A Primer on Why Apologetic Method Matters

by | Jun 25, 2017

Apologetic method is the outworking of one’s theological commitments or presuppositions. Since apologetics entails a defense of the message from God directed to human beings, it logically follows that one’s beliefs about the nature of God, the nature of God’s message, and the nature of the target audience of God’s message, human beings, would serve to inform the method by which such beliefs are defended. Hence, there is an indelible relationship between apologetic method and one’s view of God, man, and the gospel. The only alternative is the obvious presence of inconsistency between a person’s apologetic method and their basic theological commitments. However, the conscientious Christian will always seek to avoid such inconsistencies.

Since it is safe to assume that any reasonable person, and especially Christian, would always seek consistency in their arguments, it is easy to conclude that if for no other reason, apologetic method matters because consistency in one’s apologetic model matters. But lets place that aside for a moment assuming that any reasonable person would read it and respond with a hearty, Amen!

Since apologetics seeks to defend Christian claims about God, it is important that the apologist understand the nature of the God that Christianity claims actually exists. What sort of being is he? For example, if an apologist were to deny the doctrine of God’s omnipotence, we would have to ask how that might impact his apologetic model along with any objections he might encounter from those who reject that such a being as the sort of God he claims exists, actually exists. For example, if God exists and God is omnipotent or, all powerful, why is there evil and suffering in the world? How the apologist answers this question is critically important to the defense of the common confession of the Christian community. Perhaps God is omnipotent, but maybe he is malevolent. Maybe that is why there is evil in the world. Or, maybe God is omnipotent but he is not very organized and evil was able to enter in while God was distracted or preoccupied.

If the unbeliever claims that God must be malevolent, the Christian apologist will of course reject this characterization of God. Why? Because the Christian God is perfectly and infinitely good according to the basic tenets of Christian belief. To say that God is malevolent is a blatant contradiction of the Christian claim that this sort of God and only this sort of God actually exists. So if God is omnipotent and if God is perfectly good, then perhaps it is true that God is not the most organized of beings. After all, being all powerful and being perfectly good have nothing to do with one’s organizational skills. True.

The Christian apologist will reject the hypothesis that God was just not organized enough to keep evil out of the world. Why? Well, because the sort of God the Christian apologist claims exists is omniscient. That is to say, he knows all things, possesses all knowledge so that his knowledge of everything is without limit and is infinitely perfect. This sort of God would know how to keep evil out of the world. Now, the unbeliever is getting a clearer picture of the sort of God that the Christian apologist claims exists. He is the sort of being that is without limits in his knowledge, his power, and his goodness. He is perfect in every way. So then, the unbeliever will say; yet evil exists! How is such a state of affairs possible? The typical Christian apologist is going to respond that God has given human beings free-will and that is precisely what accounts for why there is evil in the world. So, the sort of world that exists is a world in which evil exists and evil exists in this world not because of any deficiency in God, but rather, because of the free choices of human beings.

The unbeliever will respond that if it is true that God knew all things, he knew that if he created a world like this, a world in which free will is actualized, that evil and suffering would follow. Moreover, Christianity teaches that all men will experience suffering and that all men enjoy evil behavior and even that most humans will eventually be confined to eternal damnation. How could a world in which all human beings will choose to be evil and as a result all of them experience will suffering and finally in the end, most of them will experience eternal torment, be better than a world in which none of that exists? Such a cost is insufficient to justify even the good that Christianity claims is the result of Christ? Perhaps such a God could be omnipotent and even omniscient and create a world like that, but surely he could not be considered good, and certainly not perfectly good. After all, any reason person is capable of understanding that much about good, evil, and suffering.

If God is all powerful, and God is perfectly good, and God is all knowing, then logically speaking, there is no reason why God could not have created a world in which free agents always choose to do the good. There is no logical problem with this scenario. Some apologists may argue that such a scenario does not reflect true freedom. However, I cannot see how that objection can be sustained. If the sort of God exists that the Christian has labored diligently to show exists, then such a state of affairs seems within the capabilities of this God. Otherwise, the Christian apologist must surrender or compromise his beliefs about the sort of God that actually exists.

Indeed some apologists have made just such a compromise. They have surrendered divine omnipotence in order to preserve their view of human freedom. God’s will is eclipsed by human will. God’s sovereignty is subjugated to man’s whims. God really wanted to accomplish “x” but Billy insisted on “y” and since Billy has free will, God is powerless to accomplish “x.” But the question we must ask just here, just now, is whether or not the Bible and the common confession of the Christian community actually teaches such a thing about God or about Billy as far as it goes. Clearly, the Bible contradicts such a depiction of God and of Billy. This particular defense of Christianity is inconsistent with the Christian confession about the sort of God that exists, and as a result, it should be avoided at all costs. I could move to other inconsistent methods, such a open theism’s denial that God’s knowledge is infinite and all-encompassing or process theology’s claim that God reacts and changes, but I will leave it here. I think the point is clear:

Apologetic method matters!

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