Monday, November 10, 2014

Ways to defend the Christian faith - Evidentialism and Fideism (faith only apologetics)

1 Peter 3:15 "but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence."

Note: The reader is invited to listen to a podcast on this subject, where various methods of defending the Christian faith are presented at:

Defining the term "apologetics"
Today's post will conclude our series on ways or methods of defending the Christian faith. 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 read will at least consider each one and look for ways to defend and communicate God's truth in a lost a dying world. We close out this series of posts by consider to other methods of apologetics: evidentialism and fideism (that is - faith only apologetics).

Evidential Apologetics
In the evidentialist approach, evidence from the world of the sciences, history and observation functions to provide the necessary ammunition for the Christian apologist. Doug Powell notes: Evidentialism's value as a substantial tool to defend the faith rose in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as archaeology in particular developed as a science and turned its attention to the Mediterranean world and the Middle East. The findings of ancient manuscripts contributed immensely to our ability to know the original text of the Bible."1
Hindson and Caner give this insight about the evidentialist approach: "the method is the same: arguing the preponderance of the data."2

In the evidentialists mind, if enough evidence is brought forth to the unbeliever, the unbeliever will be backed into a corner, admitting that their evidence cannot compare to the evidence for the God of the Bible. In using events such as the World-wide flood of Genesis 6-9, evidentialists will appeal to virtually every branch of science to support the historical reality of the flood. In showing the flood to had been a real event, it logically follows then that the Bible is realiable enough to be trusted in other areas and ultimately salvation. A fine example of an evidentialist apologetic ministry is:

Fideism or arguing that the best defense of the Christian faith is the Christian faith itself
Doug Powell observes the following about this fourth major approach: "In sharp contrast to these three methods, fideism rejects reason, evidence, and transcendental arguments as sufficient ways to justify the Christian faith [fide is Latin for faith, hence fideism]. Faith and faith alone is the only proper way to understand the truth of Christianity."3  For the fideist (fee-day-ist), the task of the apologist is to proclaim the truth of the Gospel in the special revelation of the Bible, since the warped human nature rejects the testimony of God in the general revelation of creation and the conscience. As Hindson and Caner note about this approach: "A fideist, therefore, is one who holds the view that one comes to belief in God on the basis of faith alone, in the absence of or contrary to reason.Unlike the other three viewpoints that we have looked at in this series (classical, presuppositional, evidential), the value of evidence and rational arguments is placed in doubt under the method of fideism. Here is a great link describing this method of apologetics:

Over the past few days we have explored the meaning of apologetics and four main methods for defending the Christian faith: classical, presuppositionalism, evidentialism and fideism. May you and I dear reader know that not only must the Christian hope be defended, but that there are some marvelous ways in which we can go about presenting Christ to a lost a dying world.  


1. Doug Powell. Holman Quicksource Guide to Christian Apologetics. Holman Publishers. 2006. Page 359.

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 363.

4. Ed Hindson and Ergun Caner. The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics. Harvest House Publishers 2008. Page 224.