One of the central thinkers of modern American evangelicalism, Norman L. Geisler (1932–2019), died recently. He was a Christian philosopher, apologist, theologian, educator, and debater. He was also one of the most prolific Christian writers ever—having authored, coauthored, or edited some 127 books.1 Geisler received degrees from Tyndale College and Wheaton College and his doctoral degree in philosophy from Loyola University of Chicago. He had a long, distinguished career and ministry.
Geisler served as a professor at two of conservative evangelicalism’s leading seminaries: Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Dallas Theological Seminary. He went on to cofound two other schools: Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES) and Veritas International University. He founded and served as first president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and the International Society of Christian Apologetics. He also served as president of the Evangelical Theological Society and was a signer of the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.
Some of the most important books Geisler authored and coauthored include the following: Christian Apologetics, Inerrancy, A General Introduction to the Bible, Introduction to Philosophy, The Battle for the Resurrection, Thomas Aquinas: An Evangelical Appraisal, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals, When Critics Ask, When Skeptics Ask, Systematic Theology (four volumes), and Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics.
Geisler was a Protestant Thomist and specialized in the topics of Christian philosophy and apologetics—focusing especially on the existence of God, ethics, worldviews, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Theologically he addressed such issues as biblical inerrancy, creation, and systematic theology.
I first met Norm in 1989 when he visited the Christian Research Institute where I was working as a young researcher. When he first heard my last name he said, “I don’t want the Sample—I want the real thing!” In a field often marked by serious-mindedness, Norm possessed a refreshing sense of humor.
He offered me encouragement when I was writing a series of articles on an evangelical assessment of Roman Catholicism. In the late 1990s I participated in a friendly public dialogue-debate with Geisler and a Nazarene theologian in San Diego, California. The topic of the debate was “Is the Human Will Free to Grasp Salvation?” One of the most enjoyable parts of the evening was sparring with Norm about who was the better all-around Christian thinker: St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas? I backed Augustine and Norm backed Aquinas.
He graciously wrote the foreword of a book I coauthored entitled The Cult of the Virgin: Catholic Mariology and the Apparitions of Mary (Baker, 1992). I respectfully viewed Norman Geisler as the General MacArthur (larger than life, in command) of Christian apologetics. He bore the nickname “Stormin’ Norman.”
Dr. Geisler was married to his wife Barbara for an admirable 62 years. Together they had 6 children, 15 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren.
Norman Geisler has now entered his Savior’s presence. The mark he leaves includes a heritage of family and faith, and his apologetics legacy lives on in the untold number of Christians that he influenced.
Reflections: Your Turn
Have you read any of Norman Geisler’s books? Do you have a favorite Christian author who has significantly influenced you?
- Kate Shellnutt, “Died: Apologist Norman Geisler, Who Didn’t Have ‘Enough Faith to Be an Atheist,’” Christianity Today, July 1, 2019, https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/july/died-apologist-norman-geisler-apologist-seminary-ses-theolo.html.