Author Interview: Valerie Locklair
Valerie Locklair is a Fellow of the International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism, and Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, where she also earned the Diploma of Christian Apologetics. Her areas of interest include apologetics for the next generation and connecting the defense of the faith to different branches of knowledge.
Q. Given your background in information technology, how did you get into the study of theology and apologetics?
I grew up in a Lutheran home and was homeschooled until college. I read “Understanding the Times” in high school, and I remember being struck by how one’s worldview impacts every aspect of life. It opened my eyes to the importance of understanding how incompatible the world’s religions are and the ramifications of different belief systems.
In 2014, I attended the International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism, and Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. One of my favorite college professors, Dr. Angus Menuge, was teaching at that session, and I thought it sounded like an interesting opportunity to learn new things. I always say that the Academy answered questions I didn’t even know I had. I went in thinking that apologetics was all right, but it wasn’t anything I was all that interested in pursuing. I specifically did not sign up for the exam at the end of the two weeks, which was designed for students who wanted to come back for another Academy session in the future. I wasn’t interested in that, so I saw no reason to take the exam.
A few days into the Academy, I was blown away by how wrong I had been. I began taking notes feverishly, hanging on every word. I remember reading my Bible one night and realizing that this whole apologetics thing was shockingly, unapologetically Biblical. It is no exaggeration to say that God used Dr. John Warwick Montgomery and his Academy to change my life. Long story short, I decided to take the exam at the end of the first Academy session, and I went on to complete both the Diploma of Christian Apologetics and the Fellowship of the Academy in 2016. The thesis that I wrote for the Diploma turned into my book, “Called to Defend.”
Q. What motivated you to write an apologetics book for this particular age, middle school students?
With enough digging, it is possible to find apologetical resources for high school and college students. Very few people – and no Lutherans that I was aware of while I was writing this book – were taking the challenges of middle school students seriously. We talk a lot about the pressures of high school and college, but we are missing an entire generation of individuals who so desperately need to know that their faith is true – not just “true” in the realm of subjective thought, but objectively, defensibly true in the person of Jesus Christ. The seeds of doubt are sown long before high school. We need to become more aware of the questions our youth are asking. The so-called Logic Stage roughly correlates to the middle school years, and the student’s mind is developing in new and unique ways. The increased focus on abstract thought informs the student’s developing worldview at this age, which makes it an ideal time to introduce apologetics. Instead of worrying about whether or not our children are “ready” for religious knowledge, we should focus on the fact that they are in the war zone right now. Every day our youth are facing challenges to their faith, and we need to ensure that we are adequately preparing them to defend Christianity as they grow physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Q. What is the biggest misconception about the value of apologetics?
One misconception that I come across fairly often is the idea that apologetics is a misuse of reason. Sometimes people think that apologetics is reasoning someone into believing or presenting someone with a mathematical equation to prove the rationality of the faith. In reality, as Dr. John Warwick Montgomery would say, apologetics involves clarifying, providing positive evidences, and refuting contrary worldview claims. Our faith is founded entirely on the historical truth claim of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are called to remove hindrances of belief in order to introduce questioners as quickly as possible to the greatest obstacle, which is Christ Himself.
Additionally, apologetics is a Biblical mandate. It isn’t something that well-meaning individuals made up in an attempt to bolster Christianity without using the Bible. 1 Peter 3:15 commands all Christians to be ready to give a defense (the Greek is “apologia,” from which we get the term apologetics) for the hope that is within us. Jesus speaking to Thomas after the resurrection is an incredibly powerful apologetical scene, as is Elijah and the prophets of Baal, Paul on the Areopagus, and the list goes on. In fact, both the Old and New Testaments are full of apologetics.
Q. How is the interdisciplinary approach that you discuss in your book, Called to Defend, a better way to think about defending one’s faith?
Our culture delights in compartmentalization, and quite often so do we. Being a Christian is all right, so long as it doesn’t interfere with who we are and how we live Monday through Saturday. We’ve separated truth into neat little boxes of religious truth, scientific truth, psychological truth, and our own private truths (read: heresies) that we nurture in our off-hours. Compartmentalizing beliefs makes it easier to dismiss contrary worldviews as simply differing opinions, and if they are merely opinions, how can we be sure that they are worth either defending or refuting?
In contrast, if Christianity is true, it touches all aspects of life. Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose in actual history, not in a religious history somehow divorced from reality. We need a renaissance back to the understanding that truth is holistic, and we need to focus on apologetics as a mindset that informs every aspect of our lives instead of a subject that we only study at specific times in specific ways. By taking an interdisciplinary approach, we are reinforcing the fact that truth permeates all aspects of life, and we are also highlighting unique opportunities to begin apologetical conversations.
Q. How would you encourage your young readers to apply the information from your book?
It is my prayer that, if nothing else, readers would be inspired to find answers to their questions. Are you doubting? Is there something about your faith that has always bothered you, but you were afraid to ask? Are you grieving a loss and wondering if being a Christian is worth it? I pray fervently that we not only allow but encourage the next generation to question and wrestle with their faith, and then point them to the Answer: back to Christ Himself. A good starting point is to ask yourself, “What do I hope no one ever asks me about my faith?” That will pinpoint your greatest uncertainty. Once you’ve identified it, you can dedicate yourself to finding the answer and sharing it with others.
Dear friends, if Christianity is true, we have nothing to fear from the questions of others, and if it is false, life is a meaningless, cruel joke and then we die (1 Corinthians 15:17-22). I pray that the book may be an encouragement to students as they reach out to family and friends who are hurting and questioning their faith, because we all hurt and question at some point in our lives. No one gets out of a war without scars, and life on this earth is one spiritual battle after another for the Christian. We can and should seek to remove hindrances to belief for those around us in order to introduce others to Jesus Christ, the rock on which we all must break. His life, death, and resurrection are historical facts that even the youngest of us are, by the grace of His spirit, called to defend.
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