Apologetics as devotional

by Travis Dickinson

Much of the discussion in apologetics over the last few decades has centered on the proper apologetic methodology. For example, one sort of presuppositionalist thinks that we should start with the assumption that Christianity is true and then, on the basis of this assumption, our apologetic task is to show others how Christianity makes sense of many of the most important features of reality, such as moral facts and the regularity of nature. The evidentialist disagrees saying that we can use the principles of reason and give arguments, both philosophical and historical, in defense of the truths of Christianity. The classical evidentialist thinks we should first argue for the existence of God and only then proceed to argue for the particular truths of Christianity. Other evidentialists think that one can start with making arguments straightaway for the truths of Christianity.

On my view, this sort of discussion, though at some points interesting, often turns into unhelpful hairsplitting. The reality is that, in practice, the work of apologetics is never quite as neat and tidy as these methodologies imply. We might get an opportunity here and another one there to offer reasons for the hope within. Moreover, people are simply at different places in their journey and it is not always clear (even to them) where they are at on this journey. They may just have an intellectual worry or two that prevents them from

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being open to the Gospel. I find many non-Christians convinced that the Bible is riddled with contradictions and that it would thus be ridiculous to take it as authoritative. Others find problematic particular events in the Old Testament or the existence of pervasive evil in the world or think that one has to blindly and uncritically believe in the truths of Christianity if one was to believe at all. One of these objections may be all that stands between one resisting a Gospel presentation and placing one’s faith in Christ. It seems to me that the apologist must be nimble enough to make a case that fits the needs of the individual person rather than being constrained by a particular methodology.

Given this, I want to suggest an approach of a different sort for doing apologetics. The first step is to commit to cultivating the life of the mind such that we buck the contemporary anti-intellectual trend that has progressively become dominant in the church over the last century or so…


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