Shaping the Battlefield Part I: Christian Apologetics

Anyone familiar with the term “Apologetics” will immediately grasp some of the basic ideas associated with the word. First, they will realize that apologetics has to do with building a case for the rationality and truthfulness of the Christian faith, rather than apologizing for Christianity, or for particular Christians. In contrast, those unfamiliar with the discipline may chuckle when they hear the word, likely because they feel owed an actual apology. But, they would be mistaken in taking Apologetics as meaning “to say your sorry,” even if they were genuinely owed one. Apologetics derives from the Greek apologia (απολογια) and means, “to give a verbal defense.” Thus, to employ Apologetics is to defend certain claims about truth and rationality, and that with words.

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Quid est Veritas? – What is Truth?

On this blog, I will primarily focus on the central truth claims of Christianity (e.g. God exists, Jesus is God, the Bible is trustworthy, etc.), but occasionally tackle some issues that are not directly about Christianity, but about which I think the Christian worldview can inform us and offer greater insight.

Second, those familiar with Apologetics will recognize its biblical foundation, featured most explicitly in verses like 1 Peter 3:15, and in historical narratives like Acts 17, but also elsewhere in Scripture. In these two particular passages, however, we see both an injunction upon the follower of Jesus by the Apostle Peter, and an evangelistic approach demonstrated by the Apostle Paul, that clearly advocate for the use of reason, evidence, and argumentation.

While some may dismiss the use of reason or evidence as a valid method of presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ, this does not seem to be a view that scripture itself upholds. While reason alone is by no means the whole story to true knowledge of God, see 1 Cor 1:18-31, reason is still a valid tool for clearing away false beliefs or filling in intellectual lemmas that might hinder one from coming to a full awareness of God in Christ.

Any evangelist with a rudimentary understanding of theology knows that conversion comes only through the power of God; specifically through the person of the Holy Spirit, and that this saving knowledge is non-propositional in nature.

Third, familiarity with Christian Apologetics means knowing a bit of philosophy, history and yes, science. Philosophical arguments for Theism in general are well known and ancient in pedigree. However, they are revised and sharpened by contemporary philosophers, especially in light of new discoveries in the natural sciences. Historiography (i.e. the writing of history) also plays a major role in the apologetical endeavor, especially as one tries to show the validity and reliability of biblical texts, or the theological claims made by the church throughout the last two millennia.

Philosophy, though, is the true handmaiden of Theology, and as Philosophy of Religion in general, and Christian philosophy in particular, have experienced a renaissance in recent academic history. Philosophy of Religion is more popular, and more pursued now, than in nearly a century (at least since the time of the “Logical Positivists“). Further, it can be shown that philosophy is really what many scientists do when they make pronouncements regarding certain empirical observations. Thus, without rigorous philosophical thinking, one cannot begin to have a serious apologetical discussion. Philosophical presuppositions will also effect one’s view of history itself and whether or not we can know any truth about it or from it.

At the same time I mention all of these disciplines, I do not want to present myself as a true expert in any one particular area. I am but a student in training, and always will be. For true expertise you will find links to others, who have been practicing in these fields for many years, plumbing the depths of each discipline.

In my next post I will breakdown my own view of who does Apologetics and at what level they operate (i.e. the strategic, the operational and the tactical). I will continue my survey of Apologetics itself, and then launch into particular areas of dispute. Here, however, I have only given a brief summary of what Apologetics is and why we practice it.

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