Introduction—Some Details

Welcome to Apologia, Version 3.02*  

    Note: you are accessing the current Version 3.02 of this site; we will still be doing lots of typo corrections and improvements.  Our philosophy will be to publish early and publish often.*  To access more detailed information about site development history & versions see “About.”  Not everyone wants details, but for those who do….

    First of all, this sub-site is NOT being developed for professional philosophers and/or professional theologians, but for university professors who have an interest in CONVERSATIONALLY explaining and defending the main contours of Christian faith and commitment (especially conversationally) in an academic setting.  However, we are and remain interested in doing so with sophistication and rigor.

    Second, while we think there is an important place for understanding and doing  conceptual apologetics, it is NOT a tool necessarily to be used in every situation.  We think guidance for life’s journey can be learned from us by the way we live our lives (by example) and by the sorts of things we are involved with (social issues activities, for instance, that resonate with our worldview) and that is perfectly proper.  HOWEVER, since we do NOT believe people can be merely socialized into the Christian faith and because coming to faith involves believing that certain concepts that are asserted to be true are in fact true, it can be necessary to explain what we mean by what we say and to defend the truthfulness of what we assert.  Apologetics is the term we use for fulfilling that task.  

    Third, we aimed at developing and organizing resources and tools in a systematic way.  That is, we used a standardized way of organizing how apologists typically think about and teach apologetics.  For instance, we defined and organized standardized terms like “negative apologetics,” “positive apologetics,” and “deconstructive apologetics” in different sections on our site.  We have also organized many of our advanced resources in those sections under the standard terms like “metaphysics,” epistemology,” and “axiology” in order to help readers better understand how these philosophical domains play a key role in doing sophisticated apologetics. For example, they can acquaint the apologist with the subtleties of doing systematic apologetics with these domain issues in mind.  

     Finally, we aimed at helping the aspiring apologist understand some key controversial areas within the project, such as highlighting the continuum of views between presuppositional apologetics and evidentialism.  This gives the apologist of deeper understanding of both sides of the discussion and on issues that affect how one crafts their defense of the Christian faith.  We further provide resources for a better understanding of the received tradition in the West--the history of ideas and cultural analysis.

     Note: this resource on conversational apologetics can be (and is to be) used in conjunction with other Academic Connections, International’s resources on “mentoring the journey.”  See and explore link #1 and link #2 for that.

     Thus, it is our intention to provide for those who would want to conversationally explain and defend historic Christian faith, additional resources (mainly conceptual) to help sharpen your skills in doing so.  Indeed, it’s our intention to provide resources mainly for apologists who want to minister to an especially sophisticated audience--those in academe.  You are invited to scroll down through this page to find links to those resources.  

     Parenthetically that we do not hold to the magisterial use of reason position which takes the view that people can be “argued” into the Kingdom of Godactually we hardly know of any theists that hold that view!  

     And further we want to say (some might think outrageously) that many of people’s objections to theism, Christian theism, has little to do with reason and arguments.  Indeed we think that many, many objections to Christian theism are more non-rational than rational and these non-rational causes play a greater role in unbelief than rational ones! More about that later.  However, there are rational objections to the truth of the gospel worthy of consideration, that we will want to face (and occasionally must face); and it is to those kinds of objections this whole site is devoted.  Indeed we are obligated as Christians theists to give a defense for the hope within us.

   We originally placed preliminary project deadlines on the first three levels of this site and the estimated preliminary deadline for completion of the first phase of the entire project was 12/31/2009.   We have met that goal and have moved on to fill in more resources and expand the collective strength of what we have designed.

   In the second phase, we decided to construct six conceptual sections or levels of apologetics (see below for descriptions of each level and feel free to browse).  We think these sections are important to better understanding the nature of apologetics and doing it responsibly.  However, the important practical skill is knowing when and how to use these resources to meet needs.  

Quick Access to Sections or Levels: 

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Addendum

    I believe it was C.S. Lewis who said he practiced his apologetic explanations on dock workers and plumbers before and as he did apologetics with his university colleagues.

  The point being is that he felt that if he could not explain the conceptually difficult to the man in the street, he was concerned that neither his pipes nor his arguments would hold water.

First, a  few other disclaimers

  1. The resources on these pages are not exhaustive and by themselves they are not 
  2. intended to fully equip you for the apologetic task; they are intended as useful additional resources
  3. There are many other skills in apologetics besides “having the right answer” that are involved in being faithful to the call of being an apologist and discussion of these many other skills cannot be covered here.  Besides these other skills are NOT best learned on-line but rather by being in something like a discipleship relationship with someone who has skill and knowledge at doing this sort of thing.  That is, the best way to learn the skills of apologetics is from a another skilled apologist, by watching him or her exercise their gifts in a many real life situations. 
  4.   Apologetics--giving reasons for the hope within you--is not done in a conceptual vacuum.  That is, discussions about prevailing world-views and their justifications, when it occurs, take place within certain shared beliefs (or the discussion couldn’t get off the ground) but even so it may involve a lot of misunderstanding and talking past each other.   Some forms of skepticism (for instance some forms of postmodernism) are so profound that it is thought that apologetics is at best unnecessary and at worst counterproductive; but it seems to us that only the most skeptical stances hold this view and that many people can benefit from thoughtful dialogue.  (Further, extreme skeptical stances are often subject to self-referential incoherence charges.)  Indeed, we think (assert) that we have a responsibility to engage in apologetics when the timing and circumstances warrant.  Discerning the timing and circumstances seems both an art and science and goes beyond the sort of discussion I want to enter into here.  However, central to the apologetic task is the assumption that Christianity is offering more than an alternative life-style or faith stance--it is the assumption that Christianity makes some important truth claims that deserve a rational defense and that we are required to give according to our capabilities and callings.  
  5. Though we have learned much from our mentors in the faith, what we have here is something we’ve developed from our own experience and for its deficiencies and outright mistakes we take responsibility. 
  6.   Regarding definitions, there are a few we want to highlight, especially as they relate to different sorts of apologetics.  (Here we are aiming at conceptual apologetics as opposed to cultural apologetics.)  Positive apologetics: setting forth arguments that lend rational support to Christian faith--faith in God, confidence in the scriptures, etc.   Examples of that might include use of natural theology (cosmological arguments, moral arguments and so on) or cases made for epistemic justification (that is arguing that belief that God exists is warranted or a properly basic belief).  Negative apologetics: responding to arguments that undermine Christian faith.  Examples of this would include using arguments or cases that shed light on or answer the problem of evil in its various forms, or answer questions raised about the rationality of supernaturalism raised by science, etc..  And Deconstructive Apologetics: which is aimed at the analysis and critique of other world views and religions.  Examples of this might be constructing and defending arguments which have as their conclusion that metaphysical naturalism is untenable, self-referentially incoherent, unlivable, leads to absurdity and the like of that.  Another example might be analysis and critique of certain theories that conflict with construals of theism such as psychological behaviorism that implies that humans have neither dignity or freedom.  As we suggested above, what we are not currently concerned with on this site is what could be called cultural apologetics that would be aimed at the analysis of cultural in light of a Christian biblical world-view.  We may do that later on this site or another.

Section 1

    When we approach the conceptual part of the task of learning how to do apologetics it’s important and valuable to understand that there are what might be called levels of apologetics.   These levels have to do with secondary and tertiary questions about the nature of apologetics.

    That is, in our schema, giving a specific answer to a specific question (sometimes the appropriate response) is in one sense the lowest level of understanding of how to do apologetics because at this level you’re not asking many questions about the nature of apologetics.  However, this is where we typically start learning if we practice; that is, we typically start with specific answers we’ve heard from other Christians or by reference to books that answer specific questions about theism or Christianity.  We call this task of answering questions posed by unbelievers, negative apologetics.   

    At this stage there is little by way of second order questions about the nature of apologetics, however, learning what the best answers Christians have given to certain questions can be quite a demanding  and sophisticated task.  This can come as a surprise for what we’re calling Level 1 apologetics, however, the change in levels of sophistication and demands for the three levels of apologetics is of a different sort! 

  The change between the levels, not to make too fine a point has to do with meta-apologetic questions--that is, questions about nature of apologetics and conceptual tools to help you navigate in those levels.  

    One’s capacity to be effective at Level 1 can be greatly enhanced by: reading books that enlarge your data base, by memorizing key facts and arguments, and getting referrals to historically reliable apologetic texts.  Let’s call this sort of sophistication (and level of abstraction about the discipline of apologetics), Level 1 apologetics.  I’m betting you want to skip this level, but don’t!  

Section 2

    What we would call a medium level of sophistication about the apologetic discipline would be to realize that there are what are called apologetic systems and to become very familiar with them and their implications.  That is, we assert there are more or less systematic ways (typically attempts to be internally consistent in one’s approach) to speak to apologetic questions that typically reflect a school of thought about how to approach the whole question of defending the faith.  Let’s call this level 2 apologetics.  

    Of primary importance at this level understanding of the discipline is to get beyond specific answers to specific questions and to consider thinking critically about whole systems of apologetics and how they addressthe question of testing Christianity’s truth claims or defending Christianity’s truth claims--which for now we shall assume she makes.

   In short, at this level of apologetics you’re asking a secondary question about the nature of apologetics, can apologetics have a systematic approach and if so how can I bring that to bear in my apologetic explanations.

    To further illustrate what were thinking about for the second level, the discipline of apologetics could be divided between the broad (and somewhat over-simplified) categories of “evidentialism”  and what it is typically contrasted with, the various forms of “pre-suppositionalism“.   Of course, those who do work at this level identify many others than just these two, but as you’ll see this oversimplification has some early advantages in getting the big picture of apologetic systems.

    At this level of apologetics, for example, you might be thinking about how the Arminians or Calvinists might answer a specific question or how someone who holds that Christianity is rational without propositional arguments might deal with the big questions.

Section 3

    The highest level of understanding we support in this website about how to do the conceptual part of apologetics that involves a mastery of skills of critical thinking (especially mastering the rules of formal and informal logic) and abstract reasoning.  In addition it is extremely important to have a pretty good grasp of the history of ideas (mastering the received tradition)--from the pre-Socratics to contemporary thought in the areas of metaphysics, epistemology and axiology (values, ethics, and aesthetics).   There is certainly a “science” to gaining this knowledge and learning critical thinking skills, but there is also an art.  Let’s call of this, Level 3 apologetics.  Many apologists reach this level by taking formal training in philosophy, philosophy of religion and the like.

    At this third level, to illuminate things a bit, assuming you were able to master these sorts of conceptual skills, you would be able to better clarify and explain the key issues in deciding between forms of apologetics systems described in the section above this one.  You would be able to see the implications of what you have learned in epistemology and metaphysics and explain how they are relevant to doing Christian apologetics.  And the best of us might be able to become creative and add to the received tradition in some new and insightful way.  Not everybody reaches this last described level of knowledge and skill, but it’s something to shoot for and it will greatly help explaining your faith in a credible way in academe.

    We will also introduce the concept of “positive apologetics” at this level—that is, making a positive rational justification case for Christian faith based on positive argumentsfor its credulity. 

Section 4

    Level 4 apologetics is mainly aimed at helping conversational apologists gain skills in deconstructing the arguments given in support of other world-views and religions.  It’s a very important skill to be used judiciously to help people see potential weaknesses and outright factual errors with their position and it is often a starting place (from a human perspective) where people can begin to see the need to change their thinking.

Section 5

   Level 5 apologetics will be focused on “advanced problems” in apologetic, which will include things like: a deeper look at the problem of evil, problems and challenges presented with our concept of God, problems that come about when one considers the sophisticated results of the academic disciplines (taken as a whole) in presenting a coherent alternative to theism and more.  

Section 6

     Level 6 apologetics is focused on an introduction to cultural analysis.  This will include both Christian and secular resources.

Enjoy.

~Απολογία Editor

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