The Nature Of Theistic Apologetics -- By: Arthur F. Holmes

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 02:2 (Spring 1959)
Article: The Nature Of Theistic Apologetics
Author: Arthur F. Holmes

The Nature Of Theistic Apologetics

Arthur F. Holmes

Wheaton College

The resurgence of evangelical scholarship in recent years has been marked, as one would expect, by a resurgence of literature on and interest in theistic apologetics. Those works which, from the philosophical viewpoint, may be regarded as significant, have adopted certain distinctive methodologies. Consciously or unconsciously they have elected procedures which imply certain views of the nature of theistic apologetics. This paper is an essay in this area of prolegomena. Its purpose is to point the way to a methodology which, it is believed, is both more consistent and more acceptable than certain others which are on the market. The basic thesis is the truism that philosophical apologetics must be understood and pursued with reference to the intent of the term “philosophical.”

At the risk of being mistaken for a Kantian, we derive our framework of reference from the prefaces to the Critique of Pure Reason. Both there and elsewhere Immanuel Kant distinguishes three types of philosophy. The first is dogmatism, “the presumption that it is possible to advance in metaphysics without previous criticism,” and which he regards as “the true source of the unbelief . . . which militates against morality.”1 Kant has in mind, of course, the optimistic speculations of the German Enlightenment descended from Liebniz and Wolf. The second is scepticism, an intellectual nomadism, whose advocates “hate a permanent habitation and settled mode of living, attacked from time to time those who had organized themselves into civil communities.”2 Here he obviously thinks of the Hume who awoke him from his own “dogmatic” slumbers. The third type of philosophy is his own, criticism, that scrutiny of man’s rational abilities which constitutes the necessary prolegomena to any future metaphysics.

Nearly one hundred eighty years have elapsed since this framework was introduced. Let us therefore attempt to bring it up to date and adjust it to our present purposes. “Dogmatism” will be used to denote not just the wholly uncritical but also those of rationalistic bent who profess to attain logically absolute certainty. In this tradition stands Descartes with his geometrical method and the boast that

There is nothing so far removed from us as to be beyond our reach, or so hidden that we cannot discover it provided only we abstain from accepting the false for the true, and always preserve in our thoughts the order necessary for the deduction of one truth for another.3...

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