Chapter 7 of Contend Earnestly For The Faith
Many defenders of the faith fail to see apologetics in its wider scope. They often focus only on one apologetic methodology, neglecting the other methodologies. Though choosing to specialize in only one type of apologetics is often admirable, ignorance of the contributions of the other methodologies is unfortunate.
In this chapter, an attempt will be made to examine the entire spectrum of the apologetic discipline. There are basically eight distinct apologetic methodologies. They are:
- Testimonial apologetics,
- Presuppositional apologetics,
- Psychological apologetics,
- Philosophical apologetics,
- Historical apologetics,
- Scientific apologetics,
- Comparative religious apologetics, and
- Cultural apologetics.
Testimonial apologetics is used when a person defends the faith by appealing to evidence from either his own testimony or that of another person. Testimonial apologetics contends for the truth of Christianity by employing evidences from transformed lives and/or divine intervention in one’s life. Evidence from transformed lives deals with providing to others the information about how Jesus has changed the lives of those who have trusted in Him for salvation.
Divine intervention pertains to documenting how God has intervened in the lives of people. Examples of divine intervention would include answers to prayer and genuine episodes of miraculous healing. Regardless of what position a person takes in reference to the continuance or cessation of the spiritual gifts of healings, most Christians would agree that God does at times still heal in answer to prayer.
Many people who consider themselves opposed to the practice of apologetics unknowingly use testimonial apologetics. When they evangelize others, resistance to the gospel is often countered by utilizing testimonial apologetics. The use of testimonial evidences is as much a part of apologetics as any other evidences.
Presuppositional apologetics denies the validity of all other apologetic approaches. This technique for defending the faith teaches that a believer must assume or presuppose the truth claims of Christianity rather than argue for them. On this point presuppositional apologetics is in agreement with fideism. However, presuppositionalists specialize in tearing down anti-Christian belief systems, something true fideists do not do.
The presuppositional methodology is vital to the apologetic task. Still, presuppositionalists need to appreciate the other forms of apologetic argumentation. Presuppositional apologetics is an effective way to defend the faith, but it is not the only way.
Psychological apologetics focuses on man’s psychological need for the God of the Bible. This approach appeals more to the will and the emotions of the person than to his or her intellect. This methodology deals with issues such as the meaningless of life without God. It attempts to explain the dilemma of man (man is both great and cruel).
Psychological apologetics targets the thirst within man to transcend his present earthly experience. This seldom-used approach can be very effective when dealing with modern man. Today’s secular thinkers have generally lost confidence in the power of human reason to find ultimate truth. Yet, modern man has not been able to quench his thirst for meaning.
It is here that Christianity has much to offer. For, the gospel makes sense of life and gives meaning to human existence. Without the God of the Bible, mankind is without any real purpose. However, if one assumes the existence of the God of the Bible, then man has eternal significance. What one does or does not do in this life really does matter. Only Christianity can quench modern man’s thirst for transcendence.
Philosophical apologetics provides rational argumentation for the truth of Christianity. This methodology has been extremely effective in the past. It can also be very successful today among those who have not lost faith in man’s reasoning ability to find answers of ultimate importance.
Philosophical apologetics serves several purposes. It can be utilized in refuting atheism and other anti-Christian world views, providing evidence for God’s existence, proposing solutions to the problem of evil, and establishing the possibility of miracles. Philosophical apologists also argue for the existence of universal moral laws.
Those defenders of the faith who use this apologetic methodology often use both the reasoning processes of the mind and the facts of experience to prove the case for Christianity. Philosophical apologists, when they have completed their task, often move on to historical apologetics.
Historical apologetics provides evidence for the historical claims of the Christian Faith. Evidence is provided for the historical reliability and authenticity of the New Testament manuscripts, Christ’s resurrection and deity, and the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. Christianity is a religion that makes historical truth claims. The truth of Christianity depends on the reality of these assertions. Therefore, it is essential that evidences from history be used to establish the veracity of these claims.
Scientific apologetics provides modern scientific evidence that confirms certain truths of Christianity. This method of defending the faith also exposes the weaknesses of the evolutionary model. The Big Bang model, the expansion of the universe, and the second law of
thermodynamics (energy deterioration) are often employed to establish the case for the beginning of the universe and its need for a
supernatural Cause. The highly complex information found in even the most simple life forms is used to prove that the supernatural Cause of the universe must possess intelligence.
COMPARATIVE RELIGIOUS APOLOGETICS
Comparative religious apologetics specializes in the investigation of opposing religions and cults. Evidence is provided to demonstrate that these other belief systems contradict Christianity on essential issues. The comparative religious apologist will attempt to establish both the truth of Christianity and the falsehood of any non-Christian faiths. Often, the refutation will be based upon an appeal to biblical data. Still, philosophical, historical, or scientific evidences are at times called upon to disprove these false belief systems.
Finally, cultural apologetics attempts to prove the superiority of the Christian world view by pointing out the positive consequences of applying Christian principles to a society, as well as the negative consequences of either rejecting the Christian world view or accepting other belief systems. The impact of different religions (including Christianity) on governments and societies will be examined. I will also argue that the rejection of God by Western Civilization will lead to devastating consequences for the West, and that, apart from repentance, Western Civilization will crumble. The cultural apologetics of Christian thinkers C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer will be discussed.
Defenders of the faith often suffer from one of two common misconceptions. First, many Christians verbally oppose the entire field of apologetics. However, unknown to themselves, they often do this while making use of one of the lesser known apologetic approaches (usually testimonial, presuppositional, or psychological). Second, many apologists refuse to acknowledge a methodology other than the one they choose to employ. It has rightfully been said that “all truth is God’s truth.” Therefore, evidences for the Christian faith should not be limited to one area of knowledge. Apologetics can draw from the wealth of information in many different fields (philosophy, history, science, psychology, etc.). Apologists from each methodology should respect the efforts of other defenders using different approaches. Christians can never succeed in the apologetic task by arguing among themselves. Many philosophical apologists (i.e., Geisler, Moreland, Craig, etc.) also utilize historical and scientific evidences. This combinational methodology is a healthy approach for the apologist to take.