• Patti Trotti

Yes, Saint Teresa of Avila was an apologist.


by Patti Trotti / May 10, 2021


The writings of Saint Teresa of Avila (not to be confused with Saint Teresa of Calcutta!) are considered to be primary sources of arguments for the existence of God. Her writings are sometimes quoted by other Christian apologists. One example is found in Lee Strobel’s The Case for Faith, in his interview with philosopher Peter Kreeft, who quotes Saint Teresa’s words, “In light of heaven, the worst suffering on earth, a life full of the most atrocious tortures on earth, will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel.”


There are different apologetics systems that are catalogued according to the types of arguments they use as evidence for the Christian faith. Some examples are Classical, Experiential, Historical, Evidential, and Presuppositional. These categories vary somewhat, depending on whose cataloguing system is referenced. Teresa of Avila’s teachings would fall under the category labeled ‘Experiential’ (or ‘Subjective,’ or ‘Mysticism’.) In Christian Apologetics: An Anthology of Primary Sources, a chapter from one of Saint Teresa’s books is included as an argument for the existence of God under the heading ‘Religious Experience.’ (Other sections have headings such as ‘The Cosmological Argument,’ ‘The Teleological Argument,’ ‘The Ontological Argument,’ etc.) Other apologists who are often included in the ‘Experiential’ category are Karl Barth, Sören Kirkegaard, and Earl E. Barrett.


While all models of apologetics recognize personal experience and a relationship with God, apologists who ascribe to experiential apologetics appeal primarily, if not exclusively, to experience as evidence for Christian faith. These experiences can range from religious to mystical, and from merely subjective to biblically unsound. Saint Teresa was a post-Reformation mystic whose teachings are viewed as biblically unsound, especially when it comes to the authority of Scripture itself.


Saint Teresa expressed a deep love and devotion to Christ in her writings, and can be respected as an experiential Christian apologist. Her teachings continue to have influence among Christians today; however, this influence is largely experienced by those who are fascinated with mysticism—a teaching that undermines Scripture’s authority, and should therefore be studied with caution. Orthodox Christianity holds that Scripture—not personal experience—has the ultimate authority in the life of every believer. This is known in Protestantism as sola scriptura.


Our personal religious experiences and testimonies do have value, but they should always be filtered through the lens of Scripture, which is God’s special revelation to us—our final authority.


You can read more about the history and teachings of Saint Teresa here: https://www.challies.com/articles/the-false-teachers-teresa-of-avila/


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