"...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect..." 1 Peter 3:15
Introduction and Meaning
This guide has been constructed to aid students who are new or unfamiliar with the sources available to them through the SEBTS library in the area of Christian apologetics.
The term "apologetics" is derived from the Greek word apologia (ἀπολογία), which relates to the notion of giving a reasoned defense. "Apologetics" is not exclusively a Christian discipline. A person can be an apologist from the perspective of any worldview, so long as he/she seeks to defend or justify the worldview in question.
Methods of Apologetics
Essentially, two types of apologetic arguments may be presented: positive or negative. Negative apologetics seeks to invalidate arguments presented against a position, whereas positive apologetics seeks to provide good reasons for adhering to a position.
Classical Apologetics: The term "classical" is appropriated here because this method of apologetics is deployed by apologists in the era of the early church. Distinguishing features in apologetic methods are usually located where the method begins, or what presuppositions serve as the starting point. For classical apologetics, the starting point tends to begin with natural theology. The question is, "How can we (or can we) assert the reasonableness of the existence of God from creation?" Essentially, the starting point is an argument for theism, and then from there, the argument develops into what kind of theism has the best explanatory power, both in terms of the created order, and in terms of coherence.
Evidential Apologetics: This apologetic method shares similarities to the classical method, but begins with a different series of questions. Christian apologetics in the evidentialist form will typically begin with the question, "Who is Jesus?" If the historical evidence gathered from the life of Jesus accumulates in favor of his deity (usually by assessing his miracles), then the existence of God and the legitimacy of Christianity are justified simultaneously.
Presuppositional Apologetics: This method begins with the supposition that Christianity is true, and that the Scriptures serve as the chief arbiter and foundation for all truth claims. Thus, arguments made against the truth of Christianity are formed on presuppositions that are grounded in the truth of Christianity. Presupposition apologetics emphasizes the 'darkening of the understanding' as a natural consequence of the application of sin, resulting in an inability on behalf of the unbeliever to be persuaded of the truth of the gospel through the aid of logical or historical arguments.
While other methods of apologetics exist, the important point to note is that what tends to separate one apologetic method from the other is the starting point of the arguments and the presuppositions that undergird them.