Last weekend, I had the privilege of teaching at the CrossExamined Instructor Academy. There was an excellent group of attendees, and I loved having the opportunity to engage with so many passionate apologists. I especially enjoyed time on the final day when instructors were each assigned a room and students were free to move about the rooms and ask questions. One question I was asked during that time led to a particularly interesting conversation:
Why aren’t more women interested in apologetics?
This question regularly comes up in apologetics circles, so it wasn’t surprising. But as the only female instructor at an event where only about 10 percent of the attendees were women, it seemed especially relevant that day. I thought about the question perhaps more deeply than I ever had before.
Here’s what I said.
A lot of people assume (and it has often been said) that men are more analytical than women, and since apologetics is seen as an analytical pursuit, it makes sense that more men would care about it. While I think there is some truth to this, I believe it’s a very small part of the picture.
My professional background is in marketing. In marketing, we know there are two different kinds of interest, based on how relevant something is to a person: intrinsic relevance and situational relevance. Things that have intrinsic relevance to you are things in which you’re naturally interested. For example, I’ve always been fascinated by family history research; it’s intrinsically relevant to me. But many people are bored to tears by researching generations of dead ancestors (my husband included!). Things that are not intrinsically relevant to you, however, can become situationally relevant due to changes in your life circumstances. I’ve seen many people who never cared about family history suddenly want to know all they can about their family tree after a family member dies. That situation creates an interest.
Let’s apply this to apologetics. As a percent of the body of Christ, there are very few Christians - male or female - who are passionate about apologetics. This means we fundamentally have an awareness issue. Very few Christians have even heard of apologetics. That has nothing to do with gender.
I agree that apologetics may be somewhat more intrinsically relevant to men because of the more analytical disposition some have. That has, perhaps, led more men than women to seek out this kind of information on their own (without someone else first making them aware of it). However, I have found, in talking with numerous women in the last few years, that after they become aware of apologetics, it becomes highly situationally relevant to them. They have kids they want to disciple, friends they want to share their faith with, family members who are unbelievers, and so on. In my experience, awareness leads to interest for women even more often than for men. Women are quickly convicted of the need for apologetics in multiple spheres of life because of the many relationships they care about.
The bottom line: Seeing fewer women than men who are passionate about apologetics right now really isn’t a function of gender. It’s a function of low apologetics awareness in the church more broadly.
Whether you’re a man or woman, we should be working together as the body of Christ to demonstrate the need in our local churches to understand apologetics (you can, for example, start a Grassroots Apologetics for Parents chapter!). When awareness grows, I have no doubt we’ll see proportionately more women passionate in this area. And I have no doubt that when more Christians of either gender are prepared to make a case for and defend the truth of Christianity, we’ll make a far stronger stand in this culture. I pray for that day to come.