Session Notes

What We Will Learn Today

  1. The root of Apologetics
  2. The task of the Apologist
  3. Negative vs. Positive Approach
  4. A Brief History of Apologetic Methods


  • 1 Peter 3:15 is the classic place in the New Testament where people go to show the importance of Apologetics
  • Examples of Apologetics in Action
    • Paul going to synagogue, ‘as was his custom’
      • Working from common ground with Jews
    • The statue to the ‘unknown god’
      • Stoic and Epicurean philosophers engage with Paul and ask for a positive argument
  • Apologetics is a cornerstone of early apostolic preaching
  • Paul’s Method for Apologetics
    • Paul on Areopagus
      • Makes for a case for God in general
      • Then, makes case for Christ’s resurrection
    • Paul on trial in front of King Agrippa
      • “The resurrection was not done in a corner”
      • Describes himself as ‘set apart for the defense of the Gospel’
  • “We did not preach to you cleverly devised myths”

-- 2 Peter 1:16

The roots of the word ‘Apologia’

  • First seen with Plato describing Socrates’ trial
  • Opportunity to address the charges that are made against you

Apologetics is generally referring to objective, fact-based approach

Some object to Apologetics

“You can’t persuade anyone to believe...only the Holy Spirit can give faith”


  • Absolutely; saving faith is purely a gift from God

The Apologist is not trying get someone to trust in God as a personal savior

The Task of Apologist

  • Clear Away Obstacles
  • Show Claims Founded in Fact
  • Provide a positive case for the claims of Christ
Question: How do you ‘do’ Apologetics?

Two approaches to Apologetics

  • Inductive Approach
    • Use arguments to a larger conclusion
  • Deductive Approach (Presuppositionalism)
    • Assumes something to be true from the get go, then tries to prove that all of its parts are consistent\

It's Important to understand the difference between Correspondence Theory of Truth vs. Coherence Theory of Truth

Presuppositionalist are masters of showing logical fallacies
Example: Contemporary atheism is not wholly consistent

Negative vs. Positive Approach

Negative: Seek to deconstruct an opposing belief or worldview by demonstrating it to be logically inaccurate/invalid

Positive: Seeks to build or construct a case for Christianity by demonstrating that the resurrection of Jesus was a factual, historic event

  • Paul’s approach is almost exclusively positive in its approach

Examining Early Christian Life

Not the ‘winners’ of the ancient world; constantly defending themselves and addressing charges such as:

  • Cannibalism
  • Atheism

Example of early Apologetic work: St. Augustine, City of God

  • First half of the work is addressing a charge from roman officials: If Rome accepts Christian God, the other gods will turn against Rome.
  • ‘Jupiter and the other gods are turning their backs on Rome since Rome is overrun by Christians’
  • Augustine makes an argument against this, showing logical fallacies and historical discrepancies
  • Second half is a positive apologetic that describes the Christian worldview
  • City of God is read by kings in the middle ages, and is widely read throughout the middle ages
    • Example: Charlemagne said this was his favorite book besides the bible

St. Boniface is an example of missionary using apologetics, who set up contests between the Christian God and Thor

Known for ‘felling the Oak of Thor’

Later, Christianity eventually enjoys a privileged place and consequently thinkers begin to ask more philosophical questions

Questions of Medieval Thinkers

  • How do we know apart from faith that God exists?
  • Is there good reason to believe God exists?

Anselm’s Ontological Proof for Gods’ Existence

God is ‘that than which nothing greater can be conceived’

This being must exist in the human mind

Therefore, God exists

Thomas Aquinas was a giant of Apologetics in the Middle Ages

Especially famous for ‘5 ways of proving God’s existence’

Says that Anselm's argument doesn’t really work since it’s deductive

All 5 ways point to a ‘First Cause’

Kalam Cosmological Argument popularized by William Lane Craig

  • Whatever begins to exist has a cause
  • The universe began to exist
  • Therefore, the universe has a cause

Early Modern/Modern Period ‘The Enlightenment’

European philosophers begin to look for new ground to base their view of the world

They wanted a more neutral ground to avoid wars over religion, etc.

Look outside of revelation and the Church

Two different approaches during the Enlightenment

  • Empiricism: Knowledge comes only from what we can verify from sensory experience
    • As a result, God’s existence is pushed into the periphery
  • Rationalism: Reason rather than experience is the foundation of certain knowledge
    • A statement about the world can only be known to be true if it’s logically consistent with your other beliefs about the world
    • The Church is marginalized throughout this period and a new apologetic challenge is presented

Rise of Atheism

Scholars who are approaching the text of the Bible in a ‘anti-miracle’ way

Example: The Jefferson’s Bible

This sets the stage for some great modern Apologists


Richard Whatley, on higher criticism

William Paley, ‘Watchmaker’ Argument, traced to Intelligent Design movement

C.S. Lewis apologetics to a mass audience through Mere Christianity

Challenges Today

New Atheism

Higher Criticism

The Rise of Islam