One of the things I miss most about Walter Martin was his marvelous sense of humor. In describing morally corrupt people, he once quipped:
Some people are so crooked that when they die they'll have to screw them into the ground.
Part of Martin's appeal was his larger-than-life personality. If he hadn't been a distinguished theologian and apologist, he could've easily been a professional entertainer. As a young believer, I learned my basic views on Christian theology and apologetics from Walter Martin. I even remember calling The Bible Answer Man radio program and speaking with Martin on air. Ironically, after Martin's untimely death, I cohosted that same program for a time, and people asked me questions that I had once asked of Martin.
In part one of this commemorative serious of articles, I mentioned how Martin's refined communication skills and his courage under fire provided powerful lessons for me as a young apologist. This article continues with two more examples of the knowledge I gained from Martin.
3. Apologetic Engagement
Martin was no armchair apologist. He boldly critiqued the theological views of such heretical sects as Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Christian Science and stood ready to debate the able apologists of these groups. He believed in and practiced honest and public apologetic engagement.
Martin believed in interacting with the religious groups that he wrote about. He arranged a meeting with leaders of the Seventh day Adventist denomination in the late 1950s when he had questions about their distinctive doctrinal views. He could have easily written his books without interacting with such people, but instead he modeled one of the golden rules of apologetics: "Treat other people's views the way you want yours treated." In other words, represent the views of other religious bodies fairly and accurately by going directly to the source.
Martin's groundbreaking book, The Truth About Seventh day Adventism, changed the way an entire generation of evangelicals came to view that particular sect. Many Adventist leaders and theologians have told me personally how much they appreciated Martin's willingness to dialogue.
4. Questions and Answers
As an educator, Martin valued what philosophers call the "Socratic Method" (a probing question-and-answer approach to exploring critical issues). He understood that this technique is a fundamental part of any sound instructive enterprise. And answering people's questions is also an important part of the Christian apologetics venture.
Learning from Martin, I have made the question-and-answer approach to apologetics a regular part of my teaching and ministry. In my church class, I always devote the first half of the class to answering such queries. It is very important that people in the church have a venue to pose questions.
I'm proud to represent in a small and modest way the continuing legacy of one of the most distinctive Christian apologists of the twentieth century–Walter Ralston Martin.
In the final part of this series, I will discuss two more apologetics lessons I gleaned from my former boss and friend.
|Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3|