I have known Tim Barnett for a couple of years, first online and then through an apologetics conference that we were both at. I have watched as God has opened doors for him to expand his apologetics ministry. I see Tim as an important part of what God is doing in Canada is presenting Christianity as a message that is worth taking seriously. I had the opportunity to ask Tim some questions.
Could you share a little of your background and how you came to faith?
I grew up in a Christian home. As far back as I can remember we went to church. If the church doors were open, we were there. These influences played a significant role in me giving my life to Christ at a very young age.
During my teenage years, I attended youth group and Sunday school. But there was more of an emphasis on entertainment than education. We had gym nights, played laser tag, and a host of other fun activities, but we hardly ever learned about Christian theology. As a result, my faith was quite shallow.
In my last two years of high school, I drifted from God. I didn’t need youth group to have fun anymore; I could make my own fun. I started to party almost every weekend. During this time, I continued to drag myself to church on most Sunday mornings. It was still part of my routine. But that’s all it was. However, if I’m honest, I always felt deeply convicted about what I’d done the night before. This behaviour continued right up until my first semester of university.
Once I got to university I had less time to party. I was majoring in physics and minoring in mathematics, and getting good grades became my top priority. This meant many hours in the library studying with friends. These friends came from different religious and nonreligious backgrounds. They were Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, and atheists. During those study sessions, we would often stray from our assignments and begin talking about the big questions of life. It was through these encounters that I was challenged on my beliefs. They wanted to know why I was a Christian.
Embarrassingly, the only answer I could give was that my parents were Christians. That’s it. After twenty years of going to church, I couldn’t even articulate what I believed or why I believed it. Even worse, my non-Christian friends seemed to know Christianity better than I did.
This prompted me to begin to search for answers. I didn’t want to be caught unprepared again. Each week they would have new questions for me, and I would go home that night and try to find the answers.
It was through this process that led me rededicate my life to following Christ. Some people say that apologetics doesn’t save anything. But in my case it was the Holy Spirit, using apologetics, that brought me back into a right relationship with God.
How did you get interested in apologetics?
I came to discover apologetics when I needed it most. I can honestly say that without the work of brilliant apologists, I don’t know where I would be. It was the challenges and objections from my unbelieving friends that I drove me to search for answers.
The more questions I found answers to, the stronger my faith grew and the more confidence I had that Christianity is true. This was an incredible revelation to me. I couldn’t keep this truth to myself so I began putting short presentations together on the material I had learned. This allowed me to combine my two passions: teaching and apologetics. It was a perfect fit. From that point forward, I would give talks whenever the opportunity would present itself. I even began calling and emailing local churches to see if they would give me the opportunity to speak.
You have come on staff with Stand to Reason. Could you tell us a little about STR and your role with them?
Coming on staff with Stand to Reason truly is a dream come true. I discovered Greg Koukl and STR while searching for answers one night in university. From that moment on, I was hooked. I devoured anything and everything STR produced. I never imagined that one day I would actually have the privilege to partner with them.
What I love about STR is they take complex ideas and make them understandable to the person in the pew. They put the cookies on the bottom shelf, so to speak. Whatever your academic background, STR can help you think clearly about the Christian faith. They don’t just tell you what to think; they train you how to think. In fact, the heart of STR is to provide confidence for every Christian, clear thinking for every challenge, and courage and grace for every encounter.
My primary role with STR is speaking. I have the pleasure of traveling around Canada and the US training Christians to be “prepared to give an answer” (1 Pet. 3:15). Given my background as a high school science teacher, I am frequently asked to speak to youth groups and at youth conferences.
In addition to speaking, I also do writing, podcasting, and video blogs. The STR website has thousands of pages of content and each day there is something new.
As a Canadian apologist, what do you see as the greatest opportunities and challenges for expressing the truth of Christianity in the Canadian context?
Canada is ripe for apologetics. I believe that there is an incredible opportunity for apologetics-based ministries, like STR, to have a huge impact in Canada. The need is there, but there just isn’t that many people meeting it. It is very encouraging to see apologetics ministries and conferences becoming more common in Canada. There is still a lot of work to be done, but we’re heading in the right direction.
Read: Atheist challenges youth at church from ChristianWeek
I have found that Canadian Christians are less vocal about their faith. This probably stems from living in a deeply secular culture. Canadian Christians learn pretty quickly that if you stick your neck out and challenge the culture, you might get your head blown off.
Where apologetics comes into play in our Canadian context is its ability to grow your courage and confidence. It was precisely because of the answers I’d received that led me to boldly proclaim and defend the gospel. My prayer is that this would be the testimony of the thousands of Canadian Christians I speak to each year. Of course, this doesn’t mean we’re not going to be attacked and even ridiculed for our faith. Persecution comes with the territory. But the persecution from unbelievers loses it’s intended effect when we know we’re being persecuted because of the truth.