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What is Christian Apologetics - part b

See the Apologetics Podcasts for an mp3 download of this study.

"The most crucial issue facing the Christian apologetist is that of method: Should the apologist in his effort to defend the faith and to persuade the unbeliever of Christianity's truth claims reason to or from special revelation?  Said another way, Should the Christian apologist begin his defense of the faith standing within the circle of revelation or with the unbeliever outside the circle of revelation?" (Robert Reymond, Faith's Reasons For Believing, p. 26)

Where do we start from?
How we answer the following questions will determine where a person starts when engaging in apologetics.
  • What is the nature and function of general revelation?
  • What is the nature and function of special revelation?
  • Are there "two books" of knowledge, specifically general and special revelation?  Or just one?
  • How does sin effect man's ability to know God?
  • What is the character of faith?
  • What is the test of truth?
  • What kind of certainty does Christianity offer?
  • What is the value of theistic proofs?
  • What is the value of Christian evidences?
  • What is the nature of the common ground between believer and unbeliever that allows for intelligent conversation?
Major Apologetic Methods:
  1. Evidentialism
    • all truth is discovered through sense perception 
    • asserts the ability and trustworthiness of human reason in its search for religious knowledge
    • relies on probability arguments using empirical or historically verifiable facts
    • insists that religious propositions must be subjected to the same kind of verification that scientific assertions must undergo
    • examples would be the Thomistic Roman Catholic tradition (see Thomas Aquinas), inconsistent Reformed evidentialist (i.e. R.C. Sproul and John Gerstner), and the Arminian tradition)
  2. Presuppositionalism (or Biblical Foundationalism or scripturalism)
    • fear of the Lord precedes understanding everything else (Prov. 1:7)
    • understanding follows upon and is governed by the faith commitment.  This is often expressed by the Latin expression Credo ut intelligam ("I believe in order that I may understand").
    • believes that human depravity has made human autonomous reason incapable of understanding truth
    • the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is necessary for Christian faith and enlightenment.
    • example would be the consistent reformed tradition
  3. Experientialism
    • stresses inward religious experience as the foundation of truth instead of evidence or written revelation
    • subjective religious experience is the ground of truth and meaning
    • insistence upon the paradoxical character of Christian teaching and that Christian truth is not capable of rational analysis
    • strong emphasis on transcendence and hiddenness of God in religious experience.
    • example would be the Neo-orthodox tradition (see Karl Barth)
Follow Up Questions:
  • Why would an arminian naturally tend towards evidentialism?
  • What does the Bible say about man's ability to understand truth?  Read Prov. 2:6-7; John 1:4-5; 14:6,16-17; Col. 2:2; 1Cor. 1:17-20 
  • What about Romans 1:32; 2:12-16?  Seems like unbelieving man kind knows a lot without "special revelation"  Are these truths understood through sense perception?  Do they know these truths with certainty?
  • Why are presuppositionalist often labeled as "gnostic".  What is gnosticism?  How is it different from presuppositionalism?

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