Five Views on Apologetics

Five Views on ApologeticsOne of my favourite series of books are the four/five views books. I love the format that allows the reader to both get a number of perspectives on a theological issue as well as to observe the conversation between the scholars. A valuable part of this series is Five Views on Apologetics, edited by Steven B. Cowan.

In this volume, William Lane Craig presents the classical method, which uses two steps. The first step is to present evidence for God’s existence through natural theology and then to narrow the argument down to the truth of Christianity with historical evidence.

While Gary Habermas does not reject the value of natural theology, his evidential method prefers the one step approach. Habermas focuses on the historical evidence, and he is known especially for his minimal facts argument for the resurrection of Jesus.

Paul Feinberg presents the cumulative method, a method that has much in common with classical and evidential apologetics. This is also a one step method, but one that is more flexible in that it presents whatever is needed for the situation. It does not seek to prove a conclusive case for the truth of Christianity but by piling on evidence, hopes to demonstrate that Christianity is more likely true than not.

The first three methods are fairly similiar and things don’t really begin to diverge until John Frame’s presuppositional method. Presuppositionalism basically requires that the apologist demonstrate that even the conversation requires that we presuppose the truth of Christianity. I was particularly interested in learning about this because some of the descriptions I have heard about presuppositionalism have been pretty weak. I thought Frame gave a good presentation and his version seems more open to apologetic evidences than some others.

Kelly James Clark concludes with reformed epistemology. Reformed epistemology argues that evidence is not required to demonstrate the existence of God. We can accept the existence of God as being properly basic, the way we accept the truth of many other things in our life without evidence.

The interplay between the scholars was quite interesting, with some disagreements being more heated than others. I thought that Habermas had the most irenic spirit in interacting with the others, but there was something to learn from all of them.

In case you are wondering where I landed in terms of these categories, I would have to say that cumulative method makes the most sense to me. Still, there are things that can be taken from all five methods.

If you are interested in apologetics, I would say that Five Views on Apologetics should be mandatory reading.

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2 thoughts on “Five Views on Apologetics”

  1. Very cool review, Stephen. This really makes me want to check out this volume!

    The reformed epistemology approach to apologetics almost feels like a Christian agnostic–there may be evidence that God exists, but it doesn’t matter. I’d have to say that, while I value apologetics, my general slant is toward building relationships and showing the love of God as means of helping unbelievers come to truth. As a lover of philosophy, though, I enjoy engaging with these intellectual arguments.

    Follow up question: What do you think of some of the popular apologetic texts, like Tim Keller’s The Reason for God?

    1. It was a great book. I was not that impressed with reformed epistemology, although WLC does integrate it into his classical method. I really enjoyed Keller’s book, but I read it as someone who is both a pastor and an apologist, and I saw Keller’s book as bridging those worlds nicely.

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