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Thursday, August 1, 2013

William Lane Craig on Philosophy and Apologetics

William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife Jan and their two teenage children Charity and John. At the age of sixteen as a junior in high school, he first heard the message of the Christian gospel and yielded his life to Christ. Dr. Craig pursued his undergraduate studies at Wheaton College (B.A. 1971) and graduate studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.A. 1974; M.A. 1975), the University of Birmingham (England) (Ph.D. 1977), and the University of Munich (Germany) (D.Theol. 1984). From 1980-86 he taught Philosophy of Religion at Trinity, during which time he and Jan started their family. In 1987 they moved to Brussels, Belgium, where Dr. Craig pursued research at the University of Louvain until 1994.

William Lane Craig

Have you ever wondered what type of training would be the most beneficial for those who aspire to become Christian apologists? Dr. Craig, when asked to present for the Stobb Lectures, recently addressed students interested in apologetics as ministry, offering them three key pieces of advice to help in that pursuit. Here, in the first of two parts, he explains why budding apologists should select an area of specialization in their studies and then demonstrates why a background in analytic philosophy provides a crucial foundation, even as a part of historical and scientific apologetics training.

In 1983, when Alvin Plantinga delivered his inaugural lecture as the John O'Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, he chose as his topic "Advice to Christian Philosophers." Today I've chosen as my subject the related, but somewhat broader, topic "Advice to Christian Apologists." Plantinga's advice was, however, directed toward those who already were Christian philosophers, whereas my remarks might be more appropriately entitled "Advice to Budding Christian Apologists," that is to say, to those who will but have not yet entered into a ministry of Christian apologetics and wish to know what goes into effective apologetics training.

We saw yesterday the tremendous need for and benefits of Christian apologetics, both in shaping culture and in influencing individual lives. Now to help us to do this well, let me make a few suggestions.

1. Apologetics training - Select some area in which to specialize.

Select some area in which to specialize . Some popular Christian apologists make the mistake of trying to be a jack of all trades, and so they are master of none. As a result, their knowledge of the field may be very broad, but it is not very profound. While they may be able to present an initial argument for Christian truth claims, they soon wilt under the pressure of critique, especially on the part of specialists. Speaking on a university campus, they may find themselves ridden with anxiety lest a non-Christian faculty member should show up in their audience and raise an objection they are at a loss to deal with. If that does happen, they may not only embarrass themselves but also injure the credibility of the Christian faith. A merely generalized knowledge of Christian apologetics is fine for certain contexts, and certainly better than nothing, but it will limit the horizons of your ministry.

Instead, I encourage you to specialize in a certain area of apologetics, even as you continue to be well-informed in other areas. For example, given the renaissance in Christian philosophy that has been going on over the last 40 years in the Anglo-American world, many of our best Christian apologists today are, not surprisingly, philosophers.

Christian philosophy, involved as it is with issues of epistemology-like justification, rationality, and warrant, - issues of metaphysics - such as the nature of ultimate reality, truth, and the soul - , and of ethics - such as the existence of moral values and duties, theories of the foundations of value, and the meaning of moral claims - , naturally lends itself to Christian apologetics training. Indeed, the Christian philosopher can hardly avoid apologetics, since the questions he studies are pertinent to a Christian world and life view. Even if his conclusions should turn out to be largely sceptical - say, that we cannot know the nature of ultimate reality - , that conclusion would be vitally important to Christian apologetics, since such a conclusion would scuttle the project of natural theology. So the field of philosophy has a natural affinity to apologetics.

Read it all here.

1 comment:

  1. You are so right that there are rouge apologists who claim to speak for the whole group. In Christianity, all apologists should be judged by whether what they say and write aligns with Holy Scripture and the historic creeds of the Church: the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed.

    Apologetics is the work of clarifying the Faith for those who need clarification and are interested. It is different from evangelism. Evangelists seek to convert by convicting the heart of the need for forgiveness from God. Apologists seek to defend the core beliefs by presenting evidence and converting the mind to reasonable truths.