Josh Chatraw (Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Executive Director of the Center for Apologetics and Cultural Engagement at the School of Divinity at Liberty University. He co-authored Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World, an important book, especially for students heading off to college in the fall. It will help anyone stand strong as it offers intelligent, reasonable answers to the difficult questions that will inevitably challenge the faith of every believer.
WORDsearch chatted with Josh about his Bible study tips, sermon prep, and apologetics.
WORDsearch: How do you make sure you don’t start viewing the Bible as purely academic?
Josh Chatraw: I ground my life in the local church. The Church is God’s design for His people. So as I write, study, and teach in an academic setting, I am conscious to not separate these things from my commitment as a disciple of Jesus who is committed to Christ’s bride. This also means making decisions that put Christ before the academic applause of peers. To assume to be a Christian teacher, I am must be willing to say with Paul, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” My role is not to “get a seat” at every table or show myself strong. I pray that I will instead be motivated to study the Bible to know God and to make him known.
WS: How do you use technology in your study of the Bible/writing your books?
JC: I use technology every day. Technology can obviously have certain drawbacks for life and ministry, but technology also helps me to do everything from correct my spelling (which is no small feat) to do quick searches of information from the Bible and commentaries. I can look up a book online, read several reviews on it, order it, and have it delivered on my doorstep by the next day! And, we take all this for granted! In reflecting on this, I am reminded of God’s common grace.
WS: Do you have any Bible study tips?
JC: Read it! Seriously, this is my advice. Make daily Scripture reading a priority. Especially for students whose reading load can feel overwhelming, Bible reading can easily be pushed to the periphery. I’ve been there and done that. If you don’t plan for it, it likely won’t happen.
WS: What advice or encouragement do you have for pastors in their sermon preparation?
JC: I think sermon preparation is kind of like a golf swing. There are some obvious bad approaches and there are some obvious good approaches, but most everyone’s swing looks a bit different and that’s okay. The most important thing is to find some consistency and make sure it is working. I’ve been in preaching courses and have heard friends be dogmatic about one kind of style or one kind way to do preparation. I’m just not convinced that there is a one size fits all approach. However, if you don’t do some planning ahead and find a consistent way to do prep for your sermons, I think you will end up with very little consistency in quality. This is not good in golf or in preaching. So a few tips:
- Block out plenty of time
- Read quality commentaries
- Avoid distractions
- Expand your yearly reading to things other than theology/Bible (preaching to the heart means means being aware of the culture and how to appeal to people’s imagination)
- Run ideas by other people who care for you and will be honest
WS: Why is Apologetics important to you? What was important to you about writing Truth Matters?
JC: As a college student I actually had a certain uneasiness toward apologetics for awhile. However, this gave way to the practical need for it in my own life and then my need for it gave way to an enthusiastic appreciation for it as I entered into pastoral ministry.
The shift began to occur as a college student when I took an undergraduate New Testament class at the state school I was attending. I was a business major at the time, but I had become convinced that I was going to enter into some kind of ministry. It was too late to change majors (at least in my mind), so I started using my elective courses for things I thought would help me in ministry.
I naïvely took a New Testament course thinking I would just learn the Bible. Well, I did learn the Bible. Yet, I got a bit more than I had bargained for. The professor spoke the first day about how he knew many of us had probably taken his class because our interest in the Bible is rooted in our personal devotion or faith traditions. He informed us, however, in what felt like a condescending tone, that in this class we would be talking about history—and what the vast majority of scholars have known about the New Testament for quite some time, “the sure results of historical-critical scholarship.”
Not only was I anxious about the questions being raised, I was frustrated. Why had I not heard any of these issues discussed in my local church growing up? All my life I had been taught the “What’s” of Christianity; that is, the content of Christianity. But, now I was desperately searching for what Tim Keller calls the “Why’s” of Christianity: “Why should I believe this?”
The church has too often left the “Why” questions out of their preaching and discipleship programs. And at this point in my life I can remember becoming disenfranchised, thinking, “I’ve grown up in the church all my life, and it’s the first time I’ve even heard these questions posed. Why am I not equipped to answer these? Are there even reasonable answers?” To make a long story short, this is one of the reasons I co-authored Truth Matters and Truth in a Culture of Doubt and why I think apologetics is important.