Growing up as a “military kid” in locations across the U.S., Houston Baptist University Professor Dr. Philip Tallon learned to be adaptable to his family’s way of life. Yet, accepting the precepts of the Christianity he’d been taught wasn’t as simple as accepting a new town or school.
“I think I have a comfort with learning unexpected things and a discomfort for having to settle for easy answers,” he said. “I went through a long period where I wasn’t getting good answers, and my confidence in Christianity as having validity waned. God sent people who could explain Christianity on a deeper level, and in a compelling way that made sense to me. That’s a big part of why I think apologetics is important to me.”
Tallon felt a call to ministry and academia. He went to seminary before completing his doctorate at the University of St. Andrews. He now serves as chair of the HBU Department of Apologetics.
“The word ‘apologetics’ comes from the Greek word ‘apologia,’ meaning defense,” Tallon said. “It’s offering a reason for the great hope we have as Christians.”
HBU is entering its fifth year of offering the Online Master of Arts in Apologetics. The course of study offers the choice of a cultural or a philosophical apologetics track. Students learn the biblical basis for theological ideas, study key writings and explore philosophical implications and related cultural concepts.
“Students can gain an understanding of what Christians always and everywhere have believed in order to share and defend the faith,” Tallon said.
Dr. Jeffrey Green, dean of the Graduate School and interim dean of Christian Thought, said there really is no typical student in the program. Apologetics learners, like the program’s faculty, come from many Christian faith traditions. Students’ paths include church ministry, mission work, teaching, writing, doctoral work or simply open-ended study. They learn from their places of residence throughout the U.S. and even the world.
“I’ve been happy with the diversity we’ve had,” Green said. “Students come at different stages of life. The program’s designed to be entered into no matter their background. We have an open door.”
One of the biggest draws of the program is the ability to learn from world-class professors and instructors. Faculty members are respected authors, researchers and field experts in their own right. For example, Oxford-based Dr. Michael Ward brings his knowledge of great Christian thinker C.S. Lewis, Dr. Holly Ordway uses her extensive authorship and literary criticism expertise to help students translate their ideas to writing, Mary Jo Sharp brings her skills as a speaker and debater and Dr. Michael Licona shares his research about evidence for the resurrection of Christ. Other preeminent apologetics educators bring their specialties to the programmatic table.
“I think the quality of our faculty is excellent,” Green said. “I think students will find few people who are better experts in their respective areas.”
HBU President Dr. Robert Sloan said it’s the faculty members who truly make the curriculum come alive.
“The faculty here are the difference-makers,” he said. “Apologetics has often been a male domain, but here at HBU, we have the finest men and women apologists in the world.”
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