Monday, August 27, 2007

The Role of Apolegetics

I just got out of a very interesting class, Dr. Moore's Systematic Theology class. We were discussing General Revelation today. One branch of apologetics, following the thinking of Thomas Aquinas, believes that by using apologetics, you can form some solid convincing proofs about God, man, creation in order to lead someone ultimately to Christ. These people would be considered evidentialists. I am not trying to attack Evidentialists, because some of them are men who I love to read and learn from who have a wonderful ability to present the truths of Scripture. What I am calling into question is the use of this type of apologetics in evangelism. Is it possible to make some good arguments using general revelation to then point someone to special revelation, or is it even necessary.

It sounds really good. However, look at Romans 1. Paul says that the unbeliever already has a knowledge of God within him. Unbelievers already have knowledge of what the evidentialists are trying to prove. The problem is not that they haven't heard some good fool proof arguments about Christianity, the problem is, they are sinful and depraved. No matter how good your arguments are as evidence for the validity of the Christian faith, the unregenerate will ALWAYS rebel against that knowledge (that they already know, but are suppressing in unrighteousness) no matter what, because they are sinful and hate God. This form of apologetics is not very productive because it presupposes that the problem is people just don't have good enough reason to believe, but the real problem is people won't believe no matter how good the evidence seems to be because of their sinful nature.

This form of apologetics is not very necessary either because the only thing that will change the unbelievers' "belief" is not good arguments, but the message of the saving gospel of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. This sounds very foolish, but doesn't the apostle say that it is through the foolishness of preaching that God has decided to save sinners?

Although I do not see the usefulness or the necessity of evidentialism in evangelism, I believe it has significant value in discipleship. I believe God uses these things to strengthen our faith in Jesus, the reliability of the Bible, God's faithfulness, etc.

Just some thoughts from class. Perhaps this will spark some good discussion.

9 comments:

Exist~Dissolve said...

I would tend to agree that evidentialism is generally a waste of time.

To me, however, the waste of time is not rooted in the unbelief of the person, but rather in the non-demonstrable nature of things which evidentialism seeks to establish through...demonstration. That is, if God is the uncreated Creator, ineffable in eternity, then upon reasonable basis can one conclude that the existence and nature of such a being could be apprehended and demonstrated by the limitations of human epistemology.

Interestingly, my thoughts on this are precisely part of the reason why I think creationism arguments are so misguided and, well, just plain silly.

Rhett said...

I like to use "Honk if you Love Jesus" bumper stickers...

gordan said...

...for what? Toilet paper?

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

Exist...granted, there are some silly creationism arguments...but again, there are actually some intelligent ones. Many Scientist, who are knowledgeable, have some good things to contribute as Scientist to the Christian World. Exist, you make a decent point here:

"That is, if God is the uncreated Creator, ineffable in eternity, then upon reasonable basis can one conclude that the existence and nature of such a being could be apprehended and demonstrated by the limitations of human epistemology."

But one thing to think about, which I believe, if I am not mistaking, was the thinking of Descarte...that no human being can think of the idea of God, so God must exist and has given us the knowledge of him...So could it be possible that God has planted his innate knowledge of His existence inside every one of us? Just a thought.

Mike Y said...

Josh,

You talk about the role of apologetics, but then only focus on one aspect, evidential. What about presuppositional as used by Paul on Mars Hill (Acts 17)?

Telling folks about Jesus and the Gospel sounds great. But Christ told folks of himself. The prophets before him did the same. And the disciples and apostles after him did likewise.

We're told to be ready always to give an answer for the hope that's within us. And that's the purpose of presuppositional apologetics.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

Yeah, I totally agree...I would be what you call a presuppositionalist...but my post was only dealing with the other aspect of apologetics. You said this:

"Telling folks about Jesus and the Gospel sounds great. But Christ told folks of himself. The prophets before him did the same. And the disciples and apostles after him did likewise."

I am confused by your use of the conjunction, but, in the above sentence. Using that world normally means something in opposition is coming after the preceding statement. However, I see no opposition. Here is the historical run down here that you have presented:

Prophets of Old (Before Christ) tell about Christ.

Jesus Himself tells about Christ (Himself)

We today tell about Christ in the spreading of the gospel.

We are in harmony with Christ and the prophets on this one. How awesome is it to continue in the work that has been conceived in the mind of God in eternity and has been coming to pass throughout history? Incredible.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

Also, are you using the term disciples generally as in all followers, or specifically the twelve?

Mike Y said...

Josh,

I was speaking specifically. My point was merely to contrast giving a reasoned defense as opposed to telling people to ask Jesus into their hearts.

If you recall, sometimes the revelations were quite simple. For example, Apollos came to saving faith while being baptized by John. During that time, he was reminded of Ezekial's prophecy concerning the waters of purification.

Some came to saving faith after witnessing the miracles of Christ. Others required more talking to, such as Nicodemus.

The reason we study is to be proficient in God's truths so that we may reason with all, in detail.

I didn't mean anything beyond that when I said "but". Even after going into a bunch of detail, someone may still not believe. But unless they out and out reject or show hostility towards the gospel, we may continue in the evangelism for years. The most recent convert I've interacted with required three years of talks and questions.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

Hey Mike, I don't believe we disagree with one another, but I believe this internet communication fails on so many levels. I don't doubt that we have to spend alot of time talking with people...We may very well need to invest in someone like that and to continue to talk about them and answer their questions...

The point of my post was, that it isn't our well reasoned arguments that brings one to salvation, but the power of the gospel. We may very well be able to use apologetics to eventually lead to the gospel, but even if one were to answer every objection consistently and concisely, natural man is still in rebellion to the truth. What he needs is God's Sovereign Work. Without that, no amount of apologetics will do him any good.