Note: The reader is invited to listen to a podcast on this subject, where various methods of defending the Christian faith are presented at: http://gcrpodcast.wordpress.com/2014/11/07/podcast-ways-to-defend-the-christian-faith/
Defining the term "apologetics"
In the opening text of today's post we see the mandate given by the Apostle Peter to defend the Christian's hope. In fact the word translated "defense" is the Greek word "apologia" (a-po-lo-gee-a), from whence we derive the name of the branch of Christian theology called "apologetics". When a Christian engages in apologetics, they are not saying they are "sorry" for being a Christian, rather they are given reasons to skeptical onlookers as to why they are so full of hope in an otherwise hopeless world. Dr. R.C Sproul in a sermon entitled "apologetics" gives this definition of apologetics: "A well reasoned defense of the truth claims of the Christian faith." Any well rounded Christian should not only know "what they believe" but also "why they believe".
Various methods for doing apologetics
With the mandate to defend the faith being clear from scripture and the meaning of apologetics being briefly defined, the next important area has to do with how to go about doing apologetics. With the upsurge of skepticism and attacks on the Christian faith occuring at a steady pace for the past two and one half centuries, Christian apologists have become more concerned with how one does about articulating and defending Christianity. It is hoped that the reader will at least consider each one and look for ways to defend and communicate God's truth in a lost a dying world. Today we will consider the first method for defending the Christian faith: Classical Apologetics.
Ed Hindson and Ergun Caner of Liberty University of the following description of classical apologetics:"the unbeliever is offered evidence of the existence of God, and the supposition is that the unbeliever can reasonably ascertain that this hypothesis is rational and cohesive". 1 Hindson and Caner then explain further the second area general covered by classical apologetics, namely: "The classical apologist further argues for the reliability of the special revelation (The Bible) as a reliable and authoritative word from God."2 Author Doug Powell has this to say about the classical method: "The emphasis of classical apologetics is on reason. Christianity's logical soundness and internal coherence is exploited in this method. As a result, tests are developed and proofs are given that demonstrate the truthfulness of Christianity and the irrationality of competing worldviews." Powell later adds: "The classical method is so called because it traces its roots back to the second century and the earliest apologists."3
When defending the Christian faith through the method of classical apologetics, at least two and sometimes three steps are followed in the course of the presentation.
1. First, reasonable arguments are given to show the reasonability of the Christian faith. Such arguments as showing God's existence from observations in the universe and science (i.e the cosmological argument); the existence of objective moral values (i.e the moral argument); how God is necessary for anything to exist (i.e the ontological argument) and then the evidence for design in the universe (also called the telelogical argument).
2. The next phase will usually entail demonstrating the reliability of the Bible from the transmission of its words through the thousands of existing manuscripts to the archaeological evidence supporting the accounts we read in the Bible.
3. Usually the final phase will then be showing how the God of the Bible exists due to the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Some classical apologists will combine this step and the defense of the scriptures, whereas others may only focus on either one.
A fine example of a classical Christian apologist is Dr. William Lane Craig and his website: www.reasonablefaith.org
1. Ed Hindson and Ergun Caner. The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics. Harvest House Publishers 2008. Page 64.
2. Ed Hindson and Ergun Caner. The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics. Harvest House Publishers 2008. Page 65.
3. Doug Powell. Holman Quicksource Guide to Christian Apologetics. Holman Publishers. 2006. Page 356.