J.P. Moreland: The Relevance of Rational Apologetics

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Think Apologetics. Tabernacle of David considers this resource trustworthy and Biblically sound.


Here is an excerpt from the fabulous book called Loving God with Your Mind: Essays in Honor of J. P. Moreland

“FOR THE PAST THIRTY YEARS and more, J. P. Moreland has tenaciously defended the idea that advancing apologetic arguments on behalf of the truth of Christianity is essential to the health and vitality of the cause of Christ. In countless articles, books, sermons, interviews, lectures, and debates, J. P. has taught and embodied the (perhaps initially) unexpected truth that there is no conflict between faith and reason, between what is known based on the Bible. Indeed, he has had the audacity to claim that apologetics is actually a “New Testament ministry.” Thus, as followers of Jesus, we’re obliged to engage in it. J. P.’s strong advocacy in this area has fanned into a flame the wake-up call originally issued to an intellectually slumbering Church by the apologetic giants of the last generation (Francis Schaeffer, Josh McDowell, and others). We are all the better for it. Apologetics organizations, radio shows, conferences, websites, and blogs literally abound. In many ways, things have never been better in the world of apologetics. And yet there is little denying the fact that the predominant outlook and trajectory of the coming generation of evangelicals is decidedly anti-intellectual. Titles with highly relational themes such as Blue Like Jazz and Love Wins are instantly snapped up by young evangelicals, becoming bestsellers virtually overnight. We are not prophets (nor even the sons of prophets), but it seems clear to us that the apologetic torch J. P. has carried throughout his ministry—and which he has passed to us—might well be extinguished in a future evangelical subculture that scorns the very notion of rational, truth-based apologetics. No doubt we will be told that such an approach to engaging nonbelievers is intolerant, irrelevant, and non-relational. It advances itself by making objective truth claims, as opposed to participating in “conversations” where the aim is merely to appreciate one another, minimize our differences, and enjoy the process.

According to J. P., there are four reasons we should engage in rational apologetics. First, it is a biblical command (Jude 3; 1 Peter 3:15) for which we have pristine examples in the ministries of Jesus and Paul. We should obey the command and follow the examples. Since, in particular, “Paul reasoned with unbelievers and gave evidence for the gospel,”so should we. Secondly, apologetics serves to remove impediments to faith “and thus aid[s] unbelievers in embracing the gospel.”And of course that is a good thing. Third, it strengthens believers by (i) instilling in them the conviction that their faith is true and reasonable, and (ii) fostering spiritual growth by filling out their Christian worldview, thereby enabling them to better see God at work in His two books: the Bible and the book of nature. And then finally, apologetics contributes “to health in the culture at large.” It promotes the idea that Christianity can be argued for with publicly accessible facts. It can’t be culturally quarantined as a stream of emotive, cognitively meaningless nonsense. Now what’s truly striking about this fourfold purpose is just how relational it is. It speaks of the relation of the believer to himself (his own spiritual life), the believer to the unbeliever, and the believer to the larger culture. And the role of apologetics in each case (as J. P. sees it) is to help people become rightly related to the Ultimate Person—God Himself. So at first glance this worry about apologetics being anti-relational seems perplexing. If anything, the exact opposite seems to be true. J. P.-style apologetics is fully and completely relational.”– RICHARD BRIAN DAVIS AND W. PAUL FRANKS, What Place, then, for Rational Apologetics?, featured in Loving God with Your Mind: Essays in Honor of J. P. Moreland (p. 129). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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