Norman L. Geisler: A Student’s Tribute

By Brian Huffling 

I first heard about Dr. Norman L. Geisler when I was in high school. I bought his When Skeptics Ask. I glossed over it but thought it was beyond me. During my senior year of college, my wife and I decided to move back to my native Charlotte after graduation and study apologetics under Dr. Geisler at Southern Evangelical Seminary. Before making the move, we visited the seminary. While sitting in the registrar’s office, Dr. Geisler walked by, and I was star struck. After the tour, Dr. Doug Potter introduced us to Dr. Geisler. I was so nervous. He asked if we had lunch plans. I got even more nervous. We said no, and he asked if we would have lunch with him. Of course, we said yes. On the way out of the building he asked if I would drive as his car was in the shop. Even more nervous.

We went to a place called Wolfgang Puck (which is no longer there). I asked what he recommended and he said the butternut squash soup. So, I got that. Let me tell you, it was awful! Between the nervousness and the bad taste, I just couldn’t eat. However, after a while my nerves calmed, and he noticed I wasn’t eating. He asked if I didn’t like the soup, and I replied no (feeling badly). “Here, have some of my sandwich,” he said. Norman Geisler gave me half of his sandwich! I felt so bad. However, that is the kind of man he was. To be such a rock star in the world of evangelical apologetics, philosophy, theology, and biblical studies, he was such a humble man. That was something that I would notice for years to come.

As a student I took several classes from him, including Intro to Apologetics, several theology courses, a philosophy course, and the Problem of Evil. Of course, everyone knows he was a scholarly man. With over 100 books to his name, and I don’t know how many articles and presentations, he had a profound impact on the evangelical community. In fact, his impact was felt in many more circles than that. I have heard several people outside of evangelicalism, such as Ed Feser, and even outside of Christianity, such as Michael Ruse, praise him for his scholarship and care.

I have learned many things from Dr. Geisler. Having read several of his books, taken several classes, and co-taught with him, several characteristics stick out to me.

First, he was as logical as Spock. He could take a complicated argument (or an incoherent mess), and explain it to anyone in the most logical fashion, removing all unnecessary emotion. This is extremely important in issues of philosophy and apologetics when an issue can be convoluted or overly emotional. Second, he was a wizard at debating. Having seen several of his debates and discussions with unbelievers, he was a force to be reckoned with. Third, he was very caring of his students. He went out of his way to help however he could. He didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk. I remember him taking time to help me with my application to be an Air Force chaplain. I had to answer questions that I didn’t even understand what was being asked, let alone how to answer. He was patient and helpful. My wife was always amazed at how he remembered her name with over 50 students in a class and often asked for updates since the last time he had chatted with her even if it had been months prior. Fourth, and this is possibly what he is known best for, he was a bulldog at safeguarding evangelical issues such as inerrancy, the classical view of God, and the bodily resurrection of Christ.

His grace as a teacher didn’t stop with him being my professor. I was fortunate and honored to be able to teach a few classes with him. He treated me with grace and respect, even though I was very much his weaker assistant professor. He was never too busy to stop and say hello and see how things were going.

We can take the following lessons from our fellow servant of Christ: Be knowledgeable Christians. We have to know what we believe and why, and be prepared to defend it. We have to understand our interlocutor’s argument if we want to evaluate it. We have to make the Bible and devotion to Christ our first and foremost goal in life. It is not simply about winning arguments; it is about winning people for Jesus. Last, we have to be willing to serve others. We must live the servant life, as Christ and Dr. Geisler did.

Recommended resources related to the topic:

I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Paperback), and (Sermon) by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek 

Counter Culture Christian: Is There Truth in Religion? (DVD) by Frank Turek

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Brian Huffling, PH.D. have a BA in History from Lee University, an MA in (3 majors) Apologetics, Philosophy, and Biblical Studies from Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES), and a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Religion from SES. He is the Director of the Ph.D. Program and Associate Professor of Philosophy and Theology at SES. He also teaches courses for Apologia Online Academy. He has previously taught at The Art Institute of Charlotte. He has served in the Marines, Navy, and is currently a reserve chaplain in the Air Force at Maxwell Air Force Base. His hobbies include golf, backyard astronomy, martial arts, and guitar.

Original blog: https://bit.ly/3xnkcTJ

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