A Tribute to One of the Greatest Christian Apologists

Author Tim Barnett Published on 07/04/2019

Dr. Norm Geisler’s death has me reflecting on his life. I had the privilege of taking three courses with Geisler at Southern Evangelical Seminary. In fact, he was the main reason I chose to study there. The man was brilliant, articulate, and funny—an incredible combination. He was a professor who had the ability to communicate to the man in the pew. And he was one of my heroes.

After working five years in full-time apologetics ministry, I’ve come to realize what I appreciate most about Geisler’s life: his sacrifice.

I remember dreaming about being a professional apologist. Traveling the world. Speaking to audiences. Building the Kingdom. It all sounds so glamorous. It’s not.

Ministry is hard. There is a great cost to doing this kind of work. True, there is much to be gained. We see believers grow in their faith. We see unbelievers come to Christ. However, there is a deep personal cost to all of this. Missed birthdays. Missed “firsts” from your children. Missed family functions. Missed weekly church attendance.

This is the side of Geisler’s ministry that is invisible to most of us.

Now, when I think about Geisler’s life—decades of service defending the gospel—I don’t think about the books, events, and accolades. I think about his sacrifice.

On more than one occasion, I heard Geisler say that Philippians 1:21 was his life verse. In fact, he said this verse would be engraved on his tombstone. Paul writes, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Paul goes on to say,

If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (Phil. 1:22–24)

This verse fits Geisler’s life perfectly. Every day—right up until Christ called him home—Geisler fruitfully labored. And we are far better for it.

Many people think about retirement at 65 (or earlier, if possible). But not men like Geisler. Men like Geisler don’t retire—not willingly, anyway. Instead, they keep laboring until their promotion.

Congratulations on the promotion, Dr. Geisler. Now it’s time for you to rest and be with Christ. Your students will take it from here.