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Five Views on Apologetics
~Steven B. Cowan , Stanley N. Gundry , William Lane Craig , Paul D. Feinberg , Kelly James Clark , John Frame , Gary Habermas
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Media: Paperback
ISBN/ASIN : 0310224764
Manufacturer : Zondervan
Release data : 01 February, 2000

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    1 star1 star1 starNo starNo star    Useful but dated

    This book is useful in that it presents a catalogue of methodologies that have been used in apologetics in the not so distant past. It also indicates (unwittingly) the need for a new style of apologetics for the present day. Evidentialists use a one step approach, Classical Apologists use a two-step method. What is needed for today's culture is a ballet.

    Classical Christian Apologists usually employ a two-step approach in their methodology. The first step is to establish the claim that God exists, and then to establish the claim that God has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. One strength of this approach is that pedagogically, people usually accept new ideas generally before they do specifically. The Apostle Paul uses this method in every epistle. The approach is also more useful in times like the present when atheism (both explicit and implicit) is more prevalent.

    Craig version utilizes the kalam cosmological argument to make his case for a personal God. It is the strongest of the proofs for the existence of God, in that rests on the finite existence of the universe, which can be argued effectively with common sense and mathematics. Craig, in fact, claims that the finiteness of the universe is proven philosophical in two ways. Actually there are three ways and they are more mathematical than philosophical. The "proof" still suffers the question-begging problem, however, in that it is not clear that existence must always entail cause, and even if a cause is accepted, why must the cause be God, especially a personal one? On the other hand, his defense of the claims of Jesus based on the historicity of the resurrection seems as ironclad as these sorts of claims can be.

    Craig also makes much of the distinction between knowing and showing and the important role of the witness of the Holy Spirit. That is all well and good, but isn't apologetics more about showing? So why so much discussion on how Christians know?

    Evidential Apologetics claims as its distinctive, that it is a one-step approach to establishing the truth of Christianity by historical evidences. If Christianity can be so established, then there is no need for the preliminary step of establishing theism. Habermas is aware of the difficulty, nay, the impossibility of unbiased historiography. Consequently, he limits admissible evidence to "minimal facts", i.e. data that is 1) well-evidenced and 2) general admitted by critical scholars. He also admits to the epistemic differences between believers and unbelievers, but does rely on certain shared commonalities between believers and unbelievers such sense perception, scientific theories, and the rules of logic.

    He begins on a weak note by laying the foundation for his case with the testimony of Jesus regarding himself - this as recorded in the New Testament. Unfortunately this is a testimonial account of a testimony, which for anyone who does not accept Biblical inspiration, approaches the status of gossip. He does access pre-New Testament and extra-biblical sources to support some of his data, but they are admittedly few. Habermas' biggest problem is his overlooking the fact that all the evidence in the world will not affect most people. How people view evidences will be dependent on their respective presuppositions. Two people may draw opposite conclusions from the same body of evidence. In addition, there are some people whose minds are already completely made up, and they don't want to be confused with the "facts". The best that evidential apologetics can do is, to paraphrase Clark, defeat the defeaters.

    Much like a legal case, Cumulative Case Apologetics relies on the collaboration of a number of aspects, which, while not complete as individual arguments, are convincing when taken together. The most important strength of the cumulative case approach is that it establishes a Christian worldview and not just a logical argument for theism and/or Christianity. Ultimately, people live their lives according to their worldview, not according to some logical argument. Few individuals qualify for this category of apologists, because it is global, not narrow, and defies academic or theological categorization.

    Feinberg does an adequate job of defining the apologetic style, but a poor job of fleshing it out. Where's the "law, history, and literature"? He only presents a toolbox of truth tests and an org chart of the witness of the Holy Spirit. To his defense, the category is enigmatic due to its comprehensibility and organic non-formal nature. Nevertheless, what he tries to do in description is somewhat akin to killing the frog by dissecting it.

    In spite of Craig's inappropriate and paranoiac response to Feinberg's treatment of postmodernism, Feinberg does a fair job of recognizing the postmodern culture. What he ultimately misses, however, is that he thinks that certain states of affair "require some explanation". That's the real problem. Many postmodernists don't "require" explanation; they don't even want them. They will, in fact, resist them if you try to explain. They can only respond to a life lived, against which there is no argument.

    Presuppositional Apologetics by definition presupposes something. What it presupposes is what (who) classical apologetics seeks first to prove - the God of Scripture. It is economical in that sense. The claim is that a basic belief in God is not irrational, but is, in fact, essential to any attempt to think clearly at all. The question is not "Your place or mine?", but the statement, "My place or no place at all", commonly stated as "My way or the highway." While the claims of Presuppositional Apologetics may be true, they present an attitude that doesn't serve well as an entrée to dialog, especially in this day and age of pluralism and "tolerance."

    Having said that, Frame lists an admirable array of methodological items, especially "2. Apologists, therefore, must resist temptations to contentiousness or arrogance" and 7. The actual arguments we use in apologetic witness will vary considerably depending on who [sic] we are talking to. Apologetics is `person variable.'"

    As for the postmodern phenomenon, Frame applauds it for its rebellion against Modernism, but rails against its immature claims against absolute and objective truth. He shows that the claim against objective truth is self-refuting, a philosophical card trick that has become old hat, and despite being true remains oddly ineffective. Frame concludes his chapter with an altar call worthy of any revivalist meeting.

    Reformed Epistemology Apologetics resists the requirement of evidence and argument as a starting place for apologetics and claims that it is proper and rational to accept belief in God for three reasons: 1) few people have the ability to access theistic arguments, 2) God has given people an innate sense of Himself (sensus divinitatus), and 3) belief in God is more like a belief in a person than in a scientific theory. Claims 1) and 3) are non-controversial. 2), however, is open to debate. The debate is internal to Biblical studies, which makes the claim doubly vulnerable. There is disagreement even amongst those who hold the Bible to be authoritative. To those who do not hold the Bible to be authoritative, the premise never gets off the ground.

    It is common sense to admit that most of what people believe is not based on comprehensive investigation of evidence. Indeed, most of what we all believe is based on no investigation at all, just the testimony of someone else. Why would belief in God differ? Reformed epistemology also maintains that the innate awareness of God has been impaired by sin so that the real project for apologetics is a moral one, not an intellectual one. This seems right and Biblical and corrective to the direction of those who attempt to win by rational argument alone. In fact, those who rest their case on argument, even with their perfunctory appeals to the work of the Holy Spirit, are themselves remnants of the Enlightenment era that they claim to eschew.



    1 star1 star1 star1 star1 star    We're To Contend For The Faith (Jude 3) -- Here Are 5 Ways How

    Apologetics is an extremely important and yet overlooked aspect of Christianity. We are ready to give an answer to every man for the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15), and to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3). But how do we do this? Leave it to human beings to come up with organized systems to approach this, and this book introduces us to five different styles to accomplish this.

    Let me explain the five views as I would define them:

    1. Classical, represented by William Lane Craig: One should start off proving the existence of God before moving to miracles, the resurrection of Christ, etc.

    2. Evidential, represented by Gary Habernas: One does not need to prove God's existence before addressing miracle/the resurrection of Christ.

    3. Cumulative Case, represented by Paul Feinberg: One cannot prove God's existence or other things by formal argument, but one can informally show Christian theism to be the best alternative.

    4. Presuppositional, represented by John Frame: One needs to address people's presuppositions as they are making the case for Christianity.

    5. Reformed Epistomology, represented by Kelly James Clark: One cannot prove any argument rational, but one can believe without any evidence.

    There can be some variation between the approaches. Most of these authors have been accused of others at not really representing their views. Steven Cowan, the book's editor, pointed out that in the past some of these methodologies acted like you could do it their way or you can do it wrong, particularly Classical, Evidential, and Presuppositional.

    This actually is a strength for the book. One reason people avoid apologetics is because it is divisive. These authors come across as if they're aware they're co-soldiers, on the same side. I believe this is the way it should be in the Body of Christ.

    To be honest, like evangelism methodologies, I would say the answer to the question "Which is the correct methodology?" is "Yes." God designed each person differently. Some people work better with a certain methodology. And different people would respond to different methodologies.

    Let me conclude by stating that I'm in the process of starting a novel, involving a murder mystery during an apologetics conference. This book actually will come in handy for this project. My Dad gave this as a gift, and I am very appreciative of it.



    1 star1 star1 star1 starNo star    A good taste, but not a comprehensive introduction to RE

    The text gives a good taste of the differences between these schools of apologetics. Some reviewers have shortchanged Clark's Reformed epistemology position, referring to it as "weak" and "timid." For those who really want to understand RE and have no prior exposure to analytic philosophy (e.g., Wittgenstein, Thomas Reid, etc.), I'd advise supplementing Clark's essay with something written by Alvin Plantinga or Nicholas Wolterstorff. RE operates with an entirely different epistemology from that relied upon by evidentialists and classical apologists. I don't see this as a weakness of Clark's essay. The fact is that most evangelicals have had little exposure to analytic philosophy (except for covenental Calvinists, of course).


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