It seems things haven't changed since St. Paul's day: Jews still seek signs, and Greeks still seek wisdom. Of course, "Jew" and "Greek" no longer refer to nationalities, but to worldviews. "Jews" are those who demand visible proof of the Gospel, and "Greeks" are those who refuse to believe unless they can be reasoned to faith.
Both of these positions put the burden of proof on the one presenting Christianity. "If you're going to tell me to believe," objectors imply, "you're going to have to prove what you're telling me is true." But this is exactly what we must not do: such an apologetic method makes man the standard of truth, rather than the God who made man.
If the claims of Christianity are true, the burden of proof is on the unbeliever to prove that God doesn't exist, that He hasn't revealed Himself to mankind, and that we don't have souls destined for either torment or joy. Yet the unbeliever rejects these out of hand simply because he is an unbeliever, and demands proof. It's an impossible, unsustainable circular argument.
Evidential apologists (defenders of the Christian faith who rely on physical evidence to prove the truth of Christianity) attempt to supply such proof. They produce original autographs of the Bible, references to biblical characters in contemporary secular writing, artifacts and other archeological evidence, etc. to justify belief in the Christian Gospel.
Cumulative case apologists take a somewhat different approach. They have a similar interest in physical evidence, but also use logic and Classical arguments for the existence of God. Whereas evidential apologetics focus on hard evidence, cumulative case apologists are preoccupied with proving that belief in Christianity is reasonable and even incontrovertible.
As far as proving the validity of Christianity, both these methods are incomplete because neither are rooted primarily in the fact of God's self-revelation to mankind, both in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and in the written Bible. The only real reason to believe the Gospel is that it is God's truth; and how can God's truth be proved by purely human means?
That, however, doesn't mean that producing evidence is worthless. For one thing, Christians themselves need reassurance from time to time, and showing them that their faith does have an historical basis can be extremely helpful. For another, it is possible to demonstrate to unbelievers that Christianity isn't a complete invention, and thus to establish grounds for dialogue and mutual respect.
It is the Holy Spirit that saves. As children of Adam dead in our trespasses and sins, we're unable to bring ourselves back to life with a choice, a prayer, or an intellectual assent. Only God can bring us to Himself. But in His infinite wisdom He's put in place primary and secondary means, so that what we do and say plays some part in His plan.
Because of this, we have to bear in mind the limits of any apologetic method, and to employ any argument to the glory of God and for the spread of His Gospel. For this task, presuppositional apologetics is the best tool, since its foundation is God's Word, not man's reason or physical evidence. But evidence and argument have their place, and we shouldn't abandon them altogether.
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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