Evidential apologetics – What is it?

The term "apologetics" comes from the Greek, apologia, which means "defense." Apologetics is the systematic study of how one can best defend one's beliefs. Christian apologetics, specifically, focuses on presenting the core tenets of the Christian faith so as to make a case for their truthfulness and answer objections raised by unbelievers. Simply put, Christian apologetics is offering a defense for what Christians believe.

It is perhaps unsurprising that there should be different approaches to the practice of Christian apologetics. Three common approaches to apologetics are known as classical apologetics, evidential apologetics, and presuppositional apologetics. Here, we will focus on evidential apologetics.

Evidential apologists generally argue for the Christian faith by appealing directly to concrete evidence which supports the truth of basic Christian claims. In this respect, evidential apologetics is very similar to classical apologetics, which relies heavily upon evidence, in addition to fundamental principles of reasoning and philosophy, to make a compelling case for the Christian faith. There is a great deal of evidence which is relevant to the Christian faith. For instance, God has left evidence of His existence throughout creation (e.g., Psalm 19). Moreover, there is a great deal of archaeological and historical evidence for the reliability of Scripture and the historicity of the events it describes, most notably, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

The evidential approach to apologetics relies primarily on what can be demonstrated simply and directly, in the form of physical or readily accessible concrete data. It tends to approach things in a very practical manner and appeals to minds which appreciate simplicity and clarity. Because of its direct nature, evidential apologetics can be a tremendously powerful tool for demonstrating the truthfulness of the Christian faith.

Examples of an evidential approach to apologetics in Scripture are abundant. Interestingly, even Jesus seems to have favored an evidential approach to demonstrating the reality of His own resurrection. We read in Acts 1:3, for instance that, "He presented himself alive to them [i.e., His disciples] after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God." We know that these "proofs" included, perhaps among other things, Jesus eating a fish to demonstrate the physical reality of His resurrected body (Luke 24:42–43), and allowing Thomas to touch the wounds from His crucifixion which remained in His resurrected body (John 20:24–28).

In short, there certainly appears to be biblical precedent for the evidential approach to apologetics. Christians must be able to articulate and defend the evidence for what they believe (1 Peter 3:15), and the evidential approach concentrates on precisely this evidence. Nevertheless, those who use the evidential approach should also recognize that pure evidence alone is not sufficient to transform the human heart (John 6:37, 65). The goal of all apologetics is not simply to show that Christianity is true, but to produce faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 1—2) and to remove stumbling blocks to that goal (2 Corinthians 10:5). When practiced with this ultimate goal in mind—that is, the glory of Christ— evidential apologetics can be a powerful tool for advancing the kingdom of God and demolishing objections to the Christian faith.

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