Apologetics is the verbal defense of the Faith, for example by dispelling inaccurate stereotypes or by re-presenting doctrine in language that is more accessible to non-believers. The goal of apologetics is to persuasively answer honest objections that keep people from faith in Jesus Christ. ^[1]^

Scripture encourages each believer to be an apologist:

[But] in your hearts regard 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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:15-16) Apologetics may be contrasted with polemics which refers to the practice of challenging and refuting doctrinal errors within the same belief system (or religion). Apologetics, therefore, may be viewed as dialogue to defend Christianity to non-Christians and polemics as dialogue internal to Christianity to refute error or provide correctives.

There are many different ways to approach apologetics, most of which are outlined below.




"The classical method is an approach that begins by employing natural theology to establish theism as the correct worldview. After God's existence has thus been shown, the classical method moves to a presentation of the historical evidences for the deity of Christ, the trustworthiness of the Scripture, etc., to show that Christianity is the best version of theism, as opposed to, say, Judaism or Islam. This school is called the classical method because it is assumed that this is the method used by the most prominent apologists of earlier centuries."^[2]^

Contemporary classical apologetic works include William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith; R. C. Sproul, Classical Apologetics; Norman Geisler, When Skeptics Ask; Stephen T. Davis, God, Reason, and Theistic Proofs; and Richard Swinburne.


"The evidential method has much in common with the classical method except in solving the issue concerning the value of miracles as evidence. Evidentialism as a apologetic method may be characterized as the one-step approach. Miracles do not presuppose God's existence (as most contemporary classical apologists assert) but can serve as one sort of evidence for God. This method is fairly eclectic in its use of various positive evidences and negative critiques, utilizing both philosophical and historical arguments. Yet it tends to focus chiefly on the legitimacy of accumulating various historical and other inductive arguments for the truth of Christianity." ^[3]^ Proponents of this school include: Gary Habermas, In Defense of Miracles and John Warwick Montgomery, Evidence For Faith: Deciding the God Question.

Cumulative case

"The term cumulative case is used by apologists in ways different than we are using it in this context, but Basil Mitchell, an early proponent of this view, gave this method that name, and so will wil use it here. The careful reader will no doubt note that this method belongs to the same broad family of methods as does the evidential (and perhaps classical) method. However, it will also be apparent that as an argumentative strategy, the cumulative case method has something distinctive to offer. Indeed, this approach to apologetics arose because of the dissatisfaction that some philosophers had with these other evidential-type methods (i.e., the first two of the Big Four)." ^[4]^


"Due to the noetic effects of sin^[5]^, presuppositionalists usually hold that there is not enough common ground between believers and unbelievers that would allow followers of the prior three methods to accomplish their goals. The apologist must simply presuppose the truth of Christianity as the proper starting point in apologetics. Here the Christian revelation in the Scriptures is the framework through which all experience is interpreted and all truth is known. Various evidences and arguments can be advanced for the truth of Christianity, but these at least implicitly presuppose premises that can be true only if Christianity is true. Presuppositionalist attempt, then, to argue transcendentally. That is, they argue that all meaning and thought - indeed, every fact - logically presupposes the God of the Scriptures." ^[6]^

_See main page on presuppositional apologetics._

Reformed epistemology

"Since the Enlightenment, Clark says, there has been a demand to expose all of our beliefs to the searching criticism of reason. (...). We are told that if a belief is unsupported by evidence of some kind, it is irrational to believe it. Reformed epistemology challenges this evidentialist epistemological assumption. Those who advocate this view hold that it is perfectly reasonable for a person to believe many things without evidence. Most strikingly, they argue that belief in God does not require the support of evidence or argument in order for it to be rational. The Reformed epistemology apologist will not necessarily eschew making positive arguments in defense of Christianity, but will argue that such arguments are not necessary for rational faith. If Calvin is right that human beings are born with an innate sensus divinitatis (sense of the divine), then people may rightly and rationally come to have a belief in God immediately without the aid of evidence." ^[7]^ Proponents of this view would include Kelly James Clark, Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, George Mavrodes, and William Alson.


  1. Five views on apologetics, by Steven B. Cowan
  2. Five views on apologetics
  3. Five views on apologetics
  4. Five views on apologetics
  5. Noetic means "of the intellect", see The Concise Oxford Dictionary 9th ed. 1995.
  6. Five views on apologetics
  7. Five views on apologetics

Further reading

  • Gavin J. McGrath et al., eds New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics. IVP, 2006.
  • Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker Academic, 1998.
  • Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics. IVP, 2003.
  • Steve B. Cowan, ed. Five Views on Apologetics. Zondervan, 2000.
  • William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd edition. Crossway, 2008.
  • Francis Beckwith et al., eds To Everyone An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview. IVP, 2004.
  • J. P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity. Baker, 1987; 1997.

See also