Peace of Christ, Mr. Minton, may God bless you and the ministry abundantly. As I was watching a Kyle Alander video on his approach to christian apologetics and how it was different from what he called “Cragian” apologetics. This prompted me to think why there was so little variation in apologetics methodology. Of course there is the classical, evidential, presuppositional and reformed epistemology. But when we examine them there really isn’t that much variation. Classical and Evidential are both similar, just one is two steps and the other is one step. Reformed Epistemology still needs arguments to convince unbelievers, Presuppositionalism is generally looked down upon. So the question is why aren’t there more approaches to apologetic? And if there are more, why are they not used as much? How can I learn about them?
Secondly, why are there so little ways to verify christainities truth? It seems that every apologetic methodology hinges on the Resurrection, while yes is central but there ought to be more variety. I know of other methods such as personal experience and the Divine Identity argument. But even these circle back to the Resurrection. To be sure, I don’t deny that the Resurrection is important, it is the central event of Christainity. For goodness sake, I am writing this email on Easter Day! But I wonder, what are the other methods for verifying Chirstainity as a whole? How can I learn about them?
Thirdly, from what I understand from Cameron Betuzzi’s and Dr. Chad Mcintosh’s video “150 arguments for God’s existence” there are many arguments for God’s existence. Of course, many of these are variations however there are about 50 arguments of which I’ve never heard. The problem is, the vast majority of apologists use the “Craigian” arguments for God. So the question is, why are these arguments used over others? Are there potentially better arguments that are being neglected and overlooked?
Fourthly, concerning the Resurrection itself, why so little variation in methods? There seems to be only two methods: the reliability method and the minimal facts approach. Even then, the minimal facts are clearly dominant. But aren’t there other ways to approach the Resurrection such as a circumstantial case or one that takes social context into account. Why are these potentially powerful approaches not used?
My sincere apologies for the length of this email. I thought that this was a question that should be addressed and was worthy of a lengthier email.
I don’t really understand the concern here. If one is on the right track when it comes to their epistemology (i.e how we know X is true, how or why we would be justified in believing X obtains), then why would we need a variety of method? You could have a variety of different arguments, sure, but why would need different approaches that relied on different epistemologies. If the evidentialist and classical approaches are the right way to approach any religious belief, why should I not use anything but evidential and classical arguments?
I’m not even sure what “variation in methods” would even look like beyond what we have now. Any new arguments for God’s existence or Jesus’ claims about himself would, it seems to me, fall into one of the four already existing categories; Evidentialism, Classicalism, Presuppositionalism, or Fideism.
It’s like trying to imagine a new color. It seems to me that most apologists rely on the same arguments is for two reasons
(1) They’re sound arguments and they have persuasive power.
(2) They’re defended by the most popular apologists in the world.
But ultimately, whether or not one should use an argument should really be for one reason; does the argument meet all three criteria for being sound? (1) Does the conclusion follow from the premises? (2) Are the premises true, (3) do we have good evidence to justify belief in the premises?
What I’m trying to say here is that we should value quality over quantity. Strength over variation. I’d rather rely on 5 extremely powerful and persuasive arguments that I’ve spent hundreds of hours researching than to have 100 arguments that are mediocre and have only spent a small amount of time reading on.
As far as validating Christianity goes, yes, the resurrection is the only way to go about it. You could make a cumulative case that Jesus is the messiah from Old Testament prophesies, but ultimately that will take you back to the cross and empty tomb because dying and rising is part of the messianic profil (e.g Isaiah 53, Psalm 22) even though no one knew this until the events were in hindsight, which is good because if everyone was on the lookout for a crucified and risen messiah, we wouldn’t have a crucified and risen messiah (see 1 Corinthians 2:8).
You can, as you admitted, get to theism through a variety of methods (The Kalam Cosmological Argument, The Fine-Tuning Argument, The Local Fine-Tuning Argument, The Moral Argument, The Ontological Argument), and you can even get to an Abrahamic form of theism via The Divine Identity Argument (with the Kalam and Fine-Tuning) or the Trinity through The Divine Identity Argument that employs the Moral and Ontological Arguments, as I point out in my book “The Case For The One True God.” But ultimately the CHRIST-ian worldview will be established depending on how you answer the question “Who is Jesus?”
And with this you ask; why so little variation? We have The Minimal Facts approach and the reliability approach, but that’s it. Actually, one does have blind faith and a presup way to get to those, but these are horrible epistemological routes to affirming the resurrection.
Anyway, evidentially speaking why only the minimal facts and reliability methods? Well, can you tell me how else we’d establish the historicity of the resurrection? Again, it’s like trying to imagine a new color. How else would one establish that Jesus died and rose again without either (A) establishing the general reliability of the documents that report the events and say “Because the documents get so much right, even in seemingly unimportant details, they probably got the most important thing of all – the resurrection of Jesus – right” or (B) using the criteria of authenticity to establish the crucifixion, empty tomb, and postmortem appearances, and abductively reason to the resurrection as the best explanation of those facts?
I can’t even imagine a third evidence-based approach, much less explain why it isn’t being used! Evidently, you seem to allude to other possible approaches when you said “But aren’t there other ways to approach the Resurrection such as a circumstantial case or one that takes social context into account.” However, I’m not sure what you meant or what such an approach would look like. But if you can do it, go for it! Maybe God is calling you to craft a novel apologetic! I mean, it’s happened before. None of the arguments currently in use dropped out of Heaven. If there are “ways to approach the Resurrection such as a circumstantial case or one that takes social context into account.” maybe you could study this and write on it.
As for why the minimal facts approach is usually favored over the reliability approach, I don’t know. I can only speak for myself. I prefer The Minimal Facts approach because it’s a quick way to get to my conclusion. I can unpack it in a matter of minutes if I work hard to condence it. But the reliability approach is cumulative. Sure, you can choose just how much evidence you want to show in any given debate setting, presentation, conversation, et. al. You don’t have to give a whole thesis every time, but ultimately if you DON’T give a whole thesis, your case will be very weak. I like to characterize the two approaches as a “Straight To The Point” VS. and “Around The Block” Approach. There’s the straight path that will get you to your destination, and then there’s the long way around.
When I first discovered The Minimal Facts approach in Michael Licona’s and Gary Habermas’ book “The Case For The Resurrection Of Jesus”, I was relieved. Not only was it a powerful case, but I could get to the point succinctly if I had to, or I could give an hour long presentation if I wanted to (or make a 12 part video series!!!). I could shrink my case or expand it like an accordion, and the strength of my case wouldn’t really be all that affected. Because it isn’t a cumulative case like the reliability approach is.
Prior to that, I would be overwhelmed by the amount of info I felt I had to give the skeptic. I had to establish the traditional authorship of the gospels, I had to point to extra biblical and archeological resources to show all the stuff the New Testament authors got right, I had to look at internal evidences too, and I had to resolve the apparent contradictions in the narratives. I felt like I not only had to know a lot, but I had to spend a very long time talking if I wanted to make my case. Not so with The Minimal Facts Method. Who’s going to want to sit there and listen to me go on and on and on and on and on?
And I suspect that this might be the reason why this has become the dominant method among apologists both in academia and in the pew. This isn’t to speak poorly of the reliability method by any means. I don’t get people like Lydia McGrew who go out of their way to bash the Minimal Facts method. I think both are sound ways of getting to the resurrection, and I think both can and should be done. Michael Jones of Inspiring Philosophy has a series on the reliability of the New Testament and he also has a series on The Minimal Facts method. Just go to his YouTube channel or his website to find them. I myself have only dealt with The Minimal Facts Approach on my channel, but I hope to one day do either a series of episodes of Cerebral Faith LIVE or upload edited videos unpacking the case for the reliability. And maybe get some content up on the blog as well. Both are good. Both should be done. But if you’d ask what my favorite method is; it’s The Minimal Facts method.
I first discovered the approach in Gary Habermas’ and Michael Licona’s “The Case For The Resurrection Of Jesus” in 2014 and I have been using it ever since. By the way, an audiobook edition of this book just came out this year!
This Post Has 4 Comments
Comment is ordered in chronological order of how these topics appear in the blog
1. I see how any different argument would fall into one of the existing categories. Thank you. BUT what about the differences within these four categories?
The above link is a book review on Apologetics 315 of the book by Dr.Phil Fernandes “Guide to Apologetics Methodologies”. In it, Dr. Phil Fernandes divides apologetics in two sections “to God” (evidential/classical) and “from God” (presuppositionalism). However, he makes several distinctions within each section. Disregarding the “from God” section, there are still several methods within the “to God” section. Including classical and evidential, but also many others. So now the question is, why the evidential/classical dominance? Why do we not see more of these other submethods?
2. I’m not saying to adopt 100 arguments at the same time. I’m asking why the same arguments are used everytime in light of the fact that there are others in the same category that may be more effective. Again, I’m not saying each apologist needeth defend 100 arguments but what about the core three with a little variation? One apologist can do the Kalam, Deductive Moral argument and Deductive Fine-tuning argument. Another can do the Contingency argument, Abductive Moral argument and Bayesian Fine-tuning argument. So on and so forth. The core categories are the same (cosmological, moral, design) but the arguments different. This is not to mention the various other categories of arguments. So, why so the EXACT same arguments? Why not some variations in the same category? Why not use completely different categories of arguments?
3. It makes sense that everything should circle back to the Resurrection.
4. My apologies for not developing the things I was alluding to.
– By circumstantial case, I mean what J.P Moreland talked about in the “Case for Christ”. Perhaps not those EXACT facts but something similar. I also don’t mean completely on circumstantial evidence. Maybe a mix of the minimal facts and circumstantial data. The minimal facts plus martyrdom of the disciples, strong reasons NOT to proclaim christianity(ostracization by Jews, persecution by Romans), weekly memorials to the Risen Christ and some others. Maybe call it “the Moderate Facts Approach” since it is the minimal facts plus a few others that strengthen the case as a whole. Of course there will be variations depending on which circumstantial facts the apologist includes in their presentation.
– The social context case is already used to an extent. What I mean is by establishing first the environment in which belief in the Resurrection arised, one can show how bizarre and strange it is given the context. This is what you did in your video series when you covered fact 6 of your case. But in my mind, I am imagining a presentation where social context takes center stage. By showing how out of line Resurrection belief is, the apologist can argue that this would have inspired increased scrutiny. Given this scrutiny, the Resurrection belief would not have survived if it was not based in the actual Resurrection of Christ. At least, that’s how I imagine it. I might be completely off the mark here too.
– After you mentioned Lydia Mcgrew, I searched up her work and realised she has something called the Maximal Data approach. So I thought to myself, why not condense the Reliability approach into some core facts? Why not argue for the minimal facts:reliability edition? Something like 1. Gospels were written by eyewitness 2. Earlier dating 3. Undesigned coincidences (internal evidence) 4. Extra biblical confirmation (external evidence) 5. Many supposed contradictions can be resolved without appealing to ad hoc explanations. If you get these five, it seems like reliability is in the bag. It has the speed of minimal facts but the power of maximal data.
1: I think the simple answer is the presuppositionalism sucks. It’s a bad apologetic method. Evidential and Classical arguments have stronger arguments working off of a valid epistemology. As for Phil Fernandes’ categorization, much of what he talks about would fall under evidentialism. He seems to think that evidentialism only focuses on HISTORICAL evidence for Christianity’s truth claims such as The Minimal Facts Argument, the archeological corroboration for the reliability of the Old and New Testaments, etc. But I would consider arguing from the The Big Bang and cosmic Fine-Tuning to be examples of evidentialism. It’s using scientific facts as *evidence* for a Creator and a designer of the universe. But Fernandes categorizes this under “Scientific Apologetics”. But science is also a kind of evidence, isn’t it? “Cumulative Case” is just using a large list of evidences or arguments which could either be classified as evidential or classical. You can make a cumulative case of archeological evidences as Kristen Davis did in her talk at last year’s National Conference On Christian Apologetics. You can make a cumulative case of archeological and extra-biblical documents for the reliability od The New Testament, which can get even more cumulative if you consider internal evidence like undesigned coincidences (see Lydia McGrew’s book “Hidden In Plain View”. Craig is said to make a cumulative case for theism in talks where he hashes out the Contingency, Kalam, Fine-Tuning, and Moral Arguments.
Fernandes is the first person I’ve seen to chop up the different apologetic approaches into such a plethora of sub-categories. Not saying he’s necessarily wrong to do that, but I myself would categorize a lot of these approaches broadly under the classical or evidential umbrellas. They’re just different kinds of evidential or classical approaches.
2: As I said in the blog post.It seems to me that most apologists rely on the same arguments is for two reasons:
(1) They’re sound arguments and they have persuasive power.
(2) They’re defended by the most popular apologists in the world.
I’ve looked at other arguments besides the main 6 that I use, but I haven’t been all that impressed with them besides The Argument From Beauty, The Argument From The Applicability Of Mathematics, and The Argument From Reason (famously associated with C.S Lewis). And even though I think the three I just mentioned are good, I don’t think they’re nearly as persuasive as the Contingency, Kalam, Fine-Tuning, Moral, and Ontological Arguments. And as I said, if these arguments meet the 3 criteria for being a good argument; (1) Valid logic, (2) true premises, (3) reasons to believe the premises, why WOULDN’T we want to use them?
4: It should be remembered that Strobel’s The Case For Christ is employing The Reliability Approach with just a tiny dash of minimal facts. Strobel, set forth his whole case in the analog of a court case. So he would classify categories of evidences as “Eyewitness Evidence”, “Fingerprint Evidence”, “Corroborating Evidence”, and so on. I don’t think Moreland is employing a unique apologetic method here. Some of the exact arguments he used in that chapter are arguments in places where I use in my Minimal Facts approach. In my video on the appearance to James, I even have a reference to this chapter in Strobel’s book when I talk about his skepticism of Jesus prior to Jesus rising and how embarrassing that was given the social stigma back then about a Rabbi who’s family would not accept his teachings. But it is circumstantial in that, given the circumstances of James’ prior skepticism and belief after the death of Jesus, one can make an inference that he saw him (even sans the statement in 1 Cor 15). And the same can be done with Paul. In fact, J.Warner Wallace calls the entire case for the resurrection “Circumstantial” in his book “Cold Case Christianity”. Cold Case Christianity employs the reliability method and spends a single chapter arguing for it via The Minimal Facts approach. And Wallace calls the whole thing circumstantial and at-length explains how this isn’t inferior to eyewitness testimony.
\\\”The social context case is already used to an extent. What I mean is by establishing first the environment in which belief in the Resurrection arised, one can show how bizarre and strange it is given the context. This is what you did in your video series when you covered fact 6 of your case. But in my mind, I am imagining a presentation where social context takes center stage. By showing how out of line Resurrection belief is, the apologist can argue that this would have inspired increased scrutiny. Given this scrutiny, the Resurrection belief would not have survived if it was not based in the actual Resurrection of Christ. At least, that’s how I imagine it. I might be completely off the mark here too.”\\\
What you’re describing is pretty much to what N.T Wright devoted his book “The Resurrection Of The Son Of God”. Wright uses exactly what he said to argue for the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances, and so forth. This is why I said in the video that you mentioned that these are minimal facts that give additional reasons to accept the previous minimal facts. The strangeness of the origin of Christianity gives additional epistemic justification for believing that his disciples saw him and that the tomb was empty.
\\”After you mentioned Lydia Mcgrew, I searched up her work and realised she has something called the Maximal Data approach. So I thought to myself, why not condense the Reliability approach into some core facts? Why not argue for the minimal facts:reliability edition? Something like 1. Gospels were written by eyewitness 2. Earlier dating 3. Undesigned coincidences (internal evidence) 4. Extra biblical confirmation (external evidence) 5. Many supposed contradictions can be resolved without appealing to ad hoc explanations. If you get these five, it seems like reliability is in the bag. It has the speed of minimal facts but the power of maximal data.”\\ — The problem with this suggestion is that The Minimal Facts, by definition, precludes using those kinds of things. A Minimal Fact meets two criteria (1; it has a lot of arguments in it’s favor, and (2; it is nearly universally accepted by scholars and historians who study the subject, even the skeptical non-Christian scholars. Things like the authorship of the gospels, earlier dating, and so on are hotly disputed among critics. This doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t appeal to them, but it would mean that you aren’t doing a minimal facts approach. Hence, it’s not possible to do a “Minimal Facts: Reliability Edition” unless the scholarly consensus changes on these things. And they could. It wasn’t always the case, as Habermas points out, that 75% of historians accepted the historicity of the empty tomb.
1. Makes sense.
2. Also makes sense.
3. Has already been established to make sense.
A) Okay, that is a good point on how circumstantial evidence is already used. I just wish it would be more prominent. Think of the fact that early Christians knew that proclaiming their beliefs would have negative consequences. For one, they would be denounced as heretics by the Jews and be social pariahs in the Jewish community. Secondly, they would face heat from the Romans for proclaiming anyone but Caesar as their leader. If I understand correctly, the Roman authorities did not take kindly to any group that exalted any man but the Emperor. This fact makes all the other naturalistic theories worse. Take the conspiracy theory, if they knew the negative consequences of proclaiming their belief then why form the conspiracy? What motive could there be to be exiled by their community and persecuted by the crucifixion happy authorities? But on the Resurrection, the extraordinary event gives early Christians and extraordinary motive. In my view, this is one of many facts that are sometimes overlooked.
B) Well it is excellent to see that what I had in mind is already being used. I will have to get around to picking up that book at a later date.
C) That is a good point,
* an extraordinary motive