My Choice of Apologetics, Part I: Brushing Up on the Classics

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear,” Peter wrote in his first letter (3:15, KJV). Thus, apologetics is a duty for every Christian. Every Christian should know why they believe in God and have answers for those who don’t. I would like to discuss in four posts the four schools of apologetics I am familiar with: Classical, Evidentialist, the Moral Standard, and Presuppositional. It’s impossible to go into the full details of what proves the existence of God (because that would involve discussing everything in the universe), but I’ll direct you to the sources I found on them for your further study. In short, I think all but one of them are Scripturally sound. First, Classical Apologetics.

I encountered Classical apologetics while studying the works of R. C. Sproul, but I believe he said it goes back to Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. (He elaborates on his views in Defending Your Faith: An Overview of Classical Apologetics and Not a Chance!) True to Dr. Sproul’s philosophy background, Classical apologetics looks at the question from logic. Starting with the premise that the universe had a beginning, it says that, since the universe had a beginning, it is not self-existent and something self-existent must have created it.

The key concept is creation ex nihilo(out of nothing). An old scientific principle maintains, “Ex nihilo, nihil fit”- “Out of nothing, nothing comes.” Nothing is the absence of any conceivable thing. The minute you go beyond that with “Nothing is such and such,” you’ve just described something, which is by definition not Nothing. So, if you can say, “Nothing is able to create such and such,” that nothing is no longer nothing. Thus, the universe could not have been created from Nothing.

Nor could it create itself. To create itself, it has to be something (because Nothing can’t do anything), so it had to be something before it created itself. So it exists before it exists (i.e., while it does not exist). That’s a contradiction more glaring than anything the critics think they have on the Bible!

The cop-out that everyone knows is that the universe was created by Chance. Basically, Chance is assumed to be this chaotic force of some kind (dare I say magical?) that causes events to happen with no natural cause. I hope you can see the duplicity of atheists who maintain that scientific laws are so established and immovable that a supernatural force never intervenes to overrule them, but Chance can intervene whenever they need it to, to balance the equation.

Dr. Sproul believed in probability and forming expectations even though we don’t know for sure what’s going to happen, but that’s different from assigning the result to some injection of chaos. The fact that we don’t know why something happened doesn’t mean there’s no natural explanation. Somehow, a culture devoted to rationalism and empiricism has convinced itself that there’s this magical force going around performing miracles. Chance apparently determines which way dice roll, cards are shuffled, or coins are flipped, as if the laws of physics were suddenly suspended just because we can’t predict the outcome. Chance is powerful enough to account for every attribute of every living thing (through mutations that get naturally selected), but still we study laws of biology, which seem to apply so consistently in spite of the fact that it owes so much to random Chance.

In reality, it’s not like those base pairs in the DNA are moving around chaotically. We know that the laws of physics and chemistry operate at the minutest levels. Textbooks say gas is a state of matter where molecules are moving at random, but somehow they never defy scientific laws like Pascal’s or changes in their state of matter when the variables change. When you flip a coin, it goes where all the interactions of the physical forces direct it, not where Chance takes over and directs it based on its whim.

To people not wanting to believe, Chance is the new god. He’s pretty capricious, but at least he’s not going to judge you or demand any commitment. He’s a funny fish. He can create an entire universe and an astonishing variety of life, but he can’t do miracles like suspending a scientific law. He’s omnipotent but hamstrung.

Classical apologists like Dr. Sproul say Chance can’t create anything because it isn’t anything itself. It’s just a figment of our imagination, an omnipotent impersonal force rather than an omnipotent personal being. Is that any more scientific than creationism?

I like Classical apologetics, but I’m not sure it’s for everyone. After all, it relies heavily on philosophy. Your listener would have to comprehend the absoluteness of the term Nothing and reject the idea of Chance as a force that impacts things, which is practically second nature to most of us. I found it tricky to put all the references in this post to Nothing, something, Chance, existence, etc. into phraseology I thought would make sense to someone who hasn’t listened through Dr. Sproul’s lecture series, so I think a better approach to the current culture is my next topic: Evidentialism.