I am perfectly aware that apologetics as an intellectual enterprise does not produce faith. I am neither Pelagian nor Semi-Pelagian. I recognize the limitations of the human mind and, more importantly, the human will to understand and accept God outside of the sovereign movements of the Holy Spirit.

Having said this, I am a firm believer in the necessity of apologetics as an intellectual defense of the faith. I agree with Os Guinness who says that we don’t have any right to the culture if we cannot intellectually defend our faith. I believe that God often uses apologetics as a means to bring someone to the faith just as he uses the words of men to proclaim the Gospel. God does not really need either, but He uses both. I think it was Aquinas who said, “God has not only chosen the ends, but also the means of salvation.” Therefore, you and I are to be clear when we present the Gospel and intellectually compelling when we defend it. Apologetic sloppiness and intellectual laziness is not an option for the Christian.

Pseudo=false. When we are talking about pseudo-apologetics, we are talking about false apologetics. This type of apologetics could be called pop-apologetics, tabloid apologetics, pseudo-apologetics, or what I like to call “pancake apologetics” (explained more later). Pseudo-apologetics is a false way to defend the faith based upon naive or misleading “evidences” that only serve to take focus away from true apologetics. Before I explain this further, I would like to give examples of what I mean. Here they are:

“I believe Christianity is true because I read this book where someone died, went to heaven, and came back.”

“I believe Christianity is true because there are secret codes found in the Scriptures.”

“I believe Christianity is true because the lost day of Joshua has been found by NASA.”

“I believe Christianity is true because we had a special speaker come to our class and show how the Gospel was written in the stars.”

“I believe Christianity is true because I have seen pictures of Noah’s Ark.”

“I believe Christianity is true because I heard that this guy’s pancake was miraculously in the shape of Jesus.”

“I believe Christianity is true because God spoke to me and told me ______”

“I believe Christianity is true because there are no better options and I have nothing to lose.”

“I believe Christianity is true because I saw a photograph of a cloud which was shaped like Jesus.”

“I believe Christianity is true because there was a statue of Mary crying.”

“I believe Christianity is true because my friend was healed of cancer after praying.”

“I believe Christianity is true because I spoke in tongues.”

“I believe Christianity is true because my church says it is.”

“I believe Christianity is true because my right leg grew two inches.”

My point here is not necessarily to discredit any of these occurrences or beliefs. You might have seen Jesus in your pancake, your friend very well might have been miraculously healed, the Gospel may be written in the stars, your church could be right, and someone might have died and gone to heaven for a short time. My point is that these are not sufficient enough for you to rest your faith on. I have seen to many “miracles” in my life that turn out to be coincidences, misunderstandings, or misinterpretations. As well, I have seen many people’s faith that was founded upon this type of pseudo-apologetic fall apart when they found out that there were better and more plausible explanations for the experiences upon which their faith was based.  God is a God of experience, no doubt. I don’t want to discourage anyone from seeing God’s activity in the world today. But I think we need to be cautious about basing their beliefs upon such things. When we do and when we encourage people to believe based upon such experiences, we set ourselves and others out on sensation seeking voyages where their beliefs and theology rest solely upon personal experience or feeling. This is not safe ground. What happens when science shows that there really was brain activity in the supposedly dead body, they just did not know how to detect it before? What happens when Islam finds Allah in the stars? What happens when your leg does not grow? What happens when you don’t speak in tongues? What happens when the heavens are brass and God’s presence cannot be felt? What happens when you discover your church’s teachings are wrong? If your faith is founded upon these type of trusts and experiences, then your loss of faith will be as well. You will then move on to something else.

On the other hand, if your faith is based upon apologetics that can stand the scrutiny, then it is a different matter all-together. These other “miracles,” valid or not, become window dressings to an unshakable trust.

I believe the starting point for all apologetics, personal or evangelistic, should be the resurrection of Christ. “I believe Christianity is true because Christ rose from the grave.” If Christ rose from the grave, Christianity is true–Period. If Christ did not rise from the grave Christianity is false–Period. All the legs growing and pancake visions in the world, while nice, will add little to your faith. As well, lack of such events will be unable to shake your faith. The resurrection of Christ is the historic foundation of the Christian faith. Paul said as much:

1 Corinthians 15:17
“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”

We often give ourselves and others flimsy apologetics that are easily struck down either by more information or conflicting experience. When this happens, the Christian faith is made to look comical at best and, more often, deceptive.

Not only do these type of events lack apologetic substance, they also lack definite meaning. What does it mean that Mary cried? What does Jesus’ face in a cloud mean? What does it mean that the lost day of Joshua has been found? The resurrection means something. If the resurrection truly happened it means that God is real, holy and righteous, we are sinners in need of a substitute, God really does love you more than you can imagine, there is a future for those who have trusted in Christ, and heaven is real.

If the resurrection really happened, then all these other “pancake apologetics” become “ho-hum apologetics.” I encourage you to grab a good book on the apologetics of the resurrection and spend some time establishing this event as your primary apologetic front, personal and evangelistic. I have listed some books below.

Gary Habermas and Mike Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus

N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God

William Lane Craig, The Son Rises

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    26 replies to "A Warning About Pseudo or “Pancake” Apologetics"

    • Chad Winters

      excellent point Michael, I’ve had Hank Hanegraff’s “The Resurrection” on my to read shelf for awhile, I think I will try it before I buy ANOTHER book (as my wife says)


    • Sean

      I believe the starting point for all apologetics, personal or evangelistic, should be the resurrection of Christ. “I believe Christianity is true because Christ rose from the grave.” If Christ rose from the grave, Christianity is true–Period. If Christ did not rise from the grave Christianity is false–Period.

      I agree wholeheartedly. The resurrection is the center of the Christian message. Most of the other stuff is basically window dressing. I once had some Bible college students who were doing campus ministry ask how they could convince people to believe in the Genesis account of creation. I responded, “Why do you want to do that? Will it save them? Preach Christ crucified and resurrected.”

      N.T. Wright’s book is huge and fabulous. It demonstrates from a moderate critical perspective why we can have confidence in the resurrection. Don’t be put off by the size. Practically every page is golden, so there’s value in reading even just a small section.

    • JoanieD

      All very good points, Michael. I keep hearing about N.T. Wright. I guess I should read one of his books.

      Joanie D.

    • Sean

      Here’s link to a lecture Bishop Wright gave on the subject, “Can a Scientist Believe in the Resurrection?”


      This is of course much shorter than his The Resurrection of the Son of God, which you should be careful lifting if you have back pain. 🙂

      If I may risk a little controversy here, for me this is an example of some of the good results that can come of critical scholarship that are not necessarily possible (or at least easy to arrive at) under some more rigid evangelical paradigms.

    • ChadS

      Apologetics is about intellectually being able to defend our faith. We should have nothing to fear from these exercises since Christianity is the most intellectually defensible of all faiths. Appeals to faith, like the ones you mentioned in your post will only get so far, before those examples give out or are found to be false.

      Two books that I found to be very helpful in my development as a Christian are “More Than a Carpenter” and Josh McDowell’s “Evidence That Demands a Verdict.”


    • Sean

      McDowell’s books have serious limitations. One should be cautious with some of his lines of reasoning. Not to be too forward here, but I notice Michael doesn’t list McDowell in his post, probably for a reason.

      Lessing’s “ugly ditch” in reference to the contingency of historical knowledge need to be respected. Whether we view it as very narrow or quite broad, its existence cannot be denied.

    • buhlly88

      Some people look for a sign or miracle to base their faith upon. The Pharissees were rebuked because they asked Jesus for a sign after he had already shown them plenty of works.

      Luke 11:29 “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah”

      But I’m reminded of Thomas who would not believe that Christ had risen from the dead until he put his hands in the nail marks. John 20:29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

      We will be more blessed for having believed without seeing than because of a sign or miracle that caused us to believe.

    • ChadS


      I haven’t revisted any of McDowell’s work in several years. At the time I read them I wasn’t aware or cognizant of his limitations. I think my recommendation should be taken with Sean’s caveat.


    • Vance

      I will third Wright’s book.

      Also, I agree completely with Michael here. Having been raised in a pentecostal environment (and still attending a pentecostal church for a variety of familial and politic reasons), I have seen too many people base their faith on the “experience” rather than the “rock”.

      But, just because I like being this way . . .

      I have seen at least one respected Christian scholar, Luke Timothy Johnson, indicate that the LITERAL, BODILY resurrection need not have taken place as so many of us understand it. He claims in need not have been physical “resuscitation” of the dead body, but something “else” (I have not quite got a handle on what he is asserting here). I completely disagree with him on this point, but he is a wonderful scholar on many other points and I do respect his teaching in general. So, even on that most “core” of beliefs, faithful Christians can have differing “nuances”.

    • Nick N.


      You said:

      The resurrection means something. If the resurrection truly happened it means that God is real, holy and righteous, we are sinners in need of a substitute, God really does love you more than you can imagine, there is a future for those who have trusted in Christ, and heaven is real.

      Now I personally agree with this but just to play devil’s advocate for a moment I can see someone who is not persuaded by the arguments for Christianity based on the resurrection asking WHY all those things follow if the resurrection is true.

      How does it follow that if Christ was resurrected that we are sinners in need of a substitute?

      How does it follow that if Christ was raised God really exists and possesses those attributes?

      How do we know that God loves us simply because he raised his Son from the dead?

      How does resurrection prove this place called heaven?

      Something to ponder…

    • C Michael Patton

      Great comments all. Thanks for your participation in the blog.

      Great questions Nick. How does the resurrection have the meanings I tied to it?

      I think the answer comes when you ask the question Why? Asking this of the other pseudo-apologetics that I mentioned leaves us with very inconclusive answers. Yet with the resurrection, the answers are inherently tied to the event. The event is the Gospel. Why did Christ rise from the grave? To substantiate his claims (of deity) and become the first fruits of those who would follow. But the resurrection is tied to His death. Why did Christ die? Because we are sinners, God loves us, and God is righteous, therefore, we needed a substitute.

      In short, if the resurrection happened, the entire Gospel is substantiated. If it did not happen, the entire Gospel is false.

      Does that make sense?

    • LukeDNix

      Very good points, Michael.

      Many people already know the story of Jesus’ resurrection. Many academics question its validity because of other stories, such as is written in Genesis 1. The Bible is not a reliable source to them. Why should they believe anything written in the Gospels? They argue that if Genesis 1 is inaccurate, then the whole text must be suspect and therefore cannot believe the resurrection.

      We don’t need to spend time solely on the resurrection. If we insist on spending time only there, then people will think we are trying to hide something, and that will drive them farther away.

      I like to use Genesis 1 and all the scientific evidence to point to the fact that they can trust what is written in the Bible. I then point them toward Christ’s resurrection.

      I believe that it is very important that we establish the Bible as a reliable source first. Then we can point to the specific message.

      No, believing that Creation happened a certain way or in a certain amount of time is not essential to our Salvation. But it is essential to proving to the most educated and influential people that the Bible can be trusted, and THAT will lead to the essential belief of Christ’s resurrection.

    • LukeDNix

      Michael, that makes sense to us as believers. Unbelievers looks at it from the opposite side, though. “If the Bible cannot be backed up scientifically and historically, then the resurrection is not sustained.”

    • C Michael Patton

      That is right. I don’t think we necessarily have to substantiate the resurrection by first saying the Bible is inspired, therefore the resurrection happened. That is why I think those books I referred to are so important. They don’t take this approach.

      The resurrection can be shown to historically defensible if we simply take the 27 ancient documents that you and I call the New Testament along with the dozens of other historical references of the first century and put them to the test of historical verification. If the unbeliever is unwilling to do this, then they have no right to make judgments upon ANY historical issue. Their bias is their guide, not objective historical inquiry.

      Hope that makes sense.

    • LukeDNix

      I will definitely get those books. Do you know of any place on the web that has the “historical references of the first century” all together in one place? I would like to link to them when I am in other forums.

    • C Michael Patton

      Here is a good place to start.

    • Sean

      But there are some of us believers who have more confidence in the resurrection accounts than we do in Gen. 1, and a lot more confidence in it than in some of the OT history passages of questionable morality. The Bible is a very diverse book of books, the inspired witness to God’s revelation and work of redemption, and not all the different events it records have been or can be substantiated to the same degree. The problem with the evangelical paradigm of strict verbal inspiration and total inerrancy is the tendency towards “False in one, false in all.” We should not set up our apologetic preaching so that one who once believed may come to disbelieve in the resurrection because later in life he or she finds the evidence for evolution compelling or encounters doubts about the accuracy of the accounts of the conquest of Canaan. This sadly sometimes happens.

      I’d love to write more but it’s very late over here. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ.

    • Sean

      For clarity, that post was directed towards the area of conversation initiated by Luke. Good night.

    • LukeDNix

      Sean, that’s a very good point. But we are talking about two different things here. You mention someone who already believes. Which, if their faith is shaken, it is the church’s (you and me) responsibility to build them back up firmly. Many times, throwing away something you believe, then reformulating it based on facts will make your belief much stronger and pull you away from false folk theology and tabloid theology. If a fellow believer questions what they believe, it is an opportunity to provide them with a stronger foundation and a more reliable witness. In light of the Great Commission, this should not be feared.

      Now, back to witnessing to people outside the faith…it is our responsibility to accept challenges from sincere unbelievers and defend our faith head-on. But we should not be so over zealous that we do damage to our witness. We must conduct our research thoroughly and defend responsibly- letting no deception to be found in us.

      Another thing, you have to realize that being that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, in the end it will be found to be accurate in all areas. It is against God’s very nature to deceive His followers (or anyone for that matter). As science and archeology have progressed, the Bible has received more evidence for it than against it. This is a trend that will continue.

    • Vance

      I am with Sean on this one. The problem with starting with Genesis 1 for me is that I DON’T believe that it was written as strict literal history or as a scientific explanation of what happened. I believe everything Genesis says, I just don’t think it says what many other Christians think it says. And, I think that attempting to establish the veracity of the Bible’s historicity based on a text that was not meant to be strict literal history is the wrong way to go.

      In fact, I think it does great harm. If you agree with the proposition presented by the secular world that “if Genesis 1 is not accurate literal history, then you can’t trust any part of Scripture”, you are buying into a false dichotomy and an unnecessary apologetic battle (and one I believe can not be won). I think it is more powerful apologetics to assert that there are various possible ways to read Genesis 1 and 2, many of which do not contradict modern scientific thought. Regardless of which approach the Christian apologist takes, this is still a true statement: these alternative approaches do exist.

      By taking this position, you are arguing for the TRUTH of Scripture REGARDLESS of the scientific conclusions, and thus opening a path to belief in Scripture for those who DO accept the scientific models of our past.

      Why draw a line in the sand where none is needed? It seems like you can be creating a stumbling block to the Faith on an issue that is not essential.

    • LukeDNix

      Vance, if you don’t believe what happened in Genesis actually happened, then how can you say that you “believe everything Genesis says”?

      The scriptures have a single meaning. Genesis 1 and 2 CANNOT be read multiple different ways, all being accurate. The law of non-contradiction states that something cannot be both “A” and “non-A” simultaneously. Genesis 1 and 2 have a single meaning. Whether we like it or not. Be it difficult to accept or not. If you allow yourself to this point, you open up to post modernism- which if you can believe whatever you want, what’s the point in arguing for Christ in the first place? If you open up a couple chapters to multiple meanings, you open the story of Christ to the same.

      If the person that one is witnessing to is not concerned with Genesis 1 or 2, then you’re right, it is an unnecessary battle, because it is difficult.

      The reason this line has been drawn is because modern science has taken us there. If we do not stand up to the challenge, we essentially condemn a soul to eternal death- and who are we to make that determination?

      God has given us many powerful resources to bring His Chosen people (even the most doubt-ridden) to Him. We do NOT need to compromise God’s very nature to appease a relentlessly doubting culture just because we are afraid of a difficult challenge. If we do, we deny who God is and what potential work He has started in us.

    • Vance

      Luke, I see no contradiction in Genesis and I only read it one way, and I agree that there is only one CORRECT way of reading it. But, there are different approaches regarding what that correct way actually is. Christians differ on this issue.

      Many Christians, like myself, believe that the Genesis account was never meant to be read as strict literal historical narrative. The two accounts of Creation are two different tellings, in two different styles and for two different purposes and NEITHER of them are intended to give us a literal account or strict narrative of the events. They DESCRIBE historical events, things that happened in the past, but do so using symbolic, figurative and typological language. This should only be expected since it is the only way that people wrote and told stories about their past at the times these accounts were first told and first written.

      What is being told to us in Genesis is a series of TRUE statements about the past (that God created all things, that God created with a plan and purpose, that God created Man in His image, that Mankind Fell, etc), but tells us these things in a way that is very different than we would write “history” today. So, it is entirely consistent for me to believe that everything Genesis is saying is absolutely true and to also believe that it is NOT describing a literal six day creation less that 10,000 years ago.

      And, no, this does not open up any can on worms or put me on a slippery slope to “disbelief” of any other Scripture, since it is not disbelief of ANY Scripture to begin with. It is simply exegesis of what a particular Scripture is telling us. If we determine that Song of Songs was allegorical, we are not putting the rest of Scripture in doubt. If, as Calvin believed, Job was not true history, then this does not create any negative implication for the historicity of Acts or the resurrection.

      We need to take each text on its own terms and determine the best reading. We start with the conclusion that Scripture is TRUE and even INERRANT (as properly defined), and then seek out what TRUTH is being given and how the text IS inerrant.

      I believe many lines in the sand should be drawn, and many essentials need to be firmly held to. A strict literal narrative approach to Genesis 1 and 2, and the “young earth creationism” doctrines which derive out of that approach, are not one of them. And, if there are other, alternative opinions by honest, bible-believing Christians on this point, even if you think they are wrong, would it not be prudent to explain to the unbeliever that these other viewpoints DO exist? Yes, only one of us is right, or possibly neither of us is right, but to assert that your own interpretation MUST be correct and to draw your lines in the sand based on that interpretation seems dangerous in the extreme on a non-essential issue.

    • Josh


      Another thing that I think may be useful in apologetics is the point that was made on one of the “theology unplugged” sessions regarding post-modernism. You described just to be honest with someone, by, in essence saying, “I can’t really “know” for sure, but this makes the most sense given the information we have and what most closely relates to reality.” Then you lead them through your line of reasoning, “this happened…, which caused this…, and this had to happen for this…, so you give the Biblical narrative (this is a scary thought considering the Bible is 85% narrative, might actually be reading it the way it is suppose to be read, lol) in a way that is understandable in a modern context.

      Now to clarify, I am in no way saying that objective truth does not exist, by suggesting that “we can’t really know”, I am merely using the questioners understanding of the term “know”, which (normally) is derived from the use of the scientific method, so in that sense we cannot “know”, but then again, using that definition there are very few things we can “know” that have great value to the human being (i.e. emotions, the soul etc).

      Anyways just my 2 cents.

      Your brother in Christ,


    • Sean

      I agree wholeheartedly with Vance’s post #20 and most of 22.

      Not all Christians theologies–even some good ones!–hold that “the Bible”==”the Word of God” in a one-to-one correspondence. Inerrancy is a deduction (questionable, in my view) from the doctrine of inspiration. It is not an essential belief of the holy faith. It didn’t make the creeds, for instance.

      I’m not interested in persuading anyone to move away from inerrancy, but its dangers in apologetics need to be realized. Michael brought out some of these in a post a few weeks ago. An apologetic centered around the a priori assumption of inerrancy is dangerous to the one witnessing and to the one being witnessed to. Our witness should not depend on how we interpret Gen. 1 (which I understand as absolutely beautiful doxology and theology but not science) or whether or not we can demonstrate the historicity of Esther.

      A strong case can be made for the resurrection and the salvific value of the work of Christ, and some of the books mentioned above go into that case without recourse to appeals to inerrancy. We should accept that people can come to faith on that basis (Rom. 10:9-10), and once they are “in,” not insist that they accept full inerrancy in order to be true believers.

    • […] don’t know. It sounds like folk theology to me as well. As I said in a previous blog, this type of mindset is common no matter where you are. In other words, it is not an East or West […]

    • T. D. Webb

      CMP, another ironic aspect of “pancake apologetics” might be the tendency of its adherents to “waffle” on their assertions . . . or maybe not! ;^)

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