Below is a guest blog by Michael Alter, author of The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry, which is a 912 page tome offering one of the most important contributions to challenging historical apologetics for the resurrection. During his research, Alter learned a great deal about the vast amount of resources that are invested in Christian apologetics–spanning universities, organizations, and publishers–which eclipse the scattered authors and handful of organizations that engage in counter-apologetics. In this post, Alter provides a researched summary that offers just a glimpse at the tip of the iceberg for how much money and resources are invested in Christian apologetics.
I’ve been talking about problems with how faith-based universities distort critical biblical scholarship for years now, due to doctrinal statements that their faculty are required to sign, which force them to adhere to predetermined conclusions that are friendly to Christian dogma. As someone who works in Classical Studies, researching ancient texts from the same historical period, written in the same ancient languages, and using the same historical methodology, I am not aware of any Classics department or university that requires professors to sign doctrinal statements asking them to affirm tenets of Pagan theology or Greco-Roman religion. The fact that the Christian religion is treated in an abnormal manner in this regard is very disturbing, therefore, and a bad sign for the health of higher education.
As a note, while the essay below discusses faith-based universities with doctrinal statements, not all institutions of higher education that have a Christian affiliation fall into this category. While the University of Notre Dame has a Catholic affiliation, for example, the school still fosters a secular research environment and its religious affiliation is more traditional. While I do not think that a religious affiliation is beneficial for the structure of any university (even if it can be relatively innocuous), it should not be assumed that a loose religious affiliation based on a school’s history implies that it belongs to the apologetic-type campuses discussed below.
The phrase “Follow the money” or “Follow the money trail” (the later was a catchphrase popularized by the 1976 drama-documentary motion picture All The President’s Men) is a credo that has been popularized in movies, politics, investigative reporting, and political debates. The sage advice to “Follow the money” is also true in the arena of religion. Yes, it is about the money. The objective of this article/blog is to discuss the importance of those “silver shekels” as related to Christian evangelism, and more specific, apologetics. Opponents of Christian apologists, whether they be theists, agnostics, or theists of other faiths face definite challenges. And, as previously stated, the odds are often stacked against these skeptics, regardless of the theistic aisle they find themselves.
TOPIC I: Apologetic Grad Programs
Let’s assume that you are a committed Christian and you want to seek a graduate degree in apologetics. Where would you go to earn that degree? What type of degree could you earn? How much would it cost to earn an appropriate degree? What can you do with your earned degree? One partial source of information that discussed some of these issues was located at TheBestSchools.org. This organization states:
“The aim of TheBestSchools.org is to help you gain the knowledge, skills, and credentials you need to achieve personal happiness and career success. As a leading education resource, we cover online and on-campus colleges & universities that include undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and post-doc programs. In addition, we cover K–12 and select alternative education programs.
TheBestSchools.org has researched the top apologetics graduate degrees in the United States and ranked them according to the quality of faculty, level of accreditation, diversity of degrees offered, cost, and overall accessibility.”
Below, you will find “The 10 Best Christian Apologetics Grad Programs” as identified by TheBestSchools.org. The relevant information has been placed in an easy to read table. However, interested readers are encouraged to examine the source in its entirety.
TABLE 1: The 10 Best Christian Apologetics Grad Programs
|1. Biola University||$485 per credit hour||The 36-credit hour MA in Apologetics can be achieved through a distance-learning track, but even it has an on-campus requirement (via two week-long, intensive modules). On the other hand, the 9- to 10-hour distance-learning “certificate in apologetics” can be transferred into the MA in Apologetics program for up to 6 units of credit.|
|2. Southern Evangelical Seminary||$333 per credit hour||SES is a true apologetics school with all its degrees having an apologetic emphasis, including the BA, MA, MDiv, ThM, and DMin. Even its PhD is apologetics-intensive, though technically it is in philosophy of religion.|
|3. Houston Baptist University||$500 per credit hour||36 credit hour Master of Arts in Apologetics program (MAA). The program is available in residence or online (with no residency requirements).|
|4. Liberty University||$436-$476 per credit hour||PhD candidates at LU may pursue a rare, dual-emphasis degree in “Theology and Apologetics.” LU also offers Online classes and distance classes .|
|5. (tie) Southeastern Baptist||$190-$257 per credit hour ($514, if non-SBC)||SEBTS offers apologetics tracks in its MDiv programs.|
|5. (tie) Southern Baptist Theological Seminary||$219 per credit hour ($438, if non-SBC)||SBTS offers apologetics tracks in its MDiv programs.
Southern also has the rare PhD in “Apologetics and Worldview Studies.”
|6. Veritas Evangelical Seminary||$215 per credit hour||Veritas offers MA and MDiv degrees, as well as a certificate, all in apologetics.|
|7. Denver Seminary||$450 per credit hour||Offering an MA in Apologetics and Ethics, as well as an MDiv in Apologetics.|
|8. Luther Rice College & Seminary||$215 per credit hour||It offers both MA and MDiv apologetics tracks.|
|9. Westminster Theological Seminary||At $2,650 per class (about $885 per credit hour)||WTS offers a Master of Theology (ThM) in apologetics, and has a respectable department of apologetics. It has no MDiv or MA in apologetics.|
|10. Columbia Evangelical Seminary||$95 per credit hour||CES offers a self-directed mentoring curriculum similar to European programs. As such, it has no teaching campus.|
Significantly, this list only identified the 10 best programs in the opinion of TheBestSchools.org. There are, in fact, numerous seminaries and universities that offer apologetic degree programs.
Question: How many seminaries, college, or universities offer degree programs in atheism or that reject the foundation of the Christian faith? None that I was able to locate! And, even if a program could be found, what could one do with that earned degree? For Christians earning a graduate degree in apologetics, job possibilities do exist. A brief list could include teaching philosophy or apologetics at the college level, serve in a campus ministry, develop an apologetics ministry, and do mission work. Of course, this is not to deny the reality that many students take these course because they are sincere believers and desire to fulfill 1 Peter 3:15, “ But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
Cutting to the “money trail,” how many detractors would be willing to devote one year of their life and spend $95 to $500 per credit hour for a 36-credit hour MA in a counter-apologetics degree program (even if it existed)? And, remember, we are not even talking about a multi-year PhD program. On the other hand, financial aid (scholarships, loans, underwriting by local churches, etc.) are often available to seminary students. One additional point must be raised about the topic of money. Seminaries and universities are spending millions of dollars to support these graduate programs. Funds are required to support and maintain the instructional staff, administrative staff, secretaries, custodians, the library, and maintenance of the buildings.
TOPIC II: Undergraduate Apologetic Programs and Class Offerings
In contrast to a graduate program, hundreds of seminaries, bible colleges and universities offer a profuse number of apologetic programs and class offerings. An extensive list of several hundred evangelical seminaries and theological colleges can be seen on Wikipedia: List of evangelical seminaries and theological colleges. Not only are these classes made available, in many institutions, they are also required for completion of a degree. Here too, these institutions are spending millions of dollars to support and maintain the instructional staff, administrative staff, secretaries, custodians, the library, and maintenance of the buildings.
Question: How many seminaries, college, or universities offer apologetic programs or class offerings that investigate the foundation of the Christian faith from a “different perspective”? I am aware of at least two Rabbis who teach classes that delve into this topic. Presumably others exist…
Rabbi Michael J. Cook, Ph.D. serves as Professor of Intertestamental and Early Christian Literatures and holds the Sol and Arlene Bronstein Chair in Judaeo-Christian Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. Current and future courses include:
- New Testament & the Jews: Critical Issues Today Arising from the Gospels & Paul’s Epistles
- Jewish & Christian Perspectives on the Historical Jesus in Ancient, Medieval, & Modern History
- Citation of Jewish Scripture in Christian Apologetics & Missionizing
There is also Rabbi Amy-Jill Levine at Vanderbilt University. She is the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, Department of Religious Studies, and Graduate Department of Religion. She teaches the following course:
- The New Testament in its Jewish Context
As stated above, possibly several schools of higher education may offer classes that investigate the foundation of the Christian faith from a “different perspective.” It would be interesting to know what institutions actually offer such classes.
TOPIC III: Department of Apologetics
Question: How many seminaries, college, or universities have a dedicated department of apologetics? To be specific, how many institutions of higher learning have a department with the word “apologetics” in its title? Perhaps in the hundreds… A few institutions identified by a cursory research on the Internet include: Biola University, Birmingham Theological Seminary, Houston Baptist University, Liberty University, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Trinity Graduate School (Kerala, India), and Trinity International. In many institutions, a “department of apologetics” although not specifically named is embedded in the department of theology, philosophy, and or systematic theology.
So, what about the opposition? A search on the Internet found an interesting article published by the New York Times. It was penned by Laurie Goodstein (May 20, 2016): “University of Miami Establishes Chair for Study of Atheism.” In late April, the UM received a donation of $2.2 million from Louis J. Appignani, a wealthy atheist, to endow what it says is the nation’s first academic chair “for the study of atheism, humanism, and secular ethics.” However, the title may be misleading. In the opinion of Hemant Mehta, “The final name may be a mouthful, but the shorter version of it is that students at the University of Miami will be able to study atheism just as they can study Islam and Judaism and Catholicism everywhere else.”
Another institution discussed in the Times article pointed out that about five years ago, Pitzer College, a liberal arts school in Southern California with about 1,000 students, became the first to begin a program and major in secular studies. Nonetheless a review of the course offerings in the catalog did not indicate that any of the course offerings would, in effect, challenge Christian theology.
TOPIC IV: Apologetic Organizations
Another area where Christian organizations spend millions of dollars is apologetic organizations. The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) is an organization that enhances trust in Christ-centered churches and ministries by establishing and applying Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship™ to accredited organizations. It has over 2,100 members. An analysis of the organizations’ database under the category of “Ministry type – Apologetics” listed approximately 70 members. Below, in table 2 is a list of seven well-known organizations including their total revenue and total assets.
TABLE 2: EFCA and Selected Members: Revenue and Assets
|Name||Data for year ended||Total Revenue||Total Assets|
|Ankerberg Theological Research Institute||December 31, 2016||$3,496,484||$1,372,074|
|C. S. Lewis Institute||June 30, 2016||$1,586,688||$224,153|
|CRU [Formerly called: Campus Crusade for Christ International]||August 31, 2016||$609,197,000||$328,984,000|
|Ratio Christi||December 31, 2015||$1,386,690||$731,248|
|Ravi Zacharias International Ministries [RZIM]||September 30, 2016||$47,353,235||$34,155,953|
|Reasonable Faith||June 30, 2016||$1,052,594||$914,758|
|Veritas College International||June 30, 2017||$201,549||$64,837|
Many of these organizations, such as CRU and Ratio Christi, form college chapters at universities around the nation, in addition to countless student churches and religious clubs. While there a handful of secular and atheist clubs on college campuses, such as the Secular Student Alliance (SSA), the number of Christian clubs on college campuses easily eclipses those for either secularism, atheism, or other religious faiths.
Another avenue to investigate the resources of apologetic organizations and their rivals is to access CitizenAudit.org. Three examples of organizations on their site can be seen in table 3.
TABLE 3: CitizenAudit.org
|Name||Data for year ended||Total Revenue||Total Assets|
|Christian Apologetics And Research Ministry Inc. (CARM) [Matthew J. Slick]||2015/12||$275,849||$60,653|
|Stand To Reason||2015/12||$1,685,546||$680,389|
|Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics [James R. White]||2015/12||$282,142||$160,129|
In contrast, the Secular Web, which is perhaps the largest internet database for secular, atheist, and counter-apologetic scholarship, can only claim the following financial resources:
|Name||Data for year ended||Total Revenue||Total Assets|
|Internet Infidels Inc.||2015/12||$32,766||$53,421|
TOPIC V: Publishers
Another important area of “Following the money trail” are publishers/publishing houses. The number of Christian publishers/publishing houses total in the hundreds. The longest list of biblical publishers can be found in The SBL Handbook of Style For Biblical Studies and Related Disciplines (pp. 77-82), though that also includes secular presses. One can consult the Writer’s Market 2018 by Robert Lee Brewer, though for easiest access, Wikipedia (Category: Christian publishing companies) provides an alphabetical list of Christian publishers/publishing houses. Below is a select sample (concluded after A-C for sake of brevity).
Perhaps the most detailed source is the Christian Writers Market Guide 2017: Your Comprehensive Resource by Steve Laube.
In contrast, detractors have a substantially limited opportunity to publish a text with a traditional publisher. Prometheus is perhaps the most well-known publisher. If a detractor decides to self-publish, there are significant problems that will be confronted. Journals, as a general rule will not review books that are self-published and libraries will not pick them up. The rationale is that these books did not go through a rigorous review process, thus, questioning their academic quality.
Reasons vary, but probably the most significant factor in a publisher deciding to publish a book is the potential scope of the market. To be direct, there are millions of potential Christian consumers and thousands of church libraries with funds to put these books on their shelves. In contrast, the potential market for a detractor is substantial reduced. The key is that a detractor must target a niche market and one that has not already been over saturated. The reality is that publishers are in the game to make a profit.
TOPIC VI: Journals
The number of theological journals, hard copy and online, that are devoted to supporting Christian theology and apologetics number in the thousands. Wikipedia’s opening sentence under the title “List of theology journals” reads:
“Theological journals are academic periodical publications in the field of theology. WorldCat returns about 4,000 items for the search subject ‘Theology Periodicals’ and more than 2,200 for ‘Bible Periodicals.'”
Although detractors can submit articles for publication, the number of journals open to submission is substantially reduced as compared to the apologetic author. The mission statement may limit journals submission guidelines or acceptance of submissions. Significantly, journals have a vested financial interest in accepting and publishing articles that their readership would desire to read and not to offend its advertisers.
Numbers do not lie. Yes, the sage advice to “Follow the money” is true in the arena of religion. Detractors/Opponents of Christian apologists face definite financial challenges. And, yes, the odds are stacked against this group, regardless of what side of the theistic aisle they find themselves (whether atheist or non-Christian theist). However, as Fox Mulder on X-Files proclaims: “The Truth is Out There.” Therefore, keep writing…