*#2 In the Series: Knowing What & Why You Believe – Pastor David Craig
The Three Most Common Methods (Means or Ways) of Doing Apologetics
- CLASSICAL – Operates in a two or three-step process (philosophical, theistic, and evidential). Working from the vantage point of certain undeniable foundational principles, such as the laws of logic and self-existence, certain philosophical questions are addressed, such as truth, reality, meaning, and morality. Since belief in God as creator is essential for an individual to become a Christian (Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”), the primary goal is to help the unbeliever understand reality untainted by any false assumptions. The second step offers evidence for the existence of God, usually in the form of traditional theistic arguments and empirical data such as manuscript and archaeological evidence.
(Notes adapted from House and Holden, Charts of Apologetics And Christian Evidences, Chart 8)
- EVIDENTIAL-Defends and supports Christianity as factual by applying historical evidence, including archaeological, bibliographical, and experiential evidence as well as rational evidence (philosophical reasoning with no need for empirical support, as when showing logical contradictions in statements). Truth claims of Christianity are believed to be reasonable and highly probable, though most evidentipalists believe there are no indisputable historical facts. Evidentialists use a one-step approach that demonstrates both God’s existence and which variety of theism is true.
- PRESUPPOSITIONAL– The presuppositional approach starts by assuming Christian truth about God and Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture and reasons from Christianity. The presuppositionalist apologetic to the unbeliever begins by reasoning “from” Christianity through special revelation (Bible). The presuppositionalist assumes the content revealed in Scripture to be true and encourages the unbeliever to do the same since these assumed biblical truths offer the only possible foundation and explanation for life and godliness—a framework on which to make sense of the world and God the way they actually exist. Due to the effects of sin, the unbeliever’s presuppositions are deemed irrational and inadequate to understand or explain the basis for religion, morals, communication, even beauty. In some instances presuppositionalists provide the tools for one to make sense of reality and show that Christianity offers the only foundation and framework on which to make sense of the world and God.
Criticisms of The Three Views:
(1) CLASSICAL – Overemphasis on reason appears to make an infinite God subject to logic and finite human reason, thus devaluing Christianity. God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts therefore man should not try to intellectual comprehend Him (Isaiah 55:8-9).
The Classical Response to This Criticism: God is not subject to our logic or finite human reason; only man’s theories and propositions about Him need to be tested by the rules of thought. Though God’s ways and thoughts are beyond our finite reason, they are not contrary to reason (Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” ; 1 Timothy 6:20, “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge.”
Primary Exponents of Classical Apologetics:
Augustine of Hippo (Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis, 354 – 430 AD), also known as Saint Augustine, was a theologian, philosopher, and the bishop of Hippo Regius in Numidia, Roman North Africa. His writings influenced the development of Western philosophy and Western Christianity, and he is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers of the Latin Church in the Patristic Period. His many important works include The City of God, On Christian Doctrine, and Confessions.
Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. Major writings: On Being and Essence; The Principles of Nature; Summa contra gentiles; Summa theologiae.
C.S. Lewis (1898 – 1963) was a Irish writer and lay theologian. He held academic positions in English literature at both Oxford University (Magdalen College, 1925–1954) and Cambridge University (Magdalene College, 1954–1963). He is best known for his works of fiction, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy, and for his non-fiction Christian apologetics, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain.
R.C. Sproul (February 13, 1939 – December 14, 2017) was an American Reformed theologian and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. He was the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries (named for the Ligonier Valley just outside Pittsburgh, where the ministry started as a study center for college and seminary students) and could be heard daily on the Renewing Your Mind radio broadcast in the United States and internationally. Under Sproul’s direction, Ligonier Ministries produced the Ligonier Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which would eventually grow into the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, of which Sproul, alongside Norman Geisler, was one of the chief architects.Sproul has been described as “the greatest and most influential proponent of the recovery of Reformed theology in the last century.” Some of His Most Important writings are: *The Holiness of God; Chosen by God; Classical Apologetics; *Reason To Believe; *Defending Your Faith; Knowing Scripture; Essential Truths of the Christian Faith; Pleasing God; Enjoying God; Willing to Believe; The Work of Christ; Now, That’s A Good Question!; Faith Alone; Getting the Gospel Right; If There’s A God Why Are There Atheists?; The Glory of Christ; Not A Chance; God’s Love; The Consequences of Ideas; Does God Exist? ; What is Repentance?
Norman L. Geisler (1932 – 2019) was an American Christian systematic theologian and philosopher. He was the co-founder of two non-denominational evangelical seminaries (Veritas International University and Southern Evangelical Seminary). He held a Ph.D. in philosophy from Loyola University and made scholarly contributions to the subjects of classical Christian apologetics, systematic theology, the history of philosophy, philosophy of religion, Calvinism, Roman Catholicism, Biblical inerrancy, Bible difficulties, ethics, and more. He was the author, coauthor, or editor of over 90 booksand hundreds of articles. His most notable writings: *I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist; *Christian Apologetics; Christian Ethics; Apologetics in the New Age; The Big Book of Bible Difficulties; Introduction to Philosophy; Come Let Us Reason; Twelve Points That Show Christianity is True; Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics.
William Lane Craig(born August 23, 1949) is an American analytic philosopher and Christian theologian, apologist, and author.He is Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University and Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology (Biola University). His Notable Writings include: *Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics; The Kalām Cosmological Argument; *On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision; Hard Questions, Real Answers; The Son Rises: Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus; Time and Eternity: Exploring God’s Relationship to Time; Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview; Learning Logic.
J.P. Moreland (born March 9, 1948), is an American philosopher, theologian, and Christian apologist. He currently serves as a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University in La Mirada, California. His Major Writings consist of: *Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity; Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview; The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why It Matters; Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology; Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality; Body & Soul: Human Nature the Crisis in Ethics; The God Conversation: Using Stories and Illustrations to Explain Your Faith; Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique; Christianity and the Nature of Science; Consciousness and the Existence of God: A Theistic Argument; *Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul; The God Question; Philosophy Made Slightly Less Difficult: A Beginner’s Guide to Life’s Big Questions; The Recalcitrant Imago Dei: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism; The Lost Virtue of Happiness: Discovering The Disciplines of The Good Life; In Search of a Confident Faith: Overcoming Barriers to Trusting in God; Kingdom Triangle: Recover the Christian Mind, Renovate the Soul, Restore the Spirit’s Power; Does God Exist? A Debate with Kai Nielsen.
Tim Keller (born September 23, 1950) is an American pastor, theologian, and Christian apologist. He is the Chairman and co-Founder of Redeemer City to City, which trains pastors for ministry in global cities. He is also the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, New York, and the author of The New York Times bestselling books *The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith (2008),Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (2014),and *The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (2008).The prequel for the latter is *Making Sense of GOD: An Invitation to the Skeptical (2016).
(2) EVIDENTIAL– Empirical evidences are interpreted through presuppositions and the framework of one’s worldview and therefore should be offered after the philosophical considerations have been addressed.
The Evidential Response to This Criticism: Evidence is not necessarily presented as self-evident conclusive verification; rather it gives good reason and high probability for one to conclude that the truths of Christianity are consistent with the facts. Many philosophical arguments, such as those offered to demonstrate God’s existence (e.g., cosmological and theological arguments) present premises which must be supported by empirical evidence.
Primary Exponents of Evidential Apologetics:
William Paley (1743 – 1805) was an English clergyman, Christian apologist, philosopher, and utilitarian. Major writings: Natural Theology; and *Evidences of Christianity.
Edward John Carnell (1919 – 1967) was a prominent Christian theologian and apologist, was an ordained Baptist pastor, and served as President of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Major Writings: *An Introduction to Christian Apologetics; The Case For Biblical Christianity; The Case for Orthodox Theology; Christian Commitment: An Apologetic; A Philosophy of the Christian Religion.
John Warwick Montgomery (born October 18, 1931) is a lawyer, professor, Lutheran theologian, and author living in France. He was born in Warsaw, New York, United States. Since 2014, he has been Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy at Concordia University, Wisconsin,and continues to work as a barrister specializing in religious freedom cases in international Human Rights law.Major Writings: Defending the Faith in a Messy World: A Christian Apologetics Primer; *Always Be Ready: A Primer on Defending the Christian Faith; *Faith Founded on Fact: Essays in Evidential Apologetics; History and Christianity; Evidence for Faith; How Do We Know There Is a God?; Christianity for the Tough Minded; Where Is History Going?
Josh McDowell (born August 17, 1939) is an evangelical apologist and evangelist.He is the author or co-author of over 150 books. His book Evidence That Demands a Verdict was ranked 13th in Christianity Today‘s list of most influential evangelical books published after World War II. Major Writings: *More Than a Carpenter; *Evidence That Demands a Verdict; God-Breathed: The Undeniable Power and Reliability of Scripture; The Unshakable Truth; Evidence for The Resurrection.
Lee Strobel (born January 25, 1952) is an American Christian author and a former investigative journalist (Legal Editor of the Chicago Tribune). He has written several books, including four which received ECPA Christian Book Awards (1994, 1999, 2001, 2005)and a series which addresses challenges to the veracity of Christianity.He also hosted a television program called Faith Under Fire on PAX TVand runs a video apologetics web site. Strobel has been interviewed on numerous national television programs, including ABC’s 20/20, Fox News, and CNN. Notable Writings: *The Case for Christ; *The Case for a Creator; The Case for Faith; The Case for Miracles; The Case for Grace; The Case for Hope; God’s Outrageous Claims; In Defense of Jesus.
J. Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including *Cold-Case Christianity, *God’s Crime Scene, and *Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels. He has been featured as a cold case homicide expert on Fox 11 Los Angeles, truTV (formerly Court TV), and NBC.
(3) PRESUPPOSITIONAL– Presupposing the truth of Christian theism is arguing in a circle and lacks a basis to justify its assumptions as to why one should presuppose Christianity. The apostle Paul says that God’s existence and attributes can be “clearly seen” (Romans 1:18-20) since they have been “shown” to the unbelieving world through “the things that have been made” (nature). Therefore, the unbeliever’s problem is not one of not understanding the truth of God, but of suppression which leads to not receiving the truth.
The Presuppositional Response to This Criticism: The Presuppositional basis is not circular since its argument is transcendental, which demonstrates that proof is possible only because of God’s existence.
Primary Exponents of Presuppositional Apologetics:
Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) Abraham Kuijper, publicly known as Abraham Kuyper, was Prime Minister of the Netherlands between 1901 and 1905, an influential neo-Calvinist theologian and also a journalist. His most influential writings: Lectures on Calvinism; *Common Grace; Pro Rege; The Work of The Holy Spirit.
Herman Bavinck (Born in1854, Hoogeveen, Drenthe – July 1921, Amsterdam) was a Dutch Reformed theologian and churchman. He was a significant scholar in the Calvinist tradition, alongside Abraham Kuyper and B. B. Warfield. His most influential writings: Reformed Dogmatics (4 Volumes); *Christian Worldview; Reformed Ethics; Our Reasonable Faith; Saved By Grace.
Cornelius Van Til (May 3, 1895 – April 17, 1987) was a Dutch-American Christian philosopher and Reformed theologian, who is credited as being the originator of modern presuppositional apologetics – a Professor for many years at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. His most influential writings: *Christian Apologetics; The Defense of the Faith; An Introduction to Systematic Theology; Christian Theistic Evidences; Common Grace And The Gospel; Why I Believe In God.
Gordon Clark (August 31, 1902 – April 9, 1985) was an American philosopher and Calvinist theologian. He was a leading figure associated with presuppositional apologetics and was chairman of the Philosophy Department at Butler University for 28 years. His most influential writings: Logic; Predestination; God and Evil; An Introduction to Christian Philosophy; Religion, Reason, and Revelation; *Christian View of Men and Things; The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God.
Greg Bahnsen (September 17, 1948 – December 11, 1995) was an American Calvinist philosopher, apologist, and debater. He was a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and a full-time Scholar in Residence for the Southern California Center for Christian Studies (SCCCS). His most influential writings: *Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith; Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended; Van Til’s Apologetic.
John M. Frame (born April 8, 1939 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) is an American Christian philosopher and Calvinist theologian especially noted for his work in epistemology and presuppositional apologetics, systematic theology, and ethics. His most influential writings: *Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief; Christianity Considered: A Guide For Skeptics and Seekers; Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought; Systematic Theology; The Doctrine of God; The Doctrine of the Christian Life; The Doctrine of the Word of God; The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God; A History of Western Philosophy and Theology; Theology in Three Dimensions; We Are All Philosophers; Nature’s Case for God; *No Other God; Salvation Belongs to the Lord.
RESOURCES COMPARING APOLOGETICS METHODOLOGY
Kenneth D. Boa and Robert M. Bowman Jr. Faith Has Its Reasons: Integrative Approaches to Defending the Christian Faith. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2005
Gordon R. Lewis. Testing Christianity’s Truth Claims: Approaches to Christian Apologetics. Chicago: Moody Press, 1977. (Unfortunately Out of Print)
Brian K. Morely. Mapping Apologetics: Comparing Contemporary Approaches. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2015
Contributors: William Lane Craig (Classical), Gary R. Habermas (Evidentialist), John M. Frame (Presuppositional), Kelly James Clark (Reformed Epistemolgy), Paul D, Feinberg (Cumulative Case). Five Views of Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
EVIDENTIAL VERSUS PRESUPPOSITIONAL APOLOGETICS
These two systems of apologetics are mutually exclusive approaches, whereas the other systems are complementary approaches, often borrowing from each other’s methodology. Evidentialism reasons for or to Christian truths; presuppositionalism reasons from Christian truths.
|Nature of Man||Depravity is total, it is extensive (to every part), but not rendering mankind’s faculties unresponsive to God||Depravity is total, it is extensive (to every part), it is intensive (rendering every human faculty unresponsive to God|
|Image of God||Damaged in man||Damaged in man|
|Spiritual Death||Likened to “sickness,” “blindness,” and “impurity”||Likened to a corpse|
|Unregenerate Mind||Able to perceive spiritual truth||Unable to perceive spiritual truth|
|Unregenerate Will||Able to receive salvation only through the Holy Spirit||Able to receive salvation only through the Holy Spirit|
|Nature of Logic||Applies to all reality, finite and infinite||Applies only to finite reality; infinite reality is beyond logic|
|Apologetics and Evnagelism||Sees a distinction||Sees no distinction|
|Purpose of Apologetics||To present evidence to the unbeliever and to persuade through logical evidence||To defend the Christian faith, while recognizing no common ground with the unbeliever|
|Value of Apologetics to the Unbeliever||To give evidence and reasons for faith||None|
|Value of Apologetics to the Believer||To confirm in the faith and render faith credible to the unbeliever||To confirm in the faith|
*Another Great Apologist who is hard to categorize would be Ravi Zacharias:
Ravi Zacharias (March 26, 1946 – May 19, 2020) was an Indian-born Canadian-American Christian apologist.Zacharias was the author of more than 30 books on Christianity,including *Can Man Live Without God?; Beyond Opinion; The End of Reason; The Real Face of Atheism; Deliver Us From Evil; Has Christianity Failed You?
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