Christians are generally well aware of the fact that their beliefs are under fire. Many are even well acquainted with defending their faith through apologetics — the defense of one’s religious beliefs. But when you say “apologetics” to most people, what usually seems to come to mind (for better or for worse) is a defense of young-earth creationism (the rejection of evolution and the position that the earth is no more than about 10,000 years old). But if we temporarily set aside the issue of evolution or the age of the earth, what does that leave for apologetics?
I fear that far too many Christians would say that ignoring the issue of evolution leaves little to nothing for apologetics. The reality is, however, that issues concerning an interpretation of Genesis merely scratch the surface of things. Focusing exclusively on the issue of evolution and the age of the earth ignores the other attacks facing Christianity as well as the positive cases to be made from apologetics that Christianity is true (it doesn’t all need to be defensive).
I would like to suggest that, leaving issues of the earth’s age aside, apologetics done right has the potential to lead a person to an intellectually fulfilling belief in Christianity. But first, Christians need to know what is out there in the world of apologetics. I want this post to be an introduction to that world.
As with anything, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about apologetics. For our present purposes, I just want to outline a right way by giving Christians two central questions to focus on.
1. Whether we can know if there is a God
2. If there is a God, whether we can know which religion we should follow
In light of these two questions, I’m sure a lot of Christians, especially Christians unfamiliar with apologetics, might raise an eyebrow, bang their fist on the table, and confidently proclaim that of course we can know God exists and that Christianity is the religion we should follow because the Bible says so and the Bible is true.
But for anybody experiencing that sentiment, I want to pause a second and say that the very point of apologetics is to arrive at a reasonable belief that what the Bible says is true. A lot of people from a lot of religions are all very confident in the truth of their religion and the experiences and feelings which they believe confirm their religious biases. The apologist’s job is to pierce through those biases and give sound reasons to believe in one religion over another.
So how do we start giving sound reasons? The first task within apologetics is proving God’s existence. The idea is to avoid experience or feelings about God’s existence since experiences and feelings lead to a lot of contrary opinions. Instead, I would like to name a few arguments which Christians should at least be aware of.
1. Cosmological arguments (explaining why/how the universe exists)
2. Teleological arguments (explaining why/how the universe exists the way it does in a way suited to support life)
3. Moral arguments (explaining how ethics suggest God’s existence)
4. Arguments from beauty
5. Arguments from consciousness
Christians should also be aware of arguments against God’s existence and should have a reasonable opinion on them. These include the problem of evil and the problem of divine hiddenness (articles on both of these issues can be found in the “featured articles”).
If the Christian apologist is succesful in giving reasonable evidence for God’s existence, we still have to answer the question of whether we can form a reasonable belief in one religion over another. This question is almost unfairly tilted in favor of Christianity since the core events in Christianity lend themselves to historical investigation in a way that absolutely no other religion can match (a pretty common topic in my posts). You can find more about historical arguments for Christianity in the “history” category.
While it should be done to the glory of God, putting somebody in an intellectual headlock with arguments for God’s existence or the historicity of Christianity and punishing them every time they try to change the subject without addressing the arguments is a powerful way to pierce through the pretenses behind which so many skeptics hide when they confront the idea of Christianity. It may be true that nobody was ever argued into the Kingdom of Heaven, but people like me who need their intellectual questions answered can certainly be inclined to doubt whether such a kingdom even exists when Christians cannot tackle serious questions in a reasonable way.
That’s why it is so critical that Christians have a clear idea of the full arsenal available to them in apologetics and have some familiarity with how to use it effectively. Familiarity cannot happen without first being acquainted, and it is my hope that this post will sufficiently and clearly provide a first introduction for Christians not already acquainted with apologetics.
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