It all started in a library.
A product of a Christian upbringing, Dr. Timothy Paul Jones, was the first in his family to attend college.
And the culture shock was real.
“It was a Christian college and the professors, for the most part, believed the Bible, but they didn’t believe the Bible quite the same way I had been taught to believe the Bible,” Timothy said with a smile. “For us it was King James Version only and all these extraneous things, but in college I started learning about the New Testament text and all these things I never knew about and I found myself questioning my faith.”
Enter the library job.
Timothy, a preacher’s kid, began work in an academic library surrounded by thousands of books and plenty of time.
One night, as he shelved books returned that day, he looked down to find Bertrand Russell’s 1927 essay Why I Am Not A Christian.
“I was questioning my faith in a lot of ways, I was struggling with certain things, and so I just thought, ‘Huh, this is interesting. Why I Am Not A Christian.’”
After reading Russell’s essay, Timothy continued to run into conspiracy theories about Jesus and, as a result, the next several months were spent poring over every skeptical and atheistic work he could get his hands on.
“My faith just began to fracture and crack beneath the weight of all I was reading,” he said. “I was simply not prepared to answer any of the questions that I was being faced with.
“I had never heard about apologetics, I didn’t know what apologetics was. It wasn’t anything I was familiar with at all; I was just reading all this stuff that was attacking the faith in so many different ways.”
As his crisis of faith continued, Timothy discovered C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity.
Due to Lewis’s books being banned at his Christian grade school, Timothy’s interest was piqued.
“I began to read and see there is a reasonable case to be made for trusting in Christ,” he said. “But more than that, what really got me was [Lewis’s] sensibility. He wasn’t panicking as if the faith was under attack and he had to angrily respond in attack or anything like that. It was simply, calmly, saying and showing there is a reason to believe in Jesus Christ.”
Maybe it was that calm, winsome way of communicating that did it, or maybe it was Lewis’s prudent way of making sense of the world in a way that told a bigger and better story than he had heard before, but Timothy was hooked.
Over a brief course of time, he was introduced to other writings from F. F. Bruce, R. C. Sproul, and others that took his curiosity from questions to conviction. Conviction about Scripture, reasons for the Christian faith, and, most importantly, the bigness of God.
Timothy, who has authored or contributed to more than a dozen books, went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in biblical literature before getting his master of divinity in church history and New Testament studies and a doctorate of philosophy with an emphasis on the psychology of faith.
FROM STUDENT TO TEACHER
Timothy is now the associate vice president of the Global Campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., as well as a C. Edwin Gheens professor of Christian family ministry.
He also teaches courses in applied apologetics and serves as a pastor at the Midtown congregation of Sojourn Community Church.
Fueled by his own internal struggle to find good reasons for what he thought true about the Bible, Timothy landed in teaching and writing on apologetics in effort to prevent others from struggling the same way he did.
Family ministry, though not his primary focus in research and writing, was his focus as a pastor, minister, husband, and father.
So how do those two fields connect?
“When I teach my class here, for example, on apologetics and the local church, a lot of what I’m doing is talking about what are the factors that contribute to college students losing their faith?” he said. “What are children’s natural inclinations about God and how do we correct false views of God in a way that makes a faith that is more resilient for the future? That’s a lot of what we do, which is the nexus, it’s that point where family ministry and apologetics do interconnect with one another because both are about developing resilient faith that will last into the upcoming and forthcoming generations.”
Firmly persuaded that the call to apologetics is not a call for a certain gender, profession, or role within the church, but for the church as a whole, Timothy is convinced of the necessity of women being trained to reasonably defend the faith.
“Some of the most important apologists in the world are going to be mothers because they are going to hear the questions a long time before the rest of us,” he said. “We need to train our young women to be apologists. We need to train our young single women to be able to mentor young girls and try to help them unpack the issues they are facing in the challenges to their faith. That’s part of what we ought to be doing because 1 Peter 3 is not given to one particular class within the church, this is given to the whole church.”
Timothy and his wife Rayann have been married for 23 years and have four daughters, Hannah, Skylar, Kylinn, and Katrisha. They reside in Louisville.