Because I am no professional apologist and because labels carry baggage I am actually intentionally trying not to use labels. Take these methodologies that we find in Scripture and label them how you wish. The purpose of this endeavor is to show that there is indeed a diversity in the types of defenses for the faith given in Scripture and to show which types of defenses are indeed given. For the philosophy buffs this will seem simplistic and I don’t apologize for that.
Beginning in Genesis 1:1 through the end of Revelation the entire Bible assumes God’s existence. God’s Word does not begin with a defense of His own existence. “In the beginning God created…” this is given as fact without any defense. Psalm 14:1 tells us “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’.” Romans 1:18-19 tells us “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.” (Don’t worry I’ll get to the next few verses here in a minute). We see through all of this that God has given man the knowledge that He exists. When atheists reject God’s existence they suppress the truth in unrighteousness and become fools. So as we reason with people through apologetics it is important to remember that they are suppressing what they know to be true with all their might (and somewhat understandably so, for to acknowledge the truth is to acknowledge their unrighteousness and the fact that they are accountable to God for their actions). Essentially we love sin and the facade of being in control of our lives so much that we suppress what is self evidently true and embrace foolishness in order to hold onto that sin.
How does this play out in our defense of God to unbelievers? I think that first we can know that however hard they fight against us, we can be confident that they actually do indeed know God exists. We can confidently present the Gospel that God does indeed exist and that all men are in sin and rebellion to Him. We can know that the Holy Spirit through God’s Word can regenerate them and bring them to faith and that this is sufficient. We don’t have to have the perfect answer to every argument they throw out against God, for the God who can and does make dead men alive is on our side. We also can go into what I call the Ecclesiastes defense of God based on this.
In the book of Ecclesiastes we see a unique defense of God. The writer goes to great lengths to show that all is vanity and meaningless other than fearing God and serving Him. This is one of my favorite apologies for not only God’s existence but our obligation to Him as well. As we have seen it is foolish to try to deny God’s existence but for those who do try to deny it, the end of such thinking is utter lack of meaning and purpose. For if God does not exist what meaning can be found in physical matter randomly bumping into each other? If God does not exist the physical matter that makes up who I am can have no more importance than a rock floating endlessly in outer space for their is nothing to base any value on whatsoever. All is arbitrary and without meaning. Life without God is a life of vain attempts for fleeting pleasure ending only in despair. The only thing that can give meaning to life is “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
Moving on we find another type of apologetic and that is evidence of God from what can be seen. This is where I promised to get back to in Romans 1. Verse 20 says “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” This tells us that God’s existence can be seen by the evidence of what He created. We look at the physical world and see that there is nothing about it that necessarily exists and thus there must be a necessary being from which it came. We see causes and effects and realize there must be a first cause that started it all. We see design in nature and realize there must be a designer. We see beauty in the world and realize this concept cannot come from matter itself. The created world shouts out God’s existence even in its fallen state.
A fourth kind of argument for the God of the Bible is found in certain evidences such as the miracles Jesus and the apostles performed and in fulfilled prophecy. It is not just that we can look at fulfilled prophecies to give evidence it is that the Bible and Jesus Himself points to fulfilled prophecy. Luke 24:25-27 says “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” So one way God has revealed Himself to us and shown that Jesus indeed is His Son, the Messiah, is by way of fulfilled prophecy for only a sovereign, all knowing God can declare a thing and make it come to pass with 100% accuracy.
A fifth kind of apologetic is by way of reasoning with people. Now this is somewhat broad but what I find in Acts 17 is Paul in Athens reasoning with the Jews and then also with the Greek philosophers. He takes some things that they already believe that have some elements of truth and shows them how the God of the Bible can really be the only 1 true God. For us this could mean anything from taking someone’s belief in morality and showing that such morality can only have a basis in Christianity to reasoning about internal consistency of worldviews to giving rational arguments for God’s existence. We find this also in 1 Peter 3:15 “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”
Finally an apologetic we find in Scripture is that of our own testimony and the testimony of the saints who have gone on before us. 1 John 1:1-3 says “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us…”. John is giving testimony saying “these are the things we experienced first hand! And we do indeed have the testimony of the Apostles who other than John each held onto that testimony unto death. Each of them chose death rather than to deny what they would have known first hand was a lie for if Jesus had not risen from the dead their collective story was made up and a fraud. Who would give their lives for such a lie?
And we each have our own testimony of what God has done in our lives. Luke 8:39 says “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” and we also just like this man that Jesus healed return and declare how much God has done for us for brethren, we were dead and now we are alive, we were hopeless and now we have hope, we had no purpose and now our lives have meaning, we were separated from our Creator and now we have been made sons and daughters of the Most High God! This is no small thing, no matter if your testimony is that you were a drug addict who God saved or if you have been a child of God for as long as you can remember. God has done a very real work in our lives and this is something no other people on earth can boast of.
In conclusion, I have seen people spend hours debating over which method of apologetics is correct. These discussions are fine and there is some value to them, but let’s not complicate things too much. It is fine to assume God’s existence and show how nothing has meaning if you don’t. It is fine to use the created world to show that there must be a Creator. It is fine to look at prophecy and use reason. It is a must that we share our testimony with others. Let’s not get so bogged down in methodology that we forget that God is the only one with the power to change a heart and that He has given us many different examples of ways we can be part of that process.