Apologetics

posted Jun 15, 2012, 1:29 PM by Hector Falcon   [ updated Oct 29, 2012, 1:45 PM ]
Apologetics is the branch of theology that is concerned with the defense or proofs of Christianity. The systems of apologetics favored by an individual often reveals the Christian worldview they hold and the role human reason plays in that worldview. There are basically two types of apologetics. One is called evidentiary apologetics and the other is  presuppositional apologetics.

Evidential apologetics is an approach which emphasizes the use of evidence to demonstrate that God exists. The evidence is supposed to qualify as evidence both the believer and nonbeliever and that they initially share or agree on. Therefore one need not presuppose God's existence. Proponents of this system believe that if people are open-minded and when presented with the overwhelming evidence that "proves" the Gospel true, then people will acknowledge the truth and become Christians. Generally, evangelicals that lean more toward an arminian worldview tend to adopt this approach. They place a greater importance on the role of human reasoning in evangelism and are more apt to believe in the rational ability of people to make good and logical decisions. Evangelicals, charismatics, Roman Catholics, Anabaptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, dispensationalists, and more theologically liberal streams tend to adopt this apologetic approach,

The other approach is called presuppositional apologetics. This school believes the Christian faith is the only basis for rational thought. It presupposes that the Bible is the revelation of God. It attempts to expose flaws in other worldviews. Adherents to this view claim that apart from presuppositions, one could not make sense of any human experience. They claim there can be no set of neutral assumptions from which to reason with a non-Christian. Presuppositionalists do not believe a Christian can consistently declare his belief in the existence of the God of the Bible and then turn around and argue on the basis of a different set of assumptions that God may not exist and Biblical revelation may not be true. Presuppositionalism is the predominant apologetic of contemporary conservative Calvinist and Reformed churches. Two schools of presuppositionalism exist. One is based on the teachings of Cornelius Van Til and the other on the teachings of Gordon Clark. According to John Frame, "a presupposition is a belief that takes precedence over another and therefore serves as a criterion for another. An ultimate presupposition is a belief over which no other takes precedence. For a Christian, the content of Scripture must serve as his ultimate presupposition.... This doctrine is merely the outworking of the lordship of God in the area of human thought. It applies the doctrine of scriptural infallibility to the realm of knowing."

The way one approaches apologetics is important to know. Every theological perspective reflects a unique worldview. That unique worldview will determine how the Gospel will be applied in the real world. Ideas have consequences. This is one area where this can clearly be seen. The major points of disagreement between the approaches to apologetics revolve around the role that human reason and the Bible should play in the development of the Christian worldview. The Reformed stream is more bible-focused when it comes to the way it develops its system of ethics and its cultural application of the faith. The non-Reformed streams tend to rely more on both biblical revelation and human reason in deriving the details for how their worldview will relate to ethics and the culture. 

My own perspective is presuppositional. I believe we need to learn from the lesson God revealed with Adam and Eve. Satan got them both to question God's revelation by appealing to them to use their human reasoning to rationalize that God was holding out on them. Our human reasoning must always be in submission to God's revealed will in the Gospel. We reason starting with what God has already revealed to us as the truth. We get into trouble when we believe that our human reasoning has not been dramatically affected by our fallen human natures and that we can independently find truth. We need to learn the lessons of the Bible that God is our source for ultimate truth. We are prone to human pride believing that we can reason on our own without depending on the revelation and leading of God.

With regard to using evidence to convince people the Gospel is true, I think that belief can be overly optimistic. The Apostle Paul in Romans 1 teaches us that what may be known about Him is self-evident. He stated that people purposely turn away from what they know to be true regarding God and His Creation. The evidence of God's reality is clearly revealed to all people by God, yet they reject that truth "purposely" in order to do their own thing. No amount of evidence is going to convince an individual that the God is real. God says that they already know it and that they have purposed to turn away from God and his revelation. The issue is one of the heart. People are in open rebellion against a God that they want no part of. The reality is that we all want to be God, determining truth ourselves. We do not want to submit to God. Until that rebellious heart attitude is confronted, all the evidence in the world will not convince people of something God says they already know.

While evidential apologetics may help to bolster the faith of a struggling Christian, according the Scripture, the evidence for God's reality is already known to people. In fact, there has never been a time like the present in which we have so much hard evidence to prove God existence and that the Gospel is true. Yet, non-believers really don't care. They ignore all the evidence that demands a verdict. The reality is that we all want to God and we are in open rebellion to what we already know to be true.

So - what is a winning strategy to convince people that the Gospel is true? The Gospel teaches us to be ready to defend the faith when asked. But just as important is being able to relate to the people we are trying to share the Gospel with. In the following two clips Ravi Zacharias presents a balanced approach to sharing the Gospel. We seek to reach both the head and the heart. This is also how we are to live out the balanced Christian life.

    



Apologetics Part 1




Apologetics Part 2



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