From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Christian apologetics is a field of Christian theology that aims to present a rational basis for the Christian faith, defend the faith against objections, and expose the perceived flaws of other world views.
This Classical Greek term appears in the Koine (i.e. common) Greek of the New Testament. The Apostle Paul employs the term "apologia" in his trial speech to Festus and Agrippa when he says "I make my defence" (Acts 26:2). In the English language the word apology, derived from the Greek word "apologia", but usually refers to asking for forgiveness for an action that is open to blame. Christian apologetics are meant, however, to argue that Christianity is reasonable and in accordance with the evidence that can be examined.
Purpose of Christian Apologetics
1 Peter 3:15 declares Christians must be ready to give an "answer" for their faith. Christian apologetics are designed to present unbelievers reasons to adopt the Christian faith or to strengthen the belief of current Christians. Also, apologetics within the Christian community provide arguments that support and strengthen the doctrinal and ethical tenets of the Christian faith.
Sociologists of religion, such as Peter Berger and Douglas Cowan, have observed that boundary maintenance of belief occurs when one religious tradition encounters another.
Types of Christian Apologetics
There are a variety of Christian apologetic styles and schools of thought. The major types of Christian apologetics include: historical and legal apologetics, philosophical apologetics, prophetic apologetics, doctrinal apologetics, Biblical apologetics, moral apologetics, and scientific apologetics.
Historical and legal evidentialist apologetics
In the evidentialist tradition empirical arguments about the supposed life, miracles, death and resurrection of Jesus are presented as probabilistic proofs.
The first Protestant textbook of apologetics was written by the Dutch legal scholar Hugo Grotius, On The Truth of the Christian Religion. This work, which remained in print until the late Nineteenth century, defended the historicity of the gospels, and also addressed arguments to Jews and Muslims.
Various arguments having been put forth by legal scholars such as Simon Greenleaf and John Warwick Montgomery and others claiming that Western legal standards argue for the historicity of the resurrection of Christ.
Philosophical apologetics concerns itself primarily with arguments for the existence of God.
These arguments can be grouped into several categories:
1) Cosmological argument - Argues that the existence of the universe demonstrates that God exists 2) Teleological argument (argument from design) - Argues that there is a intricate design in the world around us, and a design requires a designer. 3) Ontological argument - Argues that the very concept of God demands that there is an actual existent God.
In Medieval Europe Anselm of Canterbury composed the Monologion and Proslogion in which he developed the ontological argument for God's existence. He believed that faith was necessary as a precursor to philosophical argument and expressed his position as "I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand: for this I also believe, that unless I believe I will no understand."
4) Moral Argument - Argues that if there are any real morals, then there must be an absolute from which they are derived. 5) Transcendental Argument - Argues that all our abilities to think and reason require the existence of God. 6) Presuppositional Arguments - Arguments that show basic beliefs of theists and non-theists require God as a necessary precondition.
Prophetic Christian apologetics
Doctrinal Christian apologetics
In this type of apologetics various Christian doctines are defended such as the trinity. Also non-Christian religions are argued against. Christian apologists have developed arguments against Judaism, against Islam, and against Deism for example. Changing modes in apologetics, whether or not they are currently fashionable, are important markers in the history of ideas.
Biblical apologetics include issues having to due with Biblical inerrancy and the authorship and date of Biblical books, and Biblical canon. In addition, Christian apologists defend and comment on various book of the Bible. Some scholars who have engaged in the defense of Biblical inerrancy include: Gleason Archer, Dr. Norman Geisler, and R. C. Sproul. Also, there are several resources that Christians offer defending Bible inerrancy in regards to specific verses. Some scholars who have defended the authorship and date of Biblical books include: Kenneth Kitchen, John Wenham, and Bryant G. Wood. Scholars who have defended Biblical cannon include FF Bruce and Bruce Metzger. In addition, there are a host of Bible scholars who have defended and commented on various books of the Bible.
Moral Christian apologetics
In moral apologetics the arguments for man's sinfullnes and man's need for redemption is stressed. Examples of this type of apologetic would be Jonathon Edwards's sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God". The Four Spiritual Laws religious tract would be another example.
In the first centuries of the Common Era a number of Christian writers undertook the task of proving that Christianity was beneficial for the Roman Empire and for humanity as a whole. Also they wrote to defend their faith against attacks made by other people or to properly explain their faith. Aristides and Quadratus of Athens, writing in the early second century, were two of the first Christians to write apologetics treatises. Other second-century apologetics writings of note included the First Apology and Second Apology of Justin Martyr and the Epistle to Diognetus , a response to the accusation that Christians were a danger to Rome.
About a century after Constantine's conversion to Christianity, the Roman Empire began falling to invaders from northern Europe. Some Christian writers sought to explain the decline of Roman culture and power by systematically downplaying the achievements of classical antiquity while emphasizing the persecution of Christians and the positive role of Christianity in society. Paulus Orosius wrote the first book advancing this perspective (History Against the Pagans), though the far more learned and influential work of this type was The City of God by Augustine of Hippo (426).
Several of the early Christian apologists developed arguments from fulfilled prophecy and gospel miracles as proofs of Christ's divinity. Eusebius of Caesarea in his Demonstration of the Gospelattempted to prove the truth of Christianity by fulfilled prophecies from the Old Testament, and by rebutting arguments that the apostles had made up the story of Christ's resurrection.
Scientific Christian apologetics
Various arguments are put forth from Christians argueing the Christian God is responsible for existence of the universe as we find it today. Topics such as the creation of matter and energy, the existence of scientific laws, the origin of life, and the origin of various types of animals and plants on the earth are focused on. (see: Creationism and intelligent design).
General History of Christian apologetics
Evidentialist apologetics such as today's Josh McDowell are the most popular apologetics and have been historically. This can be seen from the earliest times in Christianity as the New Testament records the apostles appealing to eyewitness testimony.
Historically speaking philosophical apologetics has not been very instrumental in the propogation of the Christian faith or had much interest to many Christians although it has appealed to Christian intellectuals. The Apostle Paul who was very educated said to beware philosophy (Col. 2:8). Evangelical Christian apologist Dr. Norman Geisler composed a essay entitled, "Beware of Philosophy: A Warning to Biblical Scholars". Yet some apologists call themselves Christian philosophers such as Michael Horner. An explanation of this conflict is that some philosophy is seen by Christians as being compatible with Christianity such as the laws of logic but some of philosophy is not such as non-theistic philosophy. Also, Francis Schaeffer a conservative Protestant Christian apologist argued that Christians needed to be more knowledgeable about philosophy such as knowledge regarding epistomology so they could reach the non-Christians and be better able to argue against philosophy which Schaeffer thought was errant non-Christian philosophy.
A influential Catholic apologist was Thomas Aquinas who presented five arguments for God's existence in the Summa Contra Gentiles. Aquinas's approach, which adapted Aristotlean thought, is known as Thomism, and has dominated both Roman Catholic and Protestant approaches.
In India, the emergence of modern rationalist and atheist beliefs has prompted a counter move from indigenous Christian apologists. The most notable among them is Dr. Johnson C. Philip, who authored more than 50 books and 2500 articles in defense of the Christian faith.
Christian apologetics today
Christian apologetics continues to the current day in various forms. The Catholic G. K. Chesterton, the Anglican C. S. Lewis, the evangelical Norman Geisler, the Lutheran John Warwick Montgomery, and the Presbyterian Francis Schaeffer were among the most prolific Christian apologists in the 20th century.
Among the most widely read Christian apologists writing in English have been Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel. Another modern apologist is Ravi Zacharias, author of The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha which argues for Christian truth over against world religions and other modern movements. Other leading Christian apologists include: Gary Habermas, FF Bruce, William Lane Craig, Edwin M. Yamauchi, Gleason Archer, Bruce Metzger, J.P. Moreland, Bernard Ramm, Kenneth Kitchen, R. C. Sproul, Greg Bahnsen, JP Holding, and Michael Horner.
Conservative Christianity and its critics
Christians who adhere to conservative theology hold a exclusivist worldview in terms of asserting that it is correct and that all other worldviews are in error. Conservative Christian theologians base their views on how they view various Bible verses. For example, the Gospel of John states that Jesus said, ""I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). The book of Acts records Peter saying, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12). The Gospel of Mathew records Jesus saying, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who doesn't gather with me, scatters." Conservative Christians see these verses supporting a exclusivist view. Critics of conservative Christianity say that there are many roads to God or that there are many gods or they are atheistic and argue that all theistic beliefs are in error or are not sufficiently supported. In the West, atheists, agnostics, and liberal theologians are particularly critics of conservative Christianity. For example, atheists have offer resources which give arguments against conservative Christianity. Conservative Christians, in turn, such as creationist, offer resources argueing against atheism. In addition, some adherents of other religions assert that there religion is correct and Christianity is in error. Also, some critics of Christianity are relativist and state the any exclusivist view is wrong. However, conservative Christian apologist most notably Ravi Zacharias argues that Christian conservative theology which is more exclusivist is justified in its exclusivist nature. Others such as Leslie Weatherhead have asserted that liberal theology is correct.
Criticisms of Christian apologetics
Christian apologists employ both fact and opinion in Christian apologetics. Introductory Christian apologetics which are more wide in scope and briefer works tend to offer less facts and offer expert opinion from Christian scholars. More scholarly works offer more facts and offer more dissenting non-Christian opinions while argueing that those dissenting non-Christian opinions are in error. Critics of Christian apologetic works often take exception to some introductory Christian apologetic works because they believe they should offer more dissenting opinions from non-Christian scholars. On the other hand, some Christian apologists complain that some skeptics of Christianity attack a characterture of Christianity and are not familar enough with the Christianity or Christian scholarship to offer criticism. Skeptics make similar complaints about Christians in regards to works that are critical of Christianity. In addition, some Christian apologetic works are held to be fraudulent or blatently wrong by some. For example, Answers in Genesis, a creationist organization publishes a list of arguments that they believe creationist should not use. In addition, Kent Hovind has been critized by one of the more well known creationist organizations Answers in Genesis. Ron Wyatt is alleged to have engaged in dubious practices by some people. Christian apologetics should not contain intentionally incorrect claims or engage in sloppy research or poorly thought out argumentation. Of course, there will always be disagreements but good faith efforts should always be maintained in advocating any position.
Lastly, there is a difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness. Most non-Christians and Christians agree that aggressive and/or coercive methods should not be employed by Christians and that Christians should make every effort to be kind and gracious towards those who hold differing views.