Lauren Hoekstra—Staff Writer
Justin Bailey adjusts his shirt sleeves and occupies his office chair with a smile. His recently published book, Reimagining Apologetics: The Beauty of Faith in a Secular Age, sits on a small podium on his desk. One of his computer monitors shows the Amazon best-selling books chart in a tab (it briefly peaked at number one in the new releases for religious philosophy category) and the other displays a full email inbox.
His debut novel explores how Christians should proclaim the gospel in a secularized culture. The main question Bailey asks is how would it look for Christians to approach crises of faith with a sense of imagination, not just intellect?
Before coming to Dordt to teach theology, Bailey pastored to young adults. During his ministry, he encountered a disconnect in the field. One day a student approached Bailey and said to him that while he was in church and listening to the preaching, it was like a spell was waved and the world made sense. But as soon as the student walked out of the building, the spell broke.
Bailey went on to look for stronger “spells” that could help students in similar situations not feel so disconnected from their spirituality during the other six days of the week. He concluded that imagination was the missing piece.
“There are things about faith that you can only understand if you’re on the inside,” Bailey said. “How do you commend that to someone on the outside? Imaginative empathy is the way to do this, but it hasn’t really been developed in the church.”
“There are things about faith that you can only understand if you’re on the inside”
The entire process, from the proposal of the book to the publishing date, took about 30 months. His process found success not in waiting for inspiration to hit, but in sitting down here and there for an hour or so to write in small increments. Bailey took two writing retreats where he would write for 14-16 hours a day, mainly editing and working on overall structure, for four to five days in a row.
In writing his book, dealing with imposter syndrome gave Bailey his biggest challenge.
“It never really goes away,” Bailey said. “But I’ve learned not to listen to it and listen to other voices instead. I almost don’t want [my book] to be noticed. I’m afraid to offer it up to the mercy of the internet. The concept behind my book is very different from traditional apologetics and so there will be some people who don’t like it.”
Since the publication, Bailey has been interviewed by different radio and TV stations, while also featuring as a guest on several podcasts. The editorial reviews published thus far swing largely positive.
“Until we see the beauty and generosity of faith, there is no reason for us to care if it’s true.”
It has been encouraging for Bailey to have people from all different parts of his past say that they are going to read his book and how proud they are of him. It is exciting for him, as a first-time author, to have people so excited about his work.
He has already started working on a second book, inspired by his time teaching at Dordt and wishing he had a book like the one he is currently writing.
In reading Reimagining Apologetics, the reader should understand that the main goal of the Christian is to show the world the beauty of Jesus Christ since beautiful things inevitably pull people towards it.
“If you encountered someone who didn’t believe, would they be able to look at your life and find it beautiful, even if they can’t bring themselves to believe it?” Bailey said. “Until we see the beauty and generosity of faith, there is no reason for us to care if it’s true. If we don’t take time to appreciate [the beauty of it], then we end up presenting a faith that makes big things small.”