It was Spring Break of 2002, and I was right in the middle of my freshman year at Trinity Baptist College. A group went to Daytona Beach every year during spring break to do some beach evangelism. It was a truly interesting experience. You’d think people would react negatively to us disrupting their good times, but this wasn’t always true. In fact, just as often as not, people were quite polite to us, and many were glad to have a simple conversation about God, Jesus, Christianity, and Heaven and Hell.
We were instructed to remain in pairs, but on the second day, a conversation naturally separated the person I was partnering with. I soon found myself literally surrounded by a half-dozen or so college students approximately my age. One or two of them was relatively nice, but quite adamant that “The New Testament can’t be trusted, because Paul didn’t even write any of the letters that it says he did. The whole thing was written like 200 years after Jesus was around!”
While they were relatively nice, they were adamant enough (and perhaps not self-aware enough) that they were almost literally in my face (I like my personal space, however, so this may be more a result of my memory of how I felt than my memory of what exactly happened). What I did, in response to being told this is what his professors taught at his university, was to shrug my shoulders. I remember clearly having no idea what to tell them, but also feeling that that accusation sounded ridiculous. All I said was, “I don’t know what to tell you guys, but Paul wrote that stuff in the 50s and 60s, not a couple hundred years later.” I had nothing really more to say, and they had nothing with which to give evidence to their statements either, so it really just ended as a stalemate of assertions, and they went on their way.
I look back now, and I know that I would have asked them for evidence demonstrating this, I would have pointed out that there’s no way the writings of Paul were written that late, we could have discussed manuscript fragments that date earlier than when they thought some of these things were written, we could have talked about 1 Corinthians being regarded by the vast majority of NT scholars as authentically Pauline, etc. Instead, I didn’t know any of these things. And, while my faith was not in any way shaken (because it really happened to be very little more than “My professor says you’re wrong”), I found myself frustrated because I had no idea what to say. While I didn’t start studying apologetics in any real fashion for several more years, that was an experience I will always carry with me. What was your first experience with Christian apologetics? Comment below!