Human Nature and Christian Apologetics

by Douglas Groothuis & E.J. Johnston

Christian apologetics is pointless unless we know who needs to know the gospel and what they are like. All humans need to come to Christ through the reception of the Gospel message, since Jesus alone is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). As we persuade sinners that they need the Savior, we need to answer the Bible’s own question:

What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:5)

Those we invite to name Christ as Lord are, first, made in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:27-28). Thus, humans are “finite replicas of God,” in Cornelius Van Til’s phrase. As such, we are personal, relational, rational, emotional, and volitional. We represent God on earth as does nothing else and are called to cultivate and develop nature (Genesis 1-2; Psalm 8). We mortals are finite and personal; the immortal God is infinite and personal. Since we are finite, we need an infinite reference point in order to find our purpose and the meaning of life and of death. We are not sufficient unto ourselves. We were created to look up to God before we look down at ourselves and the rest of creation.

Since we bear the divine image, it is not strange that God would relate to us rationally and propositionally. Our Creator spoke to the first couple in the garden and they understood him. They did not deny their divinely-given intellect to know God. Their problem was not that God had left them in the dark, but that they chose darkness over light and sided with the lies of the serpent.

Yet even after the fall, God continued to speak to his creatures, and they understood him. Using their capacity for language received from the Almighty, they responded. Equipped with language, humanity could communicate with God and each other; thus, they could establish their dominion over creation for God’s purposes. Otherwise, we would not find Paul arguing with the philosophers of Athens as recorded in Acts 17. The Apostle explains the character of God and appeals to Greek thinkers to establish common ground with his audience. He knows that Spirit-led rational argument was apropos for the non-Christian interested in his teaching…


Human Nature and Christian Apologetics | Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D.