Walter Martin was an apologetics pugilist (a fighter). In fact, he greatly admired the famous boxer Rocky Marciano (who was also his personal friend). Martin once said that “when the angel of death comes for me, I will challenge him to two out of three falls.” And I’ll bet he did just that.
Throughout this commemorative series, I’ve explored admirable practices that characterized Martin’s apologetics ministry—including rhetorical elegance, courage under fire, a penchant for apologetic engagement, and use of the Socratic Method. (See parts one and two.) I’ve sought to emulate these traits in my own career as an apologist and philosopher, though Martin is certainly a tough act to follow.
In this final article, I’d like to survey two more principles that Martin applied to discussions and debates.
5. Major in the Theological Majors
Martin talked constantly about what he called “essential Christian doctrine.” He insisted that believers learn critical tenets such as the Trinity, the incarnation, the atonement, and the resurrection. He appreciated the role creeds and confessions have played throughout church history in teaching believers the theological essentials.
Wisely, Martin kept his apologetics views closely tied to a sound and robust biblical theology. He also valued the other branches within the formal study of theology, including historical, philosophical, and systematic theology.
I learned from Martin that apologists must also be theologians. With this insight in mind, I’ve encouraged apologists with specialized backgrounds or focuses in other disciplines (history, philosophy, science, literature, etc.), to wed their field to historic Christian theology. Apologists can’t be experts in every area, but they must invest their time and energy in studying Scripture and in learning the doctrinal truths derived from the biblical text.
6. Aligning Head and Heart
Walter Martin was a brilliant thinker, researcher, and scholar. He rigorously pursued the life of the mind himself and critiqued the anti intellectualism that pervaded various quarters of the church in his day. He encouraged intellectual rigor, analysis, and renewal. He personally challenged and inspired me to also pursue the life of the mind to the glory of God. For Martin, reason was the good gift given to the creatures God had made in his expressed image.
However, Martin also believed that Christians must align both head and heart in devotion to the Lord. He believed that Christ’s followers are saved solely by grace, through faith alone, but were called to a life of gratitude and holy service to God. Martin lived out his spiritual convictions through prayer and strong devotion to the Lord.
In the late 1980s, my wife became the victim of violent crime. Fortunately she wasn’t seriously injured, but both she and I were emotionally jarred by the event. Martin prayed with me and encouraged me in my walk with the Lord during that difficult period. He offered me loving support at a time when I really needed it. Walter was a spiritual father to me and twenty years after his death I still remember him fondly and miss his larger-than-life personality.
Walter Martin was the father of the countercult movement within evangelicalism and wrote the definitive work on American-based cults: The Kingdom of the Cults. He inspired many young men and women to defend “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” Martin’s personalized license plate on his car appropriately read “Jude 3.”
For more information about Martin’s books and taped lectures, see Walter Martin’s Religious InfoNet.
|Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3|