Sunday, 31 January 2010

Why I became a Christian Apologist

Many people ask me why I devoted my life to argue against the critics of Christianity and even to question these same individuals and the religions or philosophies they adhere to in the same manner. Am I just the type that simply seeks confrontation and thrives in such environments?

In fact some people find me utterly offensive and suggest either that I become more objective or strive for the unity of all faiths and philosophies.

In other words my life and work is seen as a battle against each and all who differ from the Christian faith and hence my ambition and effort to attack or debate is by many considered as a negative element in our multireligious and multi-philosophical world community.

But why and how did I become an apologist?

In all honesty I would rather spend my time in Africa or India helping out those who are less fortunate.

Believe it or not I often ask God why he has guided me to take up the role as an apologist in God’s Kingdom.

When I became a Christian I knew nothing of the issues and questions related to apologetics.
However, since my decision to be a Jesus follower at the age of 15 I have been exposed to the views and arguments of many opponents who attacked the faith and life that I loved so dearly: that is the faith and connection with God, which virtually transformed my life from teenage rebellion and gang activity into a mindset and lifestyle that aimed at loving God and my fellow human being.

I grew up with atheists continually attacking and mocking my faith and the Bible in the news papers. I witnessed atheists virtually propagating and evangelising the teenagers in my church. Secondly, I witnessed my own Christian home-community being unable to adequately reply to these attacks and accusations, simply because apologetics and polemics was not the tactic or approach of these Christians, and because they neither possessed training or experience in apologetics or debating.

This is when I realised how weak the Christian community in the West stands in dealing with their critics, which is why I have (today) devoted my life to study and provide the training and answers they need in confronting their opponents on a intellectual basis.

In my teenage years I quickly involved myself in Christian youth work, preaching and Bible teaching as well as discipleship training.

Mission was my passion. I developed a great interest in theology and Bible knowledge and read the Bible from cover to cover a number of times and began memorizing passages.
In my first year in Bible College in the UK in 1992 I memorized all the epistles of Paul. I read extensively the Bible and additional theological and Christian literature until late night time.
In addition I joined several evangelistic teams and organisations in Europe and involved myself in a variety of missionary campaigns and projects.

The breakthrough into a ministry of apologetics was nevertheless not triggered by the dialogues and conversations with typical Europeans or hanging around in the slums or homeless shelters.
It was not until I stayed for a while in the city of Bradford in UK in 1992 that I experienced for the first time the Muslim community and the necessity of developing my apologetics skills.

The Muslims I encountered eagerly attacked and undermined my faith.
These relied heavily upon liberal theology and the claims that the Bible is changed and fabricated. Particularly I became familiar with the Ahmed Deedat and his literature.

I realised that I had to begin considering apologetics; also I was convinced that if Islam felt obliged to attack Christianity in this manner, I and other Christians logically possessed the same right to criticise, expose and debunk the Islamic faith.

After my experience I began looking into literature dealing with Bible background, the canon of Scripture, criticism, etc. I particularly enjoyed the books of F.F. Bruce ‘The Canon of Scripture’ and ‘The Bible and the Parchments’. Also I got hold on Philips Comfort ‘The Origin of the Bible’ and Josh McDowells’ two heavy volumes of ‘Evidence that Demands a Verdict’ and another heavy work of McDowell: ‘He walked among us’. Other books that greatly impacted me at this time were George Eldon Ladd’s ‘The New Testament Criticism’, Ralph P. Martins two excellent volumes: ‘New Testament Foundations: A Guide for Christian Students’ and Gleason Archer’s: ‘A Survey of Old Testament Introduction’.

Despite my sudden interest in apologetics, I moved back home and my involvement in church work resulted in my apologetics study to halt.

Later in 1995 I moved to Birmingham. Never in my whole life had my faith been as challenged to the extent as in Birmingham 1995.

The Muslims I met tore me apart with their arguments against the Bible and well prepared apologetics. From an intellectual point of view this was not surprising. I had very little back-up. In these days Christians were hardly prepared for these Muslim apologists. There was no Answering-Islam.org, few books, Jay Smith had just entered the scene; and it seemed as if Islam was gaining ground.

For several months I was considering becoming a Muslim. I used to spend hours meeting Muslims, experience my faith and view of the Bible to be demolished and then head off for the library to find answers to solve my doubts.

At that time I had not the slightest clue where to look for answers. I knew nothing about the Talmud, Galen, Lucretius (books that reveal early Qur'anic plagiarism) and there were hardly any books out there dealing effectively with Biblical criticism or Islamic polemics.

Thanks God today things have changed, and changed significantly.

What probably overwhelmed me the most was this sudden move into a different culture, the frequent debates, in which I lacked basic knowledge, and particularly the street debates.

In Birmingham 1995 the radical Islamic student organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir had taken the streets by surprise. I found myself constantly in fiery street debates, often being the only Christian surrounded by 20-30 Muslims.

I realised the tactic these Muslim street apologists utilized by simply having ten guys bombarding you with questions, all ten in one go, not permitting you to respond and quickly and continually changing topic, which appeared to me as a way to protect themselves from the replies but also the means to manipulate and confuse your mind. After an hour you actually felt that you brain had been twisted, virtually out of your control; think about it: by nature this is a method that corresponds to typical cultic brainwashing techniques upon their new members; I had already read a number of books describing these methods and its dreadful effect upon the victims.

After one to two hours of that experience, I dreaded to think about the effects of such manipulation if exercised over a couple of days.

I had other co-workers who had similar experiences being surrounding by a Muslim mob and in one particular case been held physically in the middle while question after question was pounded from several individuals at the same time. One Christian described that after a while he literally fell to the ground in exhaustion trying to repel the pressure of the intimidation, shouting and the arguments.

It was in this sort of situations I was exposed to the variaty of claims e.g. that the Qur’an predicts modern science, the full list of Biblical contradictions and textual criticism, the Jesus myths (Jesus being a plagiarised version of Mithra, Osiris among others), and the claim that everyone even Christian scholars were renouncing Christianity and the Bible and becoming Muslims.

It was only later that I discovered the fallacies, deception, lies and misconceptions behind all these claims.

What convinced me against the religion of Islam, in favour of Christianity were my own personal studies on Bible backgrounds, my reading about early manuscripts and the New Testament Canon (thanks God for Bruce and Comfort), and of equal importance was my own personal experience of a supernatural nature when I became a follower of Jesus.

After my experience in the UK I actually headed for the mission field for several years.

I travelled through several third-world countries, of these several Muslim countries. I spent entire months in these Muslim countries, met Muslim preachers, spent time in mosques doing dialogue, evangelised, got persecuted, abducted, arrested, and was occasionally forced to escape or hide from military, fundamentalists and the secret police. Yeah I should write a book.

I also met and spent months with the Christian communities in these countries and lived among them; I saw firsthand the persecution and the pain wrought upon them and their families by their Islamic rulers. This one Christian brother of mine had been held in jail for months due to his faith. He had been continually beaten, burned, suffered torture by freezing and had his belly opened. I will never forget standing in an abandoned church building in which a number of Christians had been butchered. The blood and body parts were still scattered all over the church. I also entered an area secretly in which Muslims were encouraged every day, through the mosque loud-speaker, to kill at least one Christian prior to breakfast; Christians had already been killed and those remaining lived in horrible conditions.

It also caught my attention how much these brothers and sisters of mine needed training in apologetics.
These Christians who by the Muslim communities are reduced to dhimmis and which the Western media (due to political correctness) has willingly neglected had not only been exposed to the Islamic polemics and its intimidation their entire life; in addition, by Islamic law, they were not even permitted to defend their faith.

I have to say that these years moulded and shaped my personality, my ambition and my plan for life.

Returning back to Europe I began my studies, I completed a BA degree in theology from USA and a second in the UK. At the same time I worked with a Christian organisation; it was hard life and busy, but worth it.

When finishing my BA Honour in theology I continued theological studies on MA level. This is when things became really exciting. I did extensive studies on source criticism, the synoptic Gospels and Q, the historical Jesus, Gnosticism, early Christian succession and oral transmission and the contribution of the church fathers. I spent considerable time studying New Testament Greek, palaeography, New Testament textual criticism, Christology and church history.

In addition I expanded my knowledge significantly in studying the scholars of theology and Biblical studies from both extremes of the spectrum; from the fringe liberal and critical scholars to the actual believers in the Bible.
I would say that most of my time went reading and studying liberal scholarship, such as Barth Ehrman, Bultmann, Ludemann, Kasemann, Burton L. Mack, Sanders and many others.

I decided to be as objective as possible in my study of the Bible and its background and not base my academic studies upon my faith but upon the historical sources and data.
At the same time I decided to consider the theories of all these critical scholars (and that is what liberal-critical scholarship is: theory), but I decided that as an historian neither faith nor theory would determine the conclusions based upon the actual historical data.

I can only say the study has been revolutionary. The reliability of the Gospels and the New Testament is outstanding evidence that the apostles and their successors together with the earliest Christian community preserved the facts: the account and teachings of Jesus effectively.
This fact certainly debunks the conjecture of critical scholarship, atheism and the inconsistent claims of Muslim apologists.

This is an exciting time in my life; I am currently building up my ministry to expand my work in apologetics.
I expect in future to engage myself in public debating, seminars and writing, defending the truth of the Gospel and the accuracy of the Christian writings and the Christian faith, while at the same time to expose the lies of opposing ideas of false religion and atheism.

Neither have I forgotten my passion to provide support and training for my brothers and sisters who need the basic training and are living their lives in world communities in which their freedom to study, speak out and defend themselves is not right provided.

Hence being an apologist, I do not deem my work futile. In fact strengthening Christians in their faith, I am not only confirming the Christian faith but by the grace of God I support and build up Christians who will enter the mission field or promote Christianity in their everyday life and who will make a difference in the world spiritually, politically and socially.





9 comments:

Yahya Snow said...

Interestingly enough...Bradford was the spark for my entrance into apologetics too

:)

Hogan Elijah Hagbard said...

I spent three entire weeks in Bradford. I would not say that the Muslim apologists were my biggest opposition. The hard experience came from our involvement in social and evangelistic work in the deprived areas and being targeted by gangs.

Yet meeting the Muslim community was an eye opener that lead me to what I am doing today.

Letitia (The Damsel) said...

I appreciate your story, HEH. From your experience, I've learned that Muslims like to 'evangelize' at the point of a mob, whereas Jesus proclaims that "whoever has ears to hear, let him hear."

Good to read your work at Answering Muslims. Pay me a visit when you have the time.

Blessings in our Lord and God, Jesus Christ,

-Letitia-

Hogan Elijah Hagbard said...

God bless you Letitia

Thanks for your encouragement, keep on the good work, I have already visited your websites.

Do feel free to comment on here anytime.

I can certainly sense that the Muslims are reacting against to something they cannot handle.

ASHFAQ said...

Dear Sir

Iam asking you, can you read Ezekiel chapter 23 in the meeting hall? I will book the hall for you and you can invite your people and I will invite my people in the hall. I dare you come in the meeting hall and read Ezekiel chapter 23 in front of all the people. Send me message at www.youtube.com/ayuzma

Hogan Elijah Hagbard said...

Ashfaq,

I responded to your post here:

http://christianityresponse.blogspot.com/2010/05/muslim-challenge.html

blessed z said...

Thank you for your work brother. God bless you.

And i want muslims or those who are thimking to convert to islam to consider your experience below:

"I also entered an area secretly in which Muslims were encouraged every day, through the mosque loud-speaker, to kill at least one Christian prior to breakfast; Christians had already been killed and those remaining lived in horrible conditions."

bloggingtheology said...

Hi there,

as you have read much in biblical studies, I am interested to know how you view the Jesus of John's gospel - for instance, does the evangelist report the words of Jesus as he spoke them?

thanks Paul

Angela Sexen said...

Thank you for taking the time to write the responses. I have spend an hour doing research on part of the information that you have given and I am sure I will spend most of my weekend looking further into these. :) Also, I did mean inanimate, so thank you!

That said, I did get a lot of well thought out and accurate information but I don't know why I am not convinced. Given, I am not religious AT ALL, hell I don't go to church , and I am the worst type of Christian, I am sure, a Roman Catholic! Sadly, I still have a lot of unknowns such as while we don't what happened in the 1*10^-43 seconds, we know that it was a singularity before that and there are theories that say that we are part of an even bigger cosmos/galaxy? (I am unsure of the term, you can correct me if I am wrong). Moreover, I am always weary of what man believes it to be "true" because as many say everything is in the eye of the beholder. So since is only good until it is proven false, or incomplete.Read more

That said, you have given me a lot of information and therefore I must research it!

Thanks again for taking the time to answer me and to write the blog :)

A response and challenge to those who oppose the Christian faith.