Category: What is Christian apologetics?

Presuppositional apologetics is an approach to apologetics which aims to present  a rational basis for the Christian faith and defend it against objections by  exposing the logical flaws of other worldviews and hence demonstrating that  biblical theism is the only worldview which can make consistent sense of  reality.

Presuppositional apologetics does not discount the use of  evidence, but such evidences are not used in the traditional manner—that is, an  appeal to the authority of the unbeliever’s autonomous reason. Presuppositional  apologetics holds that without a theistic worldview there is no consistent basis  upon which to assume the possibility of autonomous reason. When the materialist  attempts to refute Christianity by appeal to deductive reason, he is, in fact,  borrowing from the Christian worldview, hence being inconsistent with his stated  presuppositions.

The presuppositional approach to apologetics calls for  the Christian and non-Christian to engage in an internal examination of their  respective worldview and thus determine whether or not they are internally  consistent. The essence of presuppositional apologetics is an attempt to  demonstrate that the non-Christian’s worldview forces him to a state of  subjectivity, irrationalism, and moral anarchy.

Since the unbeliever’s  worldview is objectively false, it of necessity contains demonstrable  contradictions (e.g., he makes moral judgments, but he cannot account for moral  absolutes without the theistic worldview). The believer, within the Christian  framework, can account for things like rationality, logic, uniformity of nature,  morality, science, etc., because the Christian worldview conforms to a  transcendent reality.

In summary, the presuppositional apologist engages  in an internal critique of a given worldview in order to demonstrate that it is  arbitrary, inconsistent within itself, and lacks the preconditions for  epistemology. The presuppositional apologist can thus take a given value which  is held by the unbeliever and demonstrate to him that if his own worldview were  true, that very belief would be incoherent and/or meaningless. Presuppositional  apologetics seeks to prove Christianity with reference to the impossibility of  the contrary. In other words, unless the Christian worldview is  presupposed—whether at a conscious or subconscious level—there is no possibility  for proving anything.

Classical apologetics is a method of apologetics that begins by first employing  various theistic arguments to establish the existence of God. Classical  apologists will often utilize various forms of the cosmological, teleological  (Design), ontological, and moral arguments to prove God’s existence. Once God’s  existence has been established, the classical apologist will then move on to  present evidence from fulfilled prophecy, the historical reliability of  Scripture, and the bodily resurrection of Jesus to distinguish Christianity from  all other competing forms of theism.

Classical apologetics (also known  as traditional apologetics) has as its distinctive feature a two-step approach  to establishing a Christian worldview. Classical apologists are often hesitant  to make an argument directly from miracles to the biblical God. Rather, they  prefer to appeal to miracles after having already established a theistic  context. Modern proponents of classical apologetics include R.C. Sproul, William  Lane Craig, and Norman Geisler.

Christian philosopher Norman Geisler  summarized the difference between classical and evidential apologetics in this  way: “The difference between the classical apologists and the evidentialists on  the use of historical evidences is that the classical see the need to first  establish that this is a theistic universe…The basic argument of the classical  apologist is that it makes no sense to speak about the resurrection as an act of  God unless, as a logical prerequisite, it is first established that there is a  God who can act” (Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics).

Evidential apologetics is a method of Christian apologetics that emphasizes  positive evidences in favor of the truth of Christianity. The distinctive  feature of evidential apologetics is its one-step approach to establishing  Christian theism. Evidentialists will utilize evidence and arguments from  several areas including archeology, fulfilled messianic prophecy, and especially  from miracles.

In distinction from classical apologetics, the evidential  apologist believes that the occurrence of miracles acts as an evidence for God’s  very existence. In this way, the evidential apologist does not believe that the  philosophical and scientific arguments for God’s existence must logically  precede arguments from miracles to establish biblical Christianity. However, the  evidential apologist is not opposed to the use of natural theology to help to  confirm God’s existence. These arguments are an important weapon in the arsenal  of the evidentialist as they help to undergird the case for Christianity by  giving further confirmation that God exists and has created and designed our  universe. Evidentialists simply do not believe such arguments must be presented  prior to moving on to evidence from miracles. In this way, the evidential  apologist can argue for theism and Christian theism at the same time without  having to first establish God’s existence. Such an approach can be beneficial in  personal evangelism where time can be at a minimum.

Evidential  apologists characteristically place a heavy emphasis on evidence from miracles,  especially the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Evidentialists will appeal  to numerous lines of evidence to establish the historicity of the post-mortem  appearances of the risen Jesus, as well as the discovery of His empty tomb.  Additional emphasis is often placed on refuting naturalistic theories that  attempt to explain away the evidence for the resurrection of Christ. Once the  resurrection has been established, Jesus’ (and His apostles’) own understanding  of this event then becomes the proper interpretive framework through which we  understand its significance. Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus said that His  forthcoming resurrection would validate His claims (Matthew  12:38-40, 16:1-4).  The Apostle Paul declared that the resurrection of Christ was God’s vindication  of Christ’s deity (Romans  1:3-4). In the book of Acts, the Apostle Peter claimed that Jesus’ bodily  resurrection was God’s endorsement of Jesus’ public ministry (Acts 2:23-32). When taken  in this context, the bodily resurrection becomes the primary validation of  Jesus’ own radical claims about Himself and the vindication of Jesus’ message of  salvation.

The English word “apology” comes from a Greek word which basically means “to  give a defense.” Christian apologetics, then, is the science of giving a defense  of the Christian faith. There are many skeptics who doubt the existence of God  and/or attack belief in the God of the Bible. There are many critics who attack  the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. There are many false teachers who  promote false doctrines and deny the key truths of the Christian faith. The  mission of Christian apologetics is to combat these movements and instead  promote the Christian God and Christian truth.

Probably the key verse  for Christian apologetics is 1 Peter  3:15, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to  give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you  have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” There is no excuse for a  Christian to be completely unable to defend his or her faith. Every Christian  should be able to give a reasonable presentation of his or her faith in Christ.  No, not every Christian needs to be an expert in apologetics. Every Christian,  though, should know what he believes, why he believes it, how to share it with  others, and how to defend it against lies and attacks.

A second aspect  of Christian apologetics that is often ignored is the second half of 1 Peter 3:15, “but do this  with gentleness and respect…” Defending the Christian faith with apologetics  should never involve being rude, angry, or disrespectful. While practicing  Christian apologetics, we should strive to be strong in our defense and at the  same time Christ-like in our presentation. If we win a debate but turn a person  even further away from Christ by our attitude, we have lost the true purpose of  Christian apologetics.

There are two primary methods of Christian  apologetics. The first, commonly known as classical apologetics, involves  sharing proofs and evidences that the Christian message is true. The second,  commonly known as “presuppositional” apologetics, involves confronting the  presuppositions (preconceived ideas, assumptions) behind anti-Christian  positions. Proponents of the two methods of Christian apologetics often debate  each other as to which method is most effective. It would seem to be far more  productive to be using both methods, depending on the person and  situation.

Christian apologetics is simply presenting a reasonable  defense of the Christian faith and truth to those who disagree. Christian  apologetics is a necessary aspect of the Christian life. We are all commanded to  be ready and equipped to proclaim the gospel and defend our faith (Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Peter 3:15). That is the  essence of Christian apologetics.