Apologetics can have a tendency to take on a very academic tone to them: teleological argument, ontological argument, transcendental argument for God, evidentialism, presuppositionalism etc... (even the words themselves sound intimidating if you have not been exposed to these things).
And, there does need to be that aspect of academic rigor and intellectual strength behind your apologetics and your arguments when discussing with non-Christians, and sometimes, even other Christians who are weaker in their faith and doctrine.
With this seemingly primarily academic sounding atmosphere that apologetics tends to somehow foster, it can be easy to forget that these arguments' primary purpose is for the glory of God through the preaching of the gospel, and not to show off that your philosophical prowess is much better than your opponents'.
As an aside: the direct purpose of this post is not to compare different apologetical methods, although my personal assessment (speaking as a hard-core reformed guy) is, with the exception of the transcendental presuppositional argument, that all of these other apologetical methods ultimately fail because either:
(1) they presuppose some sort of logical "neutrality" with the non-believer.
(2) they don't specifically start with the Christian God. All of these apologetical methods could easily be used to argue for the existence of the Mormon god, or the JW god.
(3) none of the arguments ever get at the root of the non-Christian's unbelief system.
There are other objections based on the individual method being discussed, but the three above do encompass all of them as a general rule.
Apologetics isn't a defense of the faith that is barren of a
presentation of the gospel, in fact apologetics is a presentation of the
gospel and man's need for salvation from his sins (although it may not
seem that obvious from an initial glance). Souls are on the line and we as Christians have a grave responsibility to share apologetics with the gospel in mind.
This was a refreshing reminder to me when I recently stumbled upon some youtube videos of some exchanges between Sye Ten Bruggencate and atheist activist Dan Courtney. Bruggencate and Courtney had a formal debate about the existence of God, here.
What was most interesting was what happened after this. Courtney wanted a follow up debate, but Bruggencate declined because he felt that it would be of no direct use given the format, and instead requested to have an informal chat with Courtney, which Courtney accepted. Courtney made it seem like Bruggencate didn't want to debate because he was somehow afraid of Courtney. From Courtney's version of things, he made it seem like Bruggencate was offering no real arguments in the informal chat and that he was being intellectually dishonest, here. Courtney even titled it as "Why do Presuppositionalists avoid debates?" Seems pretty convincing.. Right? Well, Courtney conveniently doesn't mention that he only posted up 5 min of their chat, when in fact the chat actually lasted for over an hour.
When you actually look at the entire informal chat, you will quickly realize that Bruggencate was exceptionally clear, exacting, and faithful to the gospel the entire time. (In a crass way, you can say that he "owned" Courtney). And, in the end, what struck me as significant was that Bruggencate never forgot his purpose, and that this entire debate about the existence of God using the presuppositionalist approach was for the purpose of sharing Christ with Courtney and urging him to repent of his sins. And this was the exact reason that he wanted to have an informal chat as opposed to another formal debate, because he wanted to reach Courtney personally with the gospel, something that was better done in an informal chat. The purposes of the formal debate was already accomplished in the first debate. There would have been nothing to gain from having another formal debate. The academic nature of the chat was pretty heavy, but again, Bruggencate never forgot that Courtney's soul was on the line and that the lasting impression that Bruggencate wanted to leave Courtney with wasn't his philosophical skills, but with an understanding of the gospel and Courtney's responsibility to respond to it. Bruggencate also mentions very clearly the consequences if Courtney did not accept Christ. The informal chat is here.
What is probably most astounding is that Bruggencate has no formal training in philosophy and apologetics, but everything that you see is the sweat and tears that he put into it himself.
Next time, I will talk a little bit more about the implications of this debate in relation to the concept of worldview.
In relation to apologetics and evangelism, American Vision has also produced an apologetics series that is titled "How To Answer a Fool." (a very in your face title). This would be very helpful to see how the seemingly academic presuppositionalist approach is taken to the "street" level. This would be useful to share the gospel with your unbelieving friends or relatives.