Section 3

 An Introduction to Positive Theistic Apologetics


   Section 3 conceptual apologetics, as I have termed it, is all about increasing your analytical skills and sophistication so that you can creatively develop and choose ways to best explain and defend your faith in the Lord.  If you can make time, read the introduction to get better oriented to this site and then click on the tabs above to access other resources for this level.  

   You will likely find the material in this section much more challenging because we are introducing many more analytic tools that require a lot of work to master.  For instance, we are encouraging at this level that you gain a deeper understanding of the domains of epistemology, metaphysics and axiology (and moral theory) and their bearing on doing Christian apologetics.  As you master these areas and can develop a more systematic and sophisticated understanding of them as you integrate the insights into Christian apologetics, you’ll find yourself gaining more and more advantages in the apologetic task. The will include advantages in understanding and articulating arguments in areas like negative apologetics, positive apologetics and deconstructive apologetics.

    One way to think about Section 3 apologetics would be to see it equips you better to see the differences between apologetic systems in Section 2 and to better evaluate the differences between the apologetic systems in Section 2.   But, more importantly, it also give you (once you’ve mastered this level of competence) the ability to go beyond this and creatively add to the received tradition!

“To be ignorant and simple now--not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground--would be to throw down our weapons....[G]ood philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.”

C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses

    Section 3 conceptual apologetics (as distinguished from apologetics conceived more broadly) is about:  a) gaining the ability to ask secondary questions about the nature of your apologetic stance by mastering the fields epistemology, metaphysics, and axiology; and b)  better understanding the person(s) with whom you dialogue and especially their world-view perhaps better than they understand it themselves.  In Section 3 apolgetics, you transition more fully from an apologetic “consumer” to an apologetic designer and developer.  You will be doing a lot of what we have called “positive” apologetics using the tools here so that you can set forth your (positive) case for theism and specifically Christian theism.

    That is, the tools to be mastered here give you what it takes to think more deeply about the subject matter’s secondary questions (“about” questions), and thereby allow you to blaze new trails and be more creative in your responses.  Not everybody gets to this level of competency and, by the grace of God, make an historically significant contribution to the cause; but the best and blessed among us in fact, have done and do just that.

    Let me summarize by listing some of the virtues to master at this level:

1. Negative apologetics: Typically negative apologetics is defined as answering questions that are potential “defeaters” for holding rational Christian beliefs.  But I also think within the domain of negative apologetics there is a need for a detailed and penetrating analysis of, at least, the major competing world views to Christian theism; this includes learning the skills to understand individual instantiations and idiosyncratic modifications made to various (competing) world views and learning the skills to rationally critique them in various ways.

2.  Positive apologetics:  Typically means making a positive case for rational Christian belief either by means of meeting some sort of evidential standard or by means of justifying Christian belief based on epistemic justification (see explanations for these elsewhere on this level).  It involves having a detailed and penetrating analysis of Christian theism as a world view; this involves understanding, explaining and the ability to set forth your case and defend your idiosyncratic version and learning the skills to rationally defend it to those who seek answers.

  • Mastering the conceptual coins of the realm (so to speak) in metaphysics, epistemology and axiology.  Being able to explain in terms of metaphysics, epistemology and axiology your understanding of the Christian faith.  This involves having some sense of the history and evolution of these terms in pre-Socratic, the Classical period, medieval philosophy, modern and contemporary philosophy.
  • Mastering advanced symbolic and modal logic and knowing how and where they can be applied as tools in advanced apologetics.
  • Mastering the basic outline of the history of ideas and then developing an increasingly sophisticated and detailed understanding and competency in explaining the received tradition of the West.   (A knowledge of the received tradition in the East is important, too, for a well-rounded competency.)  Special emphasis is placed on gaining an understanding of the relevance of this material to Christian apologetics, its formation and development.

  However, even though this Level is heavily weighted in terms of conceptual clarity, sophistication and creativity, we cannot as Christians lose sight of the importance of the way we do our apologetics.  That is, in our interpersonal interactions we need to be skilled listeners as well as good arguers--and that’s just one of the reasons it helps to be observed and mentored throughout this step!

    So you can see that this last level involves a life-time of learning opportunities!  Mastering this knowledge and apologetic skills takes years of hard work, but it offers profound rewards.  For one, it can help you to understand your faith more deeply and appreciate its manifold resources and nuances.  Indeed, like many worthwhile tasks, this one enriches you as you prepare to enrich others. © Academic Connections, International