Five Views on Apologetics

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The goal of apologetics is to persuasively answer honest objections that keep people from faith in Jesus Christ. But of several apologetic approaches, which is most effective?

Five Views on Apologetics examines the “how-to” of apologetics, putting five prominent views under the microscope: Classical, Evidential, Presuppositional, Reformed Epistemology, and Cumulative Case. Offering a forum for presentation, critique, and defense, this book ...

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Overview

The goal of apologetics is to persuasively answer honest objections that keep people from faith in Jesus Christ. But of several apologetic approaches, which is most effective?

Five Views on Apologetics examines the “how-to” of apologetics, putting five prominent views under the microscope: Classical, Evidential, Presuppositional, Reformed Epistemology, and Cumulative Case. Offering a forum for presentation, critique, and defense, this book allows the contributors for the different viewpoints to interact.

Like no other book, Five Views on Apologetics lets you compare and contrast different ways of “doing” apologetics. Your own informed conclusions can then guide you as you meet the questions of a needy world with the claims of the gospel.

The Counterpoints series provides a forum for comparison and critique of different views on issues important to Christians. Counterpoints books address two categories: Church Life and Bible and Theology. Complete your library with other books in the Counterpoints series.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Stanley N. Gundry is executive vice president and editor-in-chief for the Zondervan Corporation. He has been an influential figure in the Evangelical Theological Society, serving as president of ETS and on its executive committee, and is adjunct professor of Historical Theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He is the author of seven books and has written many articles appearing in popular and academic periodicals.

Steven B. Cowan (M.Div.; Ph.D.) is associate professor of Philosophy and Apologetics at Southeastern Bible College in Birmingham, AL.

William Lane Craig (PhD, University of Birmingham, England) is research professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University and lives in Marietta, GA.

Gary Habermas (PhD, Michigan State University) is distinguished professor and chair of the department of philosophy and director of the MA program in apologetics at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Paul D. Feinberg, (ThD, Dallas Theological Seminary) was professor of biblical and systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Dr. John Frame serves as J.D. Trimble Chair of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Oviedo, Florida.

Kelly James Clark (PhD, Notre Dame) is associate professor of philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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Read an Excerpt

Introduction

Steven B. Cowan

Fairly early in my life as a Christian -- somewhere in my late teens, I think -- I discovered apologetics. This discovery was very timely because I had also discovered that the faith I had in Christ was not shared by everyone. In fact, I discovered that some people outright rejected, even ridiculed, my faith. What's more, I found out that skeptics had raised arguments against my faith. And being the inquisitive fellow that I am (I hate unanswered questions!), I wondered myself, quite apart from all of these skeptical challenges, what reason or reasons there might be for believing the religious beliefs that I embraced. Thus, Paul Little's little book, Know Why You Believe, and Josh McDowell's Evidence That Demands a Verdict came at an appropriate time in my life, introducing me to apologetics. And from Little and McDowell, I jumped right into Sproul, Gerstner, and Lindsley's Classical Apologetics -- the book that sparked an insatiable thirst in me for apologetics, philosophy, and theology.

No sooner had I discovered apologetics, however, than I also uncovered the fact that not every apologist did apologetics the same way. It was Sproul, Gerstner, and Lindsley's fault, if the truth be known. They distinguished between something they called "classical apologetics" and this bogeyman called "pre-suppositionalism." And I soon discovered that there were other varieties of apologetic methods as well, and that the disagreements between them could sometimes be sharp. As a young college student, I had a hard time trying to figure out who was right and who was wrong in this debate. I distinctly remember (this was in the early 1980s) wishing that someone would publish one of those "multiple views" books on apologetic methodology so that I could see all the different views side by side and have an easier time making up my own mind. I waited and waited for well over a decade, and no such book appeared. Then I decided to do it myself! And Zondervan has been gracious enough to assist me.

The Nature of Apologetics

This is a book about apologetic methodology, not a book of apologetics per se. That is, it is not a book that seeks to do apologetics as much as a book that discusses how one ought to do apologetics. But for the sake of some of our readers, it may help at this point to spell out what apologetics is. Apologetics is concerned with the defense of the Christian faith against charges of falsehood, inconsistency, or credulity. Indeed, the very word apologetics is derived from the Greek apologia, which means "defense." It was a term used in the courts of law in the ancient world. Socrates, for example, gave his famous "apology," or defense, before the court of Athens. And the apostle Paul defended himself (apologeomai) before the Roman officials (Acts 24: 10; 25: 8). As it concerns the Christian faith, then, apologetics has to do with defending, or making a case for, the truth of the Christian faith. It is an intellectual discipline that is usually said to serve at least two purposes: (1) to bolster the faith of Christian believers, and (2) to aid in the task of evangelism. Apologists seek to accomplish these goals in two distinct ways. One is by refuting objections to the Christian faith, such as the problem of evil or the charge that key Christian doctrines (e.g., the Trinity, incarnation, etc.) are incoherent. This apologetic task can be called negative or defensive apologetics. The second, perhaps complementary, way apologists fulfill their purposes is by offering positive reasons for Christian faith. The latter, called positive or offensive apologetics, often takes the form of arguments for God's existence or for the resurrection and deity of Christ but are by no means limited to these. Of course, some apologists, as we will see, contend that such arguments are unnecessary or perhaps even detrimental to Christian faith. These apologists focus primarily on the negative task and downplay the role of positive apologetics. Nevertheless, most, if not all, would agree that the apologetic task includes the giving of some positive reasons for faith.

The Question of Taxonomy

Although apologists agree on the basic definition and goals of apologetics, they can differ significantly on the proper methodology of apologetics. That is, they disagree about how the apologist goes about his task -- about the kinds of arguments that can and should be employed and about the way the apologist should engage the unbeliever in apologetic discourse. To use a military analogy, differences of opinion exist regarding the best strategy to use in defending the faith. These differences in apologetic strategy usually turn upon more basic disagreements with regard to important philosophical and theological issues. This leads me to the question of taxonomy.

How do we delineate the different approaches to apologetics? Of all the other books on apologetic methodology, no two classify the various methods in exactly the same way. For example, Gordon Lewis classifies apologetic methods according to their respective religious epistemologies. He distinguishes them by what each one takes to be the correct approach to acquiring knowledge of religious truths. On this basis, he differentiates six apologetic methods.

Religious epistemology can be the decisive factor in distinguishing one apologetic method from another. For example, two of the methods Lewis distinguishes are pure empiricism, defended by J. Oliver Buswell Jr., and rationalism, defended by Gordon H. Clark. Buswell's methodology requires us to make observations of the world and draw causal inferences from those observations, which, he believes, will lead the objective observer to belief in God and in the truth of the Christian faith. He uses the classical theistic arguments and appeals to historical evidences for the resurrection of Jesus. Clark, on the other hand, repudiates the use of such arguments and evidences, largely on epistemological grounds. Instead, he argues that the apologist must begin with Scripture as a first principle. That is, Scripture serves as a rational axiom by which all other truth claims are tested. Clark then argues that Christianity is the only coherent system, all other worldviews being logically inconsistent. Thus, the religious epistemologies of these two apologists lead them to very different apologetic approaches.

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Table of Contents

Contents
Introduction: Steven B. Cowan
Glossary of Key Terms and Concepts
1. Classical Apologetics
William Lane Craig
Responses
Gary R. Habermas
Paul D. Feinberg
John M. Frame
Kelly James Clark
2. Evidential Apologetics
Gary R. Habermas
Responses
William Lane Craig
Paul D. Feinberg
John M. Frame
Kelly James Clark
3. Cumulative Case Apologetics
Paul D. Feinberg
Responses
William Lane Craig
Gary R. Habermas
John M. Frame
Kelly James Clark
4. Presuppositional Apologetics
John M. Frame
Responses
William Lane Craig
Gary R. Habermas
Paul D. Feinberg
Kelly James Clark
5. Reformed Epistemology Apologetics
Kelly James Clark
Responses
William Lane Craig
Gary R. Habermas
Paul D. Feinberg
John M. Frame
6. Closing Remarks
William Lane Craig
Gary R. Habermas
Paul D. Feinberg
John M. Frame
Kelly James Clark
Conclusion: Steven B. Cowan
About the Contributors
Scripture Index
Person Index
Subject Index
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First Chapter

Introduction
Steven B. Cowan
Fairly early in my life as a Christian --- somewhere in my late teens, I think --- I discovered apologetics. This discovery was very timely because I had also discovered that the faith I had in Christ was not shared by everyone. In fact, I discovered that some people outright rejected, even ridiculed, my faith. What's more, I found out that skeptics had raised arguments against my faith. And being the inquisitive fellow that I am (I hate unanswered questions!), I wondered myself, quite apart from all of these skeptical challenges, what reason or reasons there might be for believing the religious beliefs that I embraced. Thus, Paul Little's little book, Know Why You Believe, and Josh McDowell's Evidence That Demands a Verdict came at an appropriate time in my life, introducing me to apologetics. And from Little and McDowell, I jumped right into Sproul, Gerstner, and Lindsley's Classical Apologetics --- the book that sparked an insatiable thirst in me for apologetics, philosophy, and theology.
No sooner had I discovered apologetics, however, than I also uncovered the fact that not every apologist did apologetics the same way. It was Sproul, Gerstner, and Lindsley's fault, if the truth be known. They distinguished between something they called 'classical apologetics' and this bogeyman called 'pre-suppositionalism.' And I soon discovered that there were other varieties of apologetic methods as well, and that the disagreements between them could sometimes be sharp. As a young college student, I had a hard time trying to figure out who was right and who was wrong in this debate. I distinctly remember (this was in the early 1980s) wishing that someone would publish one of those 'multiple views' books on apologetic methodology so that I could see all the different views side by side and have an easier time making up my own mind. I waited and waited for well over a decade, and no such book appeared. Then I decided to do it myself! And Zondervan has been gracious enough to assist me.
The Nature of Apologetics
This is a book about apologetic methodology, not a book of apologetics per se. That is, it is not a book that seeks to do apologetics as much as a book that discusses how one ought to do apologetics. But for the sake of some of our readers, it may help at this point to spell out what apologetics is. Apologetics is concerned with the defense of the Christian faith against charges of falsehood, inconsistency, or credulity. Indeed, the very word apologetics is derived from the Greek apologia, which means 'defense.' It was a term used in the courts of law in the ancient world. Socrates, for example, gave his famous 'apology,' or defense, before the court of Athens. And the apostle Paul defended himself (apologeomai) before the Roman officials (Acts 24:10; 25:8). As it concerns the Christian faith, then, apologetics has to do with defending, or making a case for, the truth of the Christian faith. It is an intellectual discipline that is usually said to serve at least two purposes: (1) to bolster the faith of Christian believers, and (2) to aid in the task of evangelism. Apologists seek to accomplish these goals in two distinct ways. One is by refuting objections to the Christian faith, such as the problem of evil or the charge that key Christian doctrines (e.g., the Trinity, incarnation, etc.) are incoherent. This apologetic task can be called negative or defensive apologetics. The second, perhaps complementary, way apologists fulfill their purposes is by offering positive reasons for Christian faith. The latter, called positive or offensive apologetics, often takes the form of arguments for God's existence or for the resurrection and deity of Christ but are by no means limited to these. Of course, some apologists, as we will see, contend that such arguments are unnecessary or perhaps even detrimental to Christian faith. These apologists focus primarily on the negative task and downplay the role of positive apologetics. Nevertheless, most, if not all, would agree that the apologetic task includes the giving of some positive reasons for faith.
The Question of Taxonomy
Although apologists agree on the basic definition and goals of apologetics, they can differ significantly on the proper methodology of apologetics. That is, they disagree about how the apologist goes about his task --- about the kinds of arguments that can and should be employed and about the way the apologist should engage the unbeliever in apologetic discourse. To use a military analogy, differences of opinion exist regarding the best strategy to use in defending the faith. These differences in apologetic strategy usually turn upon more basic disagreements with regard to important philosophical and theological issues. This leads me to the question of taxonomy.
How do we delineate the different approaches to apologetics? Of all the other books on apologetic methodology, no two classify the various methods in exactly the same way. For example, Gordon Lewis classifies apologetic methods according to their respective religious epistemologies. He distinguishes them by what each one takes to be the correct approach to acquiring knowledge of religious truths. On this basis, he differentiates six apologetic methods.
Religious epistemology can be the decisive factor in distinguishing one apologetic method from another. For example, two of the methods Lewis distinguishes are pure empiricism, defended by J. Oliver Buswell Jr., and rationalism, defended by Gordon H. Clark. Buswell's methodology requires us to make observations of the world and draw causal inferences from those observations, which, he believes, will lead the objective observer to belief in God and in the truth of the Christian faith. He uses the classical theistic arguments and appeals to historical evidences for the resurrection of Jesus. Clark, on the other hand, repudiates the use of such arguments and evidences, largely on epistemological grounds. Instead, he argues that the apologist must begin with Scripture as a first principle. That is, Scripture serves as a rational axiom by which all other truth claims are tested. Clark then argues that Christianity is the only coherent system, all other worldviews being logically inconsistent. Thus, the religious epistemologies of these two apologists lead them to very different apologetic approaches.
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  • Posted December 23, 2013

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    I love the Counterpoints series

    I already owned this book in print, but was glad to get it as an ebook as well. I love the Counterpoints series of books by Zondervan. They provide a quick easy way for both Christians and nonChristians to survey the prevailing viewpoints on a multitude of issues. I can't claim that they are all encompassing, but they are certainly helpful and think the dialgoue between the authors is honest, fair and cordial.

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