Because Jesus told us to turn the other cheek and do good to people who treat us badly, many assume Christianity is a passive religion. Even a lot of Christians think this. They try to be tolerant, avoiding hot topics like hell and sin, especially specific sins. The consequent disappearance of conviction and valuable instruction, ironically, becomes in itself offensive; Christianity is reduced to sweet smiles and vapid stares.
Apologetics isn't the art of asking forgiveness. Instead, an apology (from the Greek apologia) of the Christian faith is the exact opposite of saying "I'm sorry." An apology is the active defense of an idea or belief. It is not a simple guard against attack. Paul said, "We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Cor. 10:4-5). This is not passive resistance. It is conscious warfare against every philosophy, religion and idea opposed to the revelation of Jesus Christ. Paul didn't wait for attacks on the Gospel to explain his faith in the triune God, he actively tore down opposing arguments with the truth of the Bible.
The Christian philosopher and apologist Gordon Clark identified three main approaches to apologetics. Rationalists, he said, try to prove the existence of God and the truth of Christianity using reason. They formulate elaborate arguments and appeal to the reasonable nature of Biblical truth, trying to convince people to become Christians. Empiricists (evidentialists) try to prove Christianity by accumulating evidence in its favor. Those who use the Turin shroud to prove Jesus' death and burial are empiricists. Presuppositionalists (or dogmatists) make up the third group. They accept the truth of the Bible prior to the apologetic endeavor. The Bible, they say, is its own best defense.
Contrary to a popular stereotype, a dogmatist is not someone whose mind cannot be changed about anything, no matter how unreasonable or false their beliefs may be. Dogmatism (also called presuppositional apologetics) is built on the presupposition that the Bible is the word of God, and that it provides the only viable defense of the Christian faith. Presuppositionalists don't reject reason or evidence, but they don't use either to defend the faith: instead, they presuppose the existence of the triune Christian God and that He has revealed Himself in Scripture, and defend such belief on the authority of the Bible itself.
While material evidence and reason can be useful, they can by no means be the final standards. Humans will always manipulate physical and intellectual arguments to mean whatever they want them to mean. Only the Bible, preserved by the Holy Spirit for God's people, can consistently resist such misuse. Peter says it is the duty of every Christian to be ready to defend the faith (1 Peter 3:15), and we believe the books here and in our worldview section are helpful in preparing such a defense.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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