Reasons to Believe

Christian Apologetics, Part 2 (of 4)

Participating in effective Christian apologetics means that you will never have to say you're sorry!

Christians have engaged in apologetics (to give a reasoned defense of the faith, 1 Peter 3:15, Jude 3) from the time of the apostles to the present (see part 1). Contemporary apologists have virtually 2,000 years of material at their disposal to sift through, reflect upon, and apply.

We have a lot to gain from the Christian thinkers who came before us, including Tertullian, Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, Blaise Pascal, Jonathan Edwards, Joseph Butler, William Paley, Soren Kierkegaard, John Henry Newman, Abraham Kuyper, and many others.

Learning how the masters defended the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation can assist believers today when these teachings are contested. For example, the ancient ecumenical creeds reveal how the early church formulated these critical truths within the context of external challenges from aberrant and heretical individuals and groups.

Knowing how Christians of old responded to the religious pluralism and moral relativism of the ancient Roman Empire can pay dividends when confronting these enduring challenges at present. Ancient Christianity flourished during an age characterized by pluralistic and relativistic thought. Maybe the enduring lessons of the past can help present-day Christians to see the faith thrive once again.

And certainly understanding the church's history–its struggles and sufferings–can help contemporary believers endure harsh criticism and persecution. Learning about the strength and courage of our forerunners can inspire modern believers.

The collective apologetic wisdom of Christian history provides a valuable and enduring resource for today. Unfortunately, too often the assumption that those who live in the present have greater insight than those of the past blinds contemporary Christians from recognizing that many of the faith's greatest apologists lived in the past. (C. S. Lewis called this thinking "chronological snobbery.") Technology has greatly advanced but the condition of the human heart has remained the same.

Nevertheless, the powerful Christian apologetic enterprise continues to advance today. While unique work is taking place in the fields of philosophy, history, theology, and literature, the best example of cutting-edge apologetics may be in science. Arguments from big bang cosmology, the fine-tuning of the universe, the origin of life, the advancements in biochemistry, reflection upon human consciousness, and the exploration of information theory are challenging the foundations of the naturalistic paradigm.

Apologetics is alive and well today in its imperative of providing rational justification for the truth-claims of Christianity.

For a thorough discussion of the history of Christian apologetics (from ancient to modern to contemporary), see A History of Apologetics by Avery Cardinal Dulles.

For more about the truth of historic Christianity and its vibrant world-and-life view, see my books Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions and A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Subjects: General Apologetics

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that “all truth is God’s truth.” As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity’s truth-claims. Read more about Kenneth Samples.