The Limits of Apologetics

Given all the evidence we have cited in the last blog, why does not everyone accept Christianity as true?

First, there are many people who have not heard of Jesus.  John Sanders, in his book What About Those Who Have Never Heard?, concludes that a majority of the people who have ever lived have never heard of the God of Israel or of Jesus. [1]  If one has not heard, one cannot believe.

Second, Christianity requires that we believe certain historical facts are true, namely that Jesus lived, died, and rose from the dead in first century Palestine.  In our blogs of March 7 and 14, 2011 we discussed some of the reasons why people do not believe in these historical events.  The bottom line is that God made us finite which means our ability to know what is true is limited.  Given our human condition, we cannot have certainty in regards to historical events; we must deal with probabilities.  John Warwick Montgomery in History, Law, and Christianity states that probability is the only method we have in deciding to follow Jesus but we must realize that we use probabilities daily in deciding what to do. [2]  Alister E. McGrath in Intellectuals Don’t Need God & Other Modern Myths states that while Christianity makes sense, it ultimately depends upon a leap of faith. [3]  He also notes that essentially all human knowledge is uncertain including our apologetics. [4]  Any Christian who is intellectually honest would admit the same.

While it is a well-established fact that we must rely on probability to discover the truth of historical events, it is important to understand that our ignorance is not total.  Just because we must use probability in our search for the truth of distant events does not mean that we possess no truth at all.  The French scientist Poincaré notes:

If we were not ignorant, there would be no probability, there would be room for nothing but certainty.  But our ignorance cannot be absolute, for then there would no longer be any probability at all, since a little light is necessary to attain even this uncertain science. [5]

Christian apologetics sheds a considerable amount of light on the validity of Christianity.  It is very reasonable to believe in Christianity; it is not just a belief based on blind faith.  Anyone who states that Christianity is not a rationally based belief is not acquainted with all the facts.  However, we must also recognize that our apologetics cannot give us the absolute certainty that Christianity is true; there is still an element of doubt that remains.  And this raises a question about our theology which we will address in the next blog.

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[1]   John Sanders, What About Those Who Have Never Heard? (Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 1995), p. 9.

[2]   John Warwick Montgomery, History, Law, and Christianity (Edmonton, AB, Canada:  Canadian Institute for Law, Theology, and Public Policy, Inc., 2002), pp. 91-93.

[3]   Alister E. McGrath in Intellectuals Don’t Need God & Other Modern Myths (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan Publishing House, 1993), pp. 59-60.

[4]   Ibid., p. 155.

[5]   Henri Poincaré, The Foundations of Science (Lancaster, PA:  The Science Press, 1946), p. 159.

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4 Responses to The Limits of Apologetics

  1. Pete says:

    It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d certainly donate to this fantastic blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will share this website with my Facebook group. Chat soon! Pete

    • admin says:

      We have had several suggestions to add a Donate button so we will do so. Maintaining a blog does have its expenses and it is time consuming. Any support would be appreciated.

  2. Habibi says:

    Its great as your other posts : D, thankyou for posting. “To be at peace with ourselves we need to know ourselves.” by Caitlin Matthews.

    • admin says:

      Knowledge of ourselves is so critical but seems to be so elusive. As David Elton Trueblood says: “I am still convinced that until we are clear on what man is we shall not be clear about much else.”

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