Apologetics
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  • Introduction to Apologetics, Part 2: Classical Apologetics

    Augustine

    St. Augustine

    Again, classical apologetics focuses on the rational basis of the Christian faith.  It establishes this through several rational arguments for the existence of God (Cosmological, Teleological, and Ontological), and evidences for the reliability of the Bible and miracles.

    Some main characters:

    -The Apostle Paul (first century) would sometimes cite the resurrection and fulfillment of miracles in his preaching of the Gospel (Acts 17…).

    Justin Martyr (100-165 ad) focuses much of his attention defending Christianity to the Roman government and arguing against prominent heretics of that day, particularly Marcion.  Justin keys in on defending the Incarnation of Jesus as the Divine Logos, emphasizing prophecies fulfilled, and highlighting the reality of Jesus’ Second Coming. [there are some presuppositional veins in Justin Martyr as well – most notably, he thinks God’s existence needs no proof]

    St. Augustine wrote very widely defending Christianity against the heresy of Pelagius as well as positively refining/defining many central elements of orthodox Christianity.

    St. Anselm (1033-1109) is most famous for the original formulation of the Ontological Argument.  The ontological argument for the existence of God is exceedingly difficult to understand, requiring heavy thinking to comprehend its brilliance.  I happen to think that the ontological argument actually establishes the existence of God.  I also happen to think that it is the second best argument behind the presuppositional Transcendental Argument.  I think the best formulation of the ontological argument is Alvin Plantinga’s version employing modal logic.

    Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) also wrote very widely, providing much of the foundations for the Roman Catholic tradition up til Vatican II.  Aquinas is a central figure in Classical Apologetics for his 5 arguments for the existence of God.  The 5 arguments are:

    1. Many things are moving.  Everything that is moved was moved by something.  An infinite chain of movers is impossible.  Therefore there had to be an unmoved mover.  We call this unmoved mover God.
    2. Many things are caused.  Existence is a series of causes and effects.  There had to be a beginning, hence there must be a first cause to this chain of causes and effects.  We call this unmoved mover God.
    3. Some things in the Universe may or may not exist, these beings exist contingently.  However, it is impossible for everything in the Universe to be contingent, because something exists right now.  Therefore, there must be a being whose existence is not contingent but necessary.  We call this necessarily existent being God.
    4. Different perfections of a wide range of degrees can be evidenced  in the Universe.  These degrees of perfection assume an ultimate standard.  The ultimate standard is God.
    5. All natural bodies work toward a purpose.  These objects are unintelligent in an of themselves.  Acting towards a purpose is a sign of intelligence.  Therefore, there is an intelligent being that guides these natural bodies to those purposes.  This intelligent being is God.

    In recent times several key apologists continue on the rich tradition behind them:  R.C. Sproul, Norman Geisler, William Lane Craig, and J.P. Moreland.

    Up next, we will take a look at Evidentialist Apologetics.

  • Introduction to Apologetics… Part 1

    Paul

    Paul, The First Apologist

    I think there are two main barriers to people consistently sharing their faith, fear of man and lack of knowledge.  We will do a series of blog posts to introduce the different schools of Christian apologetics.

    [Christian] Apologetics means quite simply a defense of the Christian faith.  Broadly speaking, we can use the sports metaphor of offense and defense to categorize the different schools of apologetics (recognizing that all schools have both offensive and defensive elements).

    DEFENSIVE – broadly speaking, defensive arguments appeal to reason

    Classical Apologetics:  Classical apologetics focuses on the rational basis of the Christian faith.  It establishes this through several rational arguments for the existence of God (Cosmological, Teleological, and Ontological), and evidences for the reliability of the Bible and miracles.

    Evidential Apologetics:   In one way, evidential apologetics is a subset of classical apologetics, but in the last century has grown to be a stand alone school.  It emphasizes the rational evidences for Christianity, namely, miracles, fulfilled Biblical prophecies, and how our world is incredibly fine-tuned (Teleological Argument aka Argument from Design).

    OFFENSIVE – broadly speaking, offensive arguments point to the necessary foundations that precede and make sense of reason

    Presuppositional Apologetics:  Presuppositional apologetics presupposes the existence of God and the truth of the Scriptures.  Presuppositional apologetics seeks not to defend Christianity with rational evidences but rather attacks the false assumptions (presuppositions) of the unbeliever.  Say, a non-believer believes that man is inherently good and does not believe in God or His Word… all the evidences in the world will do no good until his incorrect and inconsistent presuppositions are exposed.  It also challenges whether rational arguments are any good at all being that all the reason in the world will do no good unless God regenerates their heart.

    Pascal:  Pascal challenges whether we can reason ourselves into heaven, being that the path to the Kingdom must pass through the heart.  For Pascal, ‘the heart has reasons of which the mind knows nothing of.’  For Pascal, faith and reason go together, but ultimately it is evidences that confirm the faith and not the evidences that lead to faith.

    If we submit everything to reason our religion will be left with nothing mysterious or supernatural. If we offend the principles of reason our religion will be absurd and ridiculous.

    Alvin Plantinga (Reformed Epistemology):  Plantinga argues that belief in God is a properly basic belief and therefore requires no justification.  He has also defended Christianity against the problem of evil and put forth a modal logic version of ontological argument.

    Just for kicks, here is a video of evidentialist William Lane Craig, cross-pollinating a bit, employing some presuppositional tools against scientific naturalism:

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkBD20edOco]

    Next, we shall take a deeper look at each of the different schools and assess their relative strengths and weaknesses…

    October 29, 2009 • Alvin Plantinga, Apologetics, Epistemology, Pascal, Presuppositionalism • Views: 327