusion as I do because the methods historians apply produce the result that this data set that I just listed is more than plausible, it’s improbable.

So I know it sounds a bit odd, perhaps to a Christian audience. You know why would a Christian say these are the facts of Jesus? I am simply saying, if you only want to apply historical method then these are the facts beyond reasonable doubt. Whether or not Jesus told the Parable of let’s just say, the Prodigal Son which is only found in Luke’s Gospel – I don’t think I with my historian cap on could say that we can be confident Jesus told that Parable.

Now I believe that Jesus told that Parable. I totally believe that Jesus told that Parable. But it’s a case of the Epistemological question, which way of knowing am I talking about? |If I am simply talking about Historical Epistemology using the methods that secular historians agree on, then there is some stuff that I can’t include in my data set and expect everyone else to be able to agree with me, even though as I said, I accept these things as factual. If you ask me as a Christian believer what I believed then the data set becomes a whole lot larger, you might be happy to hear.

BA: Well what sort of evidence is taken into account when you are researching the Historical Jesus? You mentioned various documents and you know the New Testament, the letters and such but is there a broader scope of evidence that you are evaluating? Is there a larger data set that you are looking at?

JD: Yeah well, most historical Jesus scholars spend a little bit of time dealing with what you might call non-Christian references to Jesus. And these include Tacitus, Pliny, Josephus, Mara Bar-Serapion, Thallus, and these are not all of the same quality. For instance the reference to Pliny simply says that (and he is writing about 110). He writes to Trajan. Pliny is the governor of Bithynia. He writes to Emperor Trajan and says and “I am continuing the practice of killing Christians but I am just wondering if I should keep doing so because the only crime I can find about them is that they sing a hymn to Christ as if to a God.”

Ok. Now what does that tell us? It doesn’t tell us much. It is only 2nd Century. And it tells us that in Bithynia or what we call Turkey today, a Roman governor thought the Christians worshipped a man as if a god. So Pliny assumes there was man called Christ but he says they sing hymns to him as if he were a god and that’s the only crime I could find. Now all that tells us is that Christians in the Early 2nd Century were worshipping Jesus as God in a public enough fashion that we can say belief in Jesus’ divinity was quite early. We can’t say much more than that.

But if you go to the texts of say Josephus who is writing in the 1st Century, a few decades before Pliny. He on two occasions mentions Jesus. On one occasions simply in passing, when he is describing the death of James, a certain James of Jerusalem who was stoned to death by the high priest in Jerusalem.

And Josephus simply says in passing, “This is James, the brother of the so-called Christ” which is really interesting because Josephus isn’t making much of it. It is passing and it corresponds with what we know from the New Testament, that Jesus had a brother called James. Then there is another text in Josephus’ writings that is the subject of much dispute. It’s a longer passage where Josephus says that around the time of Pontius Pilate, there was a man, Jesus who was a teacher, who performed baffling deeds, who was executed and whom some thought was the Christ.

Now this text is disputed. But it’s interesting – this text unfortunately is embroiled in such popular debate, that people have stopped listening to the middle of the debate. The popular debate basically says, “Ah. Here is proof of Jesus. One of the lines actually says that Jesus rose again in this Josephus text.”

Now others on the other end of the spectrum say “Ah. This is proof that the whole thing is a forgery. That this passage in Antiquities book is I think really is just an entire invention, placed there by a Christian scribe who was copying out Josephus to try and make Jesus look like he existed when of course he didn’t.”

Both of those have no currency in mainstream contemporary scholarship. The mainstream of scholarship whether Jewish scholarship, atheist scholarship, Christian scholarship – it doesn’t matter. The mainstream says “There was an original passage in Book 18 of Antiquities in which Josephus described Jesus as a teacher, as a wonder-worker who was executed and whose followers are still known in Josephus’ day toward the end of the 1st century.”

Virtually everyone agrees with that proposition and one of the reasons most scholars accept that there was a core statement by Josephus along these lines is that – I mean apart from the fact that the language and grammar is very Josephan – we know that in the ancient world, no one disputed the existence of Jesus. That is a totally modern phenomenon. So it’s a little bit anachronistic to suppose that sometime in the early Middle Ages a naughty Christian scribe invented a passage out of nowhere and placed it in Josephus to prove something that no one was disputing. It just doesn’t make any sense.

In any case there are a couple of phrases in the paragraph that could not have been put together by a Christian scribe. For instance Jesus is described simply as a wise man. That’s a very Josephan statement but it’s not a very Christian statement. His wonders are described as paradoxa erga – paradox of works, baffling deeds, which is a very noncommittal way of saying “I don’t understand what the deeds were, but they were bizarre.” And again you have got to wonder would a Christian scribe really say that? If a Christian scribe had really invented this passage, you would expect, “He did miracles. He did wonders.” or something like that.

And one of the other giveaways is that Josephus describes those responsible for the execution of Jesus as Jewish leaders of the highest standing amongst us. Now I really cannot fathom, how an early Middle Ages Christian scribe would describe the executors of Jesus as men of the highest standing amongst us. So for these reasons and a number of others, this text is accepted. But in saying all of this, these non-Christian references to Jesus would probably take up 20 maybe, 50 pages of a scholarly monographs on the life of Jesus, because they are not where the real interest is. The real interest is in the New Testament.

And these non-Christian documents are perhaps fun for popular debates about whether Jesus lived, but since no serious professional historian in any university in the world that I know of is saying Jesus didn’t live, they are just not as interesting as the New Testament texts for our study of the life of Jesus.

BA: Well that’s helpful. You mentioned it not being a very popular view to say that Jesus never existed and from your perspective, I mean just how plausible is it to hold such a view and how can someone sustain that sort of view with so much of the mainstream saying “No. Look at all the evidence?”

JD: It’s not plausible at all. I put this question to three very well-known and respected Classicists in this country. These are full professors of Classics in Ancient History in secular universities in Australia. And I have asked them “Do they know of a single university professor in the world who – historical professor – who thinks Jesus didn’t live?” And their response was overwhelming “No, of course not. It would be ridiculous to say that Jesus didn’t live.”

Now I know there are some theologians who argue this. I know you have good old Professor Price over there in the U.S. who tries to argue that Jesus didn’t live, but that’s not a very good historical argument and it’s not surprising to me that he doesn’t have any historical post in a university. It’s a theologically driven scenario that requires very strained attempt to do history – to look at the data and say “All of this is retrospective data. That Jesus is really just an amalgam of mythical figures that Jews and Greeks believed in” and then cast it in an historical garb.

I can understand how it is possible to craft an argument but it is an argument of avoidance – that is the entire premise of the argument is not positive evidence. The entire premise of the argument is how can we avoid the evidence that’s there and still with some intellectual credibility say Jesus didn’t live. And that’s a very different thing from what historians generally do. Historians generally say “Let’s just look at the data and find the most plausible explanation” whereas the Jesus-Didn’t-Live theological crowd are doing something very different. They are saying “Let’s see how we can maintain Jesus-Didn’t-Live despite the evidence. How can we get around the evidence that is there?”

And as soon as you spot that methodological step in the writings of Robert Price and so on, then I think it becomes – it appears just a little torturous to put it bluntly. I have often put this out to my skeptical friends, “You find me one professor of History in any university in the world who thinks Jesus didn’t live – just one” and I have never had a reply to that. They all jump for either Price or over in the UK, they like to jump to G.A. Wells, who is a professor at London University, who has written a few books to say that Jesus didn’t live.

What no one mentions is that Professor Wells is a professor of German language at London University. I mean Dawkins make this mistake in his book, The God Delusion. He says “A serious historical case can be made that Jesus never lived at all” and then he says “as has been made by G.A. Wells, Professor at London University.” And to anyone who doesn’t know the scene, he goes “Oh Wow. That sounds impressive. Well that one Professor thinks Jesus didn’t live.” Then you go and Google him and he is professor of German language. He doesn’t have a History degree. He doesn’t have a Theology degree. He doesn’t have any Biblical Studies knowledge. I mean it’s just outrageous and I have often thought I would love to ask Professor Dawkins how he would respond if I made some scientific argument and quoted a Music professor as my sole authority. He would quickly point out that that’s what’s called an Avoidance argument. And he would be right.

BA: Great. I want to point people to all your books and stuff, because you have got a number of other books as well on the popular level and on more of a scholarly level. But I also want to ask you about your involve with CPX, The Centre for Public Christianity there in Australia. Tell us about that briefly and then I want to ask you a few questions beyond that.

JD: The Centre for Public Christianity is basically a media organization trying to offer sensible generous comment on the Christian faith for the secular square. So we are a group of scholar communicators who found an organization four, five years ago. Part of our work is a website, where everything is free but we have print articles, podcasts and also videos dealing with just about any question, a skeptical or interested person could ask of the Christian faith, ranging from Environmentalism right through to the History stuff that we have been talking about today.

We have just an incredible library of scholars we have had the privilege of interviewing. Not just Biblical scholars but philosophers, scientists and so on, some of whom aren’t believers but make for fascinating interviews.

We have a – just a highlight for me is, we interviewed Michael Ruse, who is an atheist Professor of Philosophy of Science from Florida State University. We interviewed him. You can see the video there at CPX. We interviewed him on how he feels about Richard Dawkins and its quite funny to hear this atheist say that he is embarrassed to be an atheist when he reads Richard Dawkins material. So that’s a highlight. But the other thing we are trying to do at CPX is engage the secular media. So we recently regularly write for the broadsheet newspaper here in Australia and the online secular outlets.

We are just trying to keep a sensible, generous voice about the Christian faith in the Public Sphere, because Australia is pretty much post-Christian. It had a little bit of Christianity in its origins but basically it’s walked a long ways past that. We just want to keep a hand in the ring, seat of the table with big ideas and we seem to be having great fun doing it.

BA: Now one of the things that you know you have a background with working with multi-media and you see the importance of the production and propagation of quality Christian content. What areas do you see where followers of Christ can move forward in those realms, whether it be online media or as you have done making documentaries. Where do you see the need for Christians to get involved in and how would you want to encourage them to move forward.

JD: Yeah. Well I think there are a couple of things I would say to this. One is I think there needs to be a little bit of a mind-shift out of simply doing Apologetics to reinforce the faith of the faithful and trying to do well what we call Public Christianity which is related to Apologetics.

It really is trying to bring the best of scholarship into the public square – just talk about Christianity in the public square. And so that means not overstating things if we can’t prove something, don’t say that we can prove something – be a little more relaxed, a little more generous. So we often talk about the vibe being half of the difficulty – getting the vibe right. Where you are a confident, relaxed, well informed Christian rather than a nervous, trying to cross every ‘T’, dot every ‘I’, prove everything kind of Christian which I think is not very compelling to the general public. It maybe compelling to our Christian constituency, so that for me is very important – the vibe.

But then in terms of the engagement, I can’t stress enough, the importance of getting involved in the mainstream print media, and I include online and print. It really is quite amazing to us that before the Centre of Public Christianity started, you hardly ever saw a Christian article in our Sydney Morning Herald or The Australian or The Age, these are the big broadsheet newspapers like the L.A. Times or the New York Times or whatever. But we – when we founded CPX, just started to send articles to these newspapers and say “Hey. We are this new organization and we are trying to get a balance view of things. See if you like this.” And they started to publish us and we thought “Wow. Why hadn’t someone done this before?”

I think a lot of Christians feel that all secular media is against them and they never have any hope so they never try their luck. I mean if you go through our media page at you will just see how, how much we have had in the secular press so I urge American Christians to have a really thoughtful generous go at getting published in your major newspapers – just give it a go.

The other thing I say is if you don’t have too much luck there, one thing that really disturbs us here in Australia is when you get published by these mainstream outlets, they do an online version as well as a print version. Of course you are allowed to comment. Viewers are allowed to comment. And what we find is the secularists take over the chat rooms and the comments functions and Christians never jump in to the argument. It’s like Christians just only want to play in the Christian literature. We are constantly urging Christians here in Australia, “Look if you see CPX has an article in the Herald and then you see the online version and the atheists come in saying ‘You’re idiots,’ why don’t you jump in and demonstrate generous thoughtfulness about the Christian faith.”

So what I am saying is, even if you can’t get published at the high level, jump into the comments function because thousands of people read these comments following articles and I reckon there is a real ministry and I hope some of your listeners will take this ministry up – a real ministry – having generous thoughtful comments in online articles. Not the nuttiness that we sometimes see but really thoughtful stuff. I reckon that’s – that’s one thing we should be doing.

BA: Well that’s good stuff. I want to ask you a couple more advice questions. I ask a lot of my guests what their advice would be for the next generation of Christian apologists and you have kind of offered some great insights there. I want to ask you along the lines of communication, how you think Christians can be better communicators and to develop that, but what other wisdom would you want to pass on to future apologists.

JD: Two things. One intellectual, one aesthetic. The intellectual thing, I’d say is I long for the brainiest of our Christian friends to go into secular universities and do their degrees right through their PhD’s in secular disciplines and then use the best of the scholarship of that discipline for Christ, rather than jump into and I hope I am not going to get into trouble for saying this – jump into a master’s program in Apologetics at some seminary.

Now if you happen to run a master’s program in Apologetics at some seminary, I apologize. I think they are great. They serve a fantastic function. But what I am saying is I long for the brainiest of our kids to just get themselves into Harvard School of Philosophy and go right to the top of the tree and do it in the name of Christ.

Because when you do that – when your education is secular – (A) You are way more aware than any Apologetics student of where the current debates really are and where the mainstream is and (B) it just opens doors if your PhD is from Harvard or you know one of the other great schools in America, and there are so many of them – it really does open doors. You will be able to get published way more easily in the New York Times and so on than if your degree comes from a seminary. I realize how controversial that statement is but I am just sorry, I really feel that we need to be doing this.

The second thing is not intellectual but aesthetic. I can’t get my head around the importance of gentleness and respect. And everyone involved in Apologetics knows the famous 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer” but then he says “but do this with – prautes kai phóbos -gentleness and respect.” He is talking about how you talk to non-Christians. And I often find myself thinking what does that really mean to engage with Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Price, whoever with gentleness and respect?

I really think you can’t defend Christ in a way that is not gentle or not respectful, because then you are defending a message about a Savior who is gentle and respectful without that same character and I think we lose something as a result of that. I mean I remember on one occasion, I was in a bar with friends, some non-Christian friends and I met this friend of a friend that night who is a very self-made wealthy businessman. And he was telling me all that was wrong with Christianity and I listened to him and I thought I was pretty gentle and respectful for the first half of the criticisms.

He said “Church leaders were all hypocrites.” Yeah. Ok. I tried to talk with him about that. “Science had disproved the Bible.” I tried to talk to him about that. And then he said “And Christianity only spread and became popular because of the violence in the armies that Christianity put into place around Europe.” And I stopped him and said, “You are not serious are you?” And he said, “Oh. Yeah. It’s been proven.” Of course this is the area of my doctoral work right so. At that point, some little thing snapped in my brain and I turned from gentle and respectful into plain arrogant and I raised my voice. I reminded him I had a couple of degrees in this. I quoted authors he had never heard of and I basically flattened him but as the words were leaving my mouth it was like I could hear Peter saying “gentleness and respect,” “gentleness and respect”.

And I thought to myself afterwards, you know I was making the fatal error of trying to win the argument instead of trying to win the person. And that is a really sad thing because you can really win the argument and lose the person and it means nothing. So I’d urge people to focus on the manner in which they speak as much as the content.

BA: Well John really enjoyed speaking with you today and really appreciate your insights. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me.

JD: Thank you Brian. Anytime.

Written by

Brian Auten is the founder emeritus of Apologetics315. He is also director of Reasonable Faith Belfast. Brian holds a Masters degree in Christian Apologetics and has interviewed over 150 Christian apologists. His background is in missions, media direction, graphic design, and administration. Brian started Apologetics315 in 2007 to be an apologetics hub to equip Christians to defend the faith.

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