Hope Fellowship

A Right Definition of Apologetics

bbwarfield2-1

I have been working through The Theology of B.B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary.  I thought this section in chapter 2 was helpful in defining apologetics. 

A Right Definition of Apologetics

“Apologetics does not merely teach men how to defend Christianity; if it were only this, then it would belong to the discipline of practical theology.  Nor does apologetics set out merely to vindicate Christianity in its various branches of thought, against opposing thought; if it were this, it would presuppose the faith it defends and, thus, properly take its place as the “culminating department of systematic theology.”

So, according to Warfield, apologetics is not merely defense or vindication but the establishment of Christianity.

The function, then, of apologetics is “to investigate, explicate, and establish the grounds on which a theology--a science, or systematized knowledge of God--is possible.” p.65

Theology is not:

  1. Science of faith or religion.
  2. Science of the Christian religion.

Rather, theology is the science of God, “in which case it deals with a body of objective facts, truth God has revealed about himself."

What then, are these principal facts upon which Christianity is built?  (p.66)

  1. The reality of its subject matter
  2. The capacity of the human mind to receive into itself and reationally to reflect this subject-matter
  3. The percipient and understanding mind.

 

Therefore, it is the role of apologetics to establish:

  1. The existence of God
  2. The capacity of the human mind to know him
  3. The accessibility of knowledge concerning him

But certainly, before we draw it [theology] from the Scriptures, we must assure ourselves that there is a knowledge of God in the Scriptures.  And, before we do that, we must assure ourselves that there is a knowledge of God in the world. And before we do that, we must assure ourselves that a knowledge of God is possible for man.  And, before we do that, we must assure ourselves that there is a God to know.  Thus we must inevitably work back to first principles.  And, in working thus back to first principles, we exhibit the indispensability of an “Apologetical Theology,” which of necessity holds the place of the first among the five essential disciplines.” 

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