When it comes to types of apologetic arguments there really are quite a lot, but I’m going to introduce you to a few of the larger groupings to get you started. God in his infinite wisdom left us a whole host of ways to talk about Him and see Him throughout our daily lives, but when talking to a non-believer these categories are typically the most relevant.
Existence of God. These kinds of arguments are typically strictly reason based. They do not include the Bible or anything religious in nature, rather they depend on the laws of logic and truths about the world that can be acknowledged by the majority of mankind. These arguments are applicable when speaking with someone that denies the existence of God. If your friend is already a theist of some sort (a theist being someone that believes in God to some degree), then you can probably skip on over these arguments to ones more pertinent to their particular struggles. Unless you and your friends are nerds like me and then you can use these as great dinner conversation!
Some of the more popular arguments for the existence of God are the Ontological, Cosmological, Teleological, and Moral arguments for the existence of God. The Ontological argument focuses on arguing for the existence of God from the definition of God. The Cosmological arguments, and there are actually a few different versions of this one, focus on arguing for the existence of God through our natural understanding of causes. The Teleological argument focuses on arguing for the existence of God through the design seen in nature. The Moral argument for the existence of God focuses on arguing for the existence of God from the existence of morality. In a later series we will dive into each of these in more detail.
Worldviews. If your friend is already a theist, meaning they believe in God to some degree, whether that means they are an agnostic or adherent of some other religion, then this next type of argument may be a great place to start. Worldview arguments are some of the most interesting to me personally. But they are also some of the more challenging because it means you actually have to study other worldviews. A worldview is basically the lens through which you view the world. Everyone has a worldview. A worldview is kind of like a pair of sunglasses, when you put on the sunglasses they tint the world to the color of the lens. A worldview works in the same kind of way. It is the lens through which you receive input about what is happening around you, process that input, and then respond.
It’s very important to be aware of your worldview because every conversation or action has been processed through it and determines your response. With this in mind we want to make sure that we have a worldview that is internally consistent and cohesive. In other words, we want to make sure that our worldview meshes with itself. We do not want to have a worldview where we have to close the door on one part of it in order to use the other part of it. For example if part of your worldview includes the existence of God but another part of your worldview claims that all that exists is what can be experienced with the 5 senses, then when you worship in church on Sunday you have to close the door on the 2nd part of your worldview, because these two parts are in conflict.
Worldview arguments address this. They analyze another worldview and compare it with Christianity in order to show how Christianity is more logically cohesive and internally consistent than other worldviews. They also show how Christianity is better able to answer the worldview questions in a way that pairs with reality. In a later post we’ll dive into worldviews more, so stay tuned!
Reliability of the Bible. These types of arguments are also among my favorites as defense of the historical reliability of the Old Testament is a passion of mine. Reliability of the Bible arguments typically take on a variety of forms. Historical reliability arguments use archaeology and ancient historical records to corroborate the historical events, people, and details of the Bible. Textual reliability arguments focus on defending the authenticity, preservation, and reliability of the Biblical text itself. Scientific reliability arguments use fields such as physics, biology, astronomy, and more to show that where the Bible makes scientific claims it is not in conflict with the data studied by scientists, even if in conflict with popular scientific conclusions. These kinds of arguments are important, because if we cannot know that the Bible has been preserved accurately over the past 4000+ years, then the we are unable to defend the details within it, and if the verifiable details within the Bible are inaccurate then why believe the miraculous portions?
These kinds of arguments are also helpful in analyzing other world religions. Like the worldview arguments, understanding the reliability of the Bible allows us to be able to have conversations about the reliability of other religions’ texts. For example, I’m often asked how can someone choose between all the available world religions. For me that’s an easy choice, I’ve studied enough religions to know that when the history of their sacred documents or founders are scrutinized they quickly prove to be historically inaccurate. In other words, it’s not that there isn’t information to be verified against history, its that when the information is verified against history the information is proved false. This has not ever happened with Christianity.
Whenever the Bible has made a historical claim one of three things occur, either 1) there isn’t external data to compare it to yet (ie., the Hittites prior to 1906 AD), 2) there is subjective data to compare it to, in which case the Bible is not dis-proven but merely provides an alternative explanation of the data (ie., the Flood), or 3) there is conclusive corroboration of the Biblical events or details (ie., Slave prices matching ancient records, city destruction/rebuilding matching ancient timelines, sieges/battles matching foreign records, etc.).
These kinds of arguments are most useful when someone is questioning Christianity specifically or comparing various religions. Like the worldview arguments, these are able to help someone who doesn’t deny the existence of God, take a step closer to Christianity.
Defense of the Resurrection. These types of arguments focus on defending the historical reliability of the resurrection account. Like the others they can take on a variety of forms, including defending the reliability of the message itself, and showing that the Christian explanation of the events is the most reasonable explanation. Some of the more popular include arguments that show that: 1) we have eyewitness accounts of the resurrection, that stand up to the scrutiny required in modern day courts of law, 2) we have early accounts from reliable sources that even non-believers will grant, and 3) that the details of the text make the most sense in light of the conclusion that Jesus really did rise from the dead.
As was seen in our last post on styles of apologetics, many apologists believe that this kind of argument is useful in not only showing Christianity’s validity, but also the existence of God. Jesus claimed that He was God and so if it can be proven that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead, then His claims and message are validated. That means that if Jesus did actually rise from the dead, then we should believe what He said, which is that He is God, thus that God exists.
We’ve just brushed the surface of the available types of apologetic arguments but I hope that this has give you a good place to start in your studies and conversations.
Well thanks for joining me in this series! Next time we’ll cover what a worldview is and then start a new series on arguments for the existence of God. Stay tuned!