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Christian Apologetics

What is Christian Apologetics – part b

  • What is Christian Apologetics – part b

    “The most crucial issue facing the Christian apologetist is that of method: Should the apologist in his effort to defend the faith and to persuade the unbeliever of Christianity’s truth claims reason to or from special revelation?  Said another way, Should the Christian apologist begin his defense of the faith standing within the circle of revelation or with the unbeliever outside the circle of revelation?” (Robert Reymond, Faith’s Reasons For Believing, p. 26)

    Where do we start from?

    How we answer the following questions will determine where a person starts when engaging in apologetics.

    What is the nature and function of general revelation?

    Major Apologetic Methods:

  • What is the nature and function of special revelation?
  • Are there “two books” of knowledge, specifically general and special revelation?  Or just one?
  • How does sin effect man’s ability to know God?
  • What is the character of faith?
  • What is the test of truth?
  • What kind of certainty does Christianity offer?
  • What is the value of theistic proofs?
  • What is the value of Christian evidences?
  • What is the nature of the common ground between believer and unbeliever that allows for intelligent conversation? 
  1. Evidentialism
    • all truth is discovered through sense perception 
    • asserts the ability and trustworthiness of human reason in its search for religious knowledge
    • relies on probability arguments using empirical or historically verifiable facts
    • insists that religious propositions must be subjected to the same kind of verification that scientific assertions must undergo
    • examples would be the Thomistic Roman Catholic tradition (see Thomas Aquinas), inconsistent Reformed evidentialist (i.e. R.C. Sproul and John Gerstner), and the Arminian tradition)
  2. Presuppositionalism (or Biblical Foundationalism or scripturalism)
    • fear of the Lord precedes understanding everything else (Prov. 1:7)
    • understanding follows upon and is governed by the faith commitment.  This is often expressed by the Latin expression Credo ut intelligam (“I believe in order that I may understand”).
    • believes that human depravity has made human autonomous reason incapable of understanding truth
    • the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is necessary for Christian faith and enlightenment.
    • example would be the consistent reformed tradition
  3. Experientialism
    • stresses inward religious experience as the foundation of truth instead of evidence or written revelation
    • subjective religious experience is the ground of truth and meaning
    • insistence upon the paradoxical character of Christian teaching and that Christian truth is not capable of rational analysis
    • strong emphasis on transcendence and hiddenness of God in religious experience.
    • example would be the Neo-orthodox tradition (see Karl Barth)

Follow Up Questions:

  • Why would an arminian naturally tend towards evidentialism?
  • What does the Bible say about man’s ability to understand truth?  Read Prov. 2:6-7; John 1:4-5; 14:6,16-17; Col. 2:2; 1Cor. 1:17-20 
  • What about Romans 1:32; 2:12-16?  Seems like unbelieving man kind knows a lot without “special revelation”  Are these truths understood through sense perception?  Do they know these truths with certainty?
  • Why are presuppositionalist often labeled as “gnostic”.  What is gnosticism?  How is it different from presuppositionalism?

Related Articles:

What is Christian Apologetics – part A

What is Christian Apologetics – part A

See the Apologetics Podcasts for an mp3 download of this study.

Definition of Apologetics:

Christian apologetics is the intellectual discipline wherein the intelligent effort is made carefully to delineate and to contend for the truth claims of the Christian faith before the unbelieving world, specifically, its claims of exclusive true knowledge of the one living and true God, in a manner that is consistent with the teaching of Holy Scripture.
Comes from the Greet root “apolog” – defense or reply to a formal charge.
Nature – both defensive and offensive

The Biblical Mandate of Apologetics:

1 Pet. 3:15-16 
And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?  14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense [pros apologian] to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;  16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.  17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
  1. command to “sanctify” (regard as holy) God in the face of persecution, and to be ready
  2. assumes a heart of faith “hope that is in you” that can be recognized by others
  3. implies that all Christians are capable of engaging in apologetics
  4. assumes communication with unbelievers
  5. calls on every believer to be ready on every occasion to give to anyone who asks, the reason for his faith in Christ.
  6. indicates the attitude that we should have when engaging in apologetics, “meekness and fear”
This passage does not say we can “reason” men into the kingdom of God.

The “Paraclete” is the master “Apologete”. 

Reymond – “A divinely initiated, regenerating work of almighty grace accompanying the gospel proclamation is alone capable of enabling men to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Faith’s Reasons For Believing, p. 20).

What comes first: Apologetics or Exegesis/Systematics?

If we start with apologetics and allow unaided fallen man to establish both the possibility and presuppositions of Christian theology, what must we deny?
What is necessary before anyone can engage in apologetics?

Aspects of the Task of Apologetics:

  1. To answer particular objections.  For example, resolve alleged contradictions between scripture statements.  Respond to hostile theories to biblical truths such as Christ’s bodily resurrection, His virgin birth, His miracles, etc.  Such discussions with unbelievers will naturally lead to the defense of basic Christian presuppositions (which leads us to #2).
  2. To give an account of the foundations of the Christian faith.  Such foundational issues may involve the following questions.
    • Does God exist?
    • Has he revealed himself?  If so, where and how?
    • Why do I believe these things?
    • How do I know that what I believe is true?
    • This leads us to the study of epistemology (branch of philosophy dealing with the theory of knowledge: what is knowledge, how is knowledge acquired, how do we know what we know.) 
  3. To challenge non-Christian systems.  This involves exposing the irrationality inherent within non-Christian systems of thought.
  4. To persuade men of the truth claims of the Christian faith.  Goal should be evangelistic not merely to “win an argument”.