Modern Pensées

Reconsidering theology, philosophy, culture, economics, and politics

Introduction to Apologetics, Part 2: Classical Apologetics

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Augustine

St. Augustine

Again, classical apologetics focuses on the rational basis of the Christian faith.  It establishes this through several rational arguments for the existence of God (Cosmological, Teleological, and Ontological), and evidences for the reliability of the Bible and miracles.

Some main characters:

-The Apostle Paul (first century) would sometimes cite the resurrection and fulfillment of miracles in his preaching of the Gospel (Acts 17…).

Justin Martyr (100-165 ad) focuses much of his attention defending Christianity to the Roman government and arguing against prominent heretics of that day, particularly Marcion.  Justin keys in on defending the Incarnation of Jesus as the Divine Logos, emphasizing prophecies fulfilled, and highlighting the reality of Jesus’ Second Coming. [there are some presuppositional veins in Justin Martyr as well – most notably, he thinks God’s existence needs no proof]

St. Augustine wrote very widely defending Christianity against the heresy of Pelagius as well as positively refining/defining many central elements of orthodox Christianity.

St. Anselm (1033-1109) is most famous for the original formulation of the Ontological Argument.  The ontological argument for the existence of God is exceedingly difficult to understand, requiring heavy thinking to comprehend its brilliance.  I happen to think that the ontological argument actually establishes the existence of God.  I also happen to think that it is the second best argument behind the presuppositional Transcendental Argument.  I think the best formulation of the ontological argument is Alvin Plantinga’s version employing modal logic.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) also wrote very widely, providing much of the foundations for the Roman Catholic tradition up til Vatican II.  Aquinas is a central figure in Classical Apologetics for his 5 arguments for the existence of God.  The 5 arguments are:

  1. Many things are moving.  Everything that is moved was moved by something.  An infinite chain of movers is impossible.  Therefore there had to be an unmoved mover.  We call this unmoved mover God.
  2. Many things are caused.  Existence is a series of causes and effects.  There had to be a beginning, hence there must be a first cause to this chain of causes and effects.  We call this unmoved mover God.
  3. Some things in the Universe may or may not exist, these beings exist contingently.  However, it is impossible for everything in the Universe to be contingent, because something exists right now.  Therefore, there must be a being whose existence is not contingent but necessary.  We call this necessarily existent being God.
  4. Different perfections of a wide range of degrees can be evidenced  in the Universe.  These degrees of perfection assume an ultimate standard.  The ultimate standard is God.
  5. All natural bodies work toward a purpose.  These objects are unintelligent in an of themselves.  Acting towards a purpose is a sign of intelligence.  Therefore, there is an intelligent being that guides these natural bodies to those purposes.  This intelligent being is God.

In recent times several key apologists continue on the rich tradition behind them:  R.C. Sproul, Norman Geisler, William Lane Craig, and J.P. Moreland.

Up next, we will take a look at Evidentialist Apologetics.

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  1. […] in broad strokes at the various schools of apologetics.  We then took a more in-depth look at:  Classical Apologetics, Evidentialist Apologetics, Presuppositional Apologetics, and the specific apologetics of Blaise […]


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