Writing Strategies for Apologetics
It is normal for apologetics papers to take the form of an essay written in the third person. However, it is acceptable to use other useful formats, such as a dialog or a personal letter addressed to your interlocutor.
Your paper should include a fair and careful summary of the opposing position and incorporate the two basic elements of the transcendental argumentative structure. These two basic elements can be worked out in a variety of ways.
One way is to carry out a point-by-point refutation of the opposing view, demonstrating inconsistencies. Or you might engage the opposing view by empathizing with that view’s concerns and showing how only Christian presuppositions can uphold and satisfy these concerns.
Whatever you do, you want to present the gospel in a way that will address the specific concerns of the opposing position. Consult your syllabus and your professor to determine what particular approach is most appropriate for your topic.
Common Problems in Apologetics Writing
Problem: Maintaining a disposition of humility and charity
Unfortunately, apologists are often so absorbed in the argument that their writing fails to exhibit Christian humility and grace. The tone of your writing should be peaceable, friendly, and winsome, assuming the best of anyone with whom you disagree and taking pains to avoid sarcasm and other arrogant comments.
Because your primary goal is to present Christ, an unchristian tone or attitude would discredit your presentation. Instead, you must maintain humility before God, before the difficulties of theological and philosophical questions, and before the author to whom you are responding.
Problem: Difficulty understanding and applying the transcendental method
For an abbreviated synopsis of the transcendental approach, see The Structure of a Transcendental Argument. For a fuller description of the transcendental approach, see Apologetics Resources.
Problem: Fairly representing an opposing argument
One must always be careful to represent opposing arguments accurately and charitably. Accurate representation of an opposing argument is important both to the soundness of your own arguments and to your power to persuade your reader.
A good test to see whether you have fairly represented the opposing view is to ask, “Would a person who holds this position agree with the way I have presented it?” If the answer is no, then you have failed to represent the position adequately. Your representation should be clear and unmixed with critique or argument.
Problem: Dangerous inferences
Because the presuppositional approach involves assessing the implications and presuppositions of ideas, analysis entails an inferential movement of thought from what a given writer says to the implications of what is said. Such inference is necessary, but it involves two dangers.
1. The inference may be wrongly assessed.
2. The inference may be correctly assessed, but the implication is treated as if it had been directly stated by the author. If this error is made, you may assign to the author ideas, beliefs, or motives that are foreign to the author’s mind.
For example, you may think that an atheistic worldview fails to provide the ethical grounding for human rights. To charge the atheist author with not caring about human rights may be not only a distortion of his position but an uncharitable personal attack.
Your writing should therefore evidence a clear distinction between what an author explicitly says and what you believe must be the implications of your opponent’s ideas.
- Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis, by Greg L. Bahnsen
- Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended, by Greg L. Bahnsen
- Always Ready, by Greg L. Bahnsen
- Reasons of the Heart, by William Edgar
- Christian Apologetics, by Cornelius Van Til, edited by William Edgar
- The Defense of the Faith, by Cornelius Van Til, edited by K. Scott Oliphint
- "Presuppositional Apologetics," by John Frame, in Five Views on Apologetics
- Reasons for Faith, by K. Scott Oliphint
- The Battle Belongs to the Lord, by K. Scott Oliphint
- Revelation and Reason, K. Scott Oliphint and Lane G. Tipton, eds.
- Monergism is a website that provides links to a number of essays discussing presuppositional approaches to apologetics.
- ReformedForum offers discussions on a wide range of apologetic topics including theology, philosophy, and arts and culture, from a Reformed perspective.
- Westminster students are encouraged to vist it the CTW Kees site for apologetics paper guides, sample papers, and more.
Other "Writing an Apologetics Paper" topics:
Writing an Apologetics Paper Home
Topic Development and Research
Building Your Argument
Becoming a Theological Writer Home