There are two primary approaches to apologetics, or as J Warner Wallace would suggest, “case making” since that term makes more sense to the modern world. The first is commonly referred to as “Evidentialism” and the second as “presuppositionalism,” and there has been (at times) heated debates between theologians as to which approach is correct. Ultimately I find both approaches to be useful.
I could liken both arguments to tree houses. When I was a kid, I loved to climb the tree next door (we didn’t have an adequate climbing tree in our front yard), and the biggest problem for us was never going up the tree, it was coming back down. If we were to imagine an entire neighborhood full of tree houses, we have a useful (though not perfect) analogy to these two methodologies. Evidentialists point to the strength of the Christian tree’s trunk – the evidence for the resurrection. The Aforementioned J Warner Wallace and Lee Strobel are good examples of Evidentialist case makers on the lay-level, Habermas and Licona on the technical level. This approach matches the early declaration of the gospel as recorded in Acts. Since the Christian faith is rooted in the historicity of the resurrection, this approach focuses on making sure we understand that evidence – sometimes Christians forget how we collectively ended up in the tree in the first place. Evidentialism goes back to the basics of the Christian Faith.
Presuppositionalism on the other hand would be like us, sitting in our Christian tree, trying to convince everyone else that our tree is better than all of the other trees. Presuppositionalists often focus on arguments that seem secondary at first. The moral argument for God is an example, but Ken Ham (along with his ministry Answers in Genesis) operates from a presuppositionalist approach in regards to Creation Science. Presuppositionalists argue from the Christian worldview and compare it to other approaches. One of their invaluable contributions is the distinction between facts and the process of developing bias. To shift my analogy, Facts are bricks, and our beliefs and presuppositions are like the blueprints for the buildings we create. Presuppositionalists demonstrate that our buildings are ultimately more stable than those created by other systems because we have better blueprints.
So which type of case should we build? My suggestion is both. The Christian faith is rooted in the resurrection of Christ; the positive case for Christ is based in the historicity of that fact. However, if Christianity is true, then it has ramifications that go beyond history. As such, Christianity should be able to use other arguments because of their inherent veracity to point others to the Savior. These approaches may be used in tandem, the moral argument might open someone to listening to the evidence of the resurrection. Likewise, when discussing the evidence of the resurrection, we can presuppositionally answer other objections raised to the gospel. So how do you answer the questions of the faith?