In the second century AD, as Christianity began to engage at an intellectual level with Greek philosophy and attracted greater attention from Roman society, a number of writers produced reasoned defences of the Christian faith. Of these Justin Martyr c. Their writings collectively show three major concerns:.
Other eminent Christians of this period were disparaging of the approach of the apologists.
An Introduction to Christian Apologetics
Interestingly, all three of the main lines of argument advanced by the apologists of the second century find precedents in the New Testament book of Acts, making Luke or perhaps Paul, whose words he recorded the first recorded Christian apologist. Renowned biblical scholar F. Bruce wrote: . Of three main types of Christian apologetic in the second century Luke provides first-century prototypes: apologetic in relation to pagan religion Christianity is true; paganism is false ; apologetic in relation to Judaism Christianity represents the fulfillment of true Judaism ; apologetic in relation to the political authorities Christianity is innocent of any offence against Roman law.
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So, then, apologetics originated in the New Testament see the later section on A biblical case for the task of apologetics , developing further in the second century in response to challenges encountered as it crossed cultural boundaries into the Graeco-Roman world.
Throughout the history of Christianity apologetics has continued to adapt to new cultural challenges. For a short overview of the history of Christian apologetics, including profiles of the leading figures in the development of modern apologetics, the reader is referred to the online article A Brief History of Apologetics by Kenneth D. Boa and Robert M. Apologetics is generally said to have three functions, although it should be realised that not all Christian apologists accept that all three functions are valid some would say that we should not try to construct positive arguments for Christian faith but simply focus on refuting accusations against it and there is considerable variation between different schools of apologetics as to what arguments should be used within each function:.
Using philosophical arguments and evidence from science, archaeology and history to show that the Christian faith has greater power than any alternative belief system to explain and interpret the world we live in. Removing objections that are made against Christianity, for example claims of contradictions in the Bible, alternative interpretations of historical and scientific evidence and misconceptions about Christian belief. Focuses not on specific attacks against Christianity but on undermining the foundations of other belief systems.
Some writers add a fourth function, namely persuasion. They claim that apologetics also aims to persuade people to believe in the Christian message. It is probably better to see the task of persuasion as the overarching aim of apologetics, with the three functions above playing different parts within it. This is a helpful reminder of the fact that apologetics alone is not enough — evangelism is also necessary. Another way to think about the purpose of apologetics is to think about how it relates to those who are believers and those who are non-believers.
Apologetics aims both to strengthen the faith of the faithful and to remove obstacles to faith for those who do not believe. Apologetics is best seen as either pre-evangelism or as part of the process of evangelism. It removes barriers to belief and prepares the ground for the seed of the gospel to be sown. It is vital not to divorce apologetics strictly from evangelism. It is unlikely that people who have intellectual objections to the existence of God or the historicity of Jesus will receive the gospel message, and apologetics will help to remove these obstacles by appealing to intellectual reasoning.
At the same time, a person could be intellectually convinced of the credibility and even the truth of the Christian faith but still not be a Christian. The gospel appeals not only to the mind, it also appeals to the emotions and, most importantly of all, to the will. Conversion occurs when mind, heart and will are surrendered to God in repentance and faith. As such it will often be wise to share the gospel as we engage in apologetic arguments. There are numerous different ways to approach the task of apologetics and it is not always easy to classify different approaches.
No one scheme of classification gains universal support.
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Two possible ways of classifying common approaches are:. Can truth about God be discovered through human reason in response to observations about the world empiricism , through a critical appraisal of the inherent logic of different belief systems rationalism , through Scripture alone Biblical authoritarianism , through personal experience mysticism , or through a combination of these means?
The debate over these different means of discovering truth about God depends on our belief about:. Steven B. William Lane Craig, R. Sproul, Norman Geisler, Stephen T. Davis, Richard Swinburne Aims to establish theism through arguments from nature then to present evidences to prove that Christianity is the correct version of theism. Most proponents of this method claim that there is no point presenting arguments from historical evidence until the person has embraced a theistic worldview as they will always interpret them based on their own worldview.
Gary R. Habermas, John W. Montgomery, Clark Pinnock, Wolfhart Pannenberg Uses both historical and philosophical arguments but focuses primarily on historical and other evidence for the truth of Christianity. Will argue at the same time both for theism in general and Christianity in particular. Paul D. Feinberg, Basil Mitchell, C. Lewis, C. Stephen Evans Rather than approaching the task as a formal logical argument, sees the case for Christianity as more like the brief a lawyer makes in a law court — an informal argument drawing together evidence that together makes a compelling case with which no other hypothesis can compete.
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Frame, Cornelius Van Til, Gordon Clark, Greg Bahnsen, Francis Schaeffer Emphasises the noetic effects of sin to the degree that believers and unbelievers will not share enough common ground for the preceding three methods to accomplish their goal. The apologist must presuppose the truth of Christianity as the proper starting point for apologetics. All experience is interpreted and all truth known through the Christian revelation in the Scriptures.
Although positive arguments in defence of Christianity are not necessarily wrong, belief in God does not need the support of evidence or argument to be rational.
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The focus, therefore, tends to be more on negative apologetics, defending against challenges to theistic belief. The book Cowan edited, entitled Five Views on Apologetics Zondervan, contains chapters by proponents of each of these five approaches as well as responses to each chapter by the other four contributors. It is a helpful, although fairly technical, attempt to show the commonalities and differences between different approaches. Bowman, which combines both the epistemology and the approach to constructing arguments.
The four methodologies they identify are Classical apologetics, Evidential apologetics, Reformed apologetics and Fideism. The following table, adapted from Boa and Bowman, details the characteristics of these four approaches to apologetics: .
In practice it is not always easy to place apologists neatly into any one methodology as many use different approaches depending on the question at hand. It is probably best to see these approaches as tools in a toolkit or weapons in an armoury. We can freely draw on different approaches depending on the situation in which we find ourselves. We will return to this idea in the section entitled The dynamic of apologetic dialogue. Christians who are sceptical about the value of apologetics raise a number of different objections, some based on verses from the Bible and others based on limitations of logic and apologetics.
These objections are generally based on misunderstandings of the Bible text or of the purpose of apologetics. In the list of objections that follows I am indebted to Norman Geisler  although I have made some changes to his list and have significantly modified his responses:. It is sometimes said that the Bible is like a lion — it does not need to be defended but unleashed. It is true that Scripture is powerful to change attitudes and challenge hearts, but if someone will not read or listen seriously to it then it cannot do this work.
Love, the Ultimate Apologetic
Apologetics can establish the fact that it is reasonable to take the Bible seriously, so opening people to be prepared to listen. Furthermore, if Scripture only needed to be unleashed to do its work then the task of teaching and preaching would also be unnecessary and evangelism would be reduced to merely passing on texts from the Bible. And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? It is claimed that this means there is no point in trying to get people to accept rational arguments for God.
The context of 1 Corinthians 1, however, is not the existence of God but the acceptance of the message of the cross.
The Heart of Christian Witness
That message cannot be accepted by natural reason alone — it only makes sense because of the special revelation of Scripture and as the Spirit enlightens 1 Corinthians Elsewhere, however, Paul writes of evidence in nature pointing to the existence of God and some of His attributes, leaving people without excuse Romans It is argued that there is no point, therefore, in trying to explain them to him. Non-believers reject the gospel not because it is illogical and they cannot understand what it means but because they refuse to accept its claims over them.
In fact, a prayerful approach to apologetics recognises that the work of the Spirit is necessary for people to receive the truth.
Hebrews clearly states that faith is essential to please God, and some people suggest that this means that reason is displeasing to Him. This claim sets up a false division between faith and reason. Biblical faith is not blind belief in spite of the evidence, but trust in something that has been commended to the person as trustworthy. The gospel is a message from God that claims that He can be trusted, and apologetics provides evidence that supports that claim.
Faith is a response on the part of the individual that accepts the claim or, rather, accepts the one of whom it speaks and places confidence in it or, more correctly, in Him rather than in self or any alternative. This claim arises from Matthew , where Jesus says that a wicked generation asks for signs. However, in the next verse Jesus says that one sign, the sign of Jonah, meaning His resurrection, would be given. On occasions He refused to do miracles for entertainment Luke or because of unbelief Matthew , but people saw his miracles and realised that they showed He came from God John , and the apostles pointed to His miracles Acts and especially His resurrection Acts ; Romans ; 1 Corinthians ff.
Proverbs is the basis for this claim, but those who make it neglect to read the following verse, which says that we should answer a fool according to his folly. If this claim is meant to say that Scripture provides no examples of God providing evidence to support faith then it is simply wrong. The Bible, therefore, provides clear precedents for the task of apologetics even if it does not contain the kind of detailed arguments necessary in modern apologetics since it was written in a pre-modern world primarily to believers. Apologetics today continues patterns found in Scripture. This statement is self defeating since it relies on internal logic as the basis for its claim.
Logic is simply the way in which we state facts and make claims. The Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Ankerberg Theological Research Institute.
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Archived from the original on 23 October Warner Cold Case Christianity. Canada: David C. Cook Distribution. James Hannam. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Handbook of Christian Apologetics. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press.