What is Apologetics?

Apologetics may be simply defined as the defense of the Christian faith. The word “apologetics” derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used as a speech of defense or an answer given in reply. In ancient Athens it referred to a defense made in the courtroom as part of the normal judicial procedure. After the accusation, the defendant was allowed to refute the charges with a defense or reply (apologia). The word appears 17 times in noun or verb form in the New Testament, and both the noun (apologia) and verb form (apologeomai) can be translated “defense” or “vindication” in every case.

Monday, February 1, 2010

What is Rationalism?

Last week, we looked at one side of the faith and reason discussion from side of "blind faith" (fideism). This week, we look at it from the other side of the debate.  

Many atheists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Unitarian Universalists, and liberal "Christians" would fall under the category of rationalism.  What does rationalism mean?

Rationalism: Conviction that reason provides the best or even the only path to truth. In philosophy, rationalism as an epistemological theory is often contrasted with empiricism, which emphasizes the role of sense experience in the acquisition of truth. In this context reason is understood narrowly as a faculty distinct from sensation and memory. Rationalist philosophers of this type include Renee DesCartes, Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried Liebniz.

In theology the term rationalism often designates a position that subordinates revelation to human reason or rules out revelation as a source of knowledge altogether. In this sense an empiricist can be a rationalist who gives precedence to human reason over revelation (understanding reason here in the broad sense that includes such faculties as sensation and memory). (Source: C. Stephen Evans. Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002, s.v. "rationalism".)

Note: Next week we will look at what is meant by revelation.

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