A living list of past and present apologists. Provided by Beilby’s Book. This page is mainly to provide a link reference point when these persons are referred to elsewhere on the site.
Anselm (1033-1109) – most of his works address the relationship between faith and reason.” faith is a restless form of knowledge, always in search of the intrinsic motivations that account for its data and make them able to be assimilated to a man’s faculty of understanding.”
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) – His goal was to incorporate the insights of Aristotelian philosophy into Christianity and, in so doing, provide an authentically Christian alternative to Averroes and his Greco-Arabic worldview. He distinguished between beliefs that could be known through human reason and those that must come from divine revelation or acceptance by the church’s authority.
St. Augustine (354-430) – his apologetic works are unique in their systematic and holistic nature. He seeks to locate his approach to defending the faith in a thoroughly developed philosophical and theological framework.
Karl Barth (1886-1968) – the best and only apologetic is to present God’s revelation as the witness of faith against unbelief. The best apologetics is good theology
Joseph Butler (1692-1752) is the best-known and most highly respected defender of Christianity against deism. The goal was to show that the concept of divine revelation is not unreasonable. Arguments were inadequate against atheists but exposed inconsistencies of deists.
John Calvin (1509-1564) – his writings held much by apologetic relevance, the Scripture starting point for apologetics. He argued that one who contemplated God’s creation could come to the knowledge of God’s existence, power and goodness; no true atheists (sensus divinitatis – an innate sense of God).
Henry Dodwell (1700-1742) – a unique approach. It is inappropriate to base faith on rational argument, for religion cannot be postponed while reason cautiously weighs the evidence and computes probabilities.
Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1583-1648) – sought to end the rampant religious strife manifested in the Wars of Religion with a shared commitment to reason.
two fundamental ideas:
1) all aspects of religion must be rigorously proved before the bar of reason; those that cannot must be rejected
2) the chief value of religion is found in providing a foundation for morality
John Locke (1632-1704) – argued not only that God’s existence could be rationally demonstrated but that it must be that revelation cannot conflict with reason and that rational proofs must guarantee its authenticity.
Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) – the goal was not to argue for a concept directly but to talk about it to assist people in coming to the truth on their terms (similar to Pascal). Faith is ultimately irrational in human terms. Apologetics should not focus on arguments but lived experiences.
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) – “everyman’s theologian.”
Martin Luther (1483-1546) – Reason could only raise objections and engender doubts; it could do nothing to direct one toward spiritual truth. Luther’s burden was to make sure that people did not think they could prove their religious beliefs using reason alone. Ministerial use of reason might fruitfully aid the faithful in their interpretation of Scripture and the articulation and defense of the truths found in it.
Justin Martyr (100-165) – the first well-known Christian apologist in the early church; efforts must be judged to be a mixed bag, has some solid cases and some weak/wrong cases. The magisterial use of reason – reason stands over and rules the Christian faith.
John Henry Newman (1801-1890) – convert to Catholicism. Reason unconstrained by external authority is liable to profound error and even idolatry. People make decisions regarding religious beliefs based on a complex set of attitudes, tastes, preferences, assumptions, and ways of approaching questions
Origen (184-254) – his work represents a significant step forward in developing Christian apologetics. He does not merely argue that Christianity should be politically or intellectually tolerated; instead, he launches a well-developed counteroffensive against a range of Jewish and pagan arguments against Christianity. Peter the Venerable (1094-1156) – one of the most influential religious apologists of the Middle Ages.
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) – mathematician and physicist. After conversion in 1655 became arguable the best & most influential apologist of the Enlightenment. His approach was way ahead of its time in that it took into account different personalities and learning styles.
Alvin Plantinga (b. 1932) – “greatest philosopher of the last century.” “The main function of apologetics is to show that from a philosophical point of view, Christians and other theists have nothing for which to apologize.”
Herman Samuel Reimarus (1694-1768) – (deist) goal was to refute Christianity’s irrational, supernatural elements.
Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) – father of modern theology. Forged an uneasy alliance between the emphasis on the personal relationship of God and a focus on reason. His apologetic consisted of two steps:
1) religion is necessary to human life, and
2) Christianity is the best religion
Richard Swinburne (b. 1934) – devoted himself to developing arguments for the existence of God. The goal is to “use the criteria of modern natural science, analyzed with the careful rigor of modern philosophy, to show the meaningfulness and justification of Christian theology.”
Cornelius Van Til (1894-1987) – among most influential & controversial apologists. Presuppositionalism faith is based not on reason but the fact of God’s existence.