How Should I Earnestly Contend for the Faith? Conclusion

Now that we have reviewed the five most common methods, which method of apologetics is the best? I would encourage my readers to do their own research, read Five Views on Apologetics for themselves, and make up their own minds. My personal opinion is that, more than any one method, Five Views… promotes what is gaining popularity as “integrated method.”

Rather than promoting one method above the rest, it shows that these methods have more similarities than differences. In fact, many of the authors admit openly to borrowing from each others’ methods. For example, William Lane Craig tempers his classical method with Reformed epistemology:

We know that our Christian beliefs are true because they are properly basic, warranted beliefs grounded in our vertical experience of the witness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. … We can show that Christian theism is true by presenting arguments for theism and evidences for a specifically Christian theism, which go to show, when coupled with defensive apologetics, that Christian theism is the most plausible worldview a sufficiently informed, normal adult can adopt.

Dr. Craig’s concept of showing Christianity to be true is typical of the classical method, but his ideas on knowing Christianity to be true are derived from the Reformed epistemology of Alvin Plantinga. He has adopted this hybrid method in order to avoid becoming overly rationalistic in his defense of Christianity.

William Lane Craig is not alone mixing and matching methods. John Frame (unlike some other presuppositional apologists) affirms the role of evidence and even classical arguments for God’s existence.

… [O]ur argument should be transcendental. That is, it should present the biblical God, not merely as the conclusion to an argument, but as the one who makes argument possible. …We can reach this transcendental conclusion by many kinds of specific arguments, including many of the traditional ones. The traditional cosmological argument, for example…

Few people would disagree that William Lane Craig is among the best classical apologists, and that John Frame is among the best presuppositionalists. It is encouraging that, despite some disagreement on minor differences between them, they agree on the the most important things. It is also enlightening for the classicalists among us who have engaged the simpleton “presuppositional apologists” who really do insist on arguing in vicious circles, and the presuppers among us who have encountered the uber-rationalist “evidentialists” who are more committed to the latest evidence and arguments than biblical orthodoxy. We should judge the merits of each method on the best apologists, rather than the worst.

Personally, I lean toward the classical method. Like William Lane Craig, I also appreciate the Reformed epistemologists’ objection that belief in God is justified apart from empirical evidence, and I agree that we know God exists better via the inner witness of the Spirit than by arguments. I also love the presuppositional passion for the authority of the Bible and apologetics as evangelism. Finally, I love the imaginative literary nature of cumulative case apologists, who remind us that Christianity is more than a set of syllogisms.

No matter the method, there are some essential elements of quality Christian apologetics. All believers are commanded to always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. No particular method is described. Classical, evidential, cumulative case, presuppositional, or Reformed epistemology apologetics are perfectly fine from a biblical perspective. But we are to be ready with an answer, and we must deliver it with gentleness and respect. Our apologetics must be grounded in the Scriptures. We should always bear in mind the purpose of apologetics as well: to spread the gospel. Whether we use a particular method, or integrate various methods, goal of apologetics is not to show everyone how intelligent Christians can be, but to remove intellectual obstacles to encountering Jesus Christ.

How Should I Earnestly Contend for the Faith? Part 1

1 Peter 3:1, ESV

In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

The question is how?

Even I, after several years of studying apologetics, began to wrestler over the best method of defending the Faith. I was most familiar with the classical method from the ministries of William Lane Craig, Frank Turek, and Douglas Groothuis. I also read or heard apologists that described themselves as “evidentialists”–but weren’t the classical apologists also arguing from evidence? What was the difference between evidentialists and classicalists? Many of these apologists also said they were building a cumulative case for Christianity, but differentiated their arguments from another school of apologetics known as the the cumulative case method. Still other apologists argued that the biblical method of apologetics was to presuppose the truth of the Bible, and to convince the unbeliever that they already knew the truth of Christianity as well. There were still other Christian apologists that did not seem to fit with any of these methods. All the apologists agreed that the truth of Christianity needed to be defended, but disagreed on the details. They all used similar terms, but seemed to mean different things at times. Of course, every apologist seemed convinced his or her own method was the best.

In order order to weigh the options, I decided to read Five Views on Apologetics.

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Five Views on Apologetics presented five major schools of thought on apologetics in a point/counterpoint format. Each apologist was given a chapter to presented his own view, followed by critiques from the other four apologists. In the last chapter, each apologist was given a chance to respond to the criticisms from the previous chapters.

As the title of the book implies, five views of apologetics were described and critiqued. The classical method was presented by William Lane Craig, evidential apologetics was defended by Gary Habermas, cumulative case apologetics was explained by Paul Feinberg, presuppositional apologetics was promoted by John Frame, and finally Reformed epistemology was expounded by Kelly James Clark. I found the point/counterpoint format very helpful, since all these apologists were brilliant and persuasive. As I read each chapter, I often found myself won over to the method I was reading about until I read the critiques of the method.

In this series I will present a basic summary of each of the five views. I will attempt to be objective at first, presenting the pros and cons of each view in order to inform the reader so they can make up their own minds which method is best. In the last post of the series, I will present my own conclusions.

Based on the Google searches I made, I am apparently the last apologetics nerd to actually read Five Views on Apologetics and blog about it. However, perhaps there are some new students of apologetics who aren’t yet familiar with the book who may find this series helpful.