[Note: this is an “open post” in the sense that I may be adding to it and revising it later]
The best method of apologetics is a two-step method: (1) first persuade someone that God exists then (2) persuade them that Christian theism is true.
The argument for the thesis:
Christian theism has many beliefs that bare theism lacks. These “extra” beliefs strike atheists as more implausible than bare theism. It is easier to persuade someone of a more plausible position than a less plausible position. Therefore, it should be easier to persuade an atheist of bare theism than Christian theism. Second, It is easier to persuade a bare theist about the truths of Christianity than it is to persuade an atheist about the truths of Christianity. Therefore, it should be easier to first persuade an atheist to become a theist and then a theist to become a Christian.
Something to consider:
The atheist knows where the apologist is going with this. They are looking at your arguments for theism with an eye toward Christian theism. A clear example of this can be seen in the debate between William Lane Craig and Stephen Law. Dr. Craig presented several arguments for theism and two arguments for Christian theism. Dr. Law wanted to dismiss the arguments for bare theism and focus on arguments against Christian theism. Thus most of the debate in the cross-exam focused on attacking Dr. Craig’s Moral Argument with Dr. Law’s Evil God Argument.
So while it may be true from a strictly logical standpoint that claims unique to Christianity may have a better plausibility structure in a theistic worldview and that bare theism has a better plausibility structure than Christianity in an atheistic worldview, we are not logic-producing machines. The psychological, emotional or existential objections an atheist has to Christian theism may not be disentangled from bare theism. I think this is what we often see debates and what I’ve often encountered in my own apologetics.
What do you think? Are there other reasons to favor a two-step method or objections to it (I’m going to examine the basic presuppositional response in a future post)? Other things to keep in mind?