Today, I’d like to make some introductory comments regarding apologetics. The goal of these first two posts is to set the stage for what I’ll be writing about in the future. Today, I am going to give an introduction to apologetics as the defense of the faith.
Why does defending the faith matter? Well, I would suggest there are two reasons. First, we need to be able to give a reason for why we believe to the world. The Bible requires that we be ready to give a reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15), and as a historical, factual worldview our reasons for hope must be rooted in reality. Secondly, apologetics is important for the Christian so that he is sure of what he believes and why he believes. It is true that the truths of Scripture can be received only by the spiritual man through the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:9ff). For many, the reason they believed was the Holy Spirit made it real for them and that was the primary reason. Yet, a part of the growing up process, I would argue, includes a maturity that is found in the factual reasons why we believe. Perhaps this latter is where the focus of this blog will be, but when I speak of these reasons it will also be framed, hopefully, so that you who may be an unbeliever or questioning person will be able to see the defense of the faith.
To give a brief introduction to the field of apologetics, I will just give the two primary categories of apologetic approaches. It is important to recognize that I am sweeping with very broad strokes. First, there are evidential approaches, and second, there are presuppositional approaches. What do we mean by these big words? The evidential approaches to apologetics seek to defend Jesus and His testimony about the Scriptures by proving Christ’s life, burial, and resurrection through “normal” logical and historical means. Some common popular apologists of this variety would include Lee Strobel in The Case for Christ and Josh McDowell in Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and C. S. Lewis in his various writings. The presuppostional approach assumes from the outset that the Scriptures and the God of the Bible are true. In this approach, these presuppositions make possible such things as language, logic, historical studies, etc. and therefore God and the Bible must be assumed from the outset. The most popular-level ministry that uses this type of approach is Answers in Genesis. There are some important considerations from both, but I believe the Biblical view is a synthesis of components of both approaches. Currently, I have been working through a book from the 1980s titled Balanced Apologetics by Ronald Mayers, which seeks to develop a both-and apologetic of both evidential and presuppositional approaches. I expect to share some comments and maybe even a book review on this work when I am done.
What does this all mean? Well, the real issue, I think, is something really important. Many people today do not believe in universal, absolute truth as a category at all (often referred to as postmodernism). This issue places the question of epistemology, which is the study of truth and how we know truth, center stage in what Christians ought to seek to do as they call on the unsaved to be converted and believe in the gospel, and it is also crucial that Christians have a proper epistemology themselves. This is a major pursuit of my own studies. I want and need to be fully able to defend the Scriptures and know the right way to understand truth. It’s true that truth must be applied for life (as I mentioned last week). But without knowing the true reality and truth that is based in that reality, our application is no better than living based on a fairy tale. The full Christian faith claims to be objective history rooted in revelation, and that is what we must seek to defend. I hope to present some helpful thoughts as I share things from my studies.
Next week, I will post a review of a newly released book titled The Church of the Fundamentalists by Dr. Larry Oats of Maranatha Baptist University, a work that looks at the history of fundamentalist and conservative evangelicals especially in regard to their doctrine of the church.