1 Peter 3:15, has long been referred to as the “Magna Carta,” when it comes to the area of Christian apologetics. Within 1 Peter 3:15, most translators define the Greek word apologia as “defense.” If we are called to defend the hope that is within us, or as Jude states, to earnestly contend for the faith, then it is only reasonable and logical to examine the application of this truth. 1 Corinthians 10:31, states that whatever we do, we do it all to the glory of God. Scripture itself attest’s to its origin from God, while providing instruction and training in righteousness. God specifically admonishes us to rightly handle this word of truth, in order that we might not be ashamed. If not for the very profound and earnest manifestation of God’s glory, the question of apologetic taxonomy must not be neglected, but rather diligently examined in light of Scripture.
I will very briefly examine five different apologetic methodologies, and then transition to a more detailed discussion, defending what I believe to be the most biblical method for the defense of the faith. I’ve been able to examine each of these methodologies at length, however for the purpose of this discussion, I will only provide a detailed advocacy of what I believe to be the most effective and biblical approach.
Classical apologists, are one such approach, which attempts to glorify God in their defense of the faith. Classical apologists adhere to a two-step approach in apologetics. This system seeks to begin apologetics with arguing for the existence of God apart from special revelation, a process known as natural theology. Classical apologists, in the second step, by use of human reason through evidences, place less emphasis on the noetic effects of sin, while transitioning to the truth of Christianity. Thomas Aquinas, R.C. Sproul, and William Lane Craig, are examples of classical apologists.
Evidentialism, is another very common view held by believers, earnestly contending for the faith. Where Classical apologists posit, that apologetics must begin with natural theology before presenting evidence’s in step two, Evidentialism is characterized more as a “one-step” taxonomy. The evidentialist, proffers that historical evidence’s are able to propose God’s existence and to offer a greater probability for which theism is true. John Warwick Montgomery, J.P. Moreland, and Gary Habermas, are all contemporary examples of evidentialist’s.
Another area of apologetic approaches, is that of Fideism. Fideism proponents, assert that truth of Christianity, cannot and should not be justified by any rational means. Advocates of Fideism as the etymology of the word suggest, faith alone separate of any type of reason provides apprehension of Christian truth. Blaise Pascal, Soren Kierkegaard, and Karl Barth, are examples of Fideist’s apologists.
Reformed Epistemology is a somewhat more recent development in the question of apologetic taxonomy. Philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorf, and William Alston, have championed this perspective for defending Christianity. Reformed Epsitemologist’s argue that it is plausible to believe that God exists without reasons, and Christians are within their epistemic right to believe in God, because “belief and God is properly basic.”
The last approach I will briefly examine before making my comprehensive case, is that of Cumulative Case Apologetics. Cumulative Case Apologist’s posit that the defense of the faith is more of a “best explanation” approach. This approach is rational in its methodology, however it does not take the form of an argument, while presenting its probable case similar to a brief that a lawyer brings. G. K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and Paul D. Feinberg are several examples of this approach.
As the old saying is often quoted, “save the best for last.” I believe without equivocation, that the apologetic method defined as Presuppositional Apologetics, is the most effective, but more importantly proper biblical approach to “doing apologetics.” As I stated previously, God is demanding from us that we seek to glorify him and all that we do, and our defense of the faith is no exception. Throughout the rest of this discussion, I will outline four elements of the Presuppositional approach and why I believe it is the answer to 1 Peter 3:15, and 1 Corinthians 10:31. These four elements will consist of: God’s glory in His certain existence, the nature of man in conjunction with the myth of neutrality, the power of the gospel in union with apologetics, and the transcendental argument for God.
As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we by the grace of God desire His glory over all things. The apostle Paul in the book of Philippians, stated that he counted everything as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus as Lord. If 1 Peter 3:15, is our foundational verse for apologetics, then one may ask what is the foundation of this verse alone. Before we are commanded to make a defense, we are commanded to “set apart Christ as Lord.” Peter, while under the inspiration of the Spirit of God makes his point crystal clear. If one is to be properly prepared to make a defense of the hope within, the Lordship of Christ must be the ultimate commitment of one’s heart.
John 8:58, Jesus made a certain claim to be God, when he answered, “before Abraham was born, I am.” Luke 1:4, states that we may have certainty concerning the things that have been taught. In Peter’s sermon at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, we see the proclamation that the house of Israel may know for certain that God had made Jesus both Lord and Christ. If the glory of God is our ultimate objective in apologetics, then we are forced to ask the question, can God be presented as a mere probability. My answer, and I believe the text of the self-attesting word of God, answers with conviction in the negative. Cornelius Van Til, posited that for an argument to serve as a “witness” to the one and only certain God who cannot but exist, it cannot offer any other theistic example.
Psalm 14:1, is clear when it informs us that the fool says there is no God. Scripture tells us in the book of Proverbs chapter 1, that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, while Colossians chapter 2, speaks to the treasures of wisdom and knowledge that only emanate from the Lord. Herein lies the question, why do so many apologists speak to the fool as if he fears the Lord, and is equipped with spiritual wisdom and knowledge from God. The Presuppositional apologist seeks to set apart Christ as Lord and glorify Christ above all things, by not appealing to the fallen and depraved man as a neutral judge. Consequently, he operates according to the self-attesting word of God, which places Christ as the absolute and certain authority and judge over man. It is my strong conviction based upon our ultimate goal of God’s glory in apologetics, that the Christians presupposition of the certain God of the self-attesting Scriptures is absolutely essential to our task.
The nature of man in conjunction with the myth of neutrality is the second point, which I would assert fully supports the Presuppositional approach. The Apostle Paul’s Areopagus address in Acts 17, has long been examined as a proper framework in the practice of apologetics. One aspect pertaining to the nature of man, which is highly indispensable to our practice of defending the faith, is that of man’s innate knowledge of God which he chooses to suppress. As one examines the text of Scripture in this account, we see Paul’s appeal to this inexorable knowledge of God which all men have in light of being created in His image and in virtue of His revelation through nature and history.
Romans 1:18-20, distinctly proclaims that man in his condition of abiding wrath, clearly knows and perceives God, and is therefore without excuse because of his willful suppression of truth. John Calvin referred to this knowledge as the “sensus divinitatus,” or sense of Divinity innately within all human beings.
The Presuppositionalist understands that God does not need to be proven, because the unbeliever already knows God. Furthermore, another area of strength that conjoins with the nature of man and his knowledge of God, is the myth that the fallen man is neutral in his reasoning. 1 Corinthians 2:14, enlightens the believer that the natural person cannot understand the things of God. Jesus himself in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 6, apprises us that no one can serve two masters, referring to God and money. However, the application applies to a greater extent, as we see further admonition from our lord in Matthew 12:30. It is here we see the Lord make a clear delineation that he who is not with Him is against Him. Whether it is Romans chapter one, three, five, or the previous examples, the testimony of Scripture is clearly apparent that man is completely presupposing against God and is not neutral. The apologist who allows the unbeliever to evaluate arguments for God as if he is neutral, should not be surprised when he takes this loaded gun, and turns it around to use upon him. To neglect the significance of the noetic effects of sin, the apologist fails to understand the nature of man and consequently accepts the myth of neutrality. Once again, the Presuppositional approach does not fail in these tasks, and continues to operate with the biblical upper hand.
Many within different apologetic camps refer to the task of apologetics as pre-evangelistic work. My grave concern with this type of terminology, stems from the far too often neglecting of the living and abiding word of God which causes men to be born again. The Presuppositional apologist, with his understanding of the noetic effects of sin, and man’s sensus divinitatus, is forced to trust fully on the word of God, as the only weapon capable of tearing down the strongholds of the depraved mind. If the natural man is dead in his trespasses and sins, which he is, then Romans 1:16 provides the answer. The presuppositionalist sees apologetics and evangelism as one in the same, as he strives to proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
Al Mohler in one certain article states, the proclamation of the great commission undergirded by a gospel witness, must be partnered with apologetic ministry. Furthermore, as one continues to search the Scriptures for prominent apologetic examples, many are drawn to Acts chapter 2 and Acts chapter 17. Within the context of these two portions of Scripture, we see one other aspect of the theology in unity with apologetics and central to evangelism. This aspect, is that of repentance. A presuppositional apologist, more than any other methodology, uses the ultimate authority of God’s word in order to drive the defense of the faith to the ultimate goal of the gospel. This heavy reliance upon God’s word as a starting and ending point, rather than the antithetical evidential probabilistic approaches, serves to synergistically bring together apologetics and evangelism as one.
My final argument for the biblical model of Presuppositional Apologetics, revolves around the significance of the transcendental argument for God. Don Collett of Westminster Theological Seminary states, the transcendental argument for God sustains the logical and absolute character of God’s existence by surmising that God’s existence is a necessary precondition for argument itself. This argument, is essentially rooted within the knowledge claims of Holy Scripture. Whether it is Colossians 2:3, Colossians 1:17, or Proverbs 1:7, as several examples, Scripture confirms that all knowledge and reason originates from God. Dr. Nash in his book “Life’s Ultimate Questions,” posits that if a worldview cannot pass the test of practice; that is, it cannot produce a lifestyle that consistently lives in harmony with that system, it fails the test and is proven to be illogical. Proverbs 26:4–5, provides the biblical presuppositional framework in order to use the transcendental argument for God in hopes that God might grant the sinner repentance, leading to knowledge (2 Tim 2:25). This proverb informs us how not to answer the fool, while at the same time, how to answer him. It is here where the presuppositional apologist does not answer as if the fool is neutral; but proceeds to use a “reductio absurdum” type argument in the form of the transcendental argument for God, in order to expose the logical inconsistencies of knowledge claims outside of a Christian worldview, and the absurd implications that follow. The transcendental argument for God is yet another biblical aspect of apologetics/evangelism that falls completely in line with the biblical text.
In conclusion, I will unashamedly and unequivocally advocate with passion, that the Presuppositional Apologetic methodology is far superior in practicality, but more importantly infinitely superior from a biblical perspective, when it comes to “doing apologetics.” God’s glory in His certain existence is not optional in the defense of the faith. The proper view of the nature of man in conjunction with the myth of neutrality, equips apologists to earnestly and biblically contend for the faith, while rightly handling the word of truth. Apologetics and evangelism becomes one when we practice the biblical model of a defense alongside the call for repentance. Finally, the Christian apologist finds the only consistent framework of all wisdom and knowledge in Christ, while the presuppositionalist uses that framework to answer a fool according to his folly, through a transcendental argument for God.
If theology is the study of the very nature of God himself, then biblical theology must always take precedent over ease of use or acceptance. Presuppositional Apologetics is grounded in a revelational epistemology, which in turn finds its authority in God’s word revealing His nature. It is truly my humble yet passionate belief, that no other apologetic taxonomy aligns itself more with the character and nature of God as revealed through His word, then that of Presuppositional Apologetics.
Cowan, Steven B., and Stanley N. Gundry, eds. Five Views On Apologetics. Counterpoints. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, ©2000.
Boa, Kenneth, and Robert M. Bowman. Faith Has Its Reasons: Integrative Approaches to Defending the Christian Faith. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2005.
Nash, Ronald H. Life’s Ultimate Questions an Introduction to Philosophy. Grand Rapids:
Oliphint, Scott K. “Covenental Response.” Christian Apologetics Journal 11, no. 2 (Fall 2013): 47. Accessed December 14, 2015. https://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.summitu.edu.
Collett, Don. “Apologetics van Til and Transcendental Argument.” Westminster Theological Journal 65, no. 2 (Fall 2003): 292. Accessed December 14, 2015. https:// www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.summitu.edu.
Bahnsen, Greg. “The Encounter of Jerusalem with Athens.” Ashland Theological Journal 13 (na 1980): 40. Accessed December 14, 2015.
Kruger, Michael. “The Sufficiency of Scripture in Apologetics.” The Masters Seminary Journal 69, no. 87 (Spring 2001): 78. Accessed December 14, 2015. http://www.tms.edu.
Mohler, Jr., Albert R. “You Are Bringing Strange Things to Our Ears: Christian Apologetics for a Postmodern Age.” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 5, no. 1 (Spring 2001): 20. Accessed December 14, 2015. https://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.summitu.edu.
Collett, Don. “Apologetics van Til and Transcendental Argument.” Westminster Theological Journal 65, no. 2 (Fall 2003): 291. Accessed December 14, 2015. https:// www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.summitu.edu.
Steven B. Cowan and Stanley N. Gundry, eds., Five Views on Apologetics, Counterpoints (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, ©2000), 8.
Kenneth Boa and Robert M. Bowman, Faith Has Its Reasons: Integrative Approaches to Defending the Christian Faith (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 338.
Ronald H. Nash, Life’s Ultimate Questions an Introduction to Philosophy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 282.
Steven B. Cowan and Stanley N. Gundry, eds., Five Views on Apologetics, Counterpoints (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, ©2000), 151.
Scott K. Oliphint, “Covenental Response,” Christian Apologetics Journal 11, no. 2 (Fall 2013): 47, accessed December 14, 2015, https://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.summitu.edu.
Don Collett, “Apologetics van Til and Transcendental Argument,” Westminster Theological Journal 65, no. 2 (Fall 2003): 292, accessed December 14, 2015, https://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.summitu.edu/
Kenneth Boa and Robert M. Bowman, Faith Has Its Reasons: Integrative Approaches to Defending the Christian Faith (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 310.
Bahnsen, “The Encounter of Jerusalem with Athens,” Ashland Theological Journal 13 (na 1980): 40, accessed December 14, 2015, https://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.summitu.edu.
Kenneth Boa and Robert M. Bowman, Faith Has Its Reasons: Integrative Approaches to Defending the Christian Faith (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 223.
Michael Kruger, “The Sufficiency of Scripture in Apologetics,” The Masters Seminary Journal 69, no. 87 (Spring 2001): 78, accessed December 14, 2015, http://tms.edu.
Albert R. Mohler, Jr., “You Are Bringing Strange Things to Our Ears: Christian Apologetics for a Postmodern Age,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 5, no. 1 (Spring 2001): 20, accessed December 14, 2015, https://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.summitu.edu.
Don Collett, “Apologetics van Til and Transcendental Argument,” Westminster Theological Journal 65, no. 2 (Fall 2003): 291, accessed December 14, 2015, https://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.summitu.edu.
Ronald H. Nash, Life’s Ultimate Questions an Introduction to Philosophy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 28.