Course Syllabus

Defending the Faith

Course Description

Sometimes Christians tend to shy away from the world, living in our own circles where we feel more comfortable. We often aren't sure how to relate our faith to current issues and aspects of culture, and we find it difficult to share our faith with people who aren't interested in the traditional church and our beliefs. We're also not sure how to answer the tough questions they ask us about our faith.

This course guides the student in his way of thinking, so that he can develop a more consistently Christian worldview. It also helps him understand non-believers and become more confident in defending the Christian approach over against non-Christian options. In a word, the student will be more certain of what he believes and how to defend it.

Series of Continuing Education Courses for Ministerial Training

This course is part of the continuing education series of courses for ministerial training. The purpose of the series is to equip students to be effective pastors and leaders in their own cultural context. It complements other Thirdmill courses that focus more on Bible and theology. Together they can become a complete pastoral preparation, sufficient to meet ordination requirements for ministry in many churches.

The resources used in the series are compiled from a variety of sources. Some readings are provided as free PDFs to be downloaded and others must be purchased. All are available in digital format. Links are also provided to videos that can be watched free of charge.

The courses usually include automatically graded tests and optional written assignments. There is no personal supervision provided by Thirdmill, but we highly recommend that the student meet with a mentor during the course. The experience would be even better if it is done together in a group. If the student is taking the course for some church or academic institution that requires the written assignments, they should be turned in to be evaluated by them. 

Introduction

This course combines what we call "Christian Worldview" and "Apologetics." The worldview aspect clarifies what we believe, and apologetics teaches how to defend it.

Christian Worldview (Lessons 1-4)

One of the most important blessings we have in Christ is learning a new way of thinking. Just as the Lord sanctifies us morally, he also transforms us mentally. The apostle Paul exhorts us to "renew" our minds and to "take captive" every thought for Christ.

Romans 12:2 
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 

2 Corinthans 10:5 
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

To help achieve this, the course: 1) shows the need to develop a "Christian mind", not fragmented but coherent, integrating your faith and biblical presuppositions with every aspect of thought and life (Romans 12:2), 2) presents the challenge of fulfilling the cultural mandate (Genesis 1:28) and the mandate to "take every thought captive to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5), 3) compares some non-Christian approaches with a Christian position, centered on God and His Word, suggesting ways to defend the Christian position, and 4) offers some examples of how a Christian worldview can be developed, giving some basic and tentative suggestions for reflection on politics, economics, science and math, and the arts.

NOTE: Thirdmill is careful to avoid expressing politically partisan views. As students interact with each other and with the teacher, we ask that you avoid discussing current political parties or current political figures.

Apologetics (Lessons 5-8)

This course offers tools that help defend the Christian faith more effectively and with greater confidence. First, it provides a review of western philosophy, in order to understand the thinking and the insecurity of the non-believer. Then, it analyzes the characteristics of the non-believer, giving us guidelines for reaching him with the gospel. Then it reviews some well-known apologists and their best arguments. Finally, it explains a strategy for defending our faith, and suggests answers to six of the most difficult questions.

Course objectives

In this course, we would like the student to achieve the following:

1. Identify the differences between a Christian worldview and major non-Christian worldviews, especially in the areas of ontology, epistemology, and ethics.
2. Analyze the points of inconsistency of non-Christian worldviews and the integrity of the Christian position.
3. Compare different models of how Christians should relate to culture and identify biblical teachings related to the topic.
4. Identify some important biblical guidelines about politics, economics, science, and art. 
5. Write a Christian view of some area of ​​study, using biblical guidelines and applying what he or she has learned in the course.
6. He will be able to identify the key thought of the some of the most outstanding western philosophers.
7. He will understand key biblical concepts about the condition of the unbeliever.
8. He will be familiar with the main arguments of many key apologists. 
9. The student will develop a general strategy to defend the Christian faith and will know how to answer some of the most difficult questions that non-believers ask us.

Thematic Outline of the Course

Lesson 1.
a. Intellectual "Schizophrenia"
b. The War for the Truth

Lesson 2.
a. Attack or Retreat? The Christian and Society
b. Non-Christian Worldviews

Lesson  3.
a. Politics
b. Economics

Lesson 4:
a. Science and Math
b. The Arts

Lesson 5:
a. Why do we Need Apologetics?
b. Uncertainty in Greek Philosophy

Lesson 6:
a. Uncertainty in Modern Philosophy
b. Conclusions About the Non-Christian

Lesson 7: Key Apologists

Lesson 8:
a. A Suggested Approach
b. Six Hard Questions

Videos (using the links provided)

Video A: “What’s Your Worldview?" (4 mins)
Video B: "Understanding the 'sacred secular split'", Nancy Pearcey (4 mins)
Video C: "The Cultural Mandate," Greg Perry (3 mins)
Video D: "Arguing About Politics," Timothy Keller (audio only) (45 mins)
Video E: "How Does the Christian Worldview Explain Mathematics?", Vern Poythress (4 mins)
Video F: "Discovering God through the Arts," Terry Glaspey (46 mins)
Video G: “How Do I Do Apologetics?”, John Frame (3 mins)
Video H: "Has Science Buried God?" Richard Dawkins vs John Lennox (1:21:52)
Video I: "Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical," Tim Keller (58 mins) 
Video J: "Contradictions in the Bible? " Frank Turek (3 mins) 
Video K: "Is the Bible inerrant or infallible?" Robert Plummer (10 mins)
Video L: "Why Would God Ordain Evil?," John Piper (20 mins)

Main Texts

There are two required texts for the course and one optional text for additional reading:

1. The main text for Lessons1-4 of the course (Christian Worldview) is Intellectual Integrity; Developing a Christian Worldview, Richard B. Ramsay (published by Editorial CLIE in Spanish, self-published in English) 174 pages.

   a. A PDF can be downloaded in the folder of "Resources to Download."

   b. A printed version and a Kindle version can be purchased on Amazon.com.

2. The main text for Lessons5-8 of the course (Apologetics) is The Certainty of the Faith, by Richard B. Ramsay (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2007). 304 pages.

   a. It is available to download for free in PDF format (see "Resources to Download").

   b. It can also be purchased through on Amazon.com.

Review of the book:

I am delighted to know there is an outstanding resource like The Certainty of the Faith available for those who not only want to understand the Christian faith better but to explain and defend it in the most effective way possible in every kind of situation. Moreover, the rich analysis of various apologists from Augustine to Chesterton to Lewis to Francis Schaeffer is very helpful. I wish this had been available years ago.
-Luder G. Whitlock Jr. (Former president of Reformed Theological Seminary, Executive Director, The Trinity Forum)

3. The text for optional additional reading is The Reason for God, by Timothy Keller (300 pages).  

   It is available in Kindle or paperback on Amazon.com

Comments on Amazon:

New York Times bestseller people can believe in—by "a pioneer of the new urban Christians" (Christianity Today) and the "C.S. Lewis for the 21st century" (Newsweek).

Timothy Keller, the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, addresses the frequent doubts that skeptics, and even ardent believers, have about religion. Using literature, philosophy, real-life conversations, and potent reasoning, Keller explains how the belief in a Christian God is, in fact, a sound and rational one. To true believers he offers a solid platform on which to stand their ground against the backlash to religion created by the Age of Skepticism. And to skeptics, atheists, and agnostics, he provides a challenging argument for pursuing the reason for God.

Resources to Download for the Course (See "Resources to Download.")

1. Intellectual Integrity (PDF)
2. Study Guide for Intellectual Integrity
3. The Certainty of the Faith (PDF)
4. Study Guide for The Certainty of the Faith 
5. Guidelines for a Book Review
6. Guidelines for Writing an Essay
7. Recommended Extra Reading

Other Recommended Resources

On Christian Worldview:

a. D. A. Carson, Christ and Culture Revisited (Eerdmans, 2012) 256 pages (Amazon.com)

b. Terry Glaspey, Discovering God Through the Arts (Moody, 2021), 273 pages. (Amazon.com)

c. H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture (Harper Torchbooks, 2001, 1975) 320 pages (Amazon.com)

d. Rookmaaker, H. R., Modern Art and the Death of a Culture. Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, Chicago, 1970.

e. James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door (IVP Academic, 2020, sixth edition) 308 pages (Amazon.com)

On Apologetics:

a. John Frame, Apologetics ( Amazon.com )

b. C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (Harper Collins, 2001). 176 pages. (Amazon.com)    It can also be purchased at Barnes and Noble (in printed form or Kindle), also offered free in audiobook form. 

c. Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth; Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity (Crossway, 2008) 514 pages (Amazon.com)

d. Francis Schaeffer, The God Who is There (IVP, 2020) ( Amazon.com )

Thirdmill Seminary Library of Digital Resources

You can also access the library of free, open digital resources that are available at:

Library | ThirdmillSeminary

General List of Assignments

1. Read Intellectual Integrity and answer the review questions in the study guide.
2. Take the quizzes on the chapters of Intellectual Integrity.
(Note: The tests can be taken a second time, and the official grade will be the average of the two attempts. Some of the questions will be different each time.)
3. Take the final exam on Intellectual Integrity. It can be taken only once.
4. Read The Certainty of the Faith and answer the review questions in the study guide.
5. Take the quizzes on the chapters of The Certainty of the Faith.
6. Take the final exam on The Certainty of the Faith.
7. Watch the videos.
8. Do the spiritual formation exercises.
9. Participate in the student forums.
10. Participate in the mentor meetings.

Optional:
If you are studying the course for some church or academic institution, they may require additional assignments. We suggest the following options. Further instructions are included in the weekly assignments. Thirdmill cannot evaluate these assignments; they should be submitted to the institution that requires them.

11. Read the selected text for additional reading and write a review of it.
12. Write a project on a Christian view of a topic of interest.
13. Write a project on a hypothetical dialogue with a non-Christian.

Evaluations

40% - Tests on Intellectual Integrity (5% x 8)
10% - Exam #1 on Intellectual Integrity
40% - Tests on The Certainty of the Faith (5% x 8)
10% - Exam #2 on The Certainty of the Faith

2% - Extra credit for completing the feedback survey

Grading System

Letter    Percentage
Grade     

A           95-100%  
A –        90-94.99%   
B +        87-89.99%  
B           84-86.99%  
B –        80-83.99%  
C +        77-79.99%  
C           74-76.99%
C -         70-73.99% (minimum required for completing the course satisfactorily)
D +        67-69.99%
D           64-66.99%
D –        60-63.99%
F            Less than 60% 

Additional explanation:

Each assignment initially has a grade of "0" until completed, and grades for assignments that are not done are also included in the cumulative grade at any given point. The cumulative grade goes up as the student completes the assignments.

For example, if you get a "100" on the first assignment and there are 10 assignments that are each worth 10% of the final grade, your cumulative grade after the first assignment will be "10%." Don't worry; it is only your grade as it is calculated up to that moment. If you complete the second assignment with a "100" as well, the cumulative grade at that point will be "20%". This process continues until the end of the course. If you get a "100" in each assignment, your final grade will be "100%".  If you get a “100” in 9 of ten

Meetings with Mentors and Spiritual Formation Exercises

The Christian life and ministry require of us not only a knowledge of what the Scriptures teach, but also an emphasis on personal application. To achieve this end, the student is asked to find a mentor and interact with him during each course. In this course, you will meet with your mentor at several different times, specified in the course syllabus, to discuss practical issues related to the course teachings. Likewise, each course has been designed with a strong component of spiritual formation. These exercises will coincide with the course materials and will highlight an aspect of the spiritual disciplines that have been time-honored.

Academic Honesty Policy

As part of our mission to equip Christian leaders, we expect godly integrity in the academic work you do at Thirdmill Seminary. At the heart of this integrity is a commitment to accurately represent yourself and your work to others. We expect members of our learning community to follow the rules under which quizzes, exams, papers, and projects are to be completed and submitted for academic credit. This includes a commitment to do your own work. Second, we expect students to give credit to others for their ideas by documenting them appropriately in written and oral presentations. Both of these activities—cheating and plagiarism—are violations of the ninth commandment, which forbids bearing false witness. According to Miriam-Webster’s dictionary, plagiarism is, “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own: use (another's production) without crediting the source [... or] to commit literary theft: present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.” This includes sermons.

Last modified: Monday, October 2, 2023, 10:39 AM