Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Relational vs. Logical Apologetics

Once I taught apologetics in an Asian country, and there was some concern that I would bring western rational apologetics which were completely irrelevant. Through the years, I have considered this more and more to be a just concern.
Much of the apologetics that has been written in the past fifty years by evangelical protestants has been based on apologetics written to counter the enlightenment. An example would be the early E. J. Carnell, Gordon H. Clark, and later Norman Geisler who presented logical defenses for the existence of God and for the Christian faith.
However, current writers (David Fitch for example) who desire to engage our culture, decry the classical apologetic project as “modern” and therefore by definition unable to address a post-modern society. In sum, what is meant by this critique is that the defense of the Christian faith to modern or enlightenment thinking is done so using enlightenment assumptions and methods. Hence, as more and more the enlightenment project is considered to have failed, the Christian apologies written against the enlightenment are seen to have actually been co-opted by it and therefore share in its failure.
In the July 2008 issues of Christianity Today and Books and Culture carry articles on apologetics and articles that are in and of themselves defenses of the Christian faith. Consistently, the writers argue for the faith. Alvin Plantinga presents a logically thick attack on naturalism. Other apologists are featured or referred to because they are answering various atheistic attacks presented in the past year. These atheistic attacks are not framed in a post-modern motif, but are classic modernist attacks which seek to refute the core claims of Christianity on the basis of empirical evidence and logic.
Thus the rise of an aggressive, logic/empirical atheist apologetic demonstrates that there is a continued need for a hard-core logic-based Christian apologetic response. As dense as argumentation like Plantinga’s is, it is not simply an intellectual sport, it is a spiritual activity of tearing down strongholds. Some might argue that an argument such as his does little in the arena of evangelism. I would counter by saying that the opposition arguments have done much in the promotion of atheism, so we should not discount the effect of a tightly argued Christian response. However, there is more to the problem than the perfection of argumentation. More in the next blog.

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