Marvin Olasky

I’d like to start off this column about apologetics with an apology. I apologize to all the people I’ve sat next to on airplanes, occasionally exchanging a few words about going to Atlanta but nary a mention about going to heaven. To be precise, I’m no master of evangelism. Any successes I’ve had in focusing the attention of others on what’s most important have been accidental (seems that way to me) and utterly foreordained (by God).

So, you are getting the following from me as reporter, not the frequent practitioner I should be—and what I can report is that things have changed. God bless the methods of Campus Crusade (excuse me, Cru), but the name change is organizational recognition that we’re no longer in the 1950s and 1960s. That’s when most Americans had only three television channels to choose from and, in essence, three worldview alternatives—Christianity, atheism, or apathy.

From the late 1960s through the early 1990s, UHF and then cable television emerged. Meanwhile, existentialism became more than a French fancy and nihilism more than a German nightmare. Eastern religions started to make inroads. Americans had dozens of TV channels from which to choose, and the apologetic methods of Francis Schaeffer contrasted biblical approaches with dozens of worldviews.

Schaeffer, instead of focusing on the four spiritual laws, proposed that months of study and discussion could lead students to truth, through God’s grace. In The God Who Is There, Escape from Reason, and other books, Schaeffer showed how biblical objectivity is true and reasonable, and the alternative is nothingness and despair. Schaeffer was God’s instrument in changing the lives of hundreds in person, and then hundreds of thousands through books and films.

But change did not stop in the early 1990s. The past two decades have brought us hundreds of channels for specialty interests and millions of different religious choices. That’s because “Sheilaism,” named after a young nurse, has become our national religion. In their 1985 book Habits of the Heart, Robert Bellah and Richard Madsen quoted “Sheila” saying, “I believe in God. I’m not a religious fanatic.?…?It’s Sheilaism. Just my own little voice…it’s just trying to love yourself and be gentle with yourself.”

Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky is editor-in-chief of the national news magazine World. For additional commentary by Marvin Olasky, visit
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