Friday, June 26, 2009

Today marks the 20th Anniversary of my father's death. In some ways, I still cannot believe it--he died so suddenly and left such a big, empty place in our lives. As sad as we are without him, I know this day--June 26, 1989--was the happiest day of his life. He wanted nothing more than to be with Jesus.

I had planned on writing a few words in memory of him (so easy to write pages and pages--I loved him dearly), and then I was contacted by one of his best former researchers at Christian Research Institute, Kenneth Samples, about something he'd just written and it was so eloquent--and so touching--I knew I couldn't do any better.

Thank you, Ken.

In Memory of Walter Martin (1928-1989): The Original Bible Answer Man, Part 1 (of 3)
by Kenneth Richard Samples

Have you ever had a Jehovah's Witness knock at your door? Perhaps it's just me, but they always seem to come to my house at the most inconvenient times.

The first story I ever heard about Walter Martin involved turning the tables on the Jehovah's Witnesses. The story is that Martin, a native of New York City, went to the headquarters of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society located in Brooklyn. He knocked on their front door and began witnessing to them about the Jesus Christ of historic Christianity. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Martin had what my Jewish friends call "chutzpah." I had the distinct privilege of working with and for him at the countercult organization he founded, Christian Research Institute, in the late 1980s.

In light of the 20th anniversary of Martin's death (June 26), I'd like to share six things I learned from his example as a gifted and accomplished Christian apologist. These lessons have been enormously helpful in my own trek through the challenging Christian apologetics enterprise.

1. Rhetorical Eloquence

Like one of his favorite politicians, President Ronald Reagan, Martin was a great communicator. He mastered the media venues of radio and television in order to convey the Christian message with clarity, intelligence, and force. Martin was one of the finest public speakers I have ever heard. Amazingly, he could speak extemporaneously and nevertheless speak in complete, grammatically correct sentences. He was always a very hard act to follow.

While few can match Martin's gift and skill of rhetorical eloquence, his example challenged me to concentrate on speaking in a clear, concise, cogent, and compelling manner. I call this the "four C's of communication." I encourage would-be apologists to work at sharpening their rhetorical skills. As Martin proved, eloquent speaking is a powerful vehicle in persuading people of the truth of the gospel.

2. Courage Under Fire

Courage is the classic virtue I admire most. That's probably why I greatly admire noble warriors. Courage is a rare trait both in the Christian church and outside of it. But Martin exhibited a great deal of courage in his apologetics ministry. He wasn't afraid to take a tough stand on a controversial issue and live with the repercussions.

Some people vigorously criticized Martin when he asserted that Seventh-day Adventism and Roman Catholicism shouldn't be categorized as non-Christian cults. For the record, Martin did not give either church body a clean bill of theological health and criticized both belief systems. Martin did his homework and was willing to absorb criticism from all sides.

As one of his research assistants, I adopted and defended Martin's views on Adventism and Catholicism. Accordingly, some of Martin's critics also publicly criticized my positions. While it's never easy for a Christian apologist to enter into the arena and take the heat, aspiring apologists need to know that facing criticism comes with the apologetic territory.

Though he has a different temperament and labors in a different part of the apologetic vineyard, Hugh Ross exhibits Martin-like courage in defending old-Earth creationism. Yet Martin himself affirmed old-Earth creationism long before it gained popular support.

In part two of this article I will discuss two more apologetic lessons that I learned from my former boss and apologetics mentor, Walter Ralston Martin.

In Memory of Walter Martin (1928-1989): The Original Bible Answer Man, Part 2 (of 3)

In Memory of Walter Martin (1928-1989): The Original Bible Answer Man, Part 3 (of 3)

At my father's memorial service, we played a song sung by Glen Campbell called, No More Night. I've never been able to listen to it since that day, but I love to read the words:

The timeless theme
Earth and heaven will pass away
It's not a dream
God will make all things new that day
Gone is the curse
From which I stumbled and fell
Evil is banished to eternal hell

No more night
No more pain
No more tears
Never crying again
And praises to the great I Am
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb

See over there

There's a mansion prepared for me
Where we will live with my Savior eternally...

No more night

No more pain
No more tears
Never crying again
And praises to the great I Am
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb*

John 14:2-3

"In My Father's house are many mansions ; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."

*(Music and Lyrics by Walt Harrah)