Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy,
A Short Course in Christian apologetics
I. Making Thinking a Sin (Marlene Winell, Leaving the Fold)
A. Intellectual challenges at the university
B. Wrong responses: critical thinking as sin
II. The Need for Defending Christianity as True, Rational, and Pertinent: Apologetics
A. Biblical case for rational spirituality (1 Peter 3:15-16; Jude 3; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
B. Defending objective truth of Christian worldview in humility and dependence on God (Luke 9:23-26)
C. Showing existential significance and consequence of Christianity
D. Being wise as serpent, innocent as a dove, bold as a lion (Matthew 10:16; Proverbs 28:1)
III. Making the Positive Case for Christianity
A. Commending the Christian Worldview
1. What is a worldview: set of assumptions about the basic make up of the world: ultimate reality, morality, human condition, and salvation
2. Christian worldview: creation, fall, redemption
B. Giving the best explanation through a cumulative case
1. Best explanation: non-contradictory, factual, and livable
2. Cumulative case: combine arguments converging on God of the Bible
IV. The Three Circles of Evidence: Cosmology, Biology, and History
A. Cosmology: the universe is created, not eternal. The Big Bang cosmology. See Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, Creation Out of Nothing (Baker, 2004).
1. Scientific evidences for an absolute beginning of the universe out of
nothing. See Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers.
a. Einstein’s general theory of relativity (1917) contained an error (fudge factor), when corrected it predicted an expanding universe
b. In the 1920s, independent of each other, Belgian astronomer George Lemaitre and Russian mathematician Alexander Freidman corrected the error. This became the Freidman-Lemaitre model
c. In 1929, American astronomer Edwin Hubble detected the “red shift” in distant galaxies. Indicated that what was further away was moving at a greater speed. Evidence for expansion.
d. The detection of cosmic background radiation left over from initial condition of the universe.
e. Thermodynamics of the universe; second law of thermodynamics, entropy.
f. Upshot: everything be traced to an initial singularity: Barrow and Tipler: “At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated in such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo.” John Barrow and Frank Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), 442.
g. Alternative theories have failed: steady state and oscillating universe: lack empirical evidence and contravene known laws of physics.
1. Meet the bacterial flagellum
2. Universal joint, propeller, drive shaft, rotor, stator, bushings—all of which are needed for its function, none of which are expendable.
3. This is a biological motor attached to the back of a bacterium as seen through a high-powered microscope. Not built by any human.
4. Bacterial flagellum: only recently discovered to be a molecular machine. See Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box, 10th anniversary ed. (Free Press, 2006), 69-72. It exhibits the marks of design.
“Irreducible complexity”: the mousetrap principle. All the integrated parts are needed for fruitful function. It is very improbable that this was built up gradually through natural selection (a naturalistic explanation). See William Dembski, The Design Revolution, chapter 40.
5. Video clip from “The Case for a Creator” (Illustra Media) featuring Dr. Michael Behe, Dr. Scott Minnich.
6. Best explanation for molecular machines, such as the bacterial flagellum—design, not mindless nature
C. History and Jesus Christ
1. Christianity and history: God reveals himself in the actions of history (John 1:14)
2. Consider the New Testament
a. Transmission of the documents (textual criticism). Nearly 6,000 Greek manuscripts of the NT with little variation; better than any other ancient text
b. Original writings: by eyewitness or those who consulted them (Luke 1:1-4; John 20:30-31)
c. Synoptic Gospels written before about 70; entire NT before 100 AD.
d. Extra-biblical writers confirm some aspects of NT history
e. Miracles are possible if creation and design (theism is established)
3. The claims of Jesus Christ and their significance
a. Forgiven sins (Mark 2:1-14); give his life for sinners
b. Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:15-28)
c. One with the Father (John 10:30-31)
d. Crucified and resurrected Lord (1 Corinthians 15)
1. Known burial place; Empty tomb; many appearances; changed life of the disciples
2. Best explanation: simplest, explains the most: resurrection in space-time
4. The achievements of Jesus Christ best answers the human condition (John 10:10)
V. Conclusion: Reason Enough to Rationally Believe
A. Christianity as objectively true, rational and personally pertinent
B. Christianity is a better explanation of reality than any other worldview
C. We should have confidence to present Christianity in the world of ideas (Romans 1:16-17)
1. Francis Beckwith, et al, eds. To Everyone an Answer (InterVarsity Press, 2004). Essays by leading apologetics.
2. Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (InterVarsity, 2007).
3. William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, 3rd ed. (Crossway, 2008).
4. William Dembski, The Design Revolution (InterVarsity, 2004).
5. Douglas Groothuis, On Jesus and On Pascal, both
6. Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (InterVarsity Press, 2011).
7. The Discovery Institute (Intelligent Design): www.discovery.org
8. J.P. Moreland, Scaling the
9. James Sennett and Douglas Groothuis, editors, In Defense of Natural Theology (InterVarsity, 2005). More advanced work.
10. Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator (Zondervan, 2004). See the DVD of the same name.
11. Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith (Zondervan, 2000).
12. Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ (Zondervan, 1998).