Christian Apologetics: Who Needs It?
by William Lane Craig
SUMMARY: Recently, Dr. Craig had the privilege of delivering two lectures on Christian Apologetics for the Stob Lectures at Calvin Theological Seminary. In this talk, Dr. Craig describes what Christian apologetics is and three ways the discipline serves a vital role in the body of Christ—in its ability to shape culture, its capacity to strengthen believers, and its necessity when evangelizing unbelievers.
I am honored and deeply humbled by the privilege of being invited to give the Stob Lectures this year. Indeed, I’m a bit embarrassed by all the fuss you’ve made. There’s a temptation to try to justify one’s selection as the Stob lecturer by giving some hopefully impressive, scholarly pair of lectures. But a phone call from President Plantinga made it quite clear to me that such was consistent with neither the intended purpose nor the audience of these lectures. I had thought to speak on some key topics in Christian philosophical theology. But President Plantinga encouraged me instead to address the question of Christian apologetics, a topic apparently dear to the heart of Henry Stob but somewhat neglected in recent years. He encouraged me to draw upon my years of experience as a Christian apologist to share some very practical thoughts on this discipline. So that is what I’ve decided to do.
Tonight we ask ourselves the fundamental question: Christian apologetics—who needs it?
To begin with, I think we ought to distinguish between apologetics’ necessity and utility. The distinction is important. For even if apologetics should turn out not to be absolutely necessary, it doesn’t follow that it is therefore useless. For example, it’s not necessary to know how to type in order to use a computer—you can hunt and peck, as I do—, but nevertheless typing skills are very useful in using a computer. Or again, it’s not necessary to maintain your bicycle in order to go cycling, but it can be a real benefit to maintain a well-oiled machine. In the same way Christian apologetics can be of great utility even if it’s not necessary for some end. Thus we need to ask concerning Christian apologetics not only, “Who needs it?” but also “What is it good for?”
Christian apologetics – Its definition
Christian apologetics may be defined as that branch of Christian theology which seeks to provide rational warrant for Christianity’s truth claims. Those who treat apologetics dismissively tend to measure apologetics’ worth by focusing upon its alleged necessity in warranting Christian belief. Some thinkers, particularly in the Dutch Reformed tradition, see this role as unnecessary and sometimes even misguided…
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