This is a forum to discuss my book, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (InterVarsity Press, 2011). This is a 752-page book of 28 chapters addressing all the major areas of apologetics. It is endorsed by J.P. Moreland, William Dembski, and others. Let me know what you would like to find on this page.
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Saturday, February 23, 2013
Teachers: Teach as if what you said counted for Eternity. It does. Teach as if your students were eternal. They are. Teach as if God were your audience. He is.
ten years ago, a prospective student recently wrote to Denver Seminary. He was
alarmed by our vision statement, which speaks of defending “absolute truth” in
our postmodern world. Being favorable to postmodernism (through reading Brian
McClaren’s book, A New Kind of Christian),
he was wary of believing in absolute truth. This view would stifle our witness
to non-Christians and hinder Christian growth, since those who believe in
absolute truth think they have it all figured out.
This reveals that postmodernism is seducing the
church as well as the world. Christians authors tell us not to emphasize
biblical truth as objective and absolute. Instead, we should underscore the
life of our community and tell the Christian story. According to McLaren, it is
wrongheaded modern view to try to prove other religions wrong. We should rather
try to be good and not worry so much about being right. (However, McClaren is
concerned throughout the book to prove supposedly “modern” Christian are
McLaren’s thinking issues the death sentence for
apologetics: God’s call to defend our faith as true, rational, and compelling
in the face of intellectual objections (1 Peter 5:15-17; Jude 3). One leading
challenge to Christian faith—and to the idea of truth itself—is postmodernism
Postmodern philosophies claim that truth is
constructed by communities and shaped by language and social structures of
power. There really is no truth “out there” above us. Richard Rorty claims that no “vocabulary” (or
worldview) is any closer to reality than any other—although he presents his own
view as an improvement over opposing views. Truth is merely what his colleagues
let him get away with. Few Christians make such bald claims, but one Christian
writer recently published a chapter called, “There is No Such Thing as
Objective Truth and It’s a Good Thing, Too.” Other Christian leaders join the
chorus and instruct us to leave a strong emphasis on truth and apologetics
Yet without a
clear view of the nature of truth and a rational defense of Christianity as
true our witness will be paralyzed. We should tell our stories and invite
people to join our communities. But Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, New
Agers and others in our pluralistic world will tell their stories and beckon
souls into their communities, too. What makes us different? As apologist
Francis Schaeffer often said, the purpose of Christian community is to serve
the God of truth with all our being. Truth should constitute our identity as
Christians, individually and corporately. Jesus prayed to the Father, “Sanctify
them by the truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
The Hebrew and Greek words for “truth” in Scripture
have deep meanings, but they all center on the idea of factuality and accuracy.
To put it more philosophically (but not unbiblically), a true statement
corresponds with reality or fits the facts. Christian faith must fit the great
facts of the Christian story or it is false and hopeless. Paul said that if we
hope in Christ and his resurrection and Christ is not risen our faith is in
pointless and misleading. It must be historical, factual, and reliable (1
Corinthians 15). Our confidence in the gospel is based on objective facts. We
believe these them because they are true; our believing them does not make them
true. Christians do find their faith to be subjectively compelling. However,
these beliefs are existentially gripping only because they lay rightly claim to
realities about our selves, our world, and our God.
But can we say that Christianity is absolutely true? Many professed
Christians get philosophical cold feet at this point. Recent polls show that
upwards of sixty percent of “Christians,” like our prospective student, deny
the existence of absolute truth.
An absolute has no exemptions or qualifications.
Jesus affirmed an absolute truth about himself: “I am the way, and the truth,
and the life. No comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6; see also
Matthew 11:27). Paul echoes this when he claims that there is but one mediator
between God and humanity, Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:4). Peter preached that
salvation is found in Jesus alone (Acts 4:8-12). This absolute truth gives us a
trustworthy point of reference, Jesus Christ, who is he same yesterday, today,
and forever (Hebrews 13:8). It is no
arbitrary pronouncement, but a claim based on good evidence from the
incomparable life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and found in historically
reliable documents (Luke 1:1-4; 2 Peter 1:16).
Defending and living in accord with this objective
and absolute truth does not imply we have absolutely mastered all the truth or
all biblical truth. We bear witness to the absolute truth, but we are not
absolute! No church or denomination perfectly captures biblical truth, but that
is the goal. Nor does belief in absolute
truth mean we can easily convince doubters of this truth, but we should try.
Nevertheless, we must marshal truth-claims and humbly present the arguments and
evidence given for the uniqueness and finality of Jesus Christ—as well as for
all the defining doctrines of Christian faith. Otherwise, we fail to be true to
the truth that sets the captives free.
Groothuis, Ph.D., is Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary and the author
of several books, including Truth Decay:
Defending Christianity Against the Challenges of Postmodernism
(InterVarsity Press, 2000) and Christian Apologetics (InterVarsity Press, 2011).