The Two Primary Aims of Apologetics

by David Murray

Yesterday we proposed a preliminary definition of apologetics as the formulation of a persuasive case for Christianity as a whole, by a Christian who views their religion as a revelation from God. We closed by distinguishing between two key apologetical aims: persuading unbelievers and persuading believers. Let’s take a closer look at these two activities with a view to further refining our definition of apologetics.

Persuading Unbelievers

Apologetics involves “persuading unbelievers.” As noted yesterday, at its heart, apologetics is all about persuasion. It’s not a mere formulation of Christian doctrine, a bare statement of theological facts, but an attempt to persuade unbelievers to embrace the Christian religion. Christian apologetics is aimed at changing unbelieving minds and hearts with various arguments that may be placed in three main categories.

First, there are arguments that defend the Christian faith. These include those that answer and defeat arguments against Christianity, as well as those that refute false accusations, stereotypes, and ideas of Christianity. Concerning this approach, J. Gresham Machen noted:

God usually exerts power [for conversion] in connection with certain prior conditions of the human mind, and it should be ours to create, so far as we can, with the help of God, those favorable conditions for the reception of the gospel. False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel.[1]

Second, there are arguments that commend Christianity, giving positive reasons to embrace the Christian faith. These more positive and commendatory arguments include arguments and evidences for the Christian faith and also the highlighting of the benefits and advantages of Christianity…

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