Book Review: In the Beginning – By Henri Blocher

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Letter TThe opening chapters of Genesis have likely had more written about them than most any other section of the Bible. Especially in the modern world the question of how to interpret these chapters is seen as especially pressing in the light of claims that the theories of science call into question and influence how they should be read.

In his book In the Beginning Henri Blocher offers a fairly in-depth analysis of the first three chapters of Genesis (with a short chapter surveying chapters 4-11 at the end). This analysis is not primarily a technical breakdown of the grammar and syntax of the chapters nor an interaction with the ancient Near Eastern context. Rather it is a commentary on the major themes of the chapters which seeks to weigh varying interpretations and offer an internally and biblically consistent vision of not only what is going on at the beginning of Genesis but also what lessons should be gleaned.

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Book Review: The Lost World of Genesis One – By John H. Walton

John Walton Lost World of Genesis 1.png

Letter TPerhaps there is no topic more widely and hotly debated in the past century of Christianity – and especially in the past few decades – is that of creation and evolution as it relates to Genesis.

The Lost World of Genesis One is one of John H. Walton‘s multiple contributions to this discussion. This is a work which according to Walton serves to be faithful to the original context and to not only preserve but enhance the theological vitality of the text.

Central to Walton’s approach to Genesis 1 is an understanding that while the text does communicate to us and was written for all of humankind, it is not directly written to us, but to Israel; there is a barrier of sorts separating 21st century Western American and European cultures from that of the ancient Israelites). Because of this it is not only the language that needs to be translated but also the culture. While the key to translating certain ancient languages might have been the Rosetta Stone, for Walton the key to translating this ancient culture is the literature from the rest of the ancient world (noting that there are bound to be both similarities and differences).

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“The Bible was WRONG”… or Not; Religious Illiteracy in West Reaches New Low

Drouais Caananite Woman

Letter IImagine for a moment being told that your history book is wrong because archaeologists digging in Georgia have discovered evidence that the United States previously allowed slavery. You would rightly scratch your head, because anybody who knows anything about U.S. history knows that slavery has always been one of its defining features. A similar scenario recently played out in headlines across the web.

As background, the above painting is an oil on canvas by the eighteenth century French painter Jean-Germain Drouais. It currently hangs at the Louvre in Paris and is entitled ‘The Woman of Canaan at the Feet of Christ.’

For anyone who’s been paying attention to the recent headlines this painting should come as quite a shock. Sources from USA Today to The Telegraph and Science and Daily Mail all rushed to the presses in recent weeks to report that “The Bible was WRONG,” “DNA vs the Bible,“The Bible got in wrong,” “New DNA study casts doubt on Bible claim,” “Was The Bible Wrong?,” amongst others.

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Book Review: Homosexuality – The Use of Scientific Research in the Church’s Moral Debate; By Stanton L. Jones & Mark A. Yarhouse

Letter TThe topic of homosexuality has been discussed from a variety of angles from within the Christian context. Some scholars seek to address the ancient near-Eastern and Greco-Roman contexts in which the Scriptures were written to best understand their injunctions, others attempt to deal directly with and exegete the Biblical texts.

The goal of Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse in their book here is to analyze how the most recent scientific research effects the Christian moral debate around homosexuality. To be clear, the book is not written to answer the question of whether homosexual actions are immoral in light of science, the authors begin from the assumption that it is. The goal is rather to show that “while science provides us with many interesting and useful perspectives on sexual orientation and behavior, the best science of this day fails to persuade the thoughtful Christian to change his or her moral stance.”(p.13) The goal is to answer the question of how research on homosexuality should inform the Christian understanding of homosexuality.


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FATQ: Can Science Disprove Free Will?


Letter TThere is no shortage of speculation today as to whether sciencemost often, neuroscience or quantum physics – has successfully disproven the idea of free will. “Free will might be an illusion created by our brains, scientists might have proved,” or so the commentary would have us believe.

Philosophers and theologians have said much on the topic, it is said, but what is needed is something more concrete, something that can prove the issue one way or the other. In short, something more scientifically testable. The assumption of free will is said to be eroding as “the sciences have grown steadily bolder in their claim that all human behavior can be explained through the clockwork laws of cause and effect.”

As we are better able to analyze the networks of neurons in our brains – networks shaped by our genes and environment – there is widespread agreement that “the firing of neurons determines not just some or most but all of our thoughts, hopes, memories, and dreams.” If these neurons are not subject to our will, we must not be free – or so the argument goes.

The issue here is primarily one of methodology.

The methods of science necessarily work in the direction of determinism because science is concerned with the question of causes. If you can only ask about causes, you will without fail end in determinism. Thus, to say that science comes down on the side of determinism is to do little more than utter a truism.

As F.H. Jacobi put it: “Every avenue of demonstration ends up in fatalism.” 

Or Paul Roubiczek: “[Determinism] is the natural outcome of the scientific method; it is bound to work in the direction of establishing causality… As the method is designed to disclose necessity, freedom can never be proved in this way.” 

Roubiczek’s final point is the clutch of this discussion.

A method designed to disclose necessity cannot prove something defined as being without necessity.

Science – and to a similar extent, rationalism – are focused almost exclusively on the question of causality. When one of the only questions that can be asked is “what caused this?” it should come as no surprise when the process can point only to various causes. Even if science were to discover something which seemed uncaused, the good scientist would proceed on the assumption that the cause was simply unknown or undetectable via the current equipment or processes.

Science has a necessary bias towards causality; this is not a weakness or a fault, but merely a limitation. In the end, science can neither prove nor disprove free will, simply because it is a question which falls outside the bounds of what science can determine.

[This question ends up being less of a theology question and more of a philosophy question. It’s relevance to theology comes in the way that questions about God or ethics similarly simply fall outside the bounds of what science can determine. Those who think otherwise – as Richard P. Feynman put it – don’t “understand science correctly, that science cannot disprove God, and that a belief in science and religion is consistent.”]



Eugene Lilley (MDiv, MA) is a member of the Society of Christian Philosophers and the American Chesterton Society.

He may or may not be a Time Lord.

FATQ: Is there any biblical justification for exploring space?

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Letter IIn recent news, Congress has passed a bill (S.3346) which is being hailed as “a solid commitment” towards the goal of having a manned mission to mars within the next 25 years. The bipartisan bill authorized a budget increase for NASA, taking their total budget up to “$19.5 billion.”

This raises the question in many minds: Is there any biblical justification in exploring space and more importantly, spending such large amounts of money to do so? It seems to be an important question, after-all, we don’t want to support something if it amounts to a violation of God’s law.

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Book Review: The Meaning of It All – By Richard P. Feynman

feynman-the-meaning-of-it-allletter-eEvery now and then I browse for a book to read outside my normal discipline, and this was the one I chose for my quarterly dose of science. In this I have to say that I was only partially successful, and it’s only tenuously that I actually categorize this as a scientific text.

While science is no doubt the key element around which the text is written, it is much more concerned with a philosophy of science than a study of some specific scientific idea, and even more-so than that it is concerned with the the general thoughts of how the author perceives science as interacting with the rest of the world.

The Meaning of It All is a text adapted from a series of lectures given by the late Richard Feynman in 1963 at the University of Washington. As noted above, I think the proper category for the text is in the philosophy of science. Feynman opens with a discussion of what exactly science is: what does it encompass, what is its purpose, what is outside its bounds, and what are the fundamental features of the endeavor.

The two chief principles laid out are the value in science of uncertainty and doubt, hence: “All scientific knowledge is uncertain… You have to permit the possibility that you do not have it exactly right. Otherwise, if you have made up your mind already, you might not solve it.” and “If we were not able or did not desire to look in any new direction, if we did not have a doubt or recognize ignorance, we would not get any new ideas.”

What follows from this talk of what science is and how it operates is a discussion of how science (and its methods) can and do affect various other aspects of life to include religion, politics, psychology, ethics and society in general. In a sort of biographical prose Mr. Feynman discusses everything from the church and education to war, from flying saucers to faith healing to telepathy to politicians and the role of government. He is entertaining, witty, and openly honest, with the added benefit of being informative.

At only 122 pages The Meaning of It All is a short book, and one that makes for a very fun and light introduction to the philosophy of science. I imagine, also, that it is a very good introduction to the writings of Mr. Feynman, or at least it was for me, and I will probably be keeping my eye out for other books by him. He may be over 20 years passed, but he is still a fun and relevant read, even if some of the things he discusses are long past.

Memorable Quotes:

-”Why repeat all this? Because there are new generations born every day. Because there are great ideas developed in the history of man, and these ideas do not last unless they are passed purposely and clearly from generation to generation.”(p.4)

-”Words can be meaningless. If they are used in such a way that no sharp conclusions can be drawn.”(p.20)

-”The third possibility of explanation of the phenomenon is that the young man perhaps doesn’t understand science correctly, that science cannot disprove God, and that a belief in science and religion is consistent.”(p.36)

-”You see, if you don’t have a good reason, you have to have several reasons…”(p.43)

-”The only way that we will make a mistake is that in the impetuous youth of humanity we will decide we know the answer. This is it. No one else can think of anything else. And we will jam. We will confine man to the limited imagination of today’s human beings.”(p.57)

-”This is in the attitude of mind of the populace, that they have to have an answer and that a man who gives an answer is better than a man who gives no answer, when the real fact of the matter is, in most cases, it is the other way around.”(p.66)

-”Writing commentaries is some kind of disease of the intellect.”(p.115)

Specific Criticisms

If I wanted to be extremely nitpicky I could probably critique some of Feynman’s comments on religion, but really, that would serve no purpose, so I won’t. When taken as a whole there is very little I could take issue with. One comment I might make is upon the conclusion where Mr. Feynman discusses how ideally (in the realm of morals and ethics) we could simply agree that we agree, and not argue about why we each agree upon the given conclusion.

Perhaps the chief issue with this line of thinking is that it offers no justification; if ethics are not justified, but simply agreed upon, then there is nothing to say that they are not arbitrary apart from popular consent. Morals and ethics simply become a matter of majority rule – but what about the minority or the one who questions the ethics of those who all agree with each other? Simply, if we are without a why then we are without a reason.

Book Review: A Brief History of Time – By Stephen Hawking

Hawking Brief History of Time.pngletter-aABrief History of Time is Stephen Hawking‘s attempt at taking the advances of science throughout history and presenting them in a readable fashion for the layman.

In a very readable and even often humorous manner Hawking lays out this history, tracing its roots all the way back to Aristotle, through Galileo to Newton all the way up into the modern age. At each juncture he lays out the thought of the period and describes how each advancement came upon us, moving from a geocentric to heliocentric model of the universe, through the formulation of the first laws of nature up to things such as red shift and the anthropic principle, general relativity, quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle and black holes.

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Book Review: God and Philosophy – By Etienne Gilson

Gilson God and Philosphy.pngletter-god and Philosophy is author Etienne Gilson‘s history of philosophy as regards its relationship with the idea of God and the demonstration of his existence. The text is divided into four sections: God and Greek Philosophy, God and Christian Philosophy, God and Modern Philosophy, and Contemporary Thought, roughly following the progression of thought from the Milesians through Augustine and Aquinas to Descarte, Spinoza, and finally Kant, Comte, Einstein and Huxley.

The history of philosophy presented by Gilson is very well done, yet it is the analysis and critique found within each of the sections which makes the text truly worthwhile. Here we see the tension of the Greeks between philosophy and religion, the medieval wrestling with metaphysics that they borrowed from the Greeks, the Enlightenment in turn borrowing from the scholastics in reconciling their science, and finally the scientists disregarding metaphysics and wondering why their science cannot answer questions that it is no designed to ask.

All in all Gilson’s text is a lucid, insightful and fairly accessible text regarding the way that the world has approached the notion of God, the difficulties in reconciling him with the philosophies of the day, and the shortcomings of the various systems in confronting the question. I’ve chosen a rather large number of memorable quotes as I feel they can better sum up the position and the merits of this text than I can through summation.

Memorable Quotes:

-“The great curse of modern philosophy is the almost universally prevailing rebellion against intellectual self-discipline. Where loose thinking obtains, truth cannot possibly be grasped, whence the conclusion naturally follows that there is no truth.”(pXV)

-“The Greek gods are the crude but telling expression of this absolute conviction that since man is somebody, and not merely something, the ultimate explanation for what happens to him should rest with somebody, and not merely with something… Mythology is not the first step on the path to true philosophy. In fact, it is no philosophy at all. Mythology is a first step on the path to true religion: it is religious in its own right.”(p22)

-“Human reason feels at home in a world of things, whose essences and laws it can grasp and define in terms of concepts; but shy and ill at ease in a world of existences, because to exist is an act, not a thing.”(p67)

-“Modern philosophy has been created by laymen, not by churchmen, and to the ends of the natural cities of men, not to the end of the supernatural city of God.”(p74)

-“The essence of the true Christian God is not to create but to be.”(p88)

-“The true reason why this universe appears to some scientists as mysterious is that, mistaking existential, that is, metaphysical, questions for scientific ones, they ask science to answer them. Naturally, they get no answers. Then they are puzzled, and they say that the universe is mysterious.”(p123)

“Why should those eminently rational beings, the scientists, deliberately prefer to the simple notions of design, or purposiveness, in nature, the arbitrary notions of blind force, chance, emergence, sudden variation, and similar ones? Simply because they much prefer a complete absence of intelligibility to the presence of a nonscientific intelligibility.”(p130)

-“Yet the fact that final causes are scientifically sterile does not entail their disqualification as metaphysical causes, and to reject metaphysical answers to a problem just because they are not scientific is deliberately to maim the knowing power of the human mind.”(p132)

-“We do not need to project out own ideas into the economy of nature; they belong there in their own right. Our own ideas are in the economy of nature because we ourselves are in it. Any and every one of the things which a man does intelligently is done with a purpose and to a certain end which is the final cause why he does it… Through man, who is part and parcel of nature, purposiveness most certainly is part and parcel of nature. In what sense is it arbitrary, knowing from within that where there is organization there always is a purpose, to conclude that there is a purpose wherever there is organization?”(p134)

Specific Criticisms

I don’t really have any criticisms of this text. There are a few random bits that I either failed to understand or disagreed with, such as the assertion that science has been successful in coming to a “perfectly consistent philosophy of the mechanical universe of modern science” and this somehow shows that the pure philosophical positions are somehow found more truly in science than Christianity.

Apologetics — B.B. Warfield


Since Planck (1794) and Schleiermacher (1811), “apologetics” has been the accepted name of one of the theological disciplines or departments of theological science. The term is derived from the Greek apologeisthai, which embodies as its central notion the idea of “defense.”

In its present application, however, it has somewhat shifted its meaning, and we speak accordingly of apologetics and apologies in contrast with each other. The relation between these two is not that of theory and practice (so e.g. Dusterdieck), nor yet that of genus and species (so e.g. Kubel). That is to say, apologetics is not a formal science in which the principles exemplified in apologies are investigated, as the principles of sermonizing are investigated in homiletics. Nor is it merely the sum of all existing or all possible apologies, or their quintessence, or their scientific exhibition, as dogmatics is the scientific statement of dogmas. Apologies are defenses of Christianity, in its entirety, in its essence, or in some one or other of its elements or presuppositions, as against either all assailants, actual or conceivable, or some particular form or instance of attack; though, of course, as good defenses they may rise above mere defenses and become vindications.

Apologetics undertakes not the defense, not even the vindication, but the establishment, not, strictly speaking, of Christianity, but rather of that knowledge of God which Christianity professes to embody and seeks to make efficient in the world, and which it is the business of theology scientifically to explicate. It may, of course, enter into defense and vindication when in the prosecution of its task it meets with opposing points of view and requires to establish its own standpoint or conclusions. Apologies may, therefore, be embraced in apologetics, and form ancillary portions of its structure, as they may also do in the case of every other theological discipline. It is, moreover, inevitable that this or that element or aspect of apologetics will be more or less emphasized and cultivated, as the need of it is from time to time more or less felt. But apologetics does not derive its contents or take its form or borrow its value from the prevailing opposition; but preserves through all varying circumstances its essential character as a positive and constructive science which has to do with opposition only- like any other constructive science–as the refutation of opposing views becomes from time to time incident to construction. So little is defense or vindication of the essence of apologetics that there would be the same reason for its existence and the same necessity for its work, were there no opposition in the world to be encountered and no contradiction to be overcome. It finds its deepest ground, in other words, not in the accidents which accompany the efforts of true religion to plant, sustain, and propagate itself in this world; not even in that most pervasive and most portentous of all these accidents, the accident of sin; but in the fundamental needs of the human spirit.

If it is incumbent on the believer to be able to give a reason for the faith that is in him, it is impossible for him to be a believer without a reason for the faith that is in him; and it is the task of apologetics to bring this reason clearly out in his consciousness, and make its validity plain. It is, in other words, the function of apologetics to investigate, explicate, and establish the grounds on which a theology — a science, or systematized knowledge of God- is possible; and on the basis of which every science which has God for its object must rest, if it be a true science with claims to a place within the circle of the sciences. It necessarily takes its place, therefore, at the head of the departments of theological science and finds its task in the establishment of the validity of that knowledge of God which forms the subject-matter of these departments; that we may then proceed through the succeeding departments of exegetical, historical, systematic, and practical theology, to explicate, appreciate, systematize, and propagate it in the world.


It must be admitted that considerable confusion has reigned with respect to the conception and function of apologetics, and its place among the theological disciplines. Nearly every writer has a definition of his own, and describes the task of the discipline in a fashion more or less peculiar to himself; and there is scarcely a corner in the theological encyclopedia into which it has not been thrust. Planck gave it a place among the exegetical disciplines; others contend that its essence is historical; most wish to assign it either to systematic or practical theology. Nosselt denies it all right of existence; Palmer confesses inability to classify it; Rabiger casts it formally out of the encyclopedia, but reintroduces it under the different name of “theory of religion.” Tholuck proposed that it should be apportioned through the several departments; and Cave actually distributes its material through three separate departments.

Much of this confusion is due to a persistent confusion of apologetics with apologies. If apologetics is the theory of apology, and its function is to teach men how to defend Christianity, its place is, of course, alongside of homiletics, catechetics, and poimenics in practical theology. If it is simply, by way of eminence, the apology of Christianity, the systematically organized vindication of Christianity in all its elements and details, against all opposition- or in its essential core against the only destructive opposition — it of course presupposes the complete development of Christianity through the exegetical, historical, and systematic disciplines, and must take its place either as the culminating department of systematic theology, or as the intellectualistic side of practical theology, or as an independent discipline between the two.

In this case it can be only artificially separated from polemic theology and other similar disciplines–if the analysis is pushed so far as to create these, as is done by F. Duilhe de Saint-Projet who distinguishes between apologetical, controversial, and polemic theology, directed respectively against unbelievers, heretics, and fellow believers, and by A. Kuyper who distinguishes between polemics, elenctics, and apologetics, opposing respectively heterodoxy, paganism, and false philosophy. It will not be strange, then, if, though separated from these kindred disciplines it, or some of it, should be again united with them, or some of them, to form a larger whole to which is given the same encyclopedic position. This is done for example by Kuyper who joins polemics, elenctics, and apologetics together to form his “antithetic dogmatologi-cal” group of disciplines; and by F. L. Patton who, after having distributed the material of apologetics into the two separate disciplines of rational or philosophical theology, to which as a thetic discipline a place is given at the outset of the system, and apologetics, joins the latter with polemics to constitute the antithetical disciplines, while systematic theology succeeds both as part of the synthetic disciplines.


Much of the diversity in question is due also, however, to varying views of the thing which apologetics undertakes to establish; whether it be, for example, the truth of the Christian religion, or the validity of that knowledge of God which theology presents in systematized form. And more of it still is due to profoundly differing conceptions of the nature and subject-matter of that “theology,” a department of which apologetics is. If we think of apologetics as undertaking the defense or the vindication or even the justification of the “Christian religion,” that is one thing; if we think of it as undertaking the establishment of the validity of that knowledge of God, which “theology” systematizes, that may be a very different thing. And even if agreement exists upon the latter conception, there remain the deeply cutting divergences which beset the definition of “theology” itself. Shall it be defined as the “science of faith “? or as the “science of religion “? or as the “science of the Christian religion “? or as the “science of God “? In other words, shall it be regarded as a branch of psychology, or as a branch of history, or as a branch of science?

Manifestly those who differ thus widely as to what theology is, cannot be expected to agree as to the nature and function of any one of its disciplines. If “theology” is the science of faith or of religion, its subject-matter is the subjective experiences of the human heart; and the function of apologetics is to inquire whether these subjective experiences have any objective validity. Of course, therefore, it follows upon the systematic elucidation of these subjective experiences and constitutes the culminating discipline of “theology.” Similarly, if” theology” is the science of the Christian religion, it investigates the purely historical question of what those who are called Christians believe; and of course the function of apologetics is to follow this investigation with an inquiry whether Christians are justified in believing these things. But if theology is the science of God, it deals not with a mass of subjective experiences, nor with a section of the history of thought, but with a body of objective facts; and it is absurd to say that these facts must be assumed and developed unto their utmost implications before we stop to ask whether they are facts.

So soon as it is agreed that theology is a scientific discipline and has as its subject-matter the knowledge of God, we must recognize that it must begin by establishing the reality as objective facts of the data upon which it is based. One may indeed call the department of theology to which this task is committed by any name which appears to him appropriate: it may be called “general theology,” or “fundamental theology,” or “principial theology,” or “philosophical theology,” or “rational theology,” or “natural theology,” or any other of the innumerable names which have been used to describe it. Apologetics is the name which most naturally suggests itself, and it is the name which, with more or less accuracy of view as to the nature and compass of the discipline, has been consecrated to this purpose by a large number of writers from Schleiermacher down (e.g. Pelt, Twesten, Baum-stark, Swetz, Ottiger, Knoll, Maissoneuve). It powerfully commends itself as plainly indicating the nature of the discipline, while equally applicable to it whatever may be the scope of the theology which it undertakes to plant on a secure basis.

Whether this theology recognizes no other knowledge of God than that given in the constitution and course of nature, or derives its data from the full revelation of God as documented in the Christian Scriptures, apologetics offers itself with equal readiness to designate the discipline by which the validity of the knowledge of God set forth is established. It need imply no more than natural theology requires for its basis; when the theology which it serves is, however, the complete theology of the Christian revelation, it guards its unity and protects from the fatally dualistic conception which sets natural and revealed theology over against each other as separable entities, each with its own separate presuppositions requiring establish-ment-by which apologetics would be split into two quite diverse disciplines, given very different places in the theological encyclopedia.


It will already have appeared how far apologetics may be defined, in accordance with a very prevalent custom (e.g. Sack, Lechler, Ebrard, Kubel, Lemme) as “the science which establishes the truth of Christianity as the absolute religion.” Apologetics certainly does establish the truth of Christianity as the absolute religion. But the question of importance here is how it does this. It certainly is not the business of apologetics to take up each tenet of Christianity in turn and seek to establish its truth by a direct appeal to reason. Any attempt to do this, no matter on what philosophical basis the work of demonstration be begun or by what methods it be pursued, would transfer us at once into the atmosphere and betray us into the devious devices of the old vulgar rationalism, the primary fault of which was that it asked for a direct rational demonstration of the truth of each Christian teaching in turn.

The business of apologetics is to establish the truth of Christianity as the absolute religion directly only as a whole, and in its details only indirectly. That is to say, we are not to begin by developing Christianity into all its details, and only after this task has been performed, tardily ask whether there is any truth in all this. We are to begin by establishing the truth of Christianity as a whole, and only then proceed to explicate it into its details, each of which, if soundly explicated, has its truth guaranteed by its place as a detail in an entity already established in its entirety. Thus we are delivered from what is perhaps the most distracting question which has vexed the whole history of the discipline. In establishing the truth of Christianity, it has been perennially asked, are we to deal with all its details (e.g.H.B. Smith), or merely with the essence of Christianity (e.g. Kubel). The true answer is, neither.

Apologetics does not presuppose either the development of Christianity into its details, or the extraction from it of its essence. The details of Christianity are all contained in Christianity: the minimum of Christianity is just Christianity itself. What apologetics undertakes to establish is just this Christianity itself — including all its “details” and involving its “essence “–in its unexplicated and uncompressed entirety, as the absolute religion. It has for its object the laying of the foundations on which the temple of theology is built, and by which the whole structure of theology is determined. It is the department of theology which establishes the constitutive and regulative principles of theology as a science; and in establishing these it establishes all the details which are derived from them by the succeeding departments, in their sound explication and systematization. Thus it establishes the whole, though it establishes the whole in the mass, so to speak, and not in its details, but yet in its entirety and not in some single element deemed by us its core, its essence, or its minimum expression.


The subject-matter of apologetics being determined, its distribution into its parts becomes very much a matter of course. Having defined apologetics as the proof of the truth of the Christian religion, many writers naturally confine it to what is commonly known somewhat loosely as the “evidences of Christianity.” Others, defining it as “fundamental theology,” equally naturally confine it to the primary princi-pies of religion in general. Others more justly combine the two conceptions and thus obtain at least two main divisions. Thus Hermann Schultz makes it prove “the right of the religious conception of the world, as over against the tendencies to the denial of religion, and the right of Christianity as the absolutely perfect manifestation of religion, as over against the opponents of its permanent significance.” He then divides it into two great sections with a third interposed between them: the first, “the apology of the religious conception of the world “; the last, “the apology of Christianity “; while between the two stands” the philosophy of religion, religion in its historical manifestation.” Somewhat less satisfactorily, because with a less firm hold upon the idea of the discipline, Henry B. Smith, viewing apologetics as “historico-philosophi-cal dogmatics,” charged with the defense of “the whole contents and substance of the Christian faith,” divided the material to much the same effect into what he calls fundamental, historical, and philosophical apologetics.

The first of these undertakes to demonstrate the being and nature of God; the second, the divine origin and authority of Christianity; and the third, somewhat lamely as a conclusion to so high an argument, the superiority of Christianity to all other systems. Quite similarly Francis R. Beattie divided into (1) fundamental or philosophical apologetics, which deals with the problem of God and religion; (2) Christian or historical apologetics, which deals with the problem of revelation and the Scriptures; and (3) applied or practical apologetics, which deals with the practical efficiency of Christianity in the world. The fundamental truth of these schematizations lies in the perception that the subject-matter of apologetics embraces the two great facts of God and Christianity. There is some failure in unity of conception, however, arising apparently from a deficient grasp of the peculiarity of apologetics as a department of theological science, and a consequent inability to permit it as such to determine its own contents and the natural order of its constituent parts.


If theology be a science at all, there is involved in that fact, as in the case of all other sciences, at least these three things: the reality of its subject-matter, the capacity of the human mind to receive into itself and rationally to reflect this subject-matter, the existence of media of communication between the subject-matter and the percipient and understanding mind. There could be no psychology were there not a mind to be investigated, a mind to investigate, and a self-consciousness by means of which the mind as an object can be brought under the inspection of the mind as subject. There could be no astronomy were there no heavenly bodies to be investigated, no mind capable of comprehending the laws of their existence and movements, or no means of observing their structure and motion. Similarly there can be no theology, conceived according to its very name as the science of God, unless there is a God to form its subject-matter, a capacity in the human mind to apprehend and so far to comprehend God, and some media by which God is made known to man.

That a theology, as the science of God, may exist, therefore, it must begin by establishing the existence of God, the capacity of the human mind to know Him, and the accessibility of knowledge concerning Him. In other words, the very idea of theology as the science of God gives these three great topics which must be dealt with in its fundamental department, by which the foundations for the whole structure are laid- God, religion, revelation. With these three facts established, a theology as the science of God becomes possible; with them, therefore, an apologetic might be complete. But that, only provided that in these three topics all the underlying presuppositions of the science of God actually built up in our theology are established; for example, provided that all the accessible sources and means of knowing God are exhausted.

No science can arbitrarily limit the data lying within its sphere to which it will attend. On pain of ceasing to be the science it professes to be, it must exhaust the means of information open to it, and reduce to a unitary system the entire body of knowledge in its sphere. No science can represent itself as astronomy, for example, which arbitrarily confines itself to the information concerning the heavenly bodies obtainable by the unaided eye, or which discards, without sound ground duly adduced, the aid of, say, the spectroscope. In the presence of Christianity in the world making claim to present a revelation of God adapted to the condition and needs of sinners, and documented in Scriptures, theology cannot proceed a step until it has examined this claim; and if the claim be substantiated, this substantiation must form a part of the fundamental department of theology in which are laid the foundations for the systematization of the knowledge of God. In that case, two new topics are added to the subject-matter with which apologetics must constructively deal, Christianity–and the Bible.

It thus lies in the very nature of apologetics as the fundamental department of theology, conceived as the science of God, that it should find its task in establishing the existence of a God who is capable of being known by man and who has made Himself known, not only in nature but in revelations of His grace to lost sinners, documented in the Christian Scriptures. When apologetics has placed these great facts in our hands- God, religion, revelation, Christianity, the Bible–and not till then are we prepared to go on and explicate the knowledge of God thus brought to us, trace the history of its workings in the world, systematize it, and propagate it in the world.


The primary subdivisions of apologetics are therefore five, unless for convenience of treatment it is preferred to sink the third into its most closely related fellow. (1) The first, which may perhaps be called philosophical apologetics, undertakes the establishment of the being of God, as a personal spirit, the creator, preserver, and governor of all things. To it belongs the great problem of theism, with the involved discussion of the antitheistic theories. (2) The second, which may perhaps be called psychological apologetics, undertakes the establishment of the religious nature of man and the validity of his religious sense. It involves the discussion alike of the psychology, the philosophy, and the phenomenology of religion, and therefore includes what is loosely called “comparative religion” or the “history of religions.” (3) To the third falls the establishment of the reality of the supernatural factor in history, with the involved determination of the actual relations in which God stands to His world, and the method of His government of His rational creatures, and especially His mode of making Himself known to them. It issues in the establishment of the fact of revelation as the condition of all knowledge of God, who as a personal Spirit can be known only so far as He expresses Himself; so that theology differs from all other sciences in that in it the object is not at the disposal of the subject, but vice versa. (4) The fourth, which may be called historical apologetics, undertakes to establish the divine origin of Christianity as the religion of revelation in the special sense of that word. It discusses all the topics which naturally fall under the popular caption of the “evidences of Christianity.” (5) The fifth, which may be called bibliological apologetics, undertakes to establish the trustworthiness of the Christian Scriptures as the documentation of the revelation of God for the redemption of sinners. It is engaged especially with such topics as the divine origin of the Scriptures; the methods of the divine operation in their origination; their place in the series of redemptive acts of God, and in the process of revelation; the nature, mode, and effect of inspiration; and the like.


The estimate which is put upon apologetics by scholars naturally varies with the conception which is entertained of its nature and function. In the wake of the subjectivism introduced by Schleiermacher, it has become very common to speak of such an apologetic as has just been outlined with no little scorn. It is an evil inheritance, we are told, from the old supranaturalismus vulgaris, which “took its standpoint not in the Scriptures but above the Scriptures, and imagined it could, with formal conceptions, develop a ‘ground for the divine authority of Christianity’ (Heubner), and therefore offered proofs for the divine origin of Christianity, the necessity of revelation, and the credibility of the Scriptures” (Lemme). To recognize that we can take our standpoint in the Scriptures only after we have Scriptures, authenticated as such, to take our standpoint in, is, it seems, an outworn prejudice. The subjective experience of faith is conceived to be the ultimate fact; and the only legitimate apologetic, just the self-justifica-tion of this faith itself. For faith, it seems, after Kant, can no longer be looked upon as a matter of reasoning and does not rest on rational grounds, but is an affair of the heart, and manifests itself most powerfully when it has no reason out of itself (Brunetiere). If repetition had probative force, it would long ago have been established that faith, religion, theology, lie wholly outside of the realm of reason, proof, and demonstration.

It is, however, from the point of view of rationalism and mysticism that the value of apologetics is most decried. Wherever rationalistic preconceptions have penetrated, there, of course, the validity of the apologetic proofs has been in more or less of their extent questioned. Wherever mystical sentiment has seeped in, there the validity of apologetics has been with more or less emphasis doubted. At the present moment, the rationalistic tendency is most active, perhaps, in the form given it by Albrecht Ritschl. In this form it strikes at the very roots of apologetics, by the distinction it erects between theoretical and religious knowledge. Religious knowledge is not the knowledge of fact, but a perception of utility; and therefore positive religion, while it maybe historically conditioned, has no theoretical basis, and is accordingly not the object of rational proof. In significant parallelism with this, the mystical tendency is manifesting itself at the present day most distinctly in a widespread inclination to set aside apologetics in favor of the “witness of the Spirit.”

The convictions of the Christian man, we are told, are not the product of reason addressed to the intellect, but the immediate creation of the Holy Spirit in the heart. Therefore, it is intimated, we may do very well without these reasons, if indeed they are not positively noxious, because tending to substitute a barren intellectualism for a vital faith. It seems to be forgotten that though faith be a moral act and the gift of God, it is yet formally conviction passing into confidence; and that all forms of convictions must rest on evidence as their ground, and it is not faith but reason which investigates the nature and validity of this ground. “He who believes,” says Thomas Aquinas, in words which have become current as an axiom, “would not believe unless he saw that what he believes is worthy of belief.”

Though faith is the gift of God, it does not in the least follow that the faith which God gives is an irrational faith, that is, a faith without cognizable ground in right reason. We believe in Christ because it is rational to believe in Him, not even though it be irrational. Of course mere reasoning cannot make a Christian; but that is not because faith is not the result of evidence, but because a dead soul cannot respond to evidence. The action of the Holy Spirit in giving faith is not apart from evidence, but along with evidence; and in the first instance consists in preparing the soul for the reception of the evidence.


This is not to argue that it is by apologetics that men are made Christians, but that apologetics supplies to Christian men the systematically organized basis on which the faith of Christian men must rest. All that apologetics explicates in the forms of systematic proof is implicit in every act of Christian faith. Whenever a sinner accepts Jesus Christ as his Saviour, there is implicated in that act a living conviction that there is a God, knowable to man, who has made Himself known in a revelation of Himself for redemption in Jesus Christ, as is set down in the Scriptures.

It is not necessary for his act of faith that all the grounds of this conviction should be drawn into full consciousness and given the explicit assent of his understanding, though it is necessary for his faith that sufficient ground for his conviction be actively present and working in his spirit. But it is necessary for the vindication of his faith to reason in the form of scientific judgment, that the grounds on which it rests be explicated and established. Theology as a science, though it includes in its culminating discipline, that of practical theology, an exposition of how that knowledge of God with which it deals objectively may best be made the subjective possession of man, is not itself the instrument of propaganda; what it undertakes to do is systematically to set forth this knowledge of God as the object of rational contemplation. And as it has to set it forth as knowledge, it must of course begin by establishing its right to rank as such. Did it not do so, the whole of its work would hang in the air, and theology would present the odd spectacle among the sciences of claiming a place among a series of systems of knowledge for an elaboration of pure assumptions.


Seeing that it thus supplies an insistent need of the human spirit, the world has, of course, never been without its apologetics. Whenever men have thought at all they have thought about God and the supernatural order; and whenever they have thought of God and the supernatural order, there has been present to their minds a variety of more or less solid reasons for believing in their reality. The enucleation of these reasons into a systematically organized body of proofs waited of course upon advancing culture. But the advent of apologetics did not wait for the advent of Christianity; nor are traces of this department of thought discoverable only in the regions lit up by special revelation.

The philosophical systems of antiquity, especially those which derive from Plato, are far from empty of apologetical elements; and when in the later stages of its development, classical philosophy became peculiarly religious, express apologetical material became almost predominant. With the coming of Christianity into the world, however, as the contents of the theology to be stated became richer, so the efforts to substantiate it became more fertile in apologetical elements. We must not confuse the apologies of the early Christian ages with formal apologetics. Like the sermons of the day, they contributed to apologetics without being it.

The apologetic material developed by what one may call the more philosophical of the apologists (Aristides, Athenagoras, Tatian, Theophilus, Hermias, Tertullian) was already considerable; it was largely supplemented by the theological labors of their successors. In the first instance Christianity, plunged into a polytheistic environment and called upon to contend with systems of thought grounded in pantheistic or dualistic assumptions, required to establish its theistic standpoint; and as over against the bitterness of the Jews and the mockery of the heathen (e.g. Tacitus, Fronto, Crescens, Lucian), to evince its own divine origin as a gift of grace to sinful man. Along with Tertullian, the great Alexan-drians, Clement and Origen, are the richest depositaries of the apologetic thought of the first period. The greatest apologists of the patristic age were, however, Eusebius of Caesarea and Augustine. The former-was the most learned and the latter the most profound of all the defenders of Christianity among the Fathers. And Augustine, in particular, not merely in his “City of God” but in his controversial writings, accumulated a vast mass of apologetical material which is far from having lost its significance even yet.


It was not, however, until the scholastic age that apologetics came to its rights as a constructive science. The whole theological activity of the Middle Ages was so far ancillary to apologetics, that its primary effort was the justification of faith to reason. It was not only rich in apologists (Agobard, Abelard, Raymund Martini), but every theologian was in a sense an apologist. Anselm at its beginning, Aquinas at its culmination, are types of the whole series; types in which all its excellencies are summed up.

The Renaissance, with its repristination of heathenism, naturally called out a series of new apologists (Savonarola, Marsilius Ficinus, Ludovicus Vives), but the Reformation forced polemics into the foreground and drove apologetics out of sight, although, of course, the great theologians of the Reformation era brought their rich contribution to the accumulating apologetical material. When, in the exhaustion of the seventeenth century, irreligion began to spread among the people and indifferentism ripening into naturalism among the leaders of thought, the stream of apologetical thought was once more started flowing, to swell into a great flood as the prevalent unbelief intensified and spread. With a forerunner in Philippe de Mornay (1581), Hugo Grotius (1627) became the typical apologist of the earlier portion of this period, while its middle portion was illuminated by the genius of Pascal (d. 1662) and the unexampled richness of apologetical labor in its later years culminated in Butler’s great” Analogy” (1736) and Paley’s plain but powerful argumentation.

As the assault against Christianity shifted its basis from the English deism of the early half of the eighteenth century through the German rationalism of its later half, the idealism which dominated the first half of the nineteenth century, and thence to the materialism of its later years, period after period was marked in the history of apology, and the particular elements of apologetics which were especially cultivated changed with the changing thought. But no epoch was marked in the history of apologetics itself, until under the guidance of Schleiermacher’s attempt to trace the organism of the departments of theology, K. H. Sack essayed to set forth a scientifically organized “Christian Apologetics” (Hamburg, 1829; ed. 2, 1841).

Since then an unbroken series of scientific systems of apologetics has flowed from the press. These differ from one another in almost every conceivable way; in their conception of the nature, task, compass, and encyclopedic place of the science; in their methods of dealing with its material; in their conception of Christianity itself; and of religion and of God and of the nature of the evidence on which belief in one or the other must rest. But they agree in the fundamental point that apologetics is conceived by all alike as a special department of theological science, capable of and demanding separate treatment. In this sense apologetics has come at last, in the last two-thirds of the nineteenth century, to its rights. The significant names in its development are such as, perhaps, among the Germans, Sack, Steudel, Delitzsch, Ebrard, Baumstark, T511e, Kratz, Kiibel, Steude, Frank, Kal-tan, Vogel, Schultz, Kahler; to whom may be added such Romanists as Drey, Dieringer, Staudenmeyer, IIettinger, Schanz, and such English-speaking writers as Hetherington, H. B. Smith, Bruce, Rishell, and Beattie.


1 Text from “The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge,” edited by Samuel Macauley Jackson, D.D., LL.D., i. pp. 232-238 (copyright by Funk and Wagnalls Company, New York, 1908). Text now in the public domain.


Lists of literature will be found in F. 1%. Beattie’s “Apologetics, or the Rational Vindication of Christianity,” Richmond, 1903; in A. Cave, “Introduction to Theology,” Edinburgh, ed. 2, 1896; in G. R. Crooks and J. F. Hurst, “Theological Encyclopaedia and Methodology,” New York, 1884, pp. 411-413; in P. Schaff, “Theological Propaedeutic,” 2 parts, New York, 1892-1893. Consult F. L. Patton, in Princeton Theological Review, ii. 1904, pp. 110 ff.; Presbyterian and Reformed Review, vii. 1896, pp. 243 ff. (or pp. 49 ff. of this volume). On the history of apologetics and apologetic method: H. G. Tzschirner, “Geschichte der Apologetiek,” Leipzig, 1805; G. H. van Senden, “Geschichte der Apologetiek,” 2 vols., Stuttgart, 1846; K. Werner,” Geschichte der apologetischen und polemischen Literatur,” 5 vols., Schaffhausen, 1861-1867 (Roman Catholic); W. Haan, “Geschichte der Vertheidigung des Christenthums,” Frankenberg, 1882 (popular). For early Christian apologies consult “Ante-Nicene Fathers” and “Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers “; for discussions of these, F. Watson, “The Ante-Nicene Apologies: their Character and Value,” Cambridge, 1870 (Hulsean essay); W. J. Bolton, “The Evidences of Christianity as exhibited in the . . . Apologists down to Augustine,” Cambridge, 1853 (Hulsean essay); F. R. Wynne, “The Literature of the Second Century,” London, 1891 (popular but scholarly); A. Seitz,” Die Apologie des Christentums bei den Griechen des IV. und V. Jahr-hunderts,” Wiirzburg, 1895. On special phases in the history of apologetics: L. Noack, “Die Freidenker in der Religion, oder die Reprasentanten der religiosen Aufklirung in England, Frankreich und Deutschland,” 3 vols., Bern, 1853-1855; A. S. Farrar,” Critical History of Free Thought,” New York, 1863; K. R. Hagenbach, “German Rationalism, in its Rise, Progress, and Decline,” Edinburgh, 1865; A. Viguie, “IIistoire de l’apologetique dans l’eglise reformee francaise,” Geneva, 1858; II. B. Smith, “Apologetics,” New York, 1882 (appendix contains sketches of German apologetic works); J. F. Hurst, “History of Rationalism,” New York, 1902; A. ti. Huizinga, “Some Recent Phases of Christian Apologetics,” in Presbyterian and Reformed Review, vii. 1896, pp. 34 ff. Apologetical literature: F. R. Beattie, “Apologetics, or the Rational Vindication of Christianity,” Richmond, 1903; W. M. Hetherington, “Apologetics of the Christian Faith,” Edinburgh, 1867; J. PI. A. Ebrard, “Apologetik,” Giitersloh, ed. 2, 1878-1880, English translation, “Apologetics: or the Scientific Vindication of Christianity,” 3 vols., Edinburgh, 1886-1887; A. Mair, “Studies in the Christian Evidences,” Edinburgh, 1883; G. F. Wright, “Logic of Christian Evidences,” Andover, 1880; F. It. R. Frank, “System der christ-lichen Gewissheit,” Erlangen, 1870-1873 (ed. 2, 1884), E.T. (of ed. 2), “System of the Christian Certainty,” Edinburgh, 1886; P. Schanz, “Apologie des Christentums,” 3 vols., Freiburg, 1887-1888, E.T. “Christian Apology,” 3 vols., New York and Cincinnati, ed. 2, 1896 (Roman Catholic); L. F. Stearns, “The Evidence of Christian Experience,” New York, 1890 (the best book on the subject); A. B. Bruce, “Apologetics; or, Christianity Defensively Stated,” Edinburgh, 1892; II. Wace, “Students’ Manual of the Evidences of Christianity,” London, 1892; J. Kaftan, “Die Wahrheit der christlichen Religion,” Basel, 1888, E.T. 2 vols., Edinburgh, 1894; C. W. Rishell, “Foundations of the Christian Faith,” New York, 1899; W. Devivier, “Cours d’apologetique chre-tienne,” Paris, 1889, E. T. “Christian Apologetics,” 2 vols., New York, 1903; A. Harnack, “What is Christianity?” London, 1901; J. T. Bergen, “Evidences of Christianity,” Holland, Mich., 1902; A. M. Randolph, “Reason, Faith and Authority in Christianity,” New York, 1902; the Boyle and Bampton lecture series deal ex-elusively with subjects in apologetics; see also under “Agnosticism “; “Antitrinitarianism “; and “Atheism.”

–B.B. Warfield