This past week we looked at the various forms of apologetics. But first I’d like to just throw in something from the first week. In the first week we looked at the definition of apologetics and the goal of apologetics. The short definition is the defense and proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The goal for using apologetics in evangelism is to glorify God by formulating an approach to proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ that is consistent with both biblical theology and biblical example. Now we can move to the various forms used in evangelism.
The “Classical” Method
A classical apologist uses a two step process by first using natural theology to establish the existence of God by observable data in the universe. Only after God’s existence is proven do they move on to presenting the case for Christianity, namely the person and work of Jesus Christ. All of this in an attempt to make Christianity the only viable religion. This method is called “classical” because it is assumed to be the style of apologetics of the early church fathers. The key assumptions for this style of apologetics is that man is capable of openly and honestly evaluating the claims of Christianity. The second assumption is that man’s heart is fully depraved, but his mind is fully functioning. The last assumption is that the proof of miracles are without equal in their defense of Christianity.
The “Evidential” Method
This method is much like that of the “classical” method in that it uses “proofs”to stimulates man’s ability to reason and search for religious knowledge. But unlike the “classical” method, “evidential” apologetics only needs one step to accomplish their goal. They will use historical “proofs” to prove Christianity, and the existence of God. A good example of the “evidential” method would be to begin the defense by arguing the historical factuality of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, thus proving that God exists as well as Christ’s authenticity. Key assumptions would be; the believer and the unbeliever can communicate effectively with each other, and the miracles of Jesus are compelling enough to provide the needed proof to reach the goal.
The “Cumulative Case” Method
This approach to apologetics uses the task of proving Christianity not by a formal argument by an informal one. As Steven Cowan writes in “Five Views on Apologetics”, pg 18 “The case is more like the brief that a lawyer makes in a court of law or that a literary critic makes for a particular interpretation of a book. It is an informal argument that pieces together several lines or types of data and does so better than any alternative hypothesis.” Key assumptions are that apologetics presents any sound argument to prove the “Faith.”
The “Fidiest” or “Presuppostional” Method
This system of apologetics places its defense of Christianity in the Bible itself. It assumes or presupposes, as the Bible does, that God already exists and that He has spoken by way of His word (the bible). The fidiest depends on God’s Word and the Holy Spirit to convince the unbeliever through faith. Apart from faith, which is given by God, no person will understand and receive the message of Christianity. The fidiest preaches or proclaims the Word and depends on God to do the work in man’s heart to understand. Key assumptions or statements are; apologetic methodology is based on biblical principals, the unbeliever and the believer have very little in common because of the effects of sin, and biblical faith is the only necessary ingredient for persuasion.
The biggest contrast between the “Fidiest” method and all the others is the failure to understand the sinfulness and total depravity of the unconverted. The fallen nature of man is not to seek God or understand His teaching. Outside of the God given faith to repent and follow Christ, man’s natural behavior toward is God is to rebel. Man will not on his own be able to reason out an understanding of God. I guess you know which method I prefer. I give the BarryDean4Christ stamp of approval on the fidiest/presuppositional approach to apologetics. Preach the Word, let God do what He does so incredibly, save the soul.
Soli Deo Gloria!
September 25, 2007 at 2:12 am
I agree with you about the presuppositional method’s being the best approach. I also think you’ve really hit the nail on the head with your explanation about why it is the best. I think most of the popular proponents of the other methods (e.g., Josh McDowell) do not begin with a thoroughly biblical anthropology.
My training in presuppositional apologetics, though somewhat limited, has proved invaluable in my efforts to live the gospel where I work. It has been good for me to understand, for example, the appropriateness of circularity in ultimate truth and the relationship of ultimate truth to truth particulars.
There. Didn’t that make me sound smart! No, seriously, I agree with you that apologetics is vital to evangelism and that presuppositional apologetics is the best approach.
Click here to read a PDF of The Great Debate between a presuppositionalist and an atheist. The mp3 is available in 3 parts here.
September 25, 2007 at 6:19 am
You do sound smart. Which is probably why I have no idea what you said. But yes, the presuppositional approach is vital. Thanks for the links. I will definitely check them out.
Nath @ Reformed Geek
September 25, 2007 at 4:59 pm
Preach the Word, let God do what He does so incredibly, save the soul.
I was a big evidentialist, but am now fully convinced that the presuppositional method is the most powerful, God glorifying, and Biblical…
September 25, 2007 at 10:20 pm
Here is a thought:
While approaching an evangelistic presentation with an appeal to the Bible (presuppositional), it may become a springboard to acknowledging these other truths. So, while talking about Romans 1 and the refusal to acknowledge God from the heaven’s declaration of God’s glory – you can still reference general revelation of the heavens and the galaxies. While referring to the Scriptures testimony about Jesus’ death and resurrection, I don’t see a problem with referring to the historicity of the event.
The reference to thess things, general revelation & historical facts, aren’t what bring conviction and repentance in a person but they can be part of the conversation. Whose to say that God wouldn’t use these to further solidify the truth of His Word, in a person’s heart that the Holy Spirit is already working?
I wouldn’t say to rely on these things for your evangelism, but I wouldn’t put them on the shelf. Obviously, the Word of God is the best truth that one should use in evangelism.
Jacob A. Allee
September 26, 2007 at 9:11 am
As a presuppositional apologist, I agree with Steve. I think presuppositional is where you start and then once you’ve torn down the unbiblical worldview you present the evidence for Christianity as being the only logical consistent view point to explain truth and the world around us, and Jesus Christ as the cure for the problem of sin.
September 26, 2007 at 8:39 pm
Steve and Jacob,
I do agree with your comments. I do not believe the study is suggesting that some of the other forms of apologetics are not viable. It is my understanding and belief that you must first establish an evangelical foundation built on the presupposition of God existing and the authority of scripture. Please bear with on this study as I am learning so much of this as I go. After doing evangelism for so many years and using most of the other forms of apologetics and emotional manipulation to (twist) encourage folks to believe I have to say what I am learning about presuppositional apologetics is so freeing. Thanks for the comments guys. I look forward to more dialog.
March 21, 2008 at 9:42 am
It looks like you have a great love for the Lord. It appears that you consider the “presuppositional” and “fidest” methods of apologetics to be one in the same? I have understood them to be different. Mainly, in fideism there is a reliance upon irrational faith (belief without evidence). Presupositionalism presupposes the primacy of special revelation and uses reason and evidences within a biblical framework. And of course evidentialism uses “natural theology” as a startig point (common ground).