Introduction to Apologetics

<p>What is apologetics? In short, it is giving good reasons and evidence to believe that Christianity is true. Apologetics focuses on some big questions about the truth of Christianity such as the following: Does God exist? Who was Jesus? How do we know Jesus was God? Is the Bible even historically reliable? Questions like these often appear front and center in our culture where skepticism of religious claims is the norm. The lectures below can help prepare you to address these questions in a Biblical manner, giving a "defense for the hope that you have" in Christ "with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15). Follow along with Adam’s Introduction to Apologetics class to learn about the good reasons and evidence for God, Jesus, and the truth of the Scriptures.</p>

What is apologetics? In short, it is giving good reasons and evidence to believe that Christianity is true. Apologetics focuses on some big questions about the truth of Christianity such as the following: Does God exist? Who was Jesus? How do we know Jesus is God? Is the Bible even historically reliable? Questions like these often appear front and center in our culture where skepticism of religious claims is the norm. The lectures below can help prepare you to address these questions in a Biblical manner, giving a “defense for the hope that you have” in Christ “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Follow along with Adam’s Introduction to Apologetics class to learn about the good reasons and evidence for God, Jesus, and the truth of the Scriptures.

Part 1A: What Is Apologetics?

Apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia, which means “to give a defense.” Apologetics, then, is giving a defense using good reasons and evidence for why our faith in Jesus is true. Apologetics is useful for two reasons: to help Christians who may be struggling with doubt about Christianity and to encourage non-Christians to trust in Christ for salvation. It primarily focuses on three areas of study, philosophy, science, and history, that form the basis for evaluating the evidence for Christianity. When doing apologetics, three different methods have developed which various Christians have used. They are the classical approach, the evidential approach, and the presuppositional approach. The classical approach often starts by examining the evidence for the existence of God and connecting that to Jesus. The evidential approach usually emphasizes historical evidence for the Bible and for the resurrection of Jesus. The presuppositional approach reverses these paradigms and argues that God’s existence and the Bible’s truthfulness must be presupposed before we can use our reasoning ability to consider these types of questions.


Part 1B: Objections to Apologetics

Objections to doing apologetics can come from non-Christians and from Christians alike. Some people say that to claim that your religious faith is objectively true, which implies that other religious are false, is intolerant. However, this assumes an incorrect definition of tolerance. One can do apologetics and be confident about his beliefs while being fair and respectful to other people’s positions. Others claim that religious faith is only a subjective preference; they believe that it can’t be objectively true. The claims of apologetics, however, like so many other fields of study, are claims to objective truth, because they are claims about how reality really is. They don’t just focus on what is “true for me,” but on what actually corresponds to objective reality. Finally, there are some who think that faith and reason can’t or shouldn’t go together – that to have faith is therefore not to be thinking rationally. This view results from many years of Western history where various thinkers separated the roles of faith and reason. However, a premodern understanding shows that faith and reason can actually support and reinforce one another.


Part 2: The First-Cause Argument for God’s Existence

The first-cause argument for God’s existence, often called the “kalam cosmological argument,” says that God exists because the universe had a beginning. If the universe had a beginning, then the universe needs a first cause, and that cause is likely God. In fact, there have been many first-cause arguments made by philosophers in different cultures, such as Aristotle’s unmoved mover. Today, it is well established that everything that beings to exist has a cause; things don’t just pop into existence out of nothing. In addition, based on the evidence from many scientific discoveries, scientists almost unanimously agree that the universe had a beginning. This is based on Einstein’s general theory of relativity, Hubble’s discovery of the red shift through his telescope, cosmic background radiation, and other phenomena. Therefore, since everything that begins to exist has a cause, and the universe began to exist, then the universe must itself have a cause. But what is this cause? From the first-cause argument, we can infer that this cause must be spaceless, timeless, immaterial, incredibly powerful, and intelligent – much like how God is described.


Part 3: The Design Argument for God’s Existence

The design argument for God’s existence, also called the “teleological argument” or the “fine-tuning argument,” says that God exists because the universe, earth, and life all look like they have been designed. This type of argument has been around for thousands of years, being formulated by figures such as Socrates, Plato, and even Hindu thinker Adi Sankara. Through empirical observation, we can see that every design has a designer. We’ve never observed design coming from any other source than from an intelligent mind. How do we detect design? When something is both complex (it has multiple parts) and specified (the parts are not randomly arranged), it can be said to be designed. One way we notice design in the universe is by the fine tuning of its physical constants. We also notice design in the way that the earth is very specifically situated in our galaxy and solar system to allow life to exist. Finally, we notice design in the way life itself is put together and in the information it contains in its DNA. All of this evidence of design points to the existence of a designer, an intelligent supreme being like God.


Part 4: Does Evolution Prove There’s No God?

Some people claim that evolution has defeated the argument for God’s existence from the design found in life, but has it? Evolution is the idea that all of life can be traced back to a common ancestor and that natural selection of random mutations can explain all the diversity in life. We know that natural selection is simply a scientific fact, but how powerful is it? Can natural selection produce new types of organisms? One scientist, Michael Behe, has argued that natural selection is not powerful enough to produce new species. Based on the evidence from studying fruit flies, malaria interacting with sickle-cell anemia, and HIV, Behe says that there seems to be a limit to what the evolutionary process can produce that falls short of new species. If this is true, then it indicates that evolution, on a large scale, is false. If evolution is false, then certainly it can’t prove that there is no God. However, even if evolution is true, it still doesn’t prove that there is no God. It might weaken the design-of-life argument somewhat, but evolution still can’t explain the origin of life in the first place. Plus, there are many other good arguments for God’s existence that aren’t related to evolution at all. The existence of God and evolution are not mutually exclusive beliefs.


Part 5: The Moral Argument for God’s Existence

The moral argument for God’s existence says that God exists because He is the best explanation for the fact that there are objective moral truths. Unlike the first-cause and design arguments, the moral argument is not based primarily on scientific evidence. Rather, it is based on the premise that objective morality is self-evident – we intuitively know that some things are right and others are wrong. Objective morality means that there are moral truths that exist beyond anybody’s own individual preferences, beliefs, or opinions. So, if morality is objectively real, what’s the best explanation for it? Where does it come from? Morality seems to be of a personal nature, and so it would make sense that morality comes from a personal source, but some atheist philosophers like Erik Wielenberg now argue that even though morality is objective, it doesn’t need a personal source. However, Adam believes that the description of God as a trinity in loving relationships provides the best explanation for the existence of objective morality.


Part 6: Does the Problem of Evil Prove There Is No God?

The problem of evil is something we probably all struggle with at one time in our lives. If there really is a good God out there, then why is there so much pain and suffering in this world? There are two ways to look at the problem of evil: the logical version and the probability (or evidential) version. The logical version argues that if God is all powerful and all good, then evil wouldn’t exist because God can and would want to eliminate it. Thus, since evil does exist, it is impossible for God to exist. In response, Alvin Plantinga has proposed the free-will defense, which says that God allowed human beings to have free will, and no matter how God could have created us, there would always be a way we would choose to do evil. This is known as “transworld depravity,” and it sufficiently responds to the logical problem of evil. But since all this evil exists anyway, isn’t it the case that God probably doesn’t exist? This is called the probability version of the problem of evil. Christians have offered various explanations, called “theodicies,” of why God would allow evil. Examples of these include the Greater Good theodicy or Adam’s own Divine Love theodicy, which says that God allowed evil because he wanted to create beings who could love like He does, but love requires free will. In order to allow His creatures to truly love Him and love each other, they had to have the free will to do so. God can’t force us to love, because then it’s not truly love.


Part 7: Whose Description of God Is Correct?

The first-cause, design, and moral arguments for God demonstrate that a supreme being exists. From these, we can infer that this supreme being is spaceless, timeless, immaterial, incredibly powerful, extremely intelligent, morally perfect, and personal. But who is this supreme being? Which religion or culture’s description of this supreme being is correct? The Greeks believed in a form of henotheism that recognized the existence of a supreme being behind the world, like Aristotle’s “Unmoved Mover.” The Persians held to a monotheistic religion called Zoroastrianism which affirmed a supreme being. Jewish culture was monotheistic as well and believed in the existence of Yahweh, a supreme being. Ancient Indian cultures, such as the Nyaya tradition, also posited the existence of a supreme being. Arabic thinkers, such as al-Ghazali, used philosophy to argue for the existence of a supreme being. However, whose description of this supreme being is correct? To determine this, we have to examine the evidence. Christians think that the strongest evidence seems to be that Jesus of Nazareth is this supreme bring; that is, He was God. By studying history, we see that Jesus actually existed, He claimed to be God, and He did miracles to authenticate His claim to be God.


Part 8: Jesus’ Miracles Prove He Was God

If the arguments for the existence of a God are valid, the next logical question is this: whose description of God is correct? Christians claim that Jesus was God, but is this true? We know that Jesus existed in history and that He claimed to be God, but how can we know that His claim was true? One of the key pieces of evidence that Jesus was God is that He performed miracles to back up His claims to divinity. A miracle is when an act of God suspends the laws of nature, and miracles are crucial in establishing whether someone truly has a message from God or not. However, David Hume said we should never believe a miracle claim, but is this true? Hume made the mistake of discounting evidence for miracles because they are rare, but just because something is unlikely doesn’t mean it should be disbelieved. It can be prudent to be skeptical of unlikely events, but you still must weigh the evidence. In the case of Jesus’ miracles, the historical evidence far exceeds that of any other miracle claim. Using miracles isn’t an airtight way to prove something with absolute certainty, but miracles can provide evidence that something is from God, since only God can do miracles.


Part 9: Do We Have an Accurate Copy of the Original New Testament?

If Jesus’ miracles are good evidence to believe that He was God, how do we know that Jesus performed miracles in the first place? The New Testament contains much of the evidence of Jesus’ miracles, but can we trust the New Testament? Does the text we have today accurately represent the original New Testament? Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar, says there are some problems with the accuracy of the New Testament. Another New Testament scholar, Bruce Metzger, believes that the copy of the New Testament we have today is highly accurate. Two main criteria considered when looking at the accuracy of ancient documents are the number of copies we have and the length of time between the original the copies that survived. When we compare the New Testament to other ancient documents such as writings of Aristotle, Herodotus, and Homer, we find that there are many more and much earlier copies of the New Testament than almost all other ancient documents. We have over 6,000 surviving Greek copies of the New Testament, some written within 150-200 years of the original. According to Bruce Metzger, we can recreate the original New Testament text with 99.5% accuracy.


Part 10: Why Believe the New Testament Authors Told the Truth?

Sometimes it can be hard to know if a person is telling the truth, but there are common indicators we often use to determine if someone is probably telling the truth and has the facts straight. By applying these criteria to the New Testament, we can see good evidence that the New Testament authors told the truth. This evidence includes the fact that the New Testament writers gave their testimony soon after the events took place. Through historical analysis, we can verify that their testimonies include may accurate historical facts and are confirmed by non-Christian historical sources. In addition, the New Testament authors include embarrassing details in their accounts that make them look bad. Since any differences between the gospel testimonies turn out to be small and reconcilable, it increases the credibility the accounts. Finally, the fact that the New Testament authors were wiling to suffer and die for their testimonies indicates that they believed they were telling the truth. Overall, these reasons can give us confidence that what the New Testament writers told us about Jesus is what they believed to be the truth.


Part 11: A Cumulative Case that Jesus Is God

A Cumulative Case that Jesus Is God


Part 12: Is the Bible from God?

Is the Bible from God?


Part 13: What Books Should Be in the Bible?

What Books Should Be in the Bible?


Part 14: Is Apologetics Biblical?

Is Apologetics Biblical?


Part 15A: Human Freedom vs. Divine Determinism

Human Freedom vs. Divine Determinism


Part 15B: Religious Language

Religious Language

Convincing Proof