It was Saturday night, March 23, when I discovered that some young apologists on Twitter had put together a March Madness, 64-person, apologetics tournament, patterned after the NCAA college basketball tournament. I had made it through the first round, getting more votes than John Dunfee, but now I was up against Ravi Zacharias. Good luck getting more votes than him!
Ravi had a big lead on me but, just for fun, I started to campaign as if this was serious – all with a big smile; I doubt Ravi had the slightest clue this was taking place or, if he knew, would have cared at all – with my graphics team creating a last-minute meme as if we were two boxers. And with less than two minutes remaining before the vote ended, I passed Ravi and moved on to the next round. I was literally laughing out loud when it happened. Hysterical!
Next up was J. Warner Wallace, another top apologist, known as the cold case detective, and I managed to get more votes than him. I thought for sure he would take me down. After that was William Lane Craig (really!), and somehow, as I continued to solicit votes – to repeat, all for fun – I got by him too. (How in the world?) Out of 64 who started, we were down to just 4.
My next opponent was Pastor Mike Winger, and while he was not as well known as some of the others, he has a great online ministry and, like me, was playing this as if it was for real. He even created a hysterical video to solicit votes, and I responded in kind. Somehow, with the largest number of votes in the competition so far, I barely got by him. What a battle!
Unfortunately, the man standing in my path was – you guessed it – C. S. Lewis. Nobody beats the man himself! So, I immediately acknowledged that I was not in his league, that he was the obvious winner, but that a vote for me meant a vote for Jewish outreach, a vote to stand in the culture wars, and a vote to train the next generation. (You can’t fault me for lack of effort!)
Alas, it was not meant to be (actually, I’m glad he won; at least there was slight semblance of sanity in the midst of all this), and he defeated me 53 percent to 47 percent (with a total of 1,003 votes). But that now that the fun is over, I wanted to share a few important reflections about the tournament.
The Lord has a wide range of people doing important apologetics work. Although there were quite a few top apologists missing from the list of 64, I was blessed to see how many fine men and ministries are on the front lines, defending the faith and presenting the gospel to atheists, Muslims, evolutionists, skeptics, cultists, and others. What an honor to be found in their midst.
Social media is very powerful and should be utilized to the full for advancing the gospel. In reality, the only reason Mike Winger and I made it to the Final Four is because we actively engaged our constituencies on social media. As I said, I seriously doubt whether Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig, or J. Warner Wallace either knew the tournament was taking place or, if they did, cared to get involved. They had better things to do!
But Mike and I were able to get as far as we did not simply because we have good internet platforms, but because we actively engaged our friends and followers. That’s also a reason I decided to stay involved and keep having fun: It gave me another opportunity to interact with lots of you, one on one, and to enjoy some lighthearted time together. Thanks for enjoying this with me!
Apologetics ministries are greatly needed and are making a real impact on many lives. One thing I was not expecting when I started to have fun with the tournament was that so many of you would send so many kind words to me and the others involved. What a joy to hear how we have been able to serve you and strengthen you and equip you! And what can we say when someone tells us that they are in the faith today because of our work? We can only fall to our knees and glorify the Lord, since He alone can save and keep, yet He chooses to work through us.
There is a great paucity of Jewish apologists. Although I joked with my audience through the tournament, urging them to vote for the only one person in the tournament involved in Jewish apologetics, the fact remains that this is a largely neglected field of ministry. Yet the argument can be made that few fields (if any) are as important as this. That’s why I had to write a five-volume series on Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus (among other resources). It’s because nothing like this existed. And that’s why I’ve been one of the very few frontline apologists to debate rabbis successfully.
I’m truly thankful for the up and coming Jewish apologists, and they are doing a great job. I’m simply saying that this is a glaring lack to this day, and I hope and pray we can address this in the years ahead.
C. S. Lewis remains transcendent. More than 55 years after his death in 1963, Lewis still has massive influence. A number of his books are perennial bestsellers (when I checked earlier today on Amazon, a few of his books were selling much better than any of mine, including one of mine released just two weeks ago!), and his impact is incalculable. Even before the Chronicles of Narnia was made into a hit-movie series, his influence was massive, to the point that many senior evangelical leaders today say that Lewis was the writer who influenced them the most. (For the record, the C. S. Lewis website states that “the Narnia books have sold over 100 million copies and been transformed into three major motion pictures.” How utterly remarkable!)
That’s why Lewis is widely hailed as the most influential Christian author of the 20th century. He was an academic genius. (As one website notes, “Lewis was a great scholar. His academic books are still required reading at Oxford and Cambridge. They are tough sledding – with sophisticated arguments, untranslated portions of Greek, Latin, Old and Middle English, Norse, and more.”) But he had the ability to simplify things for both adults and children (it takes an extraordinary genius to write something like Narnia) and then, just as remarkably, to write in a way that is timeless.
Losing to him in the final round only reminded me of just how greatly the Lord has used him. Could it be that there’s another C. S. Lewis out there today, maybe even reading this article? With God, all things are possible!