Kurt Jaros is the Executive Director of Defenders Media, an alliance of evangelistic ministries. He also holds a Masters degree in Christian Apologetics from Biola University and a Masters degree in Systematic Theology from King's College, London. Currently, he is pursuing his PhD through the University of Aberdeen and is studying the doctrine of original sin in the writings of monks from southern France in the fifth and sixth centuries.
If he isn't busy enough, he is also the host of Veracity Hill, a podcast that is "striving for truth on faith, politics, and society." You can listen to it live every Saturday or there is an archive on the website.
I was excited to talk to Kurt because he is doing excellent work not only producing his own content but also helping other apologists work together and promote their content. He really is the epitome of the 21st century apologist who is engaging culture across many different platforms.
Thank you Kurt for you coming on Entering the Public Square!
ZS: You are the executive director of Defenders Media which I understand is an alliance of apologetics ministries. Tell me what gave you the idea to found this kind of organization and why it is important to work together as apologists.
KJ: I got the idea of starting an alliance from my previous experience working with and for other Christian apologetics ministries. There is often talk of working together but the action often did not seem to follow, for whatever reason. So I created what is essentially an umbrella organization. Defenders isn’t just a ministry that will rehash apologetic arguments but supports existing apologetic-based ministries. We want to help ministries become better at what they do. In that sense we are kind of like consultants, except we don’t charge corporate-world fees since we are a non-profit. In fact, we by-and-large raise our own support.
I think it’s important to work together as apologists because we all have the same basic mission: to make disciples of Jesus, and with that we are particularly focused toward all things apologetics related. It’s great to show Christian unity while not demanding uniformity. Some ministries require people to agree with their perspective on some controversial issues. Broadly speaking, I’d rather offer answers to skeptics that are logically compatible to Christian theism even if I don’t hold to a specific view myself. I hope in doing so, the effect of those logically compatible answers tear down the obstacles that are preventing the skeptic from faith in Christ. So in doing this we can recognize and work with people whom we may have some strong (but non-essential) theological disagreements with.
ZS: You recently had a Defenders Media conference. You had a high-caliber list of apologists presenting that day. How did it go?
KJ: The first annual Defenders Media conference was awesome! We had Ed Stetzer, Mike Licona, Tim McGrew, and others come and speak to a crowd of some 130 people at Christ Church of Oak Brook in Oak Brook, IL. There were many sponsors of the event, including Chick-fil-A, so we got some great lunch! We received some excellent feedback from the attendees who gave glowing reviews. It was such a blessing to provide an opportunity for Christians to come and be edified by what they were learning and encouraged to go out and love God with their mind (and of course, in doing so, share with others what they are learning about in apologetics). I’m very much looking forward to coordinating our next big conference.
ZS: You are also the host of Veracity Hill, a rather new podcast. How has that been going for you, and have you had any favorite episodes so far that maybe our readers might want to go back and listen to?
KJ: The show has been a lot of fun! My work with Defenders is behind the curtain, so to speak, and it taps into my entrepreneurial spirit. Veracity Hill provides a platform for me to be an apologist. It’s the place where I can talk about the things I am thinking about and a place I hope that grows into the forum for me to discuss things with other people. I miss the good ol’ college days where I could talk about ideas with peers at the lunch table. So then I found myself desiring those discussions on the internet. I used to debate on Facebook more often and I found that to be a big time-sucker. While I enjoy(ed) doing that, I would find myself a bit tired and a couple-to-few hours would pass by. While Veracity Hill takes more time than Facebook debates, it’s a more constructive place to hold discussions because that content is more easily available to the public and can be searched more easily. Additionally, I’m hoping to get the show into a couple radio markets in 2017, so it would then move from being just a podcast to a radio ministry.
ZS: What is coming up next on the podcast? Are there any special guests or topics that are particularly exciting?
KJ: In the month of October we did all the episodes on political topics because of the election season, so in November and December we’ll be getting back to some theological and apologetics-focused issues. The show has a broad spectrum of topics. Our tagline is, ‘Striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.’ One of our unstated missions is to help Christians learn how to think about such a wide array of issues that we talk about. We also need to learn not to be scared of positions that might be foreign to our 21st century sensibilities. A better attitude would be to engage with positions we disagree with and explain why. In December we’ll be talking with Perry Marshall on his book Evolution 2.0 wherein he seeks out what he calls a “Third Way” between the evolution and creation debate. You can also look forward to an episode on Jesus mythicism before Christmas.
ZS: Clearly, you are wearing many hats as you are also pursuing your PhD. Many apologists similarly are bivocational. What advice would you have for these people who are dedicated to the work of apologetics but might not think they can commit the time?
KJ: That is a great question. I’m not full-time in ministry, though some weeks it feels like it! While I do raise support for my work, I also find myself taking odds and ends jobs to help cover the rest of the bills. One job I’ve found particularly conducive to ministry is substitute teaching. While sometimes substituting calls for active teaching, sometimes absent teachers will assign work during the period (or a study hall). When that happens, I can open up my laptop and do some ministry work online while keeping an eye on the students. Another job that I took was delivering lost luggage to their owners. I did this for a couple months just once a week. This provided an opportunity for me to listen to some apologetics podcasts while getting paid to drive around. The reason why I stopped was because I was doing it late into the evening and it was taking a hit to by Sunday morning functionality.
So my advice would be … if you find yourself needing to take a less-than-desirable job to pay the bills, find a job (or jobs) that have enough built-in flexibility to let you do what you love to do. Doing that would afford you the opportunity to continue working at your long-term goals while also getting by in the short-term.
ZS: Tell me about the future of apologetics. Do you think that churches and other organizations are finally starting to understand the value of apologetics and the necessity of being able to engage in this way with the world around us?
KJ: The future of apologetics is unclear. I think there will always be a place for it (Paul debated in the synagogues and in the public squares). But whether it will become mainstream remains to be seen. The role of the apologist is to be a mediator between the academy and the laymen. If we spend too much time learning from the academy we won’t do too well reaching the laymen. And if we spend too much time acting like the laymen, then we won’t do too well understanding the academy. So in that respective, I’m not sure the apologist will ever go mainstream … unless it is done subversively.
To be a subversive apologist is to be an apologist by utilizing means other than apologetics, properly speaking. C. S. Lewis serves as a great example here of a subversive apologist. I would guess that his writings are the closest to ever becoming mainstream apologetics. All of that said, I think there is a growing recognized need for apologetics in the church. The research on millennials leaving the church in larger numbers than past generations is showing that their reasons for leaving are mostly apologetics-based. Christians have been caught off guard being perceived as anti-science, holding outdated views on sexuality, unable to help people address their doubts, etc. Churches are now realizing how apologetics is a great tool for addressing many (if not all) of these concerns.