Distinctions between Apologetics and Philosophy (by Dr. Cone)

Biblical apologetics is a form of evangelism (1 Pet 3:15), and not a form of polemics. Also, Biblical apologetics technically has nothing to do with philosophical argument. However, in practice, the term apologetics is traditionally used to refer to principles and arguments for defending the faith. But more precisely, these are two separate categories. The first (Biblical) is simple evangelism, and the second (arguments) is more philosophical. Of course, I think it is vital that Christians use their brains and do philosophy, but doing philosophy isn’t the same thing as evangelism. Both are needed, but for different reasons and in different contexts.   Where would philosophy come into play, then? Biblical apologetics = aspects of evangelism Traditional apologetics = category of philosophy So, it depends on what you are asking. I would suggest philosophy doesn’t come into play in evangelism, generally (not prohibited, but not part of the gospel message). Now, if one defends – as part of the hope within them – the Biblical worldview, that is certainly not wrong, but it is not the essence of evangelism, nor is it modeled anywhere in Scripture as a part of evangelism. But with respect to traditional apologetics, as a category of philosophy, I would suggest that we need to do a more comprehensive philosophy than just developing a few lines of argument that favor the Biblical worldview. Here are two challenges with traditional apologetics: (1) it often claims to be its own discipline and it isn’t (it is part of a larger discipline: philosophy), and (2) it often claims to have a necessary role in evangelism, and it doesn’t (necessarily, though it can).   In practice, where does addressing faulty presuppositions come into play when dealing with a lost person, whatever flavor his lostness has chosen? Case by case. As long as we acknowledge that a person is not going to be converted by admitting faulty presupposition. Here is the issue: of course they have faulty presuppositions, they are lost. But they are not willing to receive good ones without Christ (1 Cor 2:14). Now, someone might deeply appreciate the elegance of the Biblical worldview, and might “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps 34:8) and might believe in Christ, but it is just as possible that they might appreciate the elegance while remaining unconverted (James 2:19). The issue with those who are spiritually dead is that they need Christ, and Peter, for example focuses on the aspect of hope (1 Pet 3:15). Certainly Paul focuses on knowledge/ignorance, but all in relation to Christ (e.g., Acts 17).    Do we ignore questions and present the gospel without addressing questions, or correcting faulty foundations?   Certainly not. It is not that we sidestep or ignore the questions, it is that our focus in evangelism is introducing the lost to Jesus Christ, and so much of that focus involves concepts like love, hope, peace, etc. For example, changing someone’s mind about the probability of design won’t in and of itself draw them to Christ, so that is not the end goal. Of course we need to be able to answer questions, and of course we need to be able to correct faulty foundations, but I would still suggest we do so within the context of 1 Peter 3:15 – the focus is our giving an account for the hope within us.   Do we practice what Schaeffer called taking the roof off – taking them to the logical conclusion of their faulty system – or how Bahnsen demonstrated – they can’t account for their own ability to reason based on their own epistemology, etc? That depends on the person. You see, rather than having a one size fits all method, Biblical evangelism seems more about relationship and responsiveness than about argument. even in Acts 17, Paul was very gracious to those he spoke, and he did not eviscerate their worldview (though it was deserving) – instead he positively asserted a component in their worldview that they apparently hadn’t considered. We have much freedom here, and it is very important that a believer allow the word of Christ to richly dwell within him (Col 316), and that our feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel (Eph 6:15). So I would never argue that we should be ignorant of apologetic/philosophic issues, but I would argue we need to use these things in a Biblical way.   So if I’m going to teach evangelism do I try to help them learn to answer, or approach the answers to the questions by using an epistemological approach?  Or do I teach them to simply give Scripture without taking account of any other information? The answer to that question is not an either or, it is a both and. We need to be able to answer the philosophical questions – I think that can be a part of giving account for the hope that is within us. We also need to be able to work with the Scriptures, as they are suitable for what is needed. The bottom line is we need to be able to do both, and we need to recognize what the situation calls for and demonstrate the gentleness and reverence requisite for one who has the hope of Christ. It is simply a matter of priority, that is what I am saying: I can be exceedingly skilled in the rhetorical art of polemics, and I can be exceedingly skilled in the philosophical disciplines, and I can even be skilled at presenting the gospel in such a way as to be most convincing. But if I do not have love, I am no more than a clanging cymbal (1 Cor 13:1). I would like to see people equipped with and by Scripture, capable to reason things out in their philosophy, and interested in showing love and compassion to those who are perishing rather than seeing those who don’t know Christ as an intellectual challenge to be vanquished. – See more at: http://www.drcone.com/2014/10/23/a-dialogue-on-the-relationship-between-apologetics-philosophy-and-evangelism/#sthash.oFBipmys.dpuf

Author: Alex the Less

B.A. (1976), M.Div. (1983), Journeyman Carpenter (1991), B.B.A. (2009)

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