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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Friday, May 25, 2012

Biblical Apologetics and Traditional Classic Apologetics Contrasted

I noted in a recent post about a fabulous book I’ve been reading on apologetics called, Biblical Apologetics: Advancing and Defending the Gospel of Christ, by Clifford McManis. The deeper I get into his work, the more I am impressed with it and I believe this book will be a necessary read for those who seriously wish to shape their apologetic theology, if we can call it that.

I appreciated his appendix that lays out 41 contrasts between biblical apologetics and traditional classic apologetics. Traditional apologetics is what most Christians are familiar with because it is advocated on radio and in popular level books on the subject.

The list is in a brief, bullet-style format. I thought I would reproduce it with some minor changes for readability. Biblical Apologetics (BA) is listed first, then Traditional Classic Apologetics (TCA) is listed next. Each one of these following contrasts is fleshed out more fully in the main book.

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1) BA assumes God exists
TCA tries to prove God probably exists.

2) BA uses the Bible as the ultimate authority for truth.
With TCA human reason and laws of logic are ultimate authority for truth.

3) BA, human reason is subject to biblical scrutiny.
TCA, the Bible is subject to scrutiny of human reason and laws of logic.

4) BA apologetics is a mandate for every Christian.
TCA apologetics is primarily reserved for philosophers (and certified trained apologists).

5) BA, apologetics is in the domain of biblical theology.
TCA apologetics is in the domain of philosophy and metaphysics.

6) BA assumes Christianity is certain/true and other religions are false/evil
TCA assumes Christianity is the most plausible of all the alternatives.

7) BA defends the whole Christian faith and the Gospel.
TCA defends theism and the possibility of miracles.

8) BA believes Scripture is autopistic (self-authenticating)/self-validating.
TCA believes Scripture has to be proven to be true and is not self-validating.

9) BA believes that for today, only Scripture is the Word of God.
TCA believe the Word of God includes more than the Bible.

10) BA sees apologetics beginning with religionists inside the Church.
TCA sees apologetics as being primarily for those outside the Church.

11) BA understands that apologetics is directed equally toward all unbelievers.
TCA sees apologetics as being primarily geared toward atheists and agnostics.

12) BA believes faith results only from hearing God's Word in Scripture/divine revelation.
TCA belives faith can also result from natural theology and general revelation.

13) BA believes the greatest impediment to belief is personal sin and satanic blindness.
TCA believes the greats impediment to belief is ignorance and intellectual speculations (intellectual roadblocks).

14) BA takes natural revelation as intuitive (immediately known and easily understood by all men everywhere).
TCA understands that natural revelation is learned.

15) BA believes natural revelation is only sufficient to condemn
TCA believes natural revelation can produce faith.

16) BA believes natural revelation is always rejected by unbelievers.
TCA thinks natural revelation is welcomed by unbelievers.

17) BA believes special revelation is essential for true faith.
TCA believes special revelation is not the only source for saving faith.

18) BA says there is no natural theology.
TCA on the other hand thinks natural theology is foundational.

19) BA teaches there is metaphysical common ground.
TCA says common ground is more than metaphysical.

20) BA says no epistemological common ground.
TCA there is epistemological common ground.

21) BA says there is no neutrality with the unbeliever.
TCA says there is neutral ground.

22) BA teaches that all people are innately religious.
TCA says some people are not religious.

23) BA teaches that total depravity has skewed the mind.
TCA understands the fallen mind is neutral.

24) BA says there is common ground in the imago Dei, conscience, and sensus divinitatis.
TCA says there is no sensus divinitatis (for some proponents); the imago Dei is not the basis for common ground.

25) BA says apologetics, preaching, evangelism and theology are all organically interrelated.
TCA separates apologetics from theology, preaching and evangelism.

26) BA understand that Plato and Aristotle were lost pagans.
TCA teach that Plato and Aristotle are models.

27) BA is Calvinistic in anthropology.
TCA is generally Arminian and Rominist in their anthropology.

28) BA believes in the total sufficiency, inspiration and perspicuity of Scripture.
TCA undermines bibiology; usually sufficiency and perspicuity.

29) BA teaches that apologetics is holistic/a lifestyle.
TCA sees apologetics primarily as an intellectual exercise.

30) BA teaches that 1 Peters 3:15 needs to be understood in the biblical context.
TCA does not exegete 1 Peter 3:15 in a biblical context.

31) BA consistently uses grammatical-historical hermeneutics.
TCA utilizes allegorical hermeneutics and the analogy of Scripture.

32) BA says apologia is broad, informal and in reference to the Gospel.
TCA sees apologia is formal, forensic, secular and isolated from the Gospel.

33) BA gives priority to Hebrew/Greek.
TCA has a preference for Latin.

34) BA believes the Testimonium includes the Holy Spirit working with Scripture.
TCA believes the Holy Spirit works apart from Scripture.

35) BA Hamartiology (doctrine of sin) is determinative.
TCA hamartiology is not developed.

36) BA efficacious evidences derive from special revelation.
TCA efficacious evidences derived from natural theology.

37) BA takes theistic arguments as being edifying for the believer and help establish unaffirmability with unbelievers.
TCA see theistic arguments as being positively helpful, establishing undeniability with unbelievers.

38) BA has no prerequisites for evangelism.
TCA requires prerequisites for evangelism.

39) BA sees pre-evangelism including general revelation and the work of the Holy Spirit.
TCA pre-evangelism includes natural theology.

40) BA truth is certain.
TCA truth is probable.

41) BA the hope we defend is the gospel.
TCA the hope we defend is theism.

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12 Comments:

Blogger Rider said...

TCA, as you put it, got its start with Augustine, who was trying to fuse his experience as privileged, partying Roman with his deep faith. He was raised on the classics and took the Aristotelian and Platonic methods as far as they would go in his thinking about Christianity. The rest he left up to faith.

His work brought a sheen of respectability to a desert religion that, until that time, was thought of as a religion of peasants and slaves. No noble Roman man would ever consider Christianity based on faith alone; Augustine offered a way for the Roman mind to reason its way to faith in Jesus Christ.

Augustine essentially used the best tools of paganism to establish a solid and reasonable foundation for belief in Christianity.

Safe to say, Biblical Apologetics probably wouldn't have worked in the Roman times.

8:05 AM, May 25, 2012  
Blogger MSC said...

This book looks interesting and I have it on my list for acquiring. Furthermore, let me say that I am a convinced Presuppositionalist. However, I wonder if this list misrepresents some forms of non-BA apologetics. I think there would be many TCA proponents that would dispute some of these points, especially the idea that special revelation is not necessary for faith, or that TCA utilizes allegorical hermenuetics. In particular, a number of Calvinist brands of TCA would dispute a number of points here. I am not saying that to argue for TCA or to suggest that there are no possible inconsistencies in TCA (I believe there are). I just wonder if McManis has painted with too broad a brush here. It serves no one to misrepresent the opposition.

8:12 AM, May 25, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Rider writes,
No noble Roman man would ever consider Christianity based on faith alone; Augustine offered a way for the Roman mind to reason its way to faith in Jesus Christ.

Of course no Roman would consider Christianity apart from the regenerating work of the Spirit anyways. That’s true for any human being. Paul made it clear in the opening chapters of 1 Cor. that the Greeks consider the Gospel as being foolishness. Spiritual things, ie, the saving value of the Gospel, are spiritually discerned as Paul writes in 1 Cor. 2:14, meaning faith comes by the work of the Spirit, not a synchronism between the best tools of paganism and the so-called reasonableness for belief in Christianity. That is what McManis meant under point 27 that TCA is Arminian and Romanist (meaning Roman Catholic) in their anthropology.

9:56 AM, May 25, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

However, I wonder if this list misrepresents some forms of non-BA apologetics.

He is speaking in general. You’re right that there would be some TCA proponents who would quibble with his painting of their position. I am thinking RC Sproul and his ilk, but honestly, when you boil down the distinctions, he is fairly spot on. Again, he fleshes out these points in more detail in the great part of his work, so I would refer you to it if and when you pick it up.

10:01 AM, May 25, 2012  
Blogger Ken Abbott said...

"R. C. Sproul and his ilk"?

I grant you that the dictionary's definition is neutral ("sort, kind"), but "ilk" usually carries an unsavory connotation, one that Dr. Sproul surely does not deserve.

10:13 AM, May 25, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I mean no disrespect. How about minions? Or maybe posse? ;)

10:17 AM, May 25, 2012  
Blogger Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I thought #12 and #16 were questionable, but overall this list was immensely helpful in delineating the differences!

Also, I read some of the negative reviews on Amazon when I read your original post and my recall is that he attacks presuppositionalism. Is that so?

4:38 PM, May 25, 2012  
Blogger Rider said...

Of course no Roman would consider Christianity apart from the regenerating work of the Spirit anyways. That’s true for any human being.

So is TCA pointless then? If the Holy Spirit softened the Roman heart, then Augustine essentially wasted his time trying to explain how one could rationally believe in the Trinity even if it was difficult to conceive of it (I think he used the example of a triangle vs a chiliagon, a 1,000 sided object)?

McManis is right about this family of apologetics being Romanist and Arminian, but I think he doesn't go far enough. If you're going to play the two off against each other, TCA is authentically party of western thought tradition, while BA strikes me as more a part of eastern mystery tradition.

In other words, the Greek Orthodox aren't really well known for their rigorous & reasoned approach to faith; they emphasize the mystery of how these things work.

11:56 PM, May 25, 2012  
Blogger mike said...

R C Sproul considers himself an evidentialist, but his view of revelation follows Thomas Aquinas' synthesized view of general revelation and special revelation, with special revelation (the Scriptures) being superior. In The Consequences of Ideas he says, "We need to reconstruct the classical synthesis by which natural theology bridges the special revelation of Scripture and the general revelation of nature." While I appreciate many of his points in the book, I still think the evidentialist gets lured into many philosophical disputations that take the discussion off the Scriptures, which is exactly what the debating skeptic wants.

1:21 PM, May 26, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

TUAD,
Again, keep in mind he is stating the differences broadly. Not ALL TCA oriented apologists would say [#16] faith can also result from natural theology and general revelation, however, many do. In fact general revelation is understood by most Arminians to be potentially salvific. They equate the notion of general revelation with the Wesleyan idea of prevenient grace. A sinner has prevenient grace imparted but may choose to reject it, rather than accept it.

3:35 PM, May 27, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Rider writes,
So is TCA pointless then?

It is not that TCA is pointless as it is the proponents misdirecting their strategy with its use. For instance, because they start with a wrong understanding about what the Bible reveals concerning the sinfulness of mankind, they begin their apologetic enterprise in areas that really do nothing to advance the Gospel or challenge the pagan's rebellion against their Creator.

For the modern pagan living a high density lifestyle in Newhall, he doesn't need evidence to "prove" the existence of his Creator. He needs a heart change that will bring him into submission to all of what is revealed truthfully about his Creator. Only the Spirit does that, but the Spirit uses the means of Gospel preaching to accomplish that task.

If the Holy Spirit softened the Roman heart, then Augustine essentially wasted his time trying to explain how one could rationally believe in the Trinity even if it was difficult to conceive of it (I think he used the example of a triangle vs a chiliagon, a 1,000 sided object)?

Indeed. Augustine did waste his time. Man will never believe something rationally that is revealed, yet believed upon in faith. In other words, I believe the Trinity, not because there are apologetic arguments that can rationally conceptualize one God in three persons. I believe the Trinity because first God has changed my heart to believe His Word, and His Word clearly teaches that there is one God who is revealed in three persons.

TCA is authentically party of western thought tradition, while BA strikes me as more a part of eastern mystery tradition. In other words, the Greek Orthodox aren't really well known for their rigorous & reasoned approach to faith; they emphasize the mystery of how these things work.

TCA is certainly developed out of Western thought that is highly submerged in Greek philosophy, not biblical theology. Or at least a synchronization of the two.

The difference from Eastern Orthodoxy is that they would argue for having faith in a mystery in a blind fashion. "It's a mystery, so believe it on faith because we can't explain it." BA argues for faith in what is clearly revealed in God's Word. Hence, though there is great mystery with the Virgin birth because it was a miraculous event, it is not irrational and I certainly don't believe in it blindly. God's revelation is grounded in God's character which has been proven to be truthful and trustworthy. So I believe in the Virgin birth because the Gospels provide an historical record of it happening.

3:57 PM, May 27, 2012  
Blogger Escovado said...

Point #10 stood out for me big time. Is it just my imagination or have most of my apologetic efforts within the last few years been primarily directed at others within the church?

1:49 AM, May 29, 2012  

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