Spotlight on 'Women in Apologetics' Conference January 11-12, 2019
Laurie Stewart is president of Women in Apologetics (WIA), a Christian non-profit organization focused on equipping, encouraging, and educating women in Christian apologetics. WIA purposefully gives women a chance to share content that is theologically, philosophically, and apologetically centered, and supports women in the church who are interested in learning how to think deeply and intelligently about their faith. Many of Ratio Christi’s women, from national staff to our field workers, are associated with WIA.
For these reasons, we're excited about The Second Annual Women in Apologetics Conference. It will take place at Biola University in La Mirada, California, January 11-12, 2019, and will also be live-streamed.
The members of WIA made a great choice in Laurie as their president. She is an attorney, mediator, law school professor, Christian apologist, and public speaker. Ratio Christi is also blessed to have had Laurie and her husband John travel for Ratio Christi in an international capacity. John previously served as our International Director and is our current Scholar in Residence.
We had the opportunity to interview Laurie about WIA and the significance of apologetics for women in today's culture.
RC: How important do you think it is for women to be educated in Christian apologetics?
LS: Christian apologetics is for everyone, men and women. 1 Peter 3:15 says Christians need to be ready to explain what we believe and why we believe. In other words, why do we believe Christianity is true? There is no indication this instruction is only for men. The word “apologetics” is from the Greek word apologia, and is used in that verse. It means to give reasons, or a defense, for what we believe. I view Christian apologetics as a species of evangelism and discipleship—a tool for proclaiming and defending truth. Since all Christians are called to the Great Commission—to evangelize and disciple—all Christians are called to apologetics.
RC: How did you get involved in apologetics?
LS: Since 2005, I’ve been teaching and speaking with my husband at universities, colleges, churches, and other groups. He would usually speak on apologetics, New Testament, or church history. I would usually speak on biblical conflict resolution, human rights, women’s issues, and prayer. Often at apologetics conferences, women would approach me with their apologetics questions. I wondered why they weren’t asking the male apologists. And I wondered why there weren’t female apologists there to answer their questions, or why there weren’t more female apologists speaking and teaching.
Finally, I decided that even though I had been informally studying apologetics, maybe it was time to formally study it, so I could help encourage, educate and equip women. As a result, I enrolled in Biola University’s Master of Arts in Christian Apologetics program. I have finished all the course work, and now I’m working on my thesis.
RC: Has learning apologetics strengthened your own confidence and knowledge as a witnessing, ministry tool?
LS: Studying apologetics has not only strengthened my faith, it has dramatically increased my ability to share my faith with others. As an attorney, I am especially intrigued by evidence. I find great assurance in knowing there is evidence for God, the reliability of the Bible, and the historicity of Jesus and the resurrection. Additionally, studying apologetics has given me courage to engage others in conversations about difficult subjects, like the #MeToo movement, feminism, human rights, same sex marriage, and abortion.
RC: Tell us about WIA - how did it start and how far has it come?
LS: The more I became involved in studying apologetics and speaking at conferences, the more I realized we need more women studying and teaching these topics. Furthermore, apologetics needs women. In 2017 several women came together with a common vision to encourage, equip and educate women in apologetics. Women in Apologetics was formally incorporated later that year.
In January 2018, we hosted our first WIA Conference at Biola, featuring a wide range of incredible female speakers. There is an exploding interest and excitement about WIA, not just in the U.S., but now around the world. It is an amazing organization of amazing women. It is my privilege to consider many of these women my friends.
RC: Was it the response to last year’s Conference that prompted a second one?
LS: Honestly, when we started planning our first annual conference, we envisioned it being the first of many. Why? Apologetics is quickly gaining traction with women. They are hungry for deeper teaching and richer involvement. They observe a world in crisis: Marriages are being redefined and destroyed; children are growing up and leaving the faith; Christian leaders are caught in moral failures; people of different ages and race experience discrimination, harassment, molestation, assault, rape and murder. We turn on the news and gasp at the latest atrocity—innocent men beheaded for failing to convert, young girls taken captive as child brides, and the growing enterprise of pornography and sex trafficking.
With a world seemingly gone mad, many women are tired of women’s ministries being just about self-help, feel-good Bible studies, baking cookies, and making quilts. Don’t get me wrong -- there is absolutely nothing wrong with Bible studies or homemaking activities. However, loving God is more than just serving, more than just experiences, more than just personal growth. We are also to love God with our mind and engage others. Being transformed by the renewing of our minds prepares us to engage the culture and make a difference in the lives of others. Apologetics equips us.
Our January 2019 Conference will address some of the hot topics of our day. We invite women, men, and even children, to come for encouragement, equipping, and education. We will be offering our special WIA Kids program again for grades 3 through 6. So, while moms and dads get trained, kids get trained, too.
RC: The conference theme is "Engaging the Culture for Christ." Some Christians feel we must separate ourselves from the culture in today's society. Why would you say this is a false perception?
LS: To believe that Christians must separate themselves from the culture is absolutely a false perception. Quite the opposite, Jesus commands us to go engage the culture. Specifically, he says, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). In case we are wondering just how to do that, the New Testament gives us plenty of examples to follow.
Let’s take Jesus, for example, when he engages the woman at the well (John 4). He initiates conversation with her by talking about the water in the well. By the way, in doing so, he is doing something rather scandalous. First, he is talking to a woman. And not just any woman, a woman most likely with a reputation because she has had five husbands. Second, he is talking to a Samaritan—a second class citizen, or worse. However, Jesus treats her with dignity and value. Moreover, he reveals himself to her as the Messiah. As a result, she becomes one of the first evangelists, running back to town to tell others about the Messiah.
This is a powerful example for us to follow. First, we must treat all people with dignity and value. Second, we engage people with something in common. Culture is simply something that people share in common. Here, Jesus and the woman had the water and the well in common. That was their “culture.” And Jesus engaged her. But he didn’t stop there. He used the culture to build relationship and then reveal himself to her. We also use the culture to engage people and reveal Christ to them.
Apologetics helps equip us to reach people in the culture. Whether it is your school culture, work culture, home culture, church culture, sports culture, community culture, etc., you can learn to build bridges with others, share your faith, and have difficult conversations about important issues in a winsome way. Your faith will be strengthened, and you might help bring people to Christ or at least plants seeds which may grow later.
RC: How crucial is it to infuse apologetics into our high school and college students, like Ratio Christi does?
LS: It is critical that we train our high schoolers and college students in apologetics. Studies show that many young people walk away from their faith. They must be equipped to know not only how to share their faith, but how to defend their faith. Christianity is under attack, especially at the universities. A house built on sand will not stand for long. But a house built on a rock will stand the storms.
I was one of those unfortunate statistics. Although I was raised in a loving Christian home and made an early profession of faith, during my teenage years I wrestled with questions. Questions that the church leaders could not answer. When I entered the University, my faith was still intact, but not for long. By the time I graduated, I was no longer sure what I believed. The idea that “all roads lead to God” sounded good to me.
Although I walked in the world for a few years, when I came to a place of utter brokenness, I rediscovered my faith. After studying the Scriptures and reading The Case for Christ, my faith moved from a preference to a fierce conviction.
One last word on this, teaching apologetics to our young people is not enough. They need training, boot camp. We would not send our soldiers into war without boot camp training. We dare not send our young people into the world, and war in the world, without boot camp training. Ratio Christi is an incredible global apologetics movement among students and professors. With my husband being RC’s Scholar in Residence, I have witnessed first-hand the hunger and quest for truth in young people. And I have witnessed lives transformed from apologetics. Only God saves people. But apologetics is a tool we can use to evangelize and disciple.
Ratio Christi is a life boat for Christian students and professors at Universities, who are living and working in a stormy academic environment that is becoming increasingly hostile to Christians and biblical values.
RC: What about moms with young children - is that too young for apologetics?
LS: It is never too early to start teaching children apologetics. There is a wealth of material available for all ages—even preschool picture books!* Be sure to check out our WIA Kids program! (Scroll down at this page.)
RC: Anything else you’d like to say in conclusion?
LS: Please allow me to reemphasize that apologetics is for everyone—men, women, and children. It is a tool for evangelism and discipleship—to proclaim and defend the truth of Christianity. But people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. So, proclaim and defend your faith in a winsome way. We shouldn’t aim to win arguments. We should aim to win people to Christ.
Be sure to Register for the January 2019 Women in Apologetics Conference soon!
Laurie and her husband John have had marvelous opportunities to teach in countries like Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Philippines, Canada, Spain, Australia, and Israel, just to name a few. For more information about their ministry, visit www.intelligentfaith.com. Find them on Twitter at @NtelligentFaith, Laurie at @lauriestewart50, and her blog, https://lauriestewart.blogspot.com.
*Editor’s Note: Laurie will soon post a list of children’s apologetics material at her website. For now, moms with tweens or younger children can check out Natasha Crain’s christianmomthoughts.com where you will find Crain's two books concentrating on talking to your kids about God; Cold Case Christianity for Kids by J. Warner Wallace and Susie Wallace; Deep Roots Apologetics and Bible Curriculum for kids; the Mama Bear Apologetics blogsite; and Apologetics for Tweens by Thomas Griffin.
Content in blogs does not necessarily represent Ratio Christi’s views. Details