The Three Types of ApologeticsThe Three Types of Apologetics
This article is intended to give a brief overview of the conversation I had with Israel Wayne about the Three Types of Apologetics. Not only did we get an incredibly good look at what these different types are, we also had a great time in the process. It was a pleasure having Israel Wayne on the show. If you haven’t listened to the audio files associated with this article, you need to check them out. And with that, let’s look at the topics we covered in the podcasts with Israel Wayne.
Evidential Apologetics is the branch of apologetics that attempts to give persuasive evidences for belief in the Christian faith. Evidential Apologetics utilizes a cumulative case for belief. In other words, evidential apologists will provide multiple lines of persuasive evidence to the unbeliever in hopes of convincing them of the truths found in the Bible. It is an inductive approach to proving the claims of Christianity in that the evidential apologist will argue from particular lines of evidence to the universal truth of the Bible. Some of these lines of evidence include historical, archaeological, experiential, prophetic, and rational evidence.
Historical evidence can be everything from the evidence for the resurrection, evidence for intelligent design, and examining extra biblical texts that corroborate the words of the Bible. Some notable Apologists who utilize historical evidence would be Gary Habermas, Mike Licona, Josh McDowell, and Ken Ham,
Archaeological evidence that could help support the claims of the Bible could be things like the discovery of Mount Sinai, Jericho, or Petra. It’s been said that every time a spade hits the dirt in Israel, a skeptic is converted. Archaeology continues to un-earth one discovery after another that confirms the truths found in God’s word.
Experiential Apologetics encompass testimonies and supernatural experiences. Experiential Apologetics are more subjective in nature and as a result some find this branch of Evidential Apologetics unconvincing. Nonetheless, many unbelievers have been drawn to the faith by seeing changed lives and hearing powerful testimonies. We want to be careful about claims of supernatural experiences as these types of experiences can come from many sources. Mormonism, Islam and Christian Science all came out of claims of a supernatural/mystical experience. We also need to be careful that we don’t rely solely on experiential evidence in our attempts to reach the lost.
The Old Testament is filled with hundreds of amazing accurate prophecies that foretell of the coming Messiah. Our Bibles also give us prophecies of Jesus’ second coming. This was one of the main reasons that I (Michael Boehm) became convinced that the Bible is God’s word. No other book can accurately predict future events like the Bible. This is one of the characteristics of the Bible that makes it stand out amongst all other faiths. There is no doubt that prophetic evidence can be very convincing to an unbeliever.
Rational Evidence is a line of evidence that is primarily used in Classical apologetics but does show up in Evidential Apologetics. Rational Evidence relies more on logical arguments to convince an unbeliever in the existence of a God. Some examples of rational evidence type arguments would be the ontological, teleological, moral, and cosmological arguments.
Strengths of evidential apologetics
Evidential apologetics gives you reasons to believe that what you believe corresponds to reality. In other words they can boost the faith of a believer when they see that their faith is based on powerful evidence.
Weaknesses of evidential apologetics
Evidential Apologetics are predominantly used by those in the Armenian camp (I’m not taking sides here). There can sometimes be this feeling that if one doesn’t present the perfect most persuasive argument and the unbeliever is not convinced, then the apologist failed. This can place quite a bit of stress on the one doing the witnessing if they feel that they are solely responsible for the salvation of the unbeliever.
The name Presuppositional Apologetics was formally coined by apologist Cornelius Van Til and popularized by Greg Bahnsen. Presuppositionalists understand that everyone has presuppositions or starting points. The starting point for the believer is that God exists and he has written His law on our hearts. It is also presupposed that everyone deep down inside understands this.
Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Presuppositional apologetics starts with the understanding that all of mankind is sinful and that they are in rebellion against God. Presuppositional apologetics seeks to get to the heart of the issue which is the unbeliever’s sin and need for a savior.
Strengths Presuppositional Apologetics
It is true that God has written His laws on our hearts and that all of mankind knows of His existence. Presuppositional Apologetics allows you to skip past the multitude of intellectual arguments and go straight to the heart of the issue which is their sin and need for a savior. By skipping over the intellectual and personal objections you can get to the gospel every time. Because of this, Presuppositional Apologetics has been proven to be a very effective tool in witnessing to a lost world.
Weaknesses of Presuppositional Apologetics
Presuppositional Apologetics often tends towards a hyper-Calvinistic position. Because hyper-Calvinism puts a heavy emphasis on God being the one that does all the work converting the sinner, the hyper-Calvinist may not put as much passion and effort into witnessing.
Another potential drawback to Presuppositional Apologetics is that the sceptic might accuse you of begging the question. They may feel that you’re not proving your point and that you’re assuming what you’re trying to prove. This may be frustrating to the unbeliever.
The emphasis of Classical Apologetics leans heavily towards logic and reason. Classical Apologetics often focus on arguments for the existence of God. Some examples would include; the ontological, teleological, moral, and cosmological arguments. Apologists that gravitate towards Classical Apologetics would include C.S. Lewis, William Lane Craig, Ravi Zacharias, Norm Geisler, J.P. Morleand, and Frank Turek.
Strengths of Classical Apologetics
Because Classical Apologetics emphasizes logic and reason they have an appeal to certain types of people. Classical Apologetics seem to be most prevalent on college campus environments. It is reported that the moral argument has been the most effective Classical Apologetics argument on campuses lately.
Weaknesses of Classical Apologetics
Sometimes the assumption is made that man’s real obstacle is intellectual rather than a sin problem. In other words, if we can just give the right argument to overcome their objections, they’ll convert to Christianity. This obviously isn’t true.
Often times, using Classical Apologetics can get you stuck arguing about the existence of God and you may never get to talk about the God of the Bible. In other words, you set yourself up for many pitfalls and hang-ups on the way to presenting the gospel. If you have time this is not an issue, but if we want to get our unbelieving friend to the belief in the God of the Bible, we need to focus on presenting the gospel.
What’s the Best Type of Apologetics?
As you can see there are times and places for all three types of apologetics. I would take into account what objections your unbelieving friend may have. Are they smoke screens concealing a deeper emotional objection? What worldview does your friend currently hold? Do they already believe in a creator God or are they an atheist? Do they embrace postmodernism? How much time do you have to witness to this person? Is this a street corner encounter, or a longtime friend?
Bottom line; there is no silver bullet or magic formula here. Ask as many questions as you can to understand where they are coming from. Pray to God that he will soften their heart and guide you in this conversation. Be humble and winsome in your conversations. Examine yourself and make sure you’re not there to win an argument but rather to lead a soul to Christ. Choose the direction you think is best and have a loving conversation. Remember, it is God who ultimately converts the unbeliever. God has given us the privilege and honor of taking part in the process.
If you would like to learn more about Israel Wayne and his ministries visit:
http://christianworldview.net for great articles covering worldview issues and apologetics
http://israelwayne.com for information about Israel Wayne, his books and Family Renewal