William Beauchamp—On the Urgency of Christian Apologetics for Our Time

Here are some words of exhortation that have special application to the events and conditions of our present tumultuous age:

At a time like this, when the principles of depravity operate with so much violence, as to throw the world into a state of high fermentation; when the scum of human society, and the dregs of corruption, are thrown up to public view; when the sense of moral rectitude is so lost, that even this scum and these dregs, instead of being seen with abhorrence, have become objects of public admiration; when so many false doctrines are advanced, and infidelity, libertinism, vice and impiety make such a bold stand against truth and righteousness; when the judgments of God are collecting from almost every quarter, and bursting on the earth from almost every direction; when the last plagues designed to exterminate the mystery of iniquity are poured out; when revolutions, greater than have ever taken place in the world, are apparently at hand; at a time like this, how necessary the study of the Christian Religion! Danger seems increasing every moment: caution should keep pace with it. But whence, in this eventful day, can we draw the principles of caution, prudence and wisdom, if not from the Gospel of Jesus Christ? And can we with diligence seek these principles, and with confidence exercise them, unless we have firm faith in the truth of our Holy Religion?

This is from the author’s preface to William Beauchamp’s classic work Essays on the Truth of the Christian Religion, published in 1811. Beauchamp was born on today’s date, April 26, in 1772. He died in 1824. For the complete text of William Beauchamp’s book, click here. Others born in 1811 include:

  • Horace Greeley
  • Robert Bunsen
  • Henry James, Sr.
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • William Makepeace Thackeray
  • Franz Lizst

1811, and those leading up to and following in succession, was a year of worldwide unrest and disillusionment. Not unlike our own times. The first decade of the century marked the unofficial end of the Enlightenment. Thomas Jefferson’s presidency ended in 1909. He was succeeded by James Madison, who would preside over the War of 1812. This did not go well; the British would set fire to the White House in 1814. Charles Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), had published his famous work Zoonomia from 1794 to 1796. The mood began to shift gradually toward those doctrines of natural selection and survival of the fittest that would be make the grandson famous some fifty years later. But the spirit of evolution was not strong or threatening enough to elicit treatment in Beauchamp’s apologetic. There were notable advances in culture. To name just one, Beethoven was hard at work composing his symphonies.

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About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

4 Responses to William Beauchamp—On the Urgency of Christian Apologetics for Our Time

  1. Pingback: Really Recommended Posts 5/15/15- Noah’s Flood, World Religions, Canaanites, and more! | J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason"

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  3. Mark says:

    >> The first decade of the century marked the unofficial end of the Enlightenment.

    I’m with Robert Darnton, who wrote “We live in an age of inflation: inflated money, inflated grades, inflated letters of recommendation, inflated reputations, and inflated ideas. The general puffery has affected our understanding of the movement at the beginning of modern political culture, the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, because it, too, has been blown up to such a size that it would not be recognized by the men who first created it. … the Enlightenment was less than the sum of its philosophical parts, and few of the philosophes were original philosophers.”

    But he’s most certainly right that “Whoever has a bone to pick or a cause to defend begins with the Enlightenment.”

    I don’t think what the Enlightenment was is as important as the fact that people think they know what it was and react to this image of it in very extreme ways. Greg, it isn’t so much that Christians want to change the world, for those that do, but that they think it already has been changed fundamentally by modernity. I think in some sense many Christians who believe this have been led to think of this supposed change as a type of postlapsarian fall. Driven by academics in or influenced by the social sciences who become leaders in the academy/Church, this understanding (what I’d call romantic alienation) becomes almost a shadow of the Fall. It is a form of idealism that sees itself as countering a prior idealism. So they’re not trying to change the world, but just to restore or reform it. It’s all bunk, but I’m just telling you what it seems to me these folks believe. It magnifies a natural human tendency to see a past golden period, after which things went bad. The same as it ever was. The ancient Greeks thought the same. When life was good and people agreed with each other, with more shared understandings, and on and on. Before the Enlightenment (after which we think of ourselves as “brains on a stick,” or so the story goes), before computers, before smartphones, before smartwatches, blah blah blah.

    I haven’t had the chance to read the book about the New Apostolic Reformation, so I guess I’d better do that, but I know many cultic Christian groups posit a corruption in the third or fourth century in the church that they’re supposedly trying to counter. Some scholars have persuasively made the case that the Puritan’s primitivism was a far larger component of the movement than we tend to think, but times do change and I just can’t imagine any good at all coming out of any cranky rejectionist movements at this point in history. They all look evil to me.

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  4. Greg Logan says:

    People always think “things” are so bad now… Having been some student of history, you will find quotes like this even from the ancient Greeks and I am sure long before. The world is the world – I remain at loss as to why evangelicals want to change the world. Only Jesus Christ does that one by one.

    Love the harsh Baptist preaching here…:-)

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