Friday, January 20, 2017

Imaginative Apologetics, Part II - Situating Apologetics

Apologetics, Imagination, and Imaginative Apologetics

            I’d like to continue sharing some thoughts from a review article I wrote for Trinity Journal,[1] a lengthy interaction with Imaginative Apologetics: Theology, Philosophy and the Catholic Tradition, edited by Andrew Davison.[2] In my previous blog post, I sought to articulate some of the biblical mandate for apologetics.  In this post, we want to look at just a few historical and contemporary apologetic trends.
In subsequent posts, we’ll look at the place of imagination in Christian scholarship and apologetics, focusing especially on Jamie Smith’s recent contributions. Down the road, I will interact with the various articles in Imaginative Apologetics.

Situating Apologetics: Historical Apologetics
Scripture commands all believers to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”[3] I suggest that a concise but descriptive definition of apologetics might be “the defense and explanation of the truth of the Christian faith.”[4]
The practice of apologetics, as the defense and explanation of Christianity’s truthfulness, has always had a central place in the Church. In Imaginative Apologetics, Craig Hovey notes that numerous early church fathers wrote to counter misunderstandings of the fledgling faith, responding especially to charges of atheism, cannibalism, and civic disloyalty.[5] Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Minucius Felix are cited by N. T. Wright as the pre-eminent early apologists.[6] Justin Martyr, a Greek philosopher and teacher, wrote the first Christian treatise on the resurrection, along with his two major apologies (First Apology and Second Apology) and the apologetic Dialogue with Trypho the Jew. Justin exemplifies an apologetic approach that not only “saw . . . the need to rebut charges of immorality, sedition and indeed atheism,” but also sought to “argue that Christianity was actually the truth which made sense of the glimmers of light within paganism.”[7] From the early church apologists, to the giant Christian philosopher Augustine of Hippo, to medieval philosophers and apologists like Boethius and Anselm of Canterbury, to early modern apologists like Abelard and Pascal, to late modern apologists Joseph Butler, William Paley, and Soren Kierkegaard, apologetic ministry has always had a place within the Church and the Christian academy. New challenges to Christianity have arisen throughout eras—Islam, deism, naturalism, atheism, postmodernism, relativism—but Christian thinkers have always risen to the task of providing an informed and passionate response.
The past four decades have seen a marked rise in apologetic enterprise. Earlier works by Cornelius Van Til, E. J. Carnell, John Warwick Montgomery, and Francis Schaeffer strongly influenced a new generation of Christian philosophers and apologists.[8] Lee Strobel’s popular lay-oriented apologetic works both sparked and marked a rise in apologetic interest in North American Christianity.[9] Over the past decade, Christian high schools, colleges, universities, and seminaries have responded by offering a larger number of courses in philosophical and biblical apologetics.[10] Accordingly, Christian scholars have produced more intentionally apologetic treatises in science,[11] philosophy,[12] history,[13] biblical studies,[14] and worldview.[15] The past eight years in particular have seen a flood of new academic works in apologetics on the market.[16] Simply put, Christian apologetics, as an interdisciplinary approach to explaining and defending the Christian faith, has matured and achieved a measure of influence in the broader academic and ecclesiastic community. 
Having situated contemporary apologetics, it is time next to turn our attention to imagination, then to engage with Imaginative Apologetics.  Stay tuned!

[1] Tawa J. Anderson, “Apologetics, Imagination, and Imaginative Apologetics,” in Trinity Journal 34 (2013): 229-51.
[2] Andrew Davison, ed. Imaginative Apologetics: Theology, Philosophy and the Catholic Tradition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012. 169 pp. $25.00.
[3] 1 Peter 3:15, NIV. Further Scriptural references are to the NIV translation unless otherwise noted.
[4] Author’s definition.
[5] “Theological training has put me in touch with the early Church’s efforts to defend the faith against misunderstanding from their pagan neighbours.” Craig Hovey, “Christian Ethics as Good News,” in Imaginative Apologetics, 98.
[6] N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God, Volume Three (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), 500-10.
[7] Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 500.
[8] See, e.g., Cornelius Van Til, Christian Apologetics (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1976); Francis Schaeffer, He Is There and He Is Not Silent (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1972); The God Who Is There (Downers Grove: IVP, 1968).
[9] Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998); The Case for Faith (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000); The Case for a Creator (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004); The Case for the Real Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009).
[10] See, e.g., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY), Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Ft. Worth, TX), Houston Baptist University, Luther Rice Seminary (Georgia), Regent College (Vancouver, BC), Taylor Seminary (Edmonton, AB), ACTS (Langley, BC), Providence College (Winnipeg, MB), Tyndale University College & Seminary (Toronto, ON), California Baptist University, Westminster Theological Seminary, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Liberty University, Midwestern University, my own Oklahoma Baptist University, and Biola University.
[11] E.g., John Jefferson Davis, The Frontiers of Science & Faith: Examining Questions from the Big Bang to the End of the Universe (Downers Grove: IVP, 2002); Patrick Glynn, God—The Evidence: The Reconciliation of Faith and Reason in a Postsecular World (Roseville, CA: Prima, 1997); Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2001); Francis S. Collins, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (New York: Free Press, 2006); Michael J. Behe, William A. Dembski, and Stephen C. Meyer, Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe: The Proceedings of the Wethersfield Institute (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2000); William A. Dembski and Jonathan Wells, The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems (Dallas: The Foundation for Thought and Ethics, 2008).
[12] E.g., William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd ed. (Nashville: Crossway, 2008); J. P. Moreland, Love Your God With All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997); Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987); Norman L. Geisler, Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1988); R. Douglas Geivett and Gary R. Habermas, eds., In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God’s Action in History (Downers Grove: IVP, 1997); Richard Swinburne, The Existence of God, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).
[13] E.g., Colin Brown, Miracles and the Critical Mind (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984); Graham H. Twelftree, Jesus The Miracle Worker: A Historical and Theological Study (Downers Grove: IVP, 1999); Craig S. Keener, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels (Eerdmans, 2009); Paul W. Barnett, Jesus and the Logic of History (Downers Grove: IVP, 1997); C. Stephen Evans, The Historical Christ & The Jesus of Faith: The Incarnational Narrative as History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).
[14] E.g., Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2007); Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006); Darrell L. Bock and Robert L. Webb, eds., Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009); Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd, The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007); N. T. Wright, Christian Origins and the Question of God (Minneapolis: Fortress)—Volume One: The New Testament and the People of God (1992), Volume Two: Jesus and the Victory of God (1996), Volume Three: The Resurrection of the Son of God (2003); Craig S. Keener, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts, Two Volumes (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011).
[15] E.g., Steven B. Cowan, ed., Five Views on Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000); James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, 5th ed. (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009); Kenneth Richard Samples, A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007); Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Nashville: Crossway, 2004); William Lane Craig and Chad Meister, eds., God is Great, God is Good: Why Believing in God Is Reasonable and Responsible (Grand Rapids: IVP, 2009); William A. Dembski and Jay Wesley Richards, eds., Unapologetic Apologetics: Meeting the Challenges of Theological Studies (Downers Grove: IVP, 2001); Avery Cardinal Dulles, A History of Apologetics (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999); Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Dutton, 2008); Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove: IVP, 1994); Louis Markos, Apologetics for the 21st Century (Nashville: Crossway, 2010); Ronald H. Nash, Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992); K. Scott Oliphint, Reasons for Faith: Philosophy in the Service of Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2006); Francis J. Beckwith, William Lane Craig, and J. P. Moreland, eds., To Everyone An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview (Downers Grove: IVP, 2004); Kenneth D. Boa and Robert M. Bowman Jr., Faith Has Its Reasons: An Integrative Approach to Defending Christianity, 2nd ed. (Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster, 2005); Alex McLellan, A Jigsaw Guide to Making Sense of the World (Downers Grove: IVP, 2012).
[16] E.g., James K. Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What It Is and Why We Do It (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2011); Norman Geisler, Christian Apologetics, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013); Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012); H. Wayne House and Dennis W. Jowers, Reasons for Our Hope: An Introduction to Christian Apologetics (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2011); Malcolm Jeeves, Minds, Brains, Souls and Gods (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2013); Myron Bradley Penner, The End of Apologetics: Christian Witness in a Postmodern Context (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013); Mark Coppenger, Moral Apologetics for Contemporary Christians: Pushing Back Against Cultural and Religious Critics (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2011); Clifford Williams, Existential Reasons for Belief in God: A Defense of Desires & Emotions for Faith (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2011); Harry L. Poe and Jimmy H. Davis, God and the Cosmos: Divine Activity in Space, Time and History (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2012); Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen, Christian Philosophy: A Systematic and Narrative Introduction (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013); Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Downers Grove IVP Academic, 2010); Paul Chamberlain, Why People Don’t Believe: Confronting Seven Challenges to Christian Faith (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011); Christian Apologetics: An Anthology of Primary Sources, edited by Chad V. Meister and Khaldoun A. Sweis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013); Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2011); Graham H. Twelftree, Paul and the Miraculous: A Historical Reconstruction (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013); Randal Rauser, The Swedish Atheist, the Scuba Diver and Other Apologetic Rabbit Trails (Downers Grove: IVP, 2012).