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Different Methods of Apologetics

By Gary F. Zeolla

The term "apologetics" refers to the defense of the Christian faith. The term comes from 1Peter 3:15: "But sanctify the Lord God in your* hearts [fig., inner selves], and always [be] prepared with a defense to every [one] asking you* an account concerning the hope [or, confident expectation] in you*, with gentleness [or, considerateness] and respect." The word "defense" comes from the Greek word apologia, hence the term apologetics to refer to the defense of the faith.

However, there are different methods that apologists use to defend the faith. Below is a brief outline of these different methods.

I. Testimonialism:

    A. Method: Give your TESTIMONY of what Christ has done for you personally, how He brought you to faith in Him, delivered you from your sin, healed you, brought you peace, joy, and meaning in life, or in whatever way faith in Christ has made a difference in your life.

    B. Scriptures: Mark 5:18-20; John 4:28-29; 9:25; Acts 26:1-20; 1Tim 1:12-15.

 

II. Evidentialism:

    A. Main proponents: Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense, Evidence That Demands a Verdict; R.C. Sproul, Norman Geisler, Classical Apologetics; Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith

    B. Method: Give empirical EVIDENCES for the truthfulness of Christianity and why other worldviews are false.

    C. Example: Archeological evidence upholds the historical reliability of the Bible. Meanwhile, there is no archeological evidence for the reliability of the Book of Mormon and much evidence against it.

    D. Scriptures: Psalm 19:1; Luke 1:1-4; 1Cor 15:3-8; 2Peter 1:16-18.

 

III. Presuppositionalism:

    A. Main proponents: Gordon Clark God's Hammer: the Bible and Its Critics, What Do Presbyterians Believe?; Cornelius Van Til, Christian Apologetics, Defense of the Faith.

    B. Method: Demonstrate that a logically, consistent worldview can be developed from basic Christian PRESUPPOSITIONS. For Clark, the basic Christian presupposition is the belief that the Bible is the infallible Word of God; for Van Til it is the existence of the infinite, tri-personal God. Further, this method will demonstrate that non-Christian presuppositions lead to logically inconsistent worldviews.

    C. Example: "God is love." With a tri-personal God this statement makes sense. There is eternal love between the three Persons of the Trinity (see John 17:24). But the impersonal god of the New Age Movement cannot possibly be "love." A "force" cannot love.

    D. Scriptures: Acts 14:12-17; 17:22-34; Romans chapters 1-8; 11:6.

 

IV. Verificationalism:

    A. Main proponents: E.J. Carnell; Gordon Lewis, Integrative Theology , Confronting the Cults. Most likely, also classified here would be: Francis Schaeffer, Trilogy, Complete Works and C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Miracles.

    B. Method: Put forth a hypothesis and then either VERIFY it to be true or demonstrate it is false using three tests for truth.

        1. Factual Adequacy (similar to Evidentialism).
        2. Rational Coherence (similar to Presuppositionalism).
        3. Existential Viability: What type of EXISTENCE logically follows from the hypothesis? Is it VIABLE?
            a. Can a person live consistently with the resulting worldview?
            b. Does it provide confidence and meaning in life? (similar to Testimonialism)

    C. Example: The Book of Ecclesiastes and Psalm 88 present the "vanity" and despondency which logically results from the basic beliefs of Deism, which teaches that God is a distant being who is not intimately concerned with life on earth and that there is no life after death.

    D. Scriptures: Isaiah 41:21-26; 1Cor 15:12-20.

 

V. Cumulative Case:

    A. All of the above are CUMULATED to build a CASE for the truthfulness of Christianity or against another worldview.

    B. Scripture: 1Cor 15:1-58.

The last view is my personal viewpoint. Each of the above methods has their pros and cons. But when all of these methods are combined together, it makes a strong case for the truthfulness of the Christian faith and the falsity of all other work views.

Notes:
The links in the above outline are direct links to where the books can be purchased from Books-a-Million.

Different Aspects of Apologetics. Copyright 1999 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.dtl.org).

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above outline first appeared of the Free Darkness to Light Newsletter.
It was posted on this site September 28, 2003.

General Theology and Apologetics
Intermediate Articles: General Theology and Apologetics

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