Classical Apologetics: This refers to the defense of the faith using rational arguments for the existence of God, and may use evidence to substantiate biblical claims and miracles. It is very similar to evidential apologetics. A couple of the arguments typically used for the existence of God are the cosmological argument—an attempt to prove God's existence by stating that there has to be an uncaused cause of all things—and the teleological argument—the use of the analogy of design; since the universe and life exhibit marks of design, there must be a Designer.
Comparative Apologetics: While no such category of apologetics actually exists (at least not formally), this refers to the defense of the faith through comparative religions and comparative worldviews. You cannot divorce religion and worldview from each other, otherwise you concede the whole battle to the unbeliever. Christianity shows itself to be superior to all other worldviews in four different categories: philosophy, ideology, comparative religion, and counter-cults.
- Ideology: Ideologies attempt to transform society. Christianity is not an ideology (although some of its eternal ideas do transform society, they transcend such change in terms of their source, scope and ultimate end). Philosophical movements that qualify as ideologies are: Behaviorism, Secular Humanism, Darwinism, Marxism, Feminism, Freudianism and National Socialism.
- Comparative Religion: While this would technically include the other two categories as well, for simplicity we will only include world religions. A world religion is a religion that has been around since the dawn of current world civilizations, and that has shaped civilization in one way or another. This would include: Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Shintoism, Taoism and Orthodox Judaism.
- Counter-cults: Under the term "cult," we typically place the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Oneness Pentecostals, Roman Catholic Church, Seventh Day Adventists, Word-of-Faith Movement, and adherents to Scientology. Walter Martin once put it this way: “The average non-Christian cult owes its very existence to the fact that it has utilized the terminology of Christianity, has borrowed liberally from the Bible (almost always out of context), and sprinkled its format with evangelical clichés and terms wherever possible or advantageous.”1 The distinction could not be made any better than that.
The boundaries between these are arbitrary since they are all religions.
Evidential Apologetics: This refers to the defense of the faith by use of evidence to prove the existence of God, the authenticity of the Bible, the uniqueness of Christ Jesus, the factual nature of the resurrection, and anything else in the history of the church where skeptics cry some sort of cover-up. In other words, one need not presuppose the existence of God. This defense often consists of any or all of the following categories:
- Archaeological Evidence
- Biblical Evidence
- Empirical Evidence: (based on the five senses, which could logically include several of the other categories)
- Historical Evidence
- Scientific Evidence
Typically, evidential apologetics argues for the defense of the faith solely by use of any or all of these categories except biblical evidence, thereby giving up one's authority—the Bible—and undermining one's own position. If one is not careful, one can reduce apologetics, and thus Christianity, to a list of facts and figures that do nothing but ‘educate’ a person. Reason could be given too much importance. Individuals who argue solely from external evidence often do so because their opponent has used the fallacious argument, "You cannot use the Bible to prove the Bible." That is illogical. I am sorry, but if I state that the President of the USA lives in the White House, how can I prove to you that he does live in the White House if you will not allow me to look in the window to show you that he does indeed live in the White House? This is where presuppositional apologetics comes in.
Presuppositional Apologetics: This refers to the defense of the faith by presupposing that the Bible is absolutely true. It presupposes the existence of God, the authenticity of the Bible, the uniqueness of Christ Jesus, the factual nature of the resurrection, etc. The Bible, then, is held to be the ultimate authority, while all other evidences (archaeological, empirical, historical, and scientific) merely help support the Bible's authenticity. External evidence can be and often is used, but the Bible is always maintained to be absolutely true as the final authority on all matters of life.
1 Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, 30.