Approaches to Apologetics

By Jacob Toman

This is the second part in a multi-part series on Christian apologetics. The first article, A Reason For Faith, can be found by clicking this link.

There has been a statistically consistent trend among studies in Christian evangelism: there are more challengers to faith in Jesus Christ today than there ever have been, established world religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Agnosticism, Buddhism, and atheism. All present various cases against biblical, historical Christianity. Google analytics display a downward spiraling trend of interest in evangelism, while the global trend for searching “is God real” is slowly on a growth track.

“49% of the leadership ministries spend zero time in an average week ministering outside of the church....

89% of the leadership ministries have zero time reserved on their list of weekly priorities for going out to evangelize.

I don’t share this data to send you into a tizzy or panic about God’s world mission. God is on the move through his people, through you if you have faith! God’s desire for his people is to be equipped to share the news of Christ Jesus. Sharing Christ can be as simple as having a short conversation, or as complex as having an elongated, lengthy discussion. The way how we share our faith is various and diverse. When Christians give a defense of their faith, there are typically 5 general approaches to sharing a reason for faith:

Classical apologetics,

Historical apologetics,

Existential apologetics,

Presuppositional apologetics,

and Cumulative apologetics.

Each of these categories have been implemented and used throughout the course of the history of the church. At different points throughout church history, due to the nature of the objections to Christianity, different types of arguments are set forth to defend Christian reasons for faith.

Origen (184-253 AD)

Origen (184-253 AD)

Classical apologetics first seeks to establish an argument for God's existence. Using typically cosmological or teleological reasoning, classical apologetics moves from the general evidences for the existence of a creator, to specific evidences for the existence of the Christian God.

An example from Classical apologetics:

“An all powerful creator being exists as we can observe through creation of the known universe. Biblical Christianity makes sense in light of the reality of creation. Therefore faith in Jesus is a rational, logical, and sensible choice.”

 

Historical apologetics roots it's defence of faith in the historical reliability of Christian documents such as the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament. The foundations of historical apologetics is the accuracy and trustworthiness of ancient oral tradition (from the ancient exodus of the Israelites from Egypt between 1400-1200 BC, to the first disciples of Jesus during the first century AD) and written history.

An example from Historical apologetics:

“Historical collections of ancient and classical sources show that the Old Testament and New Testament are trustworthy documents. Since the history of the bible stands up to the scrutiny of archaeology, it is a reliable and reasonable outcome to have faith based on the narrative and historical accuracy of the original texts of scripture.”

Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD)

Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD)

Existential (sometimes called experiential) apologetics bases its arguments for Christian faith on needs we can perceive as created beings. Our own felt and experienced needs for justice, community, and spiritual meaning is used to explain God's relationship, character, and existence.

An example from Existential apologetics:

“Since we experience a longing for justice, communion with creation and a creator, and have a moral sense of right and wrong, the qualities we posses are reflections of our created needs. As creatures made with needs for a God of love, compassion, justice, and eternity, biblical Christianity is a logical and reasonable belief.”

 

Presuppositional apologetics bases its arguments by asserting (for the sake of the argument) that the Bible is true, and the God of the Bible is therefore true. Through the foundational thesis that the Christian Bible is true, truth and rational thought then extrapolate out to demonstrate the validity of Christian faith.

An example of presuppositional apologetics:

"The only barrier to faith in Jesus is the foundational truth claim of the Christian Bible concerning the existence and nature of God’s character. Therefore, if the Bible is true, then Jesus was God in the flesh, and faith in him is the only rational option."

 

Cumulative apologetics seeks to blend different aspects of each of the aforementioned approaches in order to demonstrate reasons for Christian faith. Using logical reasoning, historical evidences, personal needs, and a mixture of presuppositional apologetics, cumulative apologetics seeks to provide reasons for faith through multiple lenses.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Some of the most influential figures in the history of Christianity have been the result of intense, internal conflict in discerning their own reason for faith. There is a great irony in the Lord using the doubt of many to create a curious attitude that leads to faith in Jesus.

Here are a few names to Google if you'd like to read more about some people who have struggled with faith:

Origen, Augustine of Hippo, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Thomas Aquinas, Jonathan Edwards, CS Lewis, Alister McGrath, Alvin Plantinga.

CS Lewis (1898-1963)

CS Lewis (1898-1963)

If you’re a Christian, what are your reasons for faith? Why do you have confidence in the hope which you posses?

If you aren’t a Christian, we’re honored you’re here at Gospel & Gaming! We’d love to know more about your story and play a game together soon!