What good are Christian apologists and philosophers? I have argued elsewhere that we provide strength for our Christian brothers and sisters. However, many people, I suspect, are not too impressed by this. There may be a sense of piety to believe without any (or even in spite of the) evidence; perhaps, for some, the very idea of raising questions in this arena is unacceptable. What’s the overall practical benefit to Christian philosophy and apologetics?
Setting aside the fact the direct impact on believers is small numerically, there is a definite benefit to evangelism. The Trinity functions as a good example. There are four main categories of objections to Christian belief (just indulge me!). First, there are factual objections. These objections state, as a matter of fact, Christianity doesn’t line up with the way the world is. Second, there are rationality objections. These objections say we don’t (or can’t) know whether Christianity is true, but that Christians are acting irrationally by believing in God. Third, there are emotional objections that essentially state someone’s dislike of Christianity. Finally, there are logical objections. These deal with the coherency of Christian belief.
This is where the Trinity comes in. One will encounter adherents of many other religions. These people find the doctrine of the Trinity extremely strange, if not logically contradictory. For them, it’s no more possible that the Trinity could be true than that 2+2=76! Many may be stuck here. What a Christian philosopher/apologist can do is engage in evangelism on the front lines. She can defend the Trinity from objections such as these!
A complaint often heard from Muslims is that the Trinity is a form of polytheism and thus cannot be monotheistic. So long as this objection remains, they will not convert. The answer is to reply, “One what plus one what?” If they say “God,” then that just begs the question against Trinitarianism (e.g., Trinitarianism doesn’t claim, for example, that the Trinity is composed of three gods, so to present it this way is just to assume what one is trying to prove). If they say, “being,” we can again reply that the Trinitarian conception is “one God and three persons.”
While Trinitarian discussions can go on and on, the point is that a simple objection that may throw some believers can be handled on the front lines of evangelism by the Christian philosopher/apologist. If there are practical benefits to having Christian philosophers on the front lines, then there are consequences to their absence. In the future, if we do not have Christian philosophers involved in the Great Commission, the state of the church will be very poor indeed.