Recent Trends in Apologetics, Part 3

To read Part 2 in this three part series click here.

From the outset I should say that a great many Christian theologians don't think highly of apologetics, following in the footsteps of Karl Barth who thought natural theology was a failure. In their colleges there is no apologetics department, or apologetics classes! According to them, Natural Theology is a failure. God is his own witness. Stands to reason, right? Only God can reveal God. Revelation from God can only come from God, or as Barth himself said, "the best apologetics is a good dogmatics". [Table Talk, ed. J. D. Godsey (Edinburgh and London, 1963), 62]

I should also say that most apologetics books are just more of the same old, same old thing. I can't tolerate reading any more them, as they rehash what others have already said, for the umpteenth time. It can even be seen in their annoying and false book titles, using words like Evidence, even though there is no direct or objective evidence, Eyewitness, even though everything we have is filtered down via 2nd-3rd-4th hand hearsay, and Comprehensive, even though the chapters in those books are superficial treatments.


J. Daniel Hays, A Christian's Guide to Evidence for the Bible: 101 Proofs from History and Archaeology

Allen Quist, Evidence that the Bible is True: The Apologetics of Biblical Reliability


Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony [Expanded and Updated], 2017.

Daniel P. Buttafuoco, Consider the Evidence: A Trial Lawyer Examines Eyewitness Testimony in Defense of the Reliability of the New Testament


Joseph M. Holden, ed., The Comprehensive Guide to Apologetics, 528 pages. I did a search inside this book for Dawkins, Harris, Barker, Price, Stenger, Carrier, Avalos, & Loftus. None of these names are mentioned. Barker is quoted as saying there isn't any evidence for their faith. Dawkins is quoted the most, someone admittedly untrained in philosophy or theology.

William A. Dembski, Joseph M. Holden, Casey Luskin, eds., The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith, 656 pages.

Now on with the show.

In what follows I'll discuss THREE current trends in today's apologetics among conservatives and former conservatives.

ONE) Doing theology is now unabashedly doing apologetics.

Apologetics has always been a sub-set of theology. Now it's been made obvious by WL Craig's book:

--WL Craig, In Quest of the Historical Adam: A Biblical and Scientific Exploration. Description from Amazon:
Working from that foundation of biblical truth, Craig embarks upon an interdisciplinary survey of scientific evidence to determine where Adam could be most plausibly located in the evolutionary history of humankind, ultimately determining that Adam lived between 750,000 and 1,000,000 years ago as a member of the archaic human species Homo heidelbergensis. He concludes by reflecting theologically on his findings and asking what all this might mean for us as human beings created in the image of God, literally descended from a common ancestor—albeit one who lived in the remote past.
This is clearly making stuff up as they go. Theologians did that with the discovery that Jerusalem was not located at the center of a flat earth, that hell was not located in the bowls of the earth, that the earth was not located in the center of the universe, and that the age of the universe is billions of years old. Rinse. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat.

All one has to do is to completely ignore the similarities and parallels with the ancient Mesopotamian culture from which the creation myths about Adam & Eve were derived, or simply revise mythical-history.

Which brings us to the Bible. Some apologist/theologians are doubling down by remaining conservatives. Others have already become liberals.

TWO) Conservative apologist/theologians are doubling down.

--Lydia McGrew, The Eye of the Beholder: The Gospel of John as Historical Reportage. McGrew argues that the Gospel of John was written by the Apostle John, an eyewitness, so it "accurately reports what Jesus said and did." I guess that means conservatives can scrap all of the criteria of authenticity as a means of assessing whether the New Testament's accounts of Jesus' actions and words are historically probable, such as the criteria of embarrassment, dissimilarity, language and environment, coherence, and multiple attestation. It also means we can ignore indicators that the author was not a Jew, since he hates the Jews. On this see Adele Reinhartz, Cast Out of the Covenant: Jews and Anti-Judaism in the Gospel of John.

--Jonathan Bernier, Rethinking the Dates of the New Testament: The Evidence for Early Composition. From the back cover:
This paradigm-shifting study argues that most of the New Testament was originally composed twenty to thirty years earlier than is typically supposed by contemporary biblical scholars, offering a revised view of how quickly early Christians produced what became the seminal texts for their new movement.
Conservatives love outlier books like this.

THREE) Apologists who are already liberals.

The word "liberal" is a relavtive word. Compared to a previous generation of fundamentalists, today's evangelicals are yesterday's liberals.

Christianity has always changed like a chameleon to its culture and times. It's emphatically NOT the case that the Christianity of the 1st or 2nd centuries has survived. The heresy of a previous generation just becomes the orthodoxy of the next one. Subsequent generations develop an amnesia about what Christianity used to be. That's it. The conservatives in one generation become the moderates in the next one who become the liberals in the following one. In each of these subsequent generations conservatives who object to this trend start their own churches, publishing houses and seminaries. Then these new churches, publishing houses and seminaries follow the same trend. And as they do, conservatives break off again and the trend starts all over. Do you want to know the Christianity of the future in America? I suspect it might look more like the inclusivist/universalism of Rob Bell along with the pop-psychology gospel of Joel Olsteen.

Evangelical Christianity is the liberal faith that conservatives of yesterday rejected, while the Evangelical Christianity of the future will reject the theology of today's Evangelicals. Liberalism is the trend into the future. It's palpably obvious too.

Evangelicals in the eighties rejected Karl Barth, inclusivism, Hell as annihilation, the mythical interpretation of the Genesis creation stories, the late dating of 2nd Isaiah and Daniel, and they especially rejected evolution. These former Evangelical views are now being rejected by today's Evangelicals. As it changes it's made to be more credible. The goal posts have simply been moved! Just read these two posts: The New Evangelical Orthodoxy, Relativism, and the Amnesia of It All; and Honest Evangelical Scholarship is a Ruse. There is No Such Thing!

Some examples:

1) Evolution is Now Accepted By More and More Evangelicals! Yesterday's Liberals Are Now Today's Evangelicals.

2) Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan, Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God. Baker, 2014. Randal Rauser reviewed this book, right here in 3 Parts. Notice how they are forced to water down the historicity of the texts, and how inconsistent they are being?

3) Michael Licona, Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?: What We Can Learn from Ancient Biography. Licona argues,
Since the early days of the Christian church, many, though by no means all, devout believers have been troubled by the differences in the Gospels. They have often responded with harmonization efforts, some of which have bordered on subjecting the Gospel texts to a sort of hermeneutical waterboarding until they tell the exegete what he or she wants to hear. Doing such violence to the texts is unnecessary, since a large majority of the differences can quite easily and rightly be appreciated and/or resolved in light of the literary conventions of ancient biography and history writing.
This surely helps, doesn't it? The gospels were written just like the other literature of their day was written. So, okay, not only are their morals the same and their miracles the same, god's divinely chosen genre is the same. Sounds human to me, all the way down!

4) Gregory A. Boyd, Inspired Imperfection: How the Bible's Problems Enhance Its Divine Authority.
In Inspired Imperfection, Gregory A. Boyd adds another counterintuitive and provocative thesis to his corpus. While conservative scholars and pastors have struggled for years to show that the Bible is without errors, Boyd considers this a fool's errand. Instead, he says, we should embrace the mistakes and contradictions in Scripture, for they show that God chose to use fallible humans to communicate timeless truths. Just as God ultimately came to save humanity in the form of a human, God chose to impart truth through the imperfect medium of human writing. Instead of the Bible's imperfections being a reason to attack its veracity, these "problems" actually support the trustworthiness of Christian Scripture.
Yes, that's correct! God divinely inspired imperfection, the kind of imperfection that didn't forbid people to own and beat slaves, that didn't forbit taking virgins as the spoils of war, and so on. It was an inspiration that had to wait until modern times to understand that it was imperfect! Yep. Got it!

5) Randal Rauser, Jesus Loves Canaanites: Biblical Genocide in the Light of Moral Intuition. Yes, God never commanded the Hebrews to kill the Caananites, nor anything else we might say is barbaric. On his book see my brief objections to Boyd's book above. I briefly summed up and criticized Rauser's thesis here.


John W. Loftus is a philosopher and counter-apologist credited with 12 critically acclaimed books, including The Case against Miracles, God and Horrendous Suffering, and Varieties of Jesus Mythicism. Please support DC by sharing our posts, or by subscribing, donating, or buying our books at Amazon. Thank you so much!