Christian Apologetics Free Course 02, Lesson 7
Presupposition and Classification In Apologetics
Branches Of Christian Apologetics
Christian Apologetics is not a narrow subject dealing with the Bible and science alone, but is a vast subject with several branches dealing with various opposing views against the Christian faith.
As learning increases, opponents of the Christian faith continue to present an ever widening array of questions against the Bible. Thus the task of the Christian Apologist also keeps widening, with new topics coming into prominence in each generation. The hundreds of topics that today constitute Christian Apologetics can be classified into the following broad categories, with each of them having several sub categories.
Consideration of each of the above groups is helpful. More detailed discussion is presented in the following chapters.
Philosophical/Theological Apologetics: Many attacks against the Christian faith are philosophical in nature. Erroneous philosophy can be countered only with right philosophy, and thus the need for philosophical apologetics. Theological apologetics begins with an analysis of worldviews, and then proceeds to other aspects of non-Christian philosophies.
Philosophies against the Bible can be divided into four categories: theistic, atheistic, occultic and non-theistic philosophies. The major groups that fall into these four categories are listed below
THEISTIC PHILOSOPHIES: Groups holding theistic philosophies include Hinduism (made up of at least six different philosophies), Islam, Jainism (some branches), Buddhism (some branches), Taoism, Shintoism, Sikhism, Bahai, Zoroastrianism, Christian Cults, Non-Christian Religious Cults, and many Occult Cults.
ATHEISTIC PHILOSOPHIES: Groups holding atheistic philosophies include Hinduism (the materialistic philosophy), Jainism, Buddhism, Rationalism, Atheism, Secular Humanism, Nihilism, Marxism, and Existentialism.
OCCULTIC PHILOSOPHIES: Groups holding occultic philosophies include Animism, Tantric Philosophies, Ancestor Worship, New Age Movement, Rosicrucianism, many of the Holistic Healing Systems, Satanism, Spiritism, Devil’s Church, etc.
NON-THEISTIC PHILOSOPHIES: Non-theistic philosophies neither affirm nor deny the existence of God. However, many non-theistic philosophies tend to be atheistic. The notable ones are Theosophy, Agnosticism, and Nihilism.
Philosophy is important for gaining insight, but is not a tangible subject like physical science. Consequently, philosophical arguments can be unnecessarily prolonged. Since philosophy-based discussions are easier than science and technology-based discussions, many Christian apologists confine themselves to philosophical apologetics. Self-taught lay people may also find philosophical apologetics an easier area than the more technical types of apologetics.
Philosophical apologetics was prominent in the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries. However, from the middle of the twentieth century most attacks directed against the Bible and the Christian faith have had their origin in the more tangible fields of science and technology. Thus for success in the apologetic task today apologists need to be equipped in the other branches of apologetics. At the same time the revival of philosophical religions of the Orient demands that Christians apologists should not overlook training in philosophical apologetics.
Historical/Legal Apologetics: The rise of modern archeology in the twentieth century has brought a vast amount of historical information. Since historical narratives in the Bible are all two thousand years old or older, archaeological developments have a direct bearing on the Bible.
Critics quickly used historical and archaeological developments to attack the Bible. Historical and archaeological attacks reached a peak in the last half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century. However, the historical sciences have provided a vast amount of evidence in support of the Bible and the Christian faith.
Unfortunately, before Christian scholars could take control of this field, radical theologians spread propaganda using historical sciences to discredit the Bible. Only now have the effects of the false propaganda begun to diminish.
Bible and history, Bible and archeology, Bible and prophecies, Bible and linguistics, all fall into the area of historical/ legal apologetics. Dozens of volumes have now been written addressing historical/legal apologetics. For persons who do not have a science background but still want to work in a field of more tangible apologetics, the study of historical apologetics is a good area of training.
Rational/Scientific Apologetics: In the last four centuries modern science has become prominent in the field of knowledge. For the common man the word ‘science’ has become a synonym for ‘truth’. (Very few people know that these two words are not strictly identical).
Since the common man views science as an object of awe, wonder, and even worship, critics quickly used modern science to attack the Bible. The rise of the Theory of Evolution in the nineteenth century also gave great courage to critics of the Bible. Rational/Scientific apologetics deals with these attacks.
Rational apologetics addresses diverse subjects; e.g., Bible-difficulties, Bible and science, Bible and evolution, Bible and astronomy, cosmogony. The rise of the Theory Of Evolution has resulted in the development of Creationism as a part of rational apologetics. Today Creationism is one of the most advanced areas in Rational Apologetics.
The vastness of subjects and amount of information involved in rational apologetics creates a challenging study. However, the highly tangible nature of scientific information can be used to lead discussions between the inquirer and the apologist to a reasonable end in a reasonable amount of time.
Interdisciplinary Apologetics: With the advent of newer fields of learning and investigation, opposition against the Bible has also multiplied. Many opposing views can be countered with the help of a single subject such as history, but a few of them require the use of more than one subject. The apologist has to gather and present evidence spanning more than one discipline, thus the name ‘interdisciplinary apologetics’.
CHRISTIAN ETHICS: The defense of Christian Ethics can be placed in this category. For example the apparent harsh attitude of Jews and God toward gentiles as recorded in the Old Testament might be perplexing. People reading the New Testament (specially with a secular humanistic attitude) might find ethical requirements too strict and even unnecessary. Defense of Christian Ethics against these objections would require mastering several subjects including, history, jurisprudence, legal science, and theology. Thus for the Christian apologist Christian ethics becomes a part of Interdisciplinary Apologetics.
THE PROBLEM OF EVIL AND SUFFERING: Many atheists and critics argue that evil and suffering cannot exist in a world ruled by an all-powerful God of perfect love. The apologist needs to combine philosophy, theology, biography, and even more subjects to refute these arguments.
LEGAL APOLOGETICS: Legal and logical argument is another part of Historical/Legal Apologetics. At times legal apologetics requires the study of several subjects. Thus legal apologetics is also considered a part of Interdisciplinary Apologetics.
RELATIONAL APOLOGETICS: Educated young people often wrongly think that scientific investigation is the only method for gaining knowledge to arrive at truth. Most things in life are, however, learned by entering into a relationship with them. For example a person recognizes a table, chair, or a pole anywhere in the world. He does not have a concise definition for these things, but recognizes a table anywhere in the world because of the information collected through exposure to many kinds of tables.
Often Christians are asked to demonstrate certain truths with the help of science, even though these things belong to relational analysis. Thus in relational apologetics the Christian apologist demonstrates to the seeker that the object of his inquiry can be discovered and verified only by entering into a personal relationship.
GOD’S EXISTENCE: The existence of God is another subject faced by apologists. Since God is neither matter nor energy, experiments of physical sciences can neither prove nor disprove God. Rather, a combination of reasoning based upon several subjects can unmistakably point to the existence of God. Thus this subject also belongs to Interdisciplinary Apologetics.
MIRACLES AND RESURRECTION: Radicals and infidels often question the resurrection of Jesus and the miracles recorded in the Bible. Information from several subjects would need to be collected to defend these Biblical truths, thus this subject also can be placed in Interdisciplinary Apologetics.
BIBLE TEXT/LANGUAGE/CANON: The text, language, and canon of the Bible are favorite targets for infidels outside and inside the church. Many times the questions raised can be answered only by combining information gleaned from history, geography, linguistics, and even philology. Thus its placement in this section.
Christian Apologetics was a simple subject when opposition against Christianity was also simple. However, in the last two centuries opposition has become highly sophisticated. Critics search to find subjects with which to attack the Bible. Consequently the range and depth of opposing arguments have also increased dramatically. In response, Christian Apologetics has also become an advanced subject with numerous branches.
A student of Christian Apologetics should not confine study to the older Philosophical Apologetics alone, but should try to master more tangible fields also. This is more difficult than studying Philosophical Apologetics alone, but the results are rewarding.
Everyone who tries to use anything other than the Conservative Presuppositions is trying to synthesize two opposites into one harmonious entity. However, opposites can be synthesized only at the cost of truth, and that is an alarming possibility for any apologist.
In all all our course material we take an unashamed stand in favor of truth, total truth, and truth alone. There will be no attempt to mingle error with truth. Tens of thousands of Protestant Reformers have sacrificed their lives to defend the truth expressed in the following statements:
Sola Scriptura (Bible Alone)
Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)
Sola Fide (Faith Alone)
Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be Glory)
We unashamedly stand with the Fathers of the Reformation. The above statements form the presuppositions upon which this book rests. Since presuppositions play a very important part in apologetics, polemics, hermeneutics, and theology, another document is devoted to a discussion of presuppositions of various groups of Christians as well as non-Christians.