[This post is a work in progress as part of the CAA Catechism.]
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Summary in 400 words or less:
There are five main approaches to the rational defense of the Christian faith (apologetics): Classical, Historical (Evidentialist), Presuppositional, Reformed Epistemology, and Cumulative Case. There are other approaches not summarized here, like Imaginative Apologetics and Incarnational Apologetics. There are also many important tactics and laws of logic to abide by that come into play, and we have listed a few great resources in the references section.
Classical Apologetics: From God (through natural theology) to miracles–not vice versa. Two-step approach.
Classical apologists, like William Lane Craig, believe that, before expecting someone to even consider possible the miraculous bodily resurrection of Jesus (as recorded in the Bible), you must: 1) Start with natural theology to provide evidence that God exists and therefore miracles are possible. 2) Provide evidence for the specific miracle of Christ’s Resurrection.
Historical Apologetics or Evidentialism: From miracles to God. One step approach.
Whereas classical apologists take the “two-step” approach, historical apologists like Gary Habermas, Michael Licona, and Tim and Lydia McGrew cut to the chase and argue in “one step” from the historical evidence that an act of God (miracle) occurred in the resurrection of Christ, to the truth of Christian theism. So, instead of first arguing that God exists so that one can then believe the resurrection miracle to be possible, or rather than presupposing that God exists, this method is a direct argument for God’s existence via the truth of Christ’s resurrection.
Presuppositional Apologetics: From the revealed Word to both God & miracles. Treat God as a given or it’ll all be nonsense.
Presuppositionalists like John Frame and Ken Ham agree with classical apologists that we cannot argue from miracles to God and must first believe God exists in order to accept the possibility of miracles–however–they go even further and argue that we cannot argue for God’s existence, but must presuppose the truth of Biblical revelation. A presuppositionalist believes we should not start on common ground with an unbeliever (as in classical apologetics), because such ground is godless and sin has mucked with our reason so that such methods do not work. We should only use positive apologetics to show the logical coherence of Christianity, never to build up a case for accepting it, because no one will accept the evidence who does not already accept Christ.
Reformed Epistemology Apologetics: From the sensus divinitatis, &/or the Holy Spirit, to both God & miracles. Deep down, you know God…you got nothin’ to prove (to yourself!).
Reformed epistemologists, like Alvin Plantinga, believe that Christian belief is a properly basic belief, like memory beliefs. We don’t need to provide evidence to others in order to know our memories actually happened, and likewise do not need to provide evidence to others in order to know the Holy Spirit saved us, or to know God through the sensus divinitatis (Calvin). Showing others the truth of Christianity is another matter. This view does not rule out other methods–it just validates that there can be this sort of knowledge without the sort of evidence that is accessible to others.
Cumulative Case Apologetics: Natural theology, miracles, the witness of the Holy Spirit, and how it all just makes perfect sense if you see it through the assumption it’s all a “given”…all make a pretty airtight case for Christian theism.
Cumulative case apologists focus on Christianity as the worldview that best explains the available evidence (cosmos, religious experience, objective morality, historical facts surrounding resurrection, et cetera). Individual arguments are not the focus, rather this “best explanation” idea is central. The cumulative case method uses “inference to the best explanation,” or “abduction,” or “hypothesis evaluation and verification” (Groothuis, Christian Apologetics). This method compares competing worldviews to show that Christianity (treated as an hypothesis) best accounts for the evidence: religious experience, natural theology, historical, and so on.
Scripture for YouVersion:
Three questions (1 fill-in-the-blank, 1 multiple choice, and one discussion question):
References for further reading:
Douglas Groothuis’ Christian Apologetics chapter 3.
Five Views on Apologetics http://books.google.com/books/about/Five_views_on_apologetics.html?id=_lEYeWdefoUC
Comparing Four Apologetic Systems https://chab123.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/comparing-apologetic-methodology-classicalhistorical-and-presuppositional-apologetics/
Historical method: http://s3.amazonaws.com/tgc-documents/journal-issues/22.3_Cross.pdf
On The Historical Argument (McGrews): http://www.lydiamcgrew.com/McGrews__OnTheHistoricalArgument_.pdf
Collaborators: Maryann Spikes, Eric Chabot, Z.E. Kendall
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