A Theologically Informed Apologetic

[Part II of my reaction to William Lane Craig, Mike Licona, and Andy Stanley]

William Whitaker, in his disputations on Holy Scripture writes of his opponent, “In the first place he says, that there was no scripture from Adam to Moses, and yet, that there was then the word of God and pure religion; and that therefore the scriptures are not absolutely necessary.”[1] Note that this is the very argument that Andy Stanley et al. have attempted to make concerned the necessity of inerrancy to the Christian worldview. In other words, Christian pastors, professors, and apologists are telling Christians that the Bible is not necessary for Christian belief. William Lane Craig has recently expressed his belief that doing apologetics is possible without theology. In other words, an apologetic apart from Christian theology is entirely possible.

In my view, for Craig and Licona, their apologetic method aims for pure neutrality. This explains, in my view, why Craig can separate apologetics from theology. However, it seems to me that this is a self-refuting idea. For Stanley, the problem is more pragmatic. I don’t question the sincerity of Stanley. I question his theology.

So here is the question that I believe is driving Craig’s belief that apologetics can be separated from theology: can an argument based on pure probability defend the doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy? You see, this is a logical problem. It seems to me that the problem lies in Craig’s apologetic method. How does one shift gears from its highly probable that God exists to the claim that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God? Is it possible to claim a highly probable inerrant Scripture? Wouldn’t the claim of inerrancy rule out the weaker argument from probability? Is it meaningful to say that it is highly probably that the Scriptures are Inerrant? To say that the Scriptures are without error is to claim that they are perfect. I cannot see how probability can have a role to play in the argument for an inerrant Scripture.

To say that something is possible is to say that it is true in some possible world. To say that something is necessary is to say that It is true in all possible worlds.[2]  God’s word is inerrant. This expression says, necessarily, God’s word is inerrant. It is true, it has to be true, in all possible worlds. It cannot be the case in any possible world that God’s word contains error. This then begs the question, is the Bible the Word of God or does it just contain the Word of God? To what standard will Craig appeal if he is to say of this text, it is the Word of God, but of that text, it is not the Word of God? And, I must ask, are we doing theology as we move through these questions or are we doing apologetics? Indeed, we most certainly are doing theology. And, in truth, we are doing apologetics. Quite simply, we are doing both, theology and apologetics.

William Lane Craig has told us that not only it is possible to do apologetics without doing theology, but apparently, such a practice is desirable. You see, some theological truth is unpleasant to the unbelieving mind. The unbeliever is just not intellectually prepared to handle many of the miraculous acts of God in Scripture. Therefore, instead of theological truth, what we have to offer the unbeliever is apologetic truth. Perhaps Craig would prefer philosophical or even logical truth. But what sort of truth is empty of theology? In my previous post I tried to demonstrate that Craig’s view on the inerrancy of Scripture is out of step with Scripture itself, with historic Christian orthodoxy, and finally, it is wrought with logical inconsistencies. P.F. Strawson opens his book, Introduction to Logical Theory, with the following; When a man says or writes something, there are many different ways in which his performance may be judged. Among other things, we may question his truthfulness or criticize his style, we may assess the morality of what he says, or we may appraise its logic; though not all of these types of assessment are appropriate to all kinds of utterance.[3] Craig’s remarks have to be subjected to some sort of assessment in order to determine if they reflect good belief or belief that ought to be abandoned. What will the standard be for such an assessment? And, how can we know if we are using the correct standard? In fact, as a presuppositionalist, I would ask Craig to provide the criteria for his belief that apologetics can be emptied of its theological content and then to provide his ground for those criteria. If Craig appeals to Scripture, it is to a standard that he has already admitted is not fully reliable. But if he appeals to human reason, again, he is appealing to something that is even less reliable. Part of our problem is to see what sort of appraisal these words are used for, to what kind of standards we appeal in using them.[4] I am going to argue that Craig’s words are not only untrue, but that they are self-refuting. Craig’s position is unsupported by Scripture, by historic Christian orthodoxy, and finally, by simple logic.

Before we can answer the question “is it possible to do Christian apologetics without doing theology?” one has to define Christian apologetics and theology. Then, and only then can we answer the question with any degree of epistemic confidence. Is Christian theology the necessary condition for Christian apologetics? So, what is Christian apologetics? I want to return to the apostle Peter’s mandate in order to answer this question. First, Peter tells us to set Christ as Lord aside in your hearts. In this context, the word κύριος means “one who is in a position of authority, Lord, master.” Jesus Christ is to be set aside as our authority, our Lord, our Master. I will ask you, is Peter doing theology? Obviously he is! What exactly are Christians commanded to “always be ready, prepared to give an answer for or a defense of?” We are to give an answer for or a defense of the “hope that is in us.” To what hope is Peter referring? This harkens back to 1:3: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It is the hope of a future resurrection from the dead; the hope of eternal life in Christ! I ask you again, is Peter doing theology? Obviously, the answer is yes. In his great Areopagus address, Paul did theology from beginning to end. Apologetics is the defense of Christian belief, doctrine, theology. That Christians ought to do apologetics is a truth of Christian theology. Apart from theology then, apologetics would not exist.

What is theology? Theology, as Frame puts it and I paraphrase, is the facts and truths of Scripture for the purpose edifying the body of Christ. Theology then, is the study of the system of truth revealed by God within the writings of sacred Scripture. Both the truth and acts contained in Scripture and the act of written Scripture itself are considered divine acts of revelation. Scripture reveals to us the very information that is necessary for Christian hope! The basis of Christian hope is divine Scripture. Therefore, the basis of Christian hope is theological top to bottom. Christians know that we ought to defend the Christian hope that is within us. We know that we are ought to do this because it too, is revealed in Scripture. Hence, Christian hope and the defense of Christian hope are inherently theological in nature. Since this is necessarily the case, one can conclude that apologetics is impossible apart from theology. It naturally follows from this that it is impossible to do apologetics without also doing theology. While it is true that you can engage in theology without doing apologetics, it is not the case that you can engage in apologetics without also engaging in theology. If my perspective proves true, it seems to me that theology is the necessary condition for apologetics. One could write it in the form of modus ponens:

Apologetics ⊃ Theology



Or Modus Tollens:

Apologetics ⊃ Theology



Quite simply, if there is no theology, there can be no apologetics. What exactly would we be defending?

It could also be written as follows:

¤(Apologetics ⊃ Theology)

In other words, this is the strong modal claim that apologetics entails theology. It’s like saying “there is rain” entails “there is precipitation.” In every conceivable situation where there is rain, there is precipitation. Likewise, one could say that in every conceivable situation, where there is apologetics, there is theology.

We could make the transcendental argument as follows:

Theology is the necessary condition for apologetics. Any attempt to deny that apologetics needs theology is a theological claim at the end of the day. Therefore, the attempt to deny the claim that theology is the necessary condition for apologetics is itself theological in nature. In other words, from a transcendental perspective, the denial of the premise is self-refuting. This simply means that one has to do theology even to deny that apologetics can be done apart from theology. You cannot deny the claim without actually employing it in the denial. The idea is that the claim, doing apologetics is doing theology is a self-referential claim. You are doing theology when you make the claim and you are doing theology when you deny the claim.

For these reasons then, I believe that William Lane Craig is mistaken to think that apologetics can be done without also doing theology. Nowhere is such a claim made in Scripture. Moreover, nowhere does Scripture illustrate anyone doing apologetics without also doing theology. Finally, based on sound definitions of apologetics and theology, the denial claim that one can do apologetics without doing theology is self-refuting.

[Insanity] is characterized by a lack of proper cognitive function and puts, therefore, a limitation on the knowledge one might gather, process, and communicate.[5] While the cognitive faculties have not been utterly destroyed, Scripture is clear that their functionality has been devastated by the effects of sin. The defect is not located in theology. It is located in the unregenerate mind, and as a result, any apologetic method that does not properly understand the doctrine of total depravity is very likely to be a deficient one.

[1] William Whitaker, A Disputation On Holy Scripture: Against the Papists, Especially Bellarmine and Stapleton (Classic Reprint) (Forgotten Books, 2012), 516.

[2] Harry J. Gensler, Introduction to Logic, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2010), 228

[3] Peter Frederick Strawson, Introduction to Logical Theory, [nachdr. d. ausg.] methuen 19 ed., Routledge Revivals (New York, NY: Routledge, 2011), 1.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Jonah Haddad, Insanity: God and the Theory of Knowledge (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2013), 5.

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