ASSIST News Service

Just a few days ago I was having tea with noted archeologist, Dr Steven Collins. Amidst our normal archeology discussion, we hit upon the topic of approaches in apologetics, namely classical and evidential. Being that I was tutored in both areas (I studied under both Norman Geisler (classical) and John Warwick Montgomery (evidential)), and Steve, as an archeologist, leans towards evidential (Dr Collins, too, studied under John Warwick Montgomery in evidential apologetics and wrote the book, The Defendable Faith: Lessons in Christian Apologetics), our conversation was lively and informative.

Our conclusion - and I think many would agree - is that both approaches are needed: God’s existence can be demonstrated as reasonable through theistic arguments (classical), but evidence is needed to verify the claims (evidential). And Steve and I both agree that archeology is the main scientific approach that can substantiate the Biblical, historical claims (and to a different degree - though still important - logic, biology, mathematics, and physics).

Metallic cross

PICTURE: Daniel Nedelcu/www.freeimages.com

As a quick summary, classical apologetics is based upon the historic proofs of God’s existence as expounded upon by various individuals through the ages, with the big-three A’s, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas, leading the way. The proofs can be summarised as the ontological argument, the teleological argument, the cosmological argument, and the moral law argument. Modern proponents of classical apologetics are CS Lewis, Norman Geisler, RC Sproul, and William Lane Craig. Brian K Morley, summarises the classical approach as: “God is proved by theistic arguments, and Christianity by evidences”. In our conversation, Steve reminded me that classical arguments are not Biblical approaches, per-se, in that the Bible doesn’t use them in any formal way, but, rather, the Bible presumes God’s existence, not needing to prove it. Duly noted.

Evidential apologetics is evidence and facts-based. Evidential apologetics begins with the New Testament documents, then moves to the contents of the documents (including Jesus' miracles and the resurrection), and then on to broader areas of investigation: science, law, philosophy, and the like. Brian K Morley summarises the evidential position as thus: “Facts point to interpretations, and critical facts point to Christianity". Two of the main proponents of evidential apologetics are John Warwick Montgomery and Gary Habermas, along with many science-related scholars such as Steven Collins (archeology), John Bloom (physics), William Dembski (math), and Peter Zöller-Greer (quantum physics and logic. Zöller-Greer’s, Logic, Quantum Physics, Relativism and Infinity is a must read!).

This isn’t the place to argue the pros and cons of each approach. Other people have done a fine job at this (see here and here and here). And I dare say that most of the above mentioned individuals would agree with the conclusion that both classical and evidential approaches are needed.

The question is why? Why are both approaches needed in today’s world? My answer to the question is that we live in what Stratford Caldecott calls a dualistic world; the contemporary mind has been taught to separate faith from reason (see his book Beauty for Truth's Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Education). And I believe the role of any defence-based discourse is to demonstrate the reasonableness of the Christian faith - by any truth-means possible. So whether one uses either metaphysical arguments (such as the classical) or those based in law, reason, and science (evidential), all are warranted and needed. And, yes, I’m well aware of the differences of each approach, the pros and cons. But lets face it: there’s not perfect model. A concurrent conglomeration (using the finest available arguments and evidence) is the best way forward.

Even more so, as an educator I’d argue for the realignment of the two worlds - faith and reason, much like Thomas Aquinas and others proposed in their day. And this integration of faith and reason would be implemented largely through the liberal arts, a comprehensive paradigm of broad research and learning, with the outcome of finding the true, beautiful, and good in all fields of inquiry. When broad learning is in view the learner, presumably, has a grander model of the universe, both horizontal - science/reason, and vertical - faith/morals. But this is for another article at another time.

My point is this: faith is not in opposition to reason, as God is the author or both books - the Bible and nature. And as the author of two books, the truth manifest in both will be in harmony and agreement, properly understood and interpreted. But until our culture (or maybe, “if” our culture) conjoins that which as been separated, using arguments from both worlds - classical and evidential - is necessary to provide answers to inquiring minds needing philosophical proofs and fact-based evidence.

Here are recommended books from each group:

Classical Apologetics
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
Christian Apologetics, Norman Geisler
The Big Book of Christian Apologetics: An A to Z Guide (A to Z Guides), Norman Geisler
Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, William Lane Craig
Classical Apologetics, John Gerstner, R. C Sproul and Arthur Lindsley
Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli
Defending Your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics, R.C Sproul

Evidential Apologetics
Faith Founded on Fact: Essays in Evidential Apologetics, John Warwick Montgomery
Evidence for Faith: Deciding the God Question, John Warwick Montgomery, editor
The Defendable Faith: Lessons in Christian Apologetics, Steven Collins
The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, Gary Habermas
Tough-Minded Christianity: Legacy of John Warwick Montgomery, edited by William Dembski
Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science, William Dembski and Mike Licona
The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict: Evidence I & II Fully Updated in One Volume To Answer The Questions Challenging Christians in the 21st Century, Josh McDowell