Christian Cyclopedia

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A. Definition. In the Christian sense an “apology” (from the Gk. for “defense”) is a defense against an attack on the Bible or on part of it, or a vindication of the divine authority of the Christian religion.

B. Relation to Other Branches of Theology.* Apologetics is a branch of systematic* theology. Christian dogmatics* sets forth and expounds the Christian religion on the basis of Scripture; apologetics vindicated the truth of the Christian religion on grounds of reason, showing the unreasonableness of infidelity. Apologetics concerns itself with errorists outside the ch., polemics* with errorists within Christendom.

C. History of Apologetics. The hist. of apologetics may be divided: 1. Apologetic Period, 70–250; 2. Polemic Period, 250–730; Medieval Period, 730–1517; 4. Modern Period, 1517 to date.

D. Methodology of Apologetics. The apologetic method may be either historical or philos., or it may combine both approaches. The 1st vindicates Christianity chiefly by defending Scripture, its fact and importance in human hist., and the value of its teachings in human soc. The 2d vindicates such fundamentals of Christianity as the doctrine of God, of man's ethical obligation, and the like on the basis of pure reason. A simple but very practical grouping: fundamental, hist., and philos. apologetics.

II. Fundamental Apologetics.

A. Being and Nature of God. Christianity proclaims the existence and rule of a divine, infinite, spiritual Being, absolutely 1 in essence but 3 in Persons, endowed with all divine attributes properly belonging to such a perfect, personal Spirit-Being. It defends its position against such antichristian theories as agnosticism,* atheism,* deism,* idealism,* Judaism,* materialism,* modernism,* monism,* natural theology,* pantheism,* pessimism,* pluralism,* polytheism,* positivism,* rationalism,* and others that deny that God is the 1st, ultimate, and only divinely efficient First Cause (see Causa secunda). God's existence is demonstrated not only by the specifically Biblical proofs, but also by corroborative arguments of sound reasoning, e.g., the theol., cosmological, teleological, moral, aesthetic, and ontological. See also God, Arguments for the Existence of.

B. The Cosmological Problem.

1. Christianity confesses and defends the creation* of all things by the Triune God within 6 days, to His glory and man's good. The doctrine of creation embraces 3 facts in agreement with reason and experience: (a) Matter is not infinite, but finite; (b) All things outside God were called into being out of nothing at the beginning of time by he omnipotent and allwise Creator; (c) Creatures are propagated acc. to fixed laws (“propagation after his kind”).

2. The doctrine of creation is denied by both atheistic and theistic evolution.*

3. Teleology* supports the doctrine of creation.

4. Science* and Holy* Scripture are not in conflict with each other, though scientists and defenders of the Bible have been in conflict. Many conflicts have been caused by inaccurate perceptions or false conclusions based on the categories of science (i. e., the sense world) or by erroneous interpretations of the Bible.

C. The Anthropological Problem.

1. Christianity declares that man is a personal, moral, free being, originally created in the divine image, which he lost through the Fall, by which he was deprived of his concreate wisdom, holiness, and righteousness, having become a sinner both as to original and actual sin. 2. With the brutes he has a certain relationship in physical things, but though fallen, he is still endowed with intelligence and free* will. He is not a development from brutes, but the lord or ruler of all things under God. 3. He has lost his power of free will in spiritual things but still retains it in earthly matters and the area of civil righteousness and so remains a free moral agent, though after the Fall he cannot but sin. 4. Man is a religious being and seeks to worship higher beings or powers (Acts 17:26–28), though, unless converted, in a perverted form (Ro. 1:21–23). Such worship distinguishes man from the brutes as does intelligence and will. 5. The doctrine of man, as proclaimed by Christianity, satisfies man's striving and furnishes him a goal for his efforts; evolution is an unsatisfactory and fruitless hypothesis.

D. The Ethical Problem.

1. Christianity teaches that at the creation of man God wrote into the human heart the Moral* Law, which, though obscured by sin, still is a criterion for conscience.* Through the Moral Law God rules man individually and collectively. Ethical norms are not mere conventions, but laws of God innate in man. 2. The universe is not ruled by chance, but by Law under Moral Government. 3. Christianity neither ignores sin nor tries to explain its origin, but holds that God is not its author or abettor (though He permits it to occur), but rather forbids it, often prevents it. 4. Prompted by His goodness, God from eternity decreed to redeem sinful man through the vicarious active and passive obedience of His incarnate Son, whom He made man's Substitute and Redeemer. (See Atonement; Christ Jesus.) The denial of redemption contradicts the innate redemptive idea in man (as expressed, in corrupt form, in the traditions regarding “Champions” or “Saviors” of humanity).

E. The Problem of Man's Immortality.

1. Christianity holds that man, redeemed by Christ and born again through the Holy Spirit, shall live with God forever in perfect happiness. 2. All who deny man's immortality do so contrary to all rational grounds and arguments (e.g., the metaphysical, teleological, ethical, hist.) and the widespread belief in immortality.

III. Historical Apologetics.

A. The Supernatural in History.

1. Christianity holds that since God is the merciful Creator and hourly Benefactor of man, in whom man has his being (Acts 17:28; Cl 1:17), it is reasonable for Him to reveal Himself to man. 2. The necessity of the supernatural is grounded in man's need of God, its possibility in God's omnipotence, its reality in God's saving love, its purpose in God's desire to draw man to Himself. 3. The manifestation of the supernatural in hist. assumes the forms of revelation,* miracles,* and inspiration, (see Inspiration, Doctrine of), the latter esp. in Scripture.

B. The Bible in History. The Bible is a special divine revelation, both possible and necessary. It was given by divine inspiration, and attests itself as God's Word by its authority,* efficacy, sufficiency, and perspicuity, an altogether unique Book. It is further witnessed to as the divine truth by its internal and external proofs, its profound, convincing doctrines, its noble ethics,* its unity and consistency, its hist. character, its complete body of doctrines, its soberness of teaching, its wonderful Redeemer, its dependable writers, its spiritual appeal, its miraculous preservation, its prophecy and fulfillment, its remarkable attestation by archaeology (see Archaeology, Biblical), and its amazing miracles* (Christ, the Miracle of the ages; Paul's conversion), its uplifting influences, its superiority over man-made religions (Confucianism,* Taoism,* Brahmanism.* Buddhism,* Greek systems of philosophy (e.g., Stoicism,* Epicureanism*) Persian Dualism,* Islam,* and modern cults, all of which fail to supply man's spiritual needs).

C. Christ in History.

1. His wonderful incarnation*; 2. His amazing Person; His ethical purity, spiritual insight, divine love, patience, etc.; His marvelous claims, His unique redemption; His compassion upon lost sinners, His transformed apostles; 3. As there is but 1 Holy Bible, so there is also only 1 divine Christ.

D. The Church in History.

1. Its supernatural origin; 2. its divine preservation in the midst of tribulation; 3. its glorious victories over its enemies; 4. its absolute religion, offering to men both the perfect truth and a perfect salvation*; 5. its manifold blessings to the world.

IV. Philosophical Apologetics.

A. Definition and Scope of Philosophical Apologetics. Philosophical Apologetics draws its material in the main from 1. the philosophy of religion: 2. the philosophy of hist.; 3. the psychology of religion; 4. the facts of Christianity itself. While Fundamental Apologetics deals with the problems belonging to natural theology, and Hist. Apologetics presents the evidences showing Christianity to be divine in its origin and existence, Philosophical Apologetics seeks its proofs from the very essence of religion itself.

B. Philosophy* of Religion. The philosophy of religion inquires into the general subject of religion from the philosophical point of view, that is, it employs critical analysis and evaluation for the defense of Christianity, treating such points as the nature, function, and value of religion; the nature of evil; the problem of the human spirit and its destiny; the relation of the human to the divine with special regard to the freedom and responsibility of the individual; the meaning of human existence; the nature of belief, and the like. See also Religion Comparative.

C. Philosophy of History.* The philosophy of hist., in its stricter sense, denotes the explanation, from philosophical principles, of hist. phenomena in gen. or of the entire course of hist. development, treating as such also the origin, rise, and spread of Christianity and its influence in the world. Its value for Apologetics is therefore apparent, as it shows Christianity to be a mighty dynamic contributing toward the world's well-being.

D. Psychology* of Religion. The psychology of religion is concerned with man's religious consciousness, in particular, with beliefs as developments of human experience. While in itself it does not favor Christianity, it supplies valuable data used by the apologist for the defense of religious truth.

E. The Facts of Christianity. Christianity being factual and dynamic, it represents religious phenomena which may be evaluated for its own defense, e.g., the existence and nature of God, the immortality of the soul, the reality and objectivity of truth, the categorical nature of duty, the imperative of unselfish love, and the like. Christianity thus becomes its own best apology. JTM

V. Recent Developments.

By the middle of the 20th c., Christian apologetics concerned itself more with the new physics (which often rejects materialistic naturalism and holds that morals and religion are compatible with physics) than with evolution. (B. H. Streeter*). Furthermore, it concerned itself more with communication than with opposition. 4 areas were esp. discussed: world view (Weltbild), world outlook (Weltanschauung) (Karl Heim); anthropology (E. Brunner, R. Bultmann); correlation (P. Tillich); kerygmatic proclamation (H. Thielicke).

See also Christian Faith and the Intellectual.

O. Zöckler, Geschichte der Apologie des Christentums (Gütersloh. 1907); H. C. Sheldon, Unbelief in the Nineteenth Century (New York, 1907); P. Carrington, Christian Apologetics of the Second Century in Their Relation to Modern Thought (London, 1921); W. Elert, Der Kampf um das Christentum (Munich, 1921); J. G. Machen, The Origin of Paul's Religion (New York, 1921); T. Graebner, Evolution, An Investigation and a Criticism (Milwaukee, 1929); G. A. Barton, Archeology and the Bible (Philadelphia, 1937); L. S. Keyser, A System of Christian Evidence (Burlington, Ia., 1939); A. Richardson, Christian Apologetics (New York, 1947); H. Thielicke, Fragen des Christentums an die Moderne Welt (Geneva, 1945); J. Finegan, Light from the Ancient Past (Princeton, 1946); Walter Künneth, “Zum Problem Christlicher Apologetik,” Schrift und Bekenntnis (Hamburg and Berlin, 1950); P. Tillich, Systematic Theology, I (Chicago, 1951); H.-H. Schrey, “Apologetik III. Systematisch-theologisch,” Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. E. Kutsch, I (Tübingen, 1957), 486–490. EL

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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