Apologetics and Introduction to Philosophy

Instructor: Gail Efting and Jeffrey Efting

Course Length: Two Semesters 

Type of Class: Group and Online supported Class 

Class Fee: $80 per month per person tuition and fees payable directly to: 

Gail Efting

Online Program Fee: $20.00 per student

Questions: Contact Gail Efting at BALMInstitute@gmail.com 

Minimum & Maximum Class size: minimum – 5 maximum – 25 students 

Credit: High School Communications or Philosophy, Rhetoric, Worldview, Bible – Principles of Apologetics, Honors Composition, Honors Philosophy, or Honors Communication

This course is designed to coordinate well with On Writing Well, and Medieval World History. 

Course Description: When our students graduate from high school they are often leaving behind their families, their friends, and their church communities, for a culture with different responsibilities, expectations and perspectives. Many leave their faith behind as well. Even those going to Christian colleges often experience challenges to their faith which they would never have imagined. How can they hold on to their faith in the face of academic, cultural and even personal bias and persuasion? How can they be a light in the darkness for others? 

By understanding the ideas they are facing, learning how to respond effectively, and by practicing the critical thinking and rhetorical skills that will enable them to be ready to give an answer, with gentleness and respect. A melding of the study of the philosophical underpinnings of our culture with the practical application of apologetic discourse accomplishes this. This is the structure of Apologetics and Intro to Philosophy. This course is a practical preparation for every student who is facing this challenge at college or elsewhere in the culture. 

Considerable experiential learning activities and analysis help students develop a real understanding of each philosophy and its effect on personal interactions and cultural decisions. They also provide students with opportunities to practice answering the deep underlying questions we all face, from a Biblical perspective. Students will develop proficiency in thorough and critical observation, analysis and decision making, as well as winsome and persuasive response. Students will be encouraged to develop a deep understanding and Biblical insight into philosophical issues, and a strong foundation to be “always ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within them, with gentleness and respect”. 

Reading and discussion provide instruction in the history and development of various philosophies. Students will also be given opportunities to create their own apologetics and apply them with others. They will grow the confidence to speak what they believe and learn how to stand firm, “speaking the Truth in love”, developing presentation skills, critical thinking skills, rhetorical skills (both in groups and one-on-one) and discernment. Apologetic debate activities develop and maintain proficiency in thorough and critical listening, analysis and extemporaneous response. Students experience extensive practice in logic and persuasion. Many students develop strong research skills, as well as a clear understanding of applicable Biblical and philosophical issues. Apologetic speech activities help students to become adept at private or public persuasion. Students are encouraged to begin just where they are and expand their skills in a safe environment. 

Course Content: Philosophical debate has merit, and philosophical thought can significantly contribute to theological understanding. But the errors of philosophy must be recognized and refuted, to confirm the validity of Christianity. Apologetics and Introduction to Philosophy will focus on application of critical thinking skills and effective Biblical discourse to the ongoing intellectual and cultural struggle currently raging through universities and scholarly journals, professional societies and the corner coffee shop. 

This course will present students with a clear understanding of historical and modern philosophies and help them to think Biblically about the concepts and underlying assumptions in each school of thought. They will develop or improve skills in responding to various philosophies (obvious or invisible), their underlying assumptions and their consequences both in college classes and the real world. A clear history of the development of philosophical thought will be incorporated into discussion and applied to analysis of current ideas. Students are also encouraged to develop strong patterns of seeking Godly counsel from parents through topic discussion. If your student is not yet in the Upper Academy, this class might still be appropriate, since this class is reading, thinking, and discussion based, with very little writing required. Also, if your student does high school work, you can award high school credit to younger students. Contact Jeffrey Efting for more information. 

Honors credit: Honors credit is available for this class. Honors courses are generally valued more highly in transcript GPA calculations because they are more demanding. Students who request honors work will be held to a higher standard, both in terms of the level of effort in class and the depth of thoughtful analysis in commentaries and other submissions. As the teacher of record, you can expect to discuss the ideas and materials we cover in class, with your student at home. 

Students who choose to be held to Honors standards will be provided with additional academic and challenge work in both areas of study. Studies in Philosophy provide students with information about the presumptions and parameters of historical and modern philosophies as they are presented academically and as they influence the culture. Studies in Apologetics will provide students with information about the cultural issues and ethics which come up in response to Christian doctrine. Although students will better understand the historical progression of thought and consequent cultural changes, the principal purpose of this course is to help them develop skills for dealing with these effectively, in an encouraging environment. Students will gain the knowledge, confidence and practical skills to interact with philosophical assumptions and make decisions which are wise, honor God, and are beneficial for themselves and their culture. Please let Gail Efting know, immediately, if you will be doing honors work. 

Assessment: HEART Academy’s function as a co-op (not a school) precludes teacher/mentors from assigning grades. Since we only have class one day out of five, teachers really cannot evaluate performance fairly. I do want to do everything I can to assist you in this endeavor. The ultimate decisions about grades still rest with you, the teacher of record. However, I will be available to discuss your goals in this area, and to assist you through the year, as needed, in evaluating performance against priorities, answering questions, or simply being a sounding board for discussion. My goal is to support you as you have need in the homeschooling process. I can also provide feedback, from which a record of accomplishment can be created, for students planning to attend college. I will be available to all families, at any time, to answer any questions you may have. 

Course Requirements: My commitment is to provide instruction and encouragement to you. I will be available to help you develop skills in accurate observation and analysis, and in communication – both written and verbal. Students are provided with materials and training which will be beneficial in critical thinking and discernment as well as specific information which will be practically useful in more advanced High School and College courses. 

The commitment requested of each student is to be in class ready to start on time for every session, to submit required postings on time, to complete assignments appropriately, prepared to observe, listen, learn, think, participate, and contribute at his/her BEST “as unto the Lord”. This class requires extensive thought and work. Students will get out of the class what they put into the class, no less, no more. 

Every week students will post a commentary, on line, within two days of class adjournment. This required commentary includes; 

  1. What happened in the class, 
  2. what the student learned in class,
  3.  how the student felt or what the student thought about what s/he learned or experienced in class, and
  4. an overview of the assignments for the coming week.

This commentary will also function as a communication device for you, to clarify your weekly work process and help you focus on some of the issues we are discussing in class. This commentary is designed to provide your student with an opportunity for review and reflection, which are important aspects of conversion from transactional learning to transformational learning. If completed correctly, it will also provide the parent, as teacher of record, with the information necessary to complete any accomplishment descriptions throughout the year. 

The commitment requested of each parent is to participate with your student in class whenever possible and maintain an interactive relationship with them around the process. Parent involvement in the classes on Fridays, discussion at home, and discussion of students’ work online are very important to maintain the parent / student bond, encourage integration of the learning process between group classes and work at home, and allow the students to see you as their primary counsel and guide. This is a priority to me, as my purpose is to partner with you, not to replace you. 

Attendance: This class uses relational dialogue as a principle tenant of the learning process. Students’ attendance in class and online will give them the information, discussion, and guidance they will need to take full advantage of their work at home. Every class or assignment missed will make the learning process more cumbersome. If you have scheduled to miss a class for any reason, please let me know as soon as YOU know, so that I can adjust as necessary, to make the learning process easier. Courtesy mandates communication. 

Classroom Expectations: Real learning is exciting, stimulating and tremendously interesting. It has intrinsic rewards of discovery, growth and realization. Every student should feel free to embrace the joy of learning without distraction. In this class, students are encouraged to put in the effort to take every thought captive to obedience in Jesus Christ, ready to give an answer with gentleness and respect, considering one another ahead of themselves. Nothing will be permitted in the classroom which distracts students from the thrilling process of learning. All students should come to class ready to be attentive, courteous, interactive and teachable. 

Assignment Criteria: Overviews of assignments are given, in order to give you the flexibility which is so important to the homeschool experience. It is the student’s responsibility to make specific time commitments for completion of reading assignments and submission of projects and essays, and to manage time and activities properly in order to keep those commitments, completing assignments thoughtfully and with excellence. This process takes practice and may be difficult at first. However, with perseverance it becomes an automatic and valuable skill. I will be there to guide you with this process. Some work will be due weekly, and reading (or listening to audio books) will be necessary almost every day to absorb the original sources assigned. 

Growth in life is based, to a large degree, on perseverance. Because of the nature of student centered teaching, students will get just as much benefit (guidance, feedback, help and growth) as they contribute of their own effort to the learning process. It’s that simple. For example, if you want to be an excellent writer, or if you are willing to review your written material say, eight to sixteen ways, you will glean more from the writing and subsequent discussions. I will give constructive feedback and guidance on your discoveries and analysis as much as you have interest. Basically, you get the benefit of a skilled mentor to help you move toward your objectives in proportion to your own perseverance and use of available resources. Your questions and comments are encouraged, and I will respond respectfully and thoughtfully to any question you ask. Please make sure you send the email to BALMInstitute@gmail.com and put “HEART AP/PHIL” in the subject line. Additionally, I am available for questions, additional discussion or assistance with writing projects, at the BALM Library at Silicon Valley Christian Assembly in Santa Clara, by appointment. 

Materials: APOLOGETICS AND INTRO TO PHILOSOPHY NOTE BOOK or electronic equivalent (please bring every week) must include; this class description in the Binder, in front of the sections listed below. 

Essays and Supporting Documents 

New Words and Definitions 

Research Materials 

Put your Apologetics Notebook together before the first class. Make sure that you have ALL of the required texts, ready to go. Bring all of these books with you to the first class. 

Workload: All classes taught by Gail Efting are student and family centered. You, as teacher of record, will be evaluating whether your student will be working at middle, high school, or honors levels (Gail Efting can help you with that). There are several ways to determine workload, based on how you plan to evaluate course credit. Determination before the class begins, of the method to be used, makes the workload planning and record keeping process much easier. Two common methods of valuation are by time (based on the number of hours of coursework completed in the year) and by competency (based on the actual performance of the student in the area of study). 

Time based methods (called Carnegie hours) are used by most school systems, as the time spent is easy to track. But I recommend the competency method, because this method is actually more student centered. Competency measurements allow the student to interact with the content and process as long (or as little) as is necessary for acceptable performance in each area of study. This gives the student the opportunity to learn how to become a self-directed, life-long learner. Competency based measures are more effective in allowing students to work to mastery in areas of interest, by stimulating learning autonomy (a very important capacity, if they intend to go to college or get a job). Honors work requires more time and effort, of course, but in an area of passion, it is well worth while to allow time and energy for work to this level. The online system will keep track of assignments and commentaries completed, records of posts, and any other project materials the student chooses to store there. Please contact Gail Efting if you would like to discuss any of this further. 

Curriculum: Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions. Gregory Koukl 

Defending Your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics by R. C. Sproul 

The Universe Next Door, fifth edition, Sire 

Optional materials: Staying Christian in College, Budziszewski 

Faith at State, Kennedy 

Chris Chrisman goes to College, Sire 

Honors Texts: Introduction to Philosophy, A Christian Perspective, Geisler, Feinberg

Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Kreeft, Tacelli 

Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, Moreland, Craig 

Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, A Reader, Winter, Hawthorne 

Additional helpful materials: Classical Apologetics, Sproul, Gerstner, Lindsley 

Christian Apologetics, Geisler Unshakable Foundations, Geisler, Bocchino 

Reasonable Faith, Craig 

Making Choices, Kreeft 

Contacting the Teacher: If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to send an e-mail to BALMInstitute@gmail.com. Please make sure you put, “HEART APOLOGETICS” your name, and your topic in the subject line of your note 

Teacher Assistant Position Available: One TA position is currently available for this class. If you would like to enjoy some lively discussions with curious and insightful students (or support the class in a more “behind the scenes” way) please send Gail Efting an e-mail immediately. Tuition discounts are available for TAs. 

Assignments for the first week: As soon as you read through this Info Sheet, send Gail Efting an e-mail at BALMInstitute@gmail.com. In the subject line enter “HEART APOLOGETICS 2019” and your name. As soon as confirmation of your registration for this class has been received, you will receive a student ID and password by email, from BALMpathwright. (Make sure you check you spam folder, in case your system rejects it.) Please go online, to the URL given, and begin the intro process for this course. You will be asked to complete sign up and answer several questions before class begins. Please make sure you have set up your student account online no later than Aug. 25th.