Monday, May 27, 2013

Is Apologetics a Failure?

Gregory Koukl is both exceptionally insightful, and exceptionally concise in this video.

“I don’t think it’s the goal of apologetics to win the culture. I think it’s the goal of apologetics to win people, and once you win people, then you disciple them, and once you disciple them, in the process of their growing in Christ, then they have an impact in the culture.”

“We have success stories all over the place, we just have to do more of it.”


  1. Thanks, John.

    I want to underscore one of the points Koukl made, since so many people make the first observation he mentions, but don't follow up on it the way Koukl did. We've had a resurgence of apologetics, but it hasn't kept pace with what's needed. People often say that there's been a resurgence, but don't go on to qualify it the way Koukl did. We ought to go on to ask whether the resurgence has been enough. It hasn't been. Given the changes in technology, increased access to information, changes in political systems, and other factors in place in the modern world, the church needs to be involved in apologetics far more than it has been to this point.

    1. I think you're absolutely right Jason. Being unemployed is stinky but it's given me the opportunity to explore how "communications" is happening in the world today. I found this video through STR's Twitter feed ("", or @STRtweets) -- it's seeming to me that Twitter followers find out everything first. Quite frequently it's just old news that's being recycled. But for example, my son tells me he learned of Osama Bin Laden's death through Twitter, and only later found out about it through the more standard news sources.

      That's just one dimension of apologetics, I think. It's critically important to have the right message; putting it in the places where people are looking for "messages" is another. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, as confusing as they may seem, are places where increasing numbers of people are "hanging out". Blogs, of course, are vital for "crafting the right message" (and more and more business marketers are turning to blogging as a way of crafting their messages) -- but the vehicles driving people to those blog articles are the "social media" of Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

  2. Great video.

    Good reminder of the holistic approach that we should have towards apologetics, and how that should be serving the church.

    1. That Christian apologetics is a failure is a common criticism made by non-Christians.
      But the criticism makes a few assumptions. For example, it assumes that if the evidence were clear then the mere presentation of the facts and evidences would lead non-Christians to naturally accept the truth of Christianity. Or at least lead to believing "THAT God exists" even if not to believing "IN God."

      The assumption is that conversion is not a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit but merely a natural conclusion arrived at when the proper and sufficient amount of evidence is laid before them.

      But the Bible teaches that human beings aren't naturally neutral regarding the existence of God. That there is a natural (but abnormal) and sinful aversion to a holy God such that we naturally wouldn't want a holy God to exist. So, when people claim that they have good reasons to believe there is no "good God" (as they perceive "goodness"), they aren't really attacking the Biblical conception of God.

      Then when they do confront and criticize the Biblical God, they do so using their own arbitrary standards.

      Another assumption critics of Christianity tacitly hold is that if Christianity were true then the evidence would be much clearer or even overwhelming. When, in my opinion, I believe God made it so that it WOULD NOT be rationally coercive. I believe God regulates the knowledge of Himself for various purposes. As Blaise Pascal said:

      Willing to appear openly to those who seek him with all their heart, and to be hidden from those who flee from him with all their heart, God so regulates the knowledge of himself that he has given indications of himself which are visible to those who seek him and not to those who do not seek him. There is enough light for those to see who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition.


      The prophecies, the very miracles and proofs of our religion, are not of such a nature that they can be said to be absolutely convincing. But they are also of such a kind that it cannot be said that it is unreasonable to believe them. Thus there is both evidence and obscurity to enlighten some and confuse others. But the evidence is such that it surpasses, or at least equals, the evidence to the contrary; so that it is not reason which can determine men not to follow it, and thus it can only be lust or malice of heart. And by this means there is sufficient evidence to condemn, and insufficient to convince; so that it appears in those who follow it, that it is grace, and not reason, which makes them follow it; and in those who shun it, that it is lust, not reason, which makes them shun it.

      More Pascal quote HERE

    2. Btw, I do believe as a Vantillian that there is a sense in which absolutely everything is evidence for the existence of God and that (at least existentially) all men are aware of God's existence and are without excuse. That we're surrounded both internally (via conscience, innate knowledge and the sensus divinitatis/deitatis) and externally with (at least) General Revelation. I don't think this necessarily contradicts the criticisms and observations Paul Manata has made on the traditional Vantillian understanding that all men know God. Unfortunately Paul took down his article "Do All Men Know that God Exists?" Maybe the tradtional Vantillian understanding is wrong to say that all men (rationally?) know the existence of God.

      Apologetics is also not a failure in that it's purpose is not only 1. to aid in removing obstacles to conversion, but also 2. in removing or relieving the doubts of those who are already believers/Christians. Surely Christian apologetics have helped keep Christians in the faith.

      I would recommend William Lane Craig's videos on this topic:

      Christian Apologetics: Who Needs it? by William Lane Craig

      In Intellectual Neutral by William Lane Craig

      He rightly argues that apologetics (as we currently do it) is technically not necessary [sic], but nevertheless extremely useful (for various reasons).

    3. oops, the above posts weren't supposed to be a response to Christopher Lee. It was supposed to be posted as a general comment. BTW, I'm tempted to make a Dracula joke, but I'm sure Mr. Lee gets them all the time and is tired of them.

    4. The first link to Craig's video doesn't work. Here are the links again:

      Christian Apologetics: Who Needs it? by William Lane Craig

      In Intellectual Neutral by William Lane Craig

      The two videos are very similar. But I would recommend one listen to the first link if one is going to listen to only one.

  3. Besides:
    1. presenting evidence for the truth of Christianity in order to bring about the conversion of non-Christians to Christianity;

    2. removing obstacles to belief in Christianity by answering questions and refuting objections to Christianity which (a) prevent non-Christians from converting and (b) cause doubt in Christians that might lead to apostasy;

    there is also;

    3. the purpose of apologetics in refuting and reducing to absurdity, irrationality, implausibility or unlivability of competing worldviews, philosophies of life and religions. Clearly, Christian apologetics is not a failure in showing how Christianity is "the best game in town" when compared to the utter failure of other worldviews in providing, as good as or better than Christianity, the preconditions of intelligibility and human experience.