Essential Truths: Four Kinds of Apologetics

Posted on August 17, 2008. Filed under: Apologetics |

Sunday, August 17, 2008– Here is the second study in the series on Apologetics I taught at my small church several years ago.

Essential Truths: 4 Kinds of Apologetics

Wednesday 10-9-02




I. The Four Approaches to Answering Lost People

II. Crucial Questions about Defending the Faith


Introduction: Last week we examined the basic worldviews that are out there, in fact they are here in Fort Worth. It is not unusual to even have competing worldviews in the same church. And if you have not noticed, inside our souls there is a struggle with competing worldviews; it is called the old nature and the new, the old man and the new, the way of the world and the mind of Christ. Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Look at Romans 7:14-25. This was Paul’s struggle in the inner man.

One of the great failures of the church has been to not teach believers how to think biblically. We live in the world, we go to worldly schools, watch worldly TV and movies, read worldly books, we are seriously affected by the worldview that surrounds us. We need to understand the world through the eyes of Christ; we need to have the mind of Christ inside of us and to think biblically.

Even for ourselves we need the study of apologetics so that we can learn to think and understand our world with a biblical mindset. Then we need to move out into the world and share the gospel with needy people, lost people, and be prepared to answer their questions. Notice the sequence of what I just said. We must understand how and why we think for ourselves, ridding ourselves of worldly ways of thinking. Then we can share the gospel with the lost. They will inevitably have questions that we will need to answer.

For this calling which is no less than the great commission, we must train ourselves. We must be prepared to witness to a wide variety of people and answer all kinds of questions. Tonight’s lesson will present the four main kinds of apologetics (witnessing approaches) and we will perhaps also examine some of the critical questions that we will need to answer for ourselves and for those who ask us to give the reason for the hope that we have.

Most of this study is taken directly from the book Faith Has Its Reasons: an integrative approach to defending Christianity by Kenneth D. Boa and Robert M. Bowman, Jr. NavPress: Colorado Springs, CO, 2001 (607pp.)

I. The Four Approaches To Answering Lost People

There are 4 basic approaches to apologetics, which I introduced to you a couple of weeks ago.(1) First is the Classical approach which emphasizes using your head, your reasoning ability to logically prove that our belief in God is right and true and the other worldviews are wrong and false. As an example let us take a person who has become skeptical about God because she has been the victim of some kind of serious evil. Let’s say that a woman who grew up in a home where her father was an alcoholic and he molested her. Then, when she was grown she had a child, but the child was born with a serious birth defect and the child died around 10-11 yrs old. The men in her life have used and abused her, she has had some trouble with the law and basically she doesn’t believe in a God who could allow so much evil to exist. Everything about life has left her sour. You begin to minister to her because her other child plays on the same sports team at school as your grandson. How do you answer her skepticism? (let’s call her Skeptical Sarah).

Using the classical method we could ask Skeptical Sarah about her belief in God. When she says that she no longer believes in God because if He was really there he would not have allowed so much evil in the world we need to respond to her somehow. We could say to Sarah that it seems that she really knows and understands evil in all its ugliness and pain. But just as sour is a good contrast to sweet, so too the presence of so much evil exposes the fact that there is some ultimate good out there somewhere, else we would never recognize evil for what it is. Even in her own soul, there is a clear sense that the evil ought not to be, that it is wrong. She knows that good must exist or else she could never understand that the evil is evil. We can explain to Sarah that God has a purpose even for evil and that he will ultimately do away with evil. In my funerals I usually go back to the Garden of Eden story because that is the biblical answer for why pain and suffering came into the human experience. The skeptic must be made to examine the other side of her question: Why is there any good, beauty or pleasure in the universe? Our faith tells us that God’s good will ultimately overcome all evil; and truth, beauty, goodness will reign forever.

(2) The second kind of apologetics is the evidentialist approach that says that there is an abundance of evidence that can be observed empirically that will show that Christianity has a high degree of probability for being true. We can present the evidence of the resurrection to show how God is overcoming evil and we can point to the beauty of creation as evidence that God does bless all men with a wonderful world even though it does have a lot of suffering.

(3) Maybe Skeptical Sarah responds somewhat favorable to your discussion, but then she says that she will agree that there is a God but that all religions are OK, they all must lead to the same God. Well, now you have a different set of problems! This is in fact one of the most common viewpoints you will find. You will want to talk with her some more and try to lead her to Christ as the only way to the Father.

In presenting the uniqueness of Christianity we would need to gently present to Sarah that these other world religions are an aspect of the evil, fallen nature of man and that it is perfectly reasonable for God to have only one true way for men to come to him. For us to determine what God may or may not do is really arrogance on our part. When Sarah protests that it is not fair for God to allow only one true religion when the world has so many we must ask where her standard of fairness comes from. We must present the truth that God is perfectly just and more righteous than any man, and that kind of God is found only in the Bible. We can share some Bible verses that stress the uniqueness of Christ, such as John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” This is called the Reformed approach which stresses the authority of the Scriptures. It is also commonly called Presuppositionalism. It is based on the idea that the Christian and the non-Christian have radically different starting points, we do not share any foundational principles, therefore, we must tear down the non-Christian worldview, exposing its inadequacies and then present the biblical worldview.

Finally (4) we can approach Sarah with the fideist approach that is much more personal and subjective. We can share our life with her, ministering to her needs and pointing her to the love of the Saviour. We can stress the security of the love the Saviour has for us and how a personal relationship with Him will bring peace and fulfillment to her.

Each of these four types of apologetics is a slightly different witnessing style and each has its strengths and weaknesses. If we only know one approach we can find ourselves limited in what we can do. The combined approach can be easily adapted to meet whatever the needs of the person are and help us to answer their questions. We don’t know what the Holy Spirit will use with whoever we are ministering to. With some, the Holy Spirit uses a simple act of compassion and a few Bible verses. With others he uses a lot of deep reasoning and a lot of empirical evidence. The more folks we talk with about the gospel the more need we will see for a wide variety of witnessing resources.

II. Crucial Questions about Defending the Faith

1. Many of the people I speak with do not believe that Christianity can be the only way to God. Even within the church many professing Christians and church members believe that there are other ways to God through other religions. A crucial question for us then is: On what basis do we argue that Christianity is The Truth? The Classical Apologist says that reason provides proofs for the existence of God and the Evidentialist says that there is an abundance of evidence that shows that the biblical God is most likely. The Reformed apologist says that God’s revelation of himself in Scripture and in Christ are the basis for our faith while the fideist says, like the hymn, you ask me how I know he lives, He lives within my heart! I believe that most Christians I know would share the fideist and Reformed positions. The other two, evidentialist and Classical, would be new to you and to most Christians. But, again, I believe that a combined approach is the best.

2. Another good question is whether science can be used to defend our Christian faith. Most of modern man has been greatly affected by scientism, a belief that our value, hope and destiny lies in science and that science can answer our basic problems. For most people science poses the most formidable challenge to the Christian faith. Many Christians compartmentalize their lives so that they accept science in the realm of technology without critically examining it, while maintaining their faith in Christ. They simply do not let the two mingle.

But many apologists are finding that science provides evidence for the Christian faith. The whole Intelligent Design movement includes biochemists, microbiologists, astrophysicists and astronomers, mathematicians and lawyers in the effort to prove that scientism is a closed minded, biased religious/philosophy that ignores the overwhelming evidence that there is an Intelligent Designer of the universe- God. In the discipline of the history of science you find that modern science is the product of the Christian worldview that arose in the middle ages. Science and faith go together!

3. Can the Faith be supported by historical inquiry? If you follow the accepted rules of historical and literary research, you get an overwhelming amount of evidence for the truthfulness of the Christian faith.

4. Why should we believe the Bible? Most of my generation grew up in a culture that accepted the Bible as the ultimate authority, it was generally acknowledged as God’s Word. Those days have gone; my generation rejected the faith of our fathers. The Bible is still God’s Word but now we need to be able to provide reasons why the Bible should be believed, what the evidence is for it being historically accurate and not mere myth or legend.

5. Don’t all religions lead to God? This common question we really need to be able to answer at several levels. Quoting John 14:6 is great and is a good starting point but we better be able to go deeper. This would mean becoming familiar with other world religions and the cults so that we can carefully and respectfully show the differences that make Christianity and other religions mutually exclusive (the law of non-contradiction; A cannot equal A and non-A at the same time and in the same relationship. Ice cannot be both cold and hot.)

6. If God exists, why does he allow evil to exist? We have already looked at that question some, but we need to be able to say a little more than, I don’t know! I believe that Christianity alone provides a reasonable answer to this question.

7. Why should I believe what Christians say about Jesus? Most people believe that Jesus was at the least a very good man; many will say he is the Son of God, but we need to ask them what that means. Then we need to be able to articulate what we believe the Bible says about Jesus and then defend it with reasonable arguments and evidence.

Conclusion: Many folks will hesitate with this stuff and say that it is for the professional clergy only. My response is that the average Christian ought to be able to carry on this kind of conversation. The average Christian can carry on an informed conversation about his/her special interests, whether it is a job, profession or hobby. Someone who has a layman’s interest in football can talk about the different skills of individual players, player stats, team records, and even the differences in the various offensive and defensive schemes. A person concerned about their diabetes or other health concerns can discuss various foods and cooking methods, exercises and medical treatments. A shoe salesman can discuss different shoes, boots and even foot problems and will know the various manufacturers’ reputations and a variety of sales techniques.

Yet we don’t want to get serious about witnessing better and training ourselves to spread the gospel. That is the preacher’s job. That is why churches all over the country are stagnant, declining and even dying. The study of apologetics can re-awaken the church and energize her for carrying out the Great Commission in the 21st century!

Most of this study is taken directly from the book Faith Has Its Reasons: an integrative approach to defending Christianity by Kenneth D. Boa and Robert M. Bowman, Jr. NavPress: Colorado Springs, CO, 2001 (607pp.)


And here is a wonderful blog about Presuppositionalism:


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