Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why Apologetics? An Introduction

Apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia, which means "to give a reason or defense." Apologetics come in many forms:

Classical Apologetics: Classical apologetics is so-called because it was the apologetic method practiced by the first thinkers who studied and practiced the application of reason to the defense of Christianity. These pioneer apologists included Augustine, Anselm, and Thomas Aquinas. Modern classical apologetics is represented by William Paley, John Locke, C.S. Lewis, B.B. Warfield, John Gerstner, R.C. Sproul, William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, and Norman Geisler.

Classical apologetics stresses rational arguments for the existence of God and historical evidence supporting the truth of Christianity. Stress is placed on miracles as a confirmation of the claims of Christ and the biblical prophets and apostles. [1]

Experiential Apologetics: Experiential apologetics is the form of defending the Christian faith that appeals to Christian experience as evidence for the truth of Christianity. In its appeal to internal, as opposed to external, evidence, it contrasts sharply with other apologetic systems. Some proponents of experiential apologetics have been Meister Eckhart, Soren Kierkegaard, Karl Barth, and Elton Trueblood. [2]

Historical Apologetics: Historical apologetics stresses the historical evidence as the basis for demonstrating the truth of Christianity. At this point it overlaps with classical apologetics. The crucial difference between the two is that historical apologetics does not believe that it is necessary to first establish the existence of God. Historical apologists believe that the truth of Christianity, including the existence of God, can be proven from the foundation of historical evidence alone. Some proponents of historical apologetics have been: Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen, including classical apologists such as Augustine, Anselm, and Thomas Aquinas.

What sets historical apologetics apart is the belief that one can defend the whole of the Christian faith, including the existence of God and the fact of miracles, strictly from the historical evidence, without the necessity of any prior appeal to theistic arguments (although some use theistic evidences in a supplementary way). [3]

Presuppositional Apologetics: Presuppositional apologetics is the apologetic system that defends Christianity from the departure point of certain basic presuppositions. The apologist presupposes the truth of Christianity and then reasons from that point. One basic presupposition is that the non-Christian also has presuppositions that color everything he or she hears about God. Another is that in some fashion the person encountered is, as Augustine said, "doing business" with God and, as Romans 1 puts it so damningly, suppressing knowledge of the truth. It is the apologist's role to present the truth of Christianity and the falsehood of any worldview opposed to Christ. Some proponents of presuppositional apologetics have been: Cornelius Van Til, Gordon Clark, Edward John Carnell, and Carl F.H. Henry. [4]

As we can see, the field of Christian apologetics is very diverse and many theologians overlap into other areas of apologetics, and there are likely more types of apologetics than even these. Personally, I think there is value in all fields of apologetics, but my personal preference is in classical apologetics. I believe an excellent case can be made for the existence of God using reason and observation of the universe around us.

We even have Biblical precedent for pursuing apologetics as a way of defending the faith. God says, in Isaiah 1:8, "Come now, let us reason together" (emphasis mine). Peter exhorts us in 1 Peter 3:15 to "always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is within you, with gentleness and respect." In fact, we see people using apologetics all over the Scriptures (from Moses confronting Pharaoh's magicians to Paul arguing with Greek scholars on Mars Hill). All over Scripture we are encouraged to use apologetics.

The Scriptures are an excellent tool to bring someone to the knowledge that they need Christ. But sometimes a non-believer has a stumbling block that must first be removed before they can see why Christianity makes the most sense of the world around us. The way to remove that stumbling block is through apologetics. Sometimes apologetics alone can convince someone of the Christian worldview. Two intelligent atheists who were convinced of the claims of Christianity through the evidence alone were C.S. Lewis (author of The Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity, as well as one of the most respected Christian thinkers of the 20th century) and Lee Strobel (author of The Case for Christ and the resulting series of books).

I will give reasonable arguments for the Christian faith, and argue against atheistic arguments (including some atheists, themselves), and I will attempt to do so in a gracious manner. After all, we're all on a search for truth, and if atheists are truly as open minded as they claim, then that entails taking the other side's arguments seriously and being open to the possibility they may be correct. I invite people who disagree with me to comment, as well as people who agree, but understand that certain comments will not be tolerated and will be promptly deleted. Do not insult anyone on this page, whether it be someone who has made a mistake or someone who holds a contrary belief. Also, no profanity. Intelligent people do not need to resort to profanity to prove their view. Please use your words carefully and intelligently.

That being said, I hope you enjoy the blog. Feel free to offer any feedback.


[1] Geisler, Norman L., The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Books, p. 154.
[2] ibid, pp. 235-236.
[3] ibid, pp. 318-319.
[4] ibid, p. 607