Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., Denver Seminary, August 31, 2004

Defending the Christian Faith




part 1



“Men despise religion.  They hate it and are afraid it may be true.  The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect.  Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.  Worthy of reverence because it really understands human nature.  Attractive because it promises true good.”
—Blaise Pascal, Pensées, #12/187.



I.          The Definition of Apologetics


A.        The rational defense of the Christian worldview as objectively true and existentially or subjectively engaging.  More generally, to commendation of Christianity in the face of unbelief or doubt.


B.        Concerns defining Christian truth-claims that one must believe in order to be a Christian


1.         Essentials of orthodoxy:  Trinity, Incarnation, biblical authority, justification by faith, etc.


2.         Truth-claim:  propositions affirming the existence or nonexistence of certain states of affairs


a.         Different than a sentence; many sentences affirm of declare the same proposition (More on this in D. Groothuis, Truth Decay, chapter four)


b.         Truth-claims are different than questions, emotive utterances, commands, etc.



II.        Relation of Apologetics to Theology


A.        Apologetics is dependent on theology for its content (essential doctrines), which are defended as true


B.        Theology’s ideal is to systematically and coherently articulate what Scripture teaches


C.        We need a theology of apologetics


·         Theological truths (such as human depravity, general revelation, divine transcendence and immanence) guide one’s understanding and application of apologetics



III.       Relation of Apologetics to Philosophy


A.        Comes under one category of philosophy—philosophy of religion:  the rational investigation of religious truth-claims


·         But not all philosophy of religion is Christian apologetics; may be done in service of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, atheism, etc.


B.        Attempts to rationally justify theological statements through philosophical means (theistic arguments, defending the coherence of doctrines, such as the Trinity or Incarnation, etc.)


·         Need not be propaganda or proselytizing, but may be


C.        Resurgence of Christians in philosophy in the last two-three decades.  See James Kelly Clark, ed., Philosophers Who Believe (InterVarsity Press, 1993); Thomas Morris, God and the Philosophers, ed.  (Oxford, 1995).  Academic journals:  Faith and Philosophy; Philosophia Christi



IV.       Relation of Apologetics to Evangelism


A.        Apologetics used when necessary to remove obstacles to evangelism:  doubts, misunderstandings (Matthew 28:18 – 20)


B.        Evangelism declares Christian truth and invites unbelievers to embrace it; apologetics defends Christian truth and clarifies its meaning


C.        Apologetics as pre-evangelism (Francis A. Schaeffer)