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What is Classical Apologetics?

You may have heard of the phrase, Classical Apologetics, from studying under people such as, William Lane Craig, Frank Turek, Norman Geisler, Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, B.B. Warfield, and others, and perhaps you wondered what it means. 

Classical Apologetics is one method of doing apologetics… I personally like to think that it is classical for a reason. Some other methods of doing apologetics are first, Presuppositionalism, which is that a person presupposes that God exists, and that the reason that a person does not believe in God is because he does not believe the Bible is the word of God. The issue is that from an unbeliever’s perspective, this is circular reasoning. It emphasizes revelation as opposed to reason. 

Another method of apologetics is Evidentialism, which is essentially to follow the evidence where it leads and using this evidence to support Christian claims. Sometimes people refer to it as being a subtype as Classical Apologetics, essentially being the second step in Classical Apologetics (or the third step, which is what I will argue in this article). Evidential Apologetics emphasizes fact, or evidence. 

Classical Apologetics can be distinguished from the others because of its emphasis on the capacity to reason. Many people begin the Classical Apologetics approach with the arguments for the existence of God, then follow this with presenting evidence concerning the reliability of Scripture, archaeology, prophecy, miracles, and the Resurrection of Jesus. But, as I mentioned, I believe there are three steps in Classical apologetics, because Classical Apologetics by its nature emphasizes reason, and the first step should not merely begin with the arguments for the existence of God, but with the fact that we can know what is true. 



The Three Fundamental Laws of Logic


We can prove that we can actually know things. The three fundamental laws of logic are the law of identity, which is that something is what it is and not something else, which would dissolve any confusion that may arise in the following laws. 

The second fundamental Law is the Law of Non-contradiction, which is that something cannot be both true and false at the same time and in the same sense. Think of a light switch for example. It cannot be both on and off. Even if sparks are flying through the switch and the bulb itself is flickering, it is still getting contact from electricity and is on and not off.

Finally, we come to the third Law, which is the Law of Excluded Middle. This Law is that any truth claim is either true or false. It must be one or the other. So, If I were to say that the light switch is on, then this statement can only be either true or false. It cannot be something else, and this is not a false dilemma. 

Another thing that might help us further understand these Laws is that they are self-evidently true. In other words, they don’t need to be explained because the truth of such are obvious. A self-evident statement doesn’t need to be proven. The Three Fundamental Laws of Logic are self-evidently true. Take for instance the Second Law mentioned… A woman cannot be both pregnant and not pregnant at the same time and in the same sense. This is self-evidently true.

So, the Three Fundamental Laws of Logic are fundamental to Classical Apologetics because by its nature, Classical Apologetics boasts the capacity to reason through argumentation and evidence that God exists, and that Christianity is true. The Three Fundamental Laws of Logic show us that because they are self-evident, we can know what is absolutely true.



Arguments for the Existence of God


Arguments for the existence of God do not consist of arguing with someone in a heated conversation. These types of arguments that we are discussing consist of two premises and a conclusion to those premises.[1] In order for a conclusion to be true, the argument must be sound. There are many ways in which the argument could be unsound, but for time’s sake, we will briefly dissect an argument for the existence of God, then present a few more arguments.

First, we come to the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA). It reads as follows:


1.     Everything that begins to exist has a cause for its existence. 

2.     The Universe began to exist.

3.     Therefore, the Universe has a cause for its existence. 


Something to note here is that the argument does not claim the sole veracity of Christianity. That Christianity is true requires further discussion, but this argument takes one from believing that there is no God to knowing that there is a being that transcends the universe, which we call God. The first premise is self-evidently true from our perspective, because in order to say that this is wrong, a person would have to demonstrate an example of what comes into existence without a cause. This is not to violate the burden of proof, since it is common knowledge that things do not just pop into existence. Such a demonstration has not been done so far. Everything we know that begins to exist has a cause for its existence. 

Concerning the second premise (2), we know that the universe began to exist both philosophically and scientifically speaking. Scientifically speaking, we can observe the red shift, which is essentially the doppler effect in the light spectrum, and because of such, we know that light is traveling away from us as opposed to coming toward us (blue shift) and that light traveling away from us in the farthest reaching of the universe, it tells us that the universe is expanding. This information is what tells cosmologists that the universe had a definite beginning, or what some would call the big bang. If the universe was created out of nothing (ex nihilo), then there must have been a Creator for such. 

Philosophically speaking, because we arrive and stop at today, we know that we are in an incomplete set of days. If the Universe were infinite, then we would experience a complete set of days where we could not add one day to the timeline of days. If we have an infinite number, then adding one to such would be impossible, because then it would not actually be infinite if we are adding something to an infinite set. Similarly with the time that has passed, we could not add another minute to an infinite amount of time, but here we are, adding minute after minute, day after day, to the minutes that have already passed. This incomplete set of days and minutes proves that there is an ultimate beginning because if there is an end to this timeline of days (today), then there must be a beginning.

The second syllogism, as these types of arguments are called, that we will look at is the Moral Argument for God’s Existence


1.     If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.

2.     Objective moral values and duties do exist.

3.     Therefore, God exists.


The thing about this is that if there is just one moral absolute (even only one!), meaning that we do not get a specific moral value from a social construct or we didn’t evolve to acquire such, and there is a moral absolute that transcends us as human beings, such as, it is wrong in every culture at all times to murder another human being, then this means that there is a being that exists outside the universe. It seems that from simple intuition that it would be wrong to murder “me,” that others would feel the same. So murder being absolutely morally wrong is not an evolved morality, but has been in existence since even before human beings have been in existence.

One might object that if God is just making moral absolutes, then “moral absolutes” as we call them are still arbitrary. The thing is, God is the standard of goodness, He does not arbitrarily invent what is good, and on the other hand, He does not follow what is good, because then that would mean that goodness is better than He, but God is good. It is an attribute of God. 

Finally, for the reader to get a taste of arguably the second step in Classical Apologetics, we come to the Teleological argument for the existence of God


1.     The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.

2.     It is not due to physical necessity or chance.

3.     Therefore, it is due to design. 


The teleological argument for the existence of God shows us that there is not only something, rather than nothing at all in existence, but that what is in existence has been tampered with in order to not only have life on earth, but also to sustain life on earth. This ultimately shows us that God is the one who tampered with the cosmological constants in order that planet earth might have life. 



The Truth of Christianity


As discussed, the arguments for the existence of God do not necessarily argue for the veracity of the Christian God, and so this task is completed in the third and final step of Classical Apologetics (or the second step if one does not count the Fundamental Laws of Logic as the first step). The truth is Christianity is argued primarily from the truth of the Bible. For instance, if the Bible is true historically, archaeologically, philosophically, theologically, etc., then we can know that Jesus is God, that He created the world, that all other miracles are possible, that Jesus rose again from the dead, and that because of such, we have new life available to us. 

So, then the final task is to be able to show that the Bible is true. Which I thoroughly address in another recent article: Sharper than Any Two-Edged Sword: The Integrity of the Bible is Second to None. These three steps summed up in a big picture is that the truth can be known (the Three Fundamental Laws of Logic), that God exists (arguments for the existence of God), and that God communicated to us about Himself through the Bible (the truth of Christianity). Once it is established that the Bible is true, and Jesus actually is “my Lord and my God,”[2] the soil for planting the seed of the gospel has been tilled and at this point is often ready to receive the Good News. 



Sharing the Gospel


Then we share the gospel, which is often performed through what many call the Roman Road. It is literally and simply looking at specific verses in the book of Romans in the Bible, which is likened to talking a walk down a Roman Road, which are well known to be very foundationally strong. I personally like to reduce the Roman Road to four verses for the sake of memory. It begins with Romans 3:23, which says “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory…” The idea here is that we want to show people that they have broken God’s Law… specifically, the Ten Commandments. It is often appropriate to ask a person if they have ever stolen anything, even if it was something small, or if they have ever lusted. The 8thCommandment says, “You shall not steal” and the 7th Commandment says that “You shall not commit adultery” but Jesus says in the sermon on the mount in Matthew chapter 5 that “If you have even looked at a woman with lust in your heart, you have already committed adultery with her.” Jesus, God in the flesh, shows us that breaking the Laws of God is an issue of the human heart. He is essentially saying here, “See how deeply you need me.” I have heard it said that a man is capable of thinking about things they shouldn't be, hundreds of times in a single day. Jesus knew exactly what buttons to push, so to speak, in showing people that they are actually desperate for Him. In any event, Sin is in the heart, and this clearly will show a person such. 

As I said, I like to reduce the Roman Road verses as much as possible in order for them to be remembered easier, and the second verse I use is Romans chapter 6:23, which says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Then I usually break this down for people so as to avoid speaking “Christianese.” I rephrase it to say something like, “The cost of our moral failures (sin) against God is death” In other words, this is the biblical reason of why we come to die. But the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus. A gift is not something that can be earned. Ephesians 2:8-9 explain that if a gift could be earned, then a person could boast about it. So, a gift cannot even be partially earned. If you earn even part of a gift, then it is not free. 

Then I often backtrack here so to speak, on the Roman Road, and lead a person to understanding the love of God. Romans 5:8 says that “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In the middle of our acts of sin, God sent His Son to take our place of punishment. What love! This love is incomprehensible. John 3:16 elaborates, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but will have everlasting life.” These verses answer the question of, why would God do such a thing? It is because He loves His creation, namely the people. When John 3:16 says, “the world” it is not referring to the trees, rocks, and the fish, but it is referring to the people in the world. God loves all people unconditionally (Which does not mean that He saves all people unconditionally).[3]

From here, I lead them to Romans 10:9. This would total 4 verses in the Roman Road, with a few verses for support. Verse nine in Romans ten says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved.” Then I persuade and encourage the person I am speaking with to do this. The reason is because it is the most important decision that anyone will ever make. Then after this, my hope is to help. Them discover a church, if not my own, that they can become a part of and grow in Christ. Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” 

This concludes the discussion on Classical Apologetics, and I hope that you have a better understanding of the inner workings of such, and I also hope that you see the value of such. I am personally a Classical Apologist because I feel that it is the best method of Apologetics, even having studied extensively the other methods. It seems to me that Presuppositional Apologetics for instance, has its place in the world, which I address here, but hardly should be used to till the soil for planting the seed of the gospel. 


 Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus



  © Nace Howell, 2023 

[1] These syllogistic arguments are adapted from William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 111; 172; 161.

[2] See John 20:28.

[3] Again, this does not mean that He saves all people unconditionally. See the link in the text for more.


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