Apologetics 101: Fundamentals of the Christian Worldview: What Is Apologetics?

Part 10 of 28

by William Edgar


Dr. William Edgar lectures in his introduction to apologetics course at Westminster Theological Seminary.

Art: Digital oil render based on original photograph by Benj Haisch, 2015.


Apologetics is to vindicate, commend, and defend the Christian worldview and life system against unbelieving approaches. With this definition, it is critical to know what we as Christians believe and what it is we are presenting.

There are many ways to summarize the Christian faith. One that is very simple but has much potential for apologetics is the structure of creation, fall, and redemption. The beliefs that fall within these three categories are the things Christians believe in.

So what do Christians believe about creation, fall, and redemption?

What Do Christians Believe About Creation?

The creation account begins with, “In the beginning, God….” It goes on to tell how God created the heavens and the Earth, but stopping at this point has extraordinary implications. Only God was there in the beginning. Because He existed first and created all things, it is all about God.

The focus of God’s self-revelation is to have us worship Him and honor Him in all things. We can’t figure out the attributes and being unless we start with that.

In apologetics, the method Christians use could be referred to as the “Christian theistic method.” It means beginning with God. This is called the Archimedian point — the fulcrum — the thing that hinges everything. This comes to its own in Jesus Christ for Christians.

From our position of religious commitment to Jesus Christ, we recognize the origin. Because God is creator, then life and everything has coherent meaning. For Christians, there is a God-centered ground motive that underlies everything.

In the Bible, the existence of God is a given, a fundamental reality. There are no carefully constructed proofs for the existence of God in the Bible. The existence of God is not really a big problem in the Bible.

The bigger problem is who is this God, why do things in the world go wrong, and what does God want from us? Biblical apologetics and the apologetics we will use presuppose God — this eternal, transcendent God.

Now, as creator, He made everything that exists and has life outside of Himself. He is distinct yet connected. This belief is different from other faiths, such as pantheism, which says that everything is God and God is everything.

The Bible says no, there is a fundamental difference between God’s kind of being and the kind of being of everything else. That is a fundamental part of Christian theology and Christian apologetics. Without that, everything falls to the ground.

But God is also connected to us because God reveals Himself, and we are qualified to understand because we are made in His image. God is not a deistic God, separate from His creation. God is present with His creation and gives it meaning. He governs the world providentially by His covenant presence and His will, and His will is good.

God created the world good, and He loves the world because it is the wonderful place that He made. Men and women are made in His image. We have a special place in history. The whole purpose of creation and the drama of redemption is in a major way for and about us.

At this point in the creation story, humans are the creature, God is the creator, the world is good, and humans were created upright.

What Do Christians Believe About the Fall?

After creation was the fall. Rejecting dependence on God, mankind fell into sin and misery. Sin is not only transgression but also a lack of conformity to God’s commands. We idolize the creation and become totally depraved. The idea is not that we are absolutely depraved but that every aspect of us is only evil continually.

Not only have our bodies and our emotions fallen, but our minds have also fallen. Sin affects our thinking, our spirits. We are noetically the victims of sin. The scope of the fall is absolutely enormous.

When we fell, and when we brought the creation with us, we didn’t alter the basic structures of creation. We altered the directions. Why is it that the three areas where things most often go wrong are areas concerning sex, oppression, and crazy worship patterns? Those are the three things God told us to do. Work, get married, and worship Him.

We are the cause behind sin.

What Do Christians Believe About Redemption?

Beginning with the unnecessary but love-driven good mercy of God, from all eternity, we have a plan of redemption, which is totally extraordinary in all its wisdom and dimensions.

It is that without any merit of our own, God sent his only Son to do what Adam failed to do — to suffer for all that we deserved to, the full and unmitigated wrath of God. Through Christ, we are redeemed, freed from our sins, and given eternal life.

This plan of redemption is comprehensive, a thorough re-creation, and it is more than restoration. It is what God originally promised to Adam if he had obeyed, but even more so, because it was accomplished by a Savior who had to die. We are not coming just to a garden but to a new heaven and a new earth.

There is an “already” and a “not yet” to salvation. There is the “already” — Christ died and was raised, we are citizens of Heaven, and we are in regenerate mode. But we are also going to Heaven in the future and are not fully regenerated yet. When we enter Heaven, then we will be glorified and perfect. Not only we, but the whole world, will be redeemed. So redemption is comprehensive.

The Christian narrative of creation, fall, and redemption is all-encompassing. That makes it a worldview. It is also a worldview dependent on God’s revelation. The implications for believers, then, should not be pride but humility. It should not lead you to believe that you have the complete truth, but to realize that you are a miserable person yet the object of God’s love, and your job is to wonder why, thank Him anyway, and share it with others.

The Implications of Christian Beliefs on Epistemology

One of the areas that understandably apologetics wrestles with is the area of knowledge. Because creation prompts us to see God as ultimate, it also prompts us to see His knowledge as ultimate. God is fully rational. That does not mean He thinks like a human being, only better. That means that if we want to know what rationality is, we should go to God, who is fully rational.
Unlike God, human beings are limited and require His help to understand. God condescends to us.

This view can lead to two extremes to avoid believing about how we know.

The first extreme is to say humans know unequivocally or know the same way that God knows. Some Christians believe that though we don’t know quantitatively all that God knows, the part we do know is qualitatively the same. But this cannot be true. Even when we do know, we do not know as God does because He knows all things in a Creator fashion, and we know them in a creaturely fashion.

On the other hand, we could have an equivocal method of knowledge, which means that because we are creatures, we cannot know anything. When God speaks to us, He gives us something we can understand, but it is not the same as what He knows. We don’t really know — God just gives us something helpful.

This can sound like humility, but then we cannot have any assurance that we know anything. This contradicts Scripture. God says in His Word that the truth is in us and that He’s not hard to find. This implies that He is not just accommodating. This type of skepticism, then, does not work either.

A third and better way to understand our form of knowledge is by analogy. Analogy says that we as humans think God’s thoughts after Him. We are creatures, and the mode of our thoughts will always be creaturely, but because God is God and we are made in His image, we can know. We can know truly and not just negatively — we can know God in His essence. We may not know exhaustively, but we know truly.

Another helpful way to understand this is to think of knowledge as a mode — the creaturely mode and the Creator mode.

Within these two modes of thinking, there are discontinuities and continuities. The discontinuities are easy to see — God knows everything that I don’t. God is the original, and I’m a copy. But there are also continuities. We have the same standard of truth, and the truth is about the same objects. God does not deceive us, so He tells us how it really happens. God shares with us a faithful reflection and tale of who He is. We have not figured everything out, but we have put everything in a context and a place. God begins with Himself, so knowing Him makes Him the source of truth.

In conclusion, though you can’t know everything, you can know the truth because you are a creature who can know God and think His thoughts after Him.


William Edgar

Dr. Edgar (DThéol, Université de Genève) is professor of apologetics at WTS.

Next Course Lecture...

Apologetics 101: Thinking God’s Thoughts After Him—Worldviews in Conflict

Part 11 of 28

by William Edgar