Toward A Rational Apologetic Based Upon History -- By: Clark H. Pinnock

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 11:3 (Summer 1968)
Article: Toward A Rational Apologetic Based Upon History
Author: Clark H. Pinnock

Toward A Rational Apologetic Based Upon History

Clark H. Pinnock*

[*Professor of Theology, Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans, Louisiana.]

If the Gospel cannot be sustained by historical data, it cannot be sustained at all. Myths and fables may be immune to historical investigation if only because they are in essence a-historical; but the incarnation of the Son of God belongs to the flesh and bone of history. The religions of the East have little concern over facts and dates, history and time. They are too concerned with inner feelings to be interested in matters of mundane objectivity. But Christianity is of a different breed, and the centre of its focus is the historic Jesus Christ. For this reason Christian apologetics is as concerned with the incarnation as theology is; because that event is capable of yielding both the content of our theology and the grounding of our apologetic. “The Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14). The strongest case for Christian theism rests upon its historical credentials. Undoubtedly a radical critique of the presuppositions of modern man can lead to an effective unmasking of his thought and bring to his attention the damning accusations of the Law. But it is a display of the incarnation datum which most effectively confronts him with the gift and the demand of the divine Gospel.

Preaching the Gospel is not “a sheer kerygmatic activity,” as Mascall reminded Karl Barth (Secularisation of Christianity, p. 12). Similarly the British agnostic Antony Flew at the very outset of his examination of Christian theism took strong exception to Barth’s dictum: “Belief cannot argue with unbelief: it can only preach to it!” Anglo Catholic and atheist alike are absolutely right. If no case can be made out for accepting the Christian Gospel, there are no grounds for inviting men to do so, nor indeed for holding to it ourselves. Daniel Wilson wrote in 1829: “It is one mark of the truth of our holy religion that it courts enquiry. Christianity lays open its claim to every one that asks a reason of the hope which it inspires, and declines no species of fair investigation.” To decline any verification procedures would amount to, as Flew points out, a kind of religious racism which would sunder human solidarity itself, and cut off forever all possibility of fruitful dialogue. The “offense” of the Gospel is not the pain of leaving one’s mind at the door of the Church; indeed this is scarcely hurtsome at all to our contemporary irrationalistic generation. The dialectical theology with its pervasive concept of paradox plays right into the hands of the surrealist, psychedelic, and existentialist mentality. The offense of the Gospel is its condem...

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