Apologetics a branch of theology which has for its object the science of defending Christianity against the assaults of its enemies. A system of Christian doctrines (dogmatics), as such, presupposes the truth of Christianity; the proof of the truth of this presupposition is not a part of the system, and a separate science is needed to establish this proof. Apologetics, as a science, is not identical with apology (q.v.), which is an actual defense of Christianity; but it seeks and teaches the right method of apology; nevertheless, the term is often used in practice to denote the apology itself, as well as the method. The name was first used in German theology (probably by Planck). The scope of apologetics in German theology is nearly the same as that of the evidences (q.v.) of Christianity in English theology, with this difference, that the definition of apologetics lays a greater stress on its position as a separate branch of scientific theology.
I. Relation to Theology. — The true place of apologetics in the circle of theological sciences is not yet definitively settled. Schleiermacher makes it a branch of philosophical theology (Theol. Stud. § 32-42). Tholuck, also, holds that apologetics should be incorporated with systematic theology (Vermischte Schriffen, 1:376). There is some reason for the view of other writers, who place it under the head of biblical criticism, as apologetics must show the genuineness and credibility of the Scriptures; but yet this is only part of its function. Pelt gives it the leading place in systematic theology, as the science of first principles (Encyklopadie, § 62, where also a valuable history of apologetics may be found). Kienlen puts it under the head of practical theology (Encyklop. der Theolog. Wissenschaften, § 84). Hagenbach contends that the study of apologetics cannot be pursued before the student has acquired the elements of exegetical and historical theology. He therefore places it in the third branch of theological science, viz., systematic theology (Encyklopddie, § 81). "Apologetics is treated by Prof. Dorner as an integral part of the system of Christian doctrine, as the first part of dogmatic theology. Its ground lies in the claim of Christianity to be eternal truth — lies in Christianity itself. It is the justification of Christianity in its claim to be the final, absolute religion. It is the justification of Christianity to thought; it shows, or tries to show, that there cannot be conceived a more perfect religion. Christian doctrines, it attempts to prove, are to be received not merely as given, but as truth. The energy and convincing power of truth is an axiom of apologetics. It seeks to reconcile the Logos of the first creation with the historical work of the Logos in his absolute Revelation. Apologetics thus conceived differs from Christian apologies. It started, indeed, with repelling attacks. But these attacks were merely the historical occasion of its existence. It exhibits the Christian religion as self-grounded — self-dependent. It has an offensive as well as defensive work. It seeks to show the inner lack of truth in all thinking which is not Christian. It differs also from a mere philosophy of religion, inasmuch as it draws from historical monuments" (Am. Presb. Rev. Oct. 1862, p. 680). Sack, whose Apologetik (1819) was one of the first to distinguish between apologetics and apology, considers the science properly to be an apologetical handling of systematic theology. "Dogmatics," he says, "is Christian doctrine set forth for Christian thinkers, who look at it as friends; Apologetics (or more properly Apology) is Christian doctrine set forth for non-Christian thinkers, who look at it as enemies." The English writers, who have not generally been careful of scientific form, but look more directly to practical ends, have generally made apologetics a separate branch of study, under the name of Evidences of Christianity. Thus, Watson (Institutes) divides the whole circle of theological sciences into —
1. The Evidences; 2. The Doctrines; 3. The Morals; 4. The Institutions of Christianity; and thus makes apologetics the portal to the whole temple.
So also does Hill, Lectures on Divinity (N. Y. 1847, 8vo).
II. Method of Apologetics. — There are two principal methods, the historical and the philosophical. The first method seeks to vindicate Christianity on the grounds
(a) of criticism, by showing the genuineness and authenticity of its sacred books;
(b) of history, by showing that the great facts of Christianity are part of human history; and
(c), having established these points, by arguing the credibility of the sacred books and
(d) their divine authority, and hence
(e) the binding power on the human intellect of their statements of fact and doctrine. Most English writers on evidence follow the historical method, and divide their material into
(1) external evidence (miracles and prophecy); (2) internal evidence (philosophical).
A line of evidence called presumptive is formed in this way: admitting the existence and attributes of God, it is unlikely that He would leave His creatures in ignorance and wretchedness; and it is likely, also, that, if He should communicate with them, His revelation would present analogies to His works in nature. This is the line of Butler's Analogy, of Ellis, and of Watson, in the first part of his Evidences. A convenient and scientific method is proposed by Warren (Systematische Theologie, Einleitung, § 9), viz., that the task of the science is to show (1) that Christianity is a fact of history; (2) that Christianity is a divine revelation; (3) that Christianity is the power of God unto salvation. "Instead of attempting to deduce the truth of every part of Christianity from the external evidences alone, we have at last learned to begin with Christianity as an undeniable complex of phenomena, needing for its explanation nothing less than the divine agencies it claims. Thus we reason from the character of Christ, from the superhuman excellence of Christian doctrine, from the supernatural effects of this religion in the individual and in the world; giving the external evidences their due subordinate position as mere proofs that what are claimed to be and to have been phenomena of Christianity are legitimately claimed to be such. Discriminating remarks on the two methods, and the advantages of the new one, may be found in Dr. Bushnell's Nature and the
Supernatural, p. 33-35; also Meth. Quar. Rev. July 1862, p. 373-376. The true name for our new treatises on 'The Evidences' is Philosophy of Christianity" (Warren, in Meth. Quar. Rev. Oct. 1863, p. 589). The German writers have followed generally the philosophical method, and of late years the English have also entered more into this field. But there are Anglo-Saxon apologists who do not commence with the historical evidences, and German ones who do not lay the whole stress upon the internal evidences. Indeed, the latest writers in both languages seem to have mutually exchanged the traditional methods of their fathers. Auberlen's Gottliche Offenbarung (1864) would have delighted the heart of even so thoroughly English an apologist as Paley, SEE APOLOGY. On the other hand, Coleridge, who disparaged the comparative value of the evidence from miracles and prophecy, dictated to a friend a scheme of evidences of which the outline is as follows:
I. Miracles, as precluding the contrary evidence of no miracles;
II. the Material of Christianity, its existence and history;
III. the Doctrines of Christianity, and the correspondence of human nature with those doctrines; illustrated, first, historically; with reference to the progress of the race; second, individually, with reference to the wants of each human soul, and the capacity of the Christian doctrines to satisfy those wants (Coleridge, Works, N. Y. ed. 5, 555).
A complete scientific method must unite the two methods (the historical and the philosophical), in order to show that Christianity is not only a religion (among others), but also the religion of humanity. (See Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, 8vo ed. p. 348; and Aids to Reflection, p. 207 sq.; Turretini, Opera, 1:225 sq.; Chalmers, Lectures on Paley, Works, vol. 9; North Brit. Rev, Aug. 1851, art. 2.) The English writers, doubtless, formerly laid too little stress upon the internal and spiritual evidence of Christianity (see Wesley, Works, 5, 758, for a passage of remarkable sagacity on this point); while, on the other hand, the Germans have undervalued the external evidence, and thus opened the way for rationalism and infidelity. Farrar states the historical uses of the two methods as follows: "In all ages the purpose of evidences has been conviction; to offer the means of proof either by philosophy or by fact. In arguing with the heathen in the first age, the former plan was adopted — the school of Alexandria trying to lead men to Christianity as the highest philosophy; in the Middle Ages the same method was adopted under the garb of philosophy, but with the alteration that the philosophy was one of form, not matter. In the later Middle Ages the appeal was to the Church: in the early contests with the Deists, to the authority of reason, and to the Bible reached by means of this process; in the later, to the Bible reached through history and fact: in opposing the French infidelity the appeal was chiefly to authority; in the early German the appeal was the same as in England; in the later German it has been a return in spirit to that of the early fathers, or of the English apologists of the eighteenth century, but based on a deeper philosophy; an appeal to feeling or intuition, and not to reflective reason; and through these ultimately to the Bible" (Free Thought, p. 473). Coleridge remarks as follows upon the state of the Evidences for Christianity in the present age: "The result of my own meditations is, that the evidence of the Gospel, taken as a total, is as great for the Christians of the nineteenth century as for those of the apostolic age. I should not be startled if I were told it was greater. But it does not follow that this equally holds good of each component part. An evidence of the most cogent clearness, unknown to the primitive Christians, may compensate for the evanescence of some evidence which they enjoyed. Evidences comparatively dim have waxed into noonday splendor; and the comparative wane of others, once effulgent, is more than indemnified by the synopsis τοῦ πάντος, which we enjoy, and by the standing miracle of a Christendom commensurate and almost synonymous with the civilized world. I make this remark for the purpose of warning the divinity student against the disposition to overstrain particular proofs, or rest the credibility of the Gospel too exclusively on some one favorite point" (Works, N. Y. ed. v. 428). Fisher, in his Supernatural Origin of Christianity (N. Y. 1866), has some excellent remarks on the method of Apologetics (Essays I and XI). See Bishop Butler's admirable discussion of the "particular" evidence for Christianity in his Analogy of Religion, pt. 2, ch. 7; and compare New York Review, 2:141 sq.; Mansell, in Aids to Faith (Lond. 1861, 8vo), Essay I; Fitzgerald, On the Study of the Evidences (Aids to Faith, Essay II); Princeton Review, 18:359; and the whole subject further treated, with special reference to English methods, in this Cyclopaedia under EVIDENCES SEE EVIDENCES .
III. Of books properly to be called Apologetics, as defined above, there are none in English, though Farrar, Critical History of Free Thought (1863), covers the ground generally. Many manuals of apologetics have been issued in Germany, of which the following are the most important: Stein, Die Apologetik des Christenthums, als Wissenschaft dargestellt (Leipsic, 1824, 8vo); Sack, Christliche Apologetik (Hamburg, 1829, 8vo); Steudel, Grundzzige einer Apologetikfiir das Christenthum (Tübingen, 1830, 8vo); Drey (Romans Cath.), Apologetik als wissenschaftliche Nachweisung des Christenthums in seiner Erscheinung (Mainz, 3 vols. 1838-47, 8vo). On the relation of apologetics to other branches of theology, see Lechler, Ueber den Begriff der Apologetik (Studien und Kritiken, 1839, part 3); Kienlen, Die Stellung der Apologetik (Studien und Kritiken, 1846). On the history' of apologetics, and on the nature of the Christian evidences, see Tzschirner, Geschichte der Apologetik (Leipsic, 1805); Farrar (as cited above); Hagenbach, Encyklopadie d. theol. Wissenschaften, § 81; Heubner, art. Apologetik, in Ersch und Gruber's Encyklop.; Herzog, Real-Encyklopadie, 1:430; Lechler, Geschichte d. Deismus (1841, 8vo); Pelt, Theol. Encyklopadie; McCosh, The Supernatural in relation to the Natural, ch. in (Cambridge, 1862, 12mo); Hampden, Introduction to the Philosophical Evidences of Christianity; Conybeare, Lectures on Theology, ch. 1; Hill's Divinity, ch. 1; Steele, Philosophy of the Evidences (Edinb. 1834, 8vo); Shedd, Hist. of Doctrines, bk. 2; Van Senden, Geschichte der Apologetik (transl. from the Dutch, Stuttgart, 2 vols. 1846, 8vo); Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrines, §§ 28, 29, 117, 157, 238; Beck, Dogmengeschichte, § 32 sq.; Barnes, Readjustment of Christianity (Presb. Quar. Rev. July, 1862). SEE APOLOGY; SEE DEISM; SEE EVIDENCES; SEE RATIONALISM.