Five Views on Apologetics

Five Views on Apologetics

I read the book Five Views on Apologetics. There were five authors, each author presented a view and the others responded to it. The five views are: 1) Classical Apologetics, 2) Evidential Apologetics, 3) Cumulative Case Apologetics, 4) Presuppositional Apologetics, and 5) Reformed Epistemology Apologetics. This book was about the system of apologetics not providing an apologetic argument based on these viewpoints.

1) Classical Method: “The methodology of classical apologetics was first to present arguments for theism, which aimed to show that God’s existence is at least more probable than not, and then to present Christian evidences, probabilistically construed, for God’s revelation in Christ.” (p.g. 48) This argument relies first on philosophical arguments for natural theism and then second on evidential arguments to prove that Christianity is true.

Advocates of this approach: William Lane Craig, R.C. Sproul, Norman Geisler, Stephen T. Davis and Richard Swinburne.

2) Evidentialist Method: This method was said to be a one-step method as opposed to the Classical Apologetics which is a two-step method. “Instead of having to prove God’s existence before moving to specific evidences (the “two-step” method), the evidentialist treats one or more historical arguments as being able both to indicate God’s existence and activity and to indicate which variety of theism is true.” (p.g. 92) The author also suggested that this form of apologetics is beneficial for the believer as well as the unbeliever.

Advocates of this approach: Gary Habermas, John W. Montgomery, Clark Pinnock and Wolfhart Pannenberg.

3) Cumulative Case Method: This method arose because of a dissatisfaction with the above two methods of apologetics. It attempts to show that Christianity is true and is the best explanation for reality as opposed to competing world views. The author lists four thing to define the cumulative method: 1) “The argument for theism and Christianity is an informal one.” 2) “It is a broadly based  argument that is drawn from a number of elements in our experience…” 3) “None of the elements that constitute this case has any priority over any other.” 4) It “is not simply a defense of God’s existence or theism, it is an apologetic for Christianity.” (p.g. 151-152)

Advocates of this approach: Paul Feinberg, C.S. Lewis, C. Stephen Evans.

4) Presuppositional Method: This method points out that all of us have presuppositions that we live by. “Due to the noetic effects of sin…there is not enough common ground between believers and unbelievers that would allow followers of the [above three methods] to accomplish their goals. The apologist must simply presuppose the truth of Christianity as the proper starting point in apologetics.” (p.g. 18-19) This method attempts to show the unbeliever that their “worldview is inadequate to explain their experience of the world and to get unbelievers to see that Christianity alone can make sense of their experience.” (p.g. 19) The author also outlined a number of “rules” to follow and keep in mind while engaging an unbeliever in apologetics.

Advocates of this approach: Cornelius Van Til and Francis Schaeffer.

5) Reformed Epistemology Method: This view holds “that it is perfectly reasonable for a person to believe many things without evidence.” Evidence or argument is not needed in order for it to be reasonable to believe in God. There is a larger emphasis on using negative apologetics to defend ones faith rather than positive apologetics to convince someone of the truth of the faith. It was also noted by the author that most people come to faith apart from any theistic or evidentialst argument.

Advocates of this approach: Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, William Alston.

I think what approach you use depends partly on what you think the goal of apologetics is meant to be. It was pointed out in the book that there are three purposes for apologetics: provide proofs (assurances) to believers, positive (or offensive) arguments for the truth of the faith, negative (or defensive) arguments to defend the faith. It is also a desire to balance faith and reason. All the positions observed that without the Holy Spirit no one can come to saving faith. I think that apologetics helps to reassure believers and to weaken or tear down some of the “walls” people erect to justify their unbelief or belief in false doctrines and gods. Apologetics demonstrates that it is reasonable to believe in God and Christianity.

Having said this, I am left to decide which approach I think is best. I found the Persuppositional and Reformed Epistemology Methods to be more of an approach upon which to build an apologetic method rather than a distinct method. Both methods according to their authors may rely upon using theistic or evidentialist arguments. I think the other three, Classical, Evidentialist and Cumulative Case methods provided distinct apologetics methods. I like studying history so I find the Evidentialist Method compelling but I think the Classical Method has a lot to offer by relying on theistic arguments first and then evidentialist arguments second. What I liked about the Cumulative Case Method was that it presents itself as an apologetic for Christianity itself and relies on multiple arguments to demonstrate why Christianity is true and a better world view. So I find myself trying to decide between Classical and Cumulative Case methods. I think I will need to read a book that presents the actual arguments used for each before deciding since this book provided very little in actual arguments.

Christian Apologetics


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