Reflections on A Biblical-Theological Apologetic

by | Jan 16, 2017

If you are looking for the method “Biblical-Theological Apologetics” in apologetic literature, you will not find it. This particular article reflects my own thoughts around apologetic method and how those thoughts shift as I grow in my own thinking and continue to reflect on this sometimes complex field of study. The more I learn about theology, philosophy, logic, and apologetics, the more humble I become. My approach is nearly identical to Van Tillian presuppositionalism with the caveat that I am not convinced that the transcendental proof for Christianity employed in that method actually serves as proof that Christianity is true. I am not contending that it does not at this point. I remain a little more reserved in what I think the presuppositional method can actually accomplish. Moreover, as I have read the literature and grown in my own understanding of logic and philosophy, it seems to me that an appeal to “the impossibility of the contrary” as the ultimate demonstration that Christianity is true is in the end, an appeal to the laws of logic as proof for Christian theism. I find such an approach to be potentially inconsistent with the claim that the ultimate authority for truth is Scripture alone. It seems that presuppositionalism spends most of its time objecting to such strategies.

In the end, I wonder if an unregenerate mind should be capable of understanding “the impossibility of the contrary” apart from divine intervention. Is the unregenerate mind capable of understanding transcendental arguments like TAG? It seems to me then, that it is quite possible that the method may be inconsistent with the very Christian worldview it seeks to defend. At the same time I must ask, “who am I” to hint at such a criticism of minds who are clearly superior to my own? But then I think, if the ultimate proof of ‘knowing God’ is the testimony of God Himself, how can it be the case that the laws of logic can turn out to be the ultimate proof for Christian belief. If the laws of logic prove Christian belief, then the unbeliever ought to be able to understand Christian belief without supernatural intervention, that is, apart from the illumination of the Spirit. How is this use of the laws of logic different from the use of natural theology in the other camps of apologetic method? At the end of the day, while I find the presuppositional approach superior to other apologetic methods, I tend to think that it is not quite hitting the mark in the way that some of its proponents claim. I am convinced it is the right method, biblically speaking, but I doubt that it’s holy grail, TAG, really can deliver on its promise: prove that Christianity is true from the impossibility of the contrary. Certainly TAG can do this, but not without some qualification. And that qualification is precisely the problem: criteria. If I accept the basic claims of TAG, then it will succeed. If I do not, it will not succeed. Does that mean we throw it away? Of course not. I think it means that we reframe it in a way that is more accurate, in a way that truly reflects what it is doing. TAG seeks to demonstrate the utterly irrational position of non-Christian thought. It takes any non-Christian view on metaphysics, epistemology, and morality and demonstrates that such a view cannot be successfully integrated into a coherent and cohesive worldview. Taken one by one, any non-Christian view of the world reduces to irrationalism because each one entails contradictory and arbitrary beliefs that cannot be successfully worked out. On this point, there is no better method to show the unbeliever the folly of his beliefs than TAG.

One of the major reasons for my dissatisfaction with the presuppositional approach as outlined by Van Til and Bahnsen is the content of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. In chapters one and two, Paul clearly emphasizes the antithesis that exists between Christian and non-Christian thought. I think it is here in this text that the Christian apologist must begin his project. For if the apologist remembers what Paul affirms here, not only will he reduce the level of his frustration, he is more likely to engage in this the discipline of apologetics in a manner that is consistent and faithful with the word of the gospel he seeks to defend.

Many theologians have claimed that human beings are inherently religious. If they do not worship the true God, then they worship false gods – themselves, or things of their own making. On this view a human being is never religiously neutral; he is always either a faithful servant or a rebel against the Creator.

Evans, C. Steven. Michael L. Peterson, ed., Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, fifth ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 121.

Evans’ view seems to accord perfectly with Paul’s point about the idolatrous nature of sinful men described in Romans 1.

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