Newsletter Archive: Christian Apologetics – 5/05/2006

 

For many years, the newsletters for Open Air Outreach were only published through email. Those newsletters were not posted online. We are now in the process of archiving these old newsletters online so that they are available to the body of Christ at large to read and be encouraged and edified by them.

The contents from this post was an email newsletter sent out on 5/05/2006

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Article: Apologetics
Jesse Morrell
May 5, 2006

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As I have traveled full-time on college campuses preaching open-air I have found the practice of apologetics to be entirely unavoidable and most necessary. We must, as Christians, be able to give a reason for the hope that is in us. My studies have led me to what is known as “Presuppositional Apologetics” which I have found to be the biblical approach. Though far from being any sort of expert on presuppositional apologetics and not the best at explaining its biblical foundation, I did think it could be beneficial if I wrote a short article on the practice of this form of apologetics. I do pray that you find it helpful and beneficial as you seek to win the world to the Lord.
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World-Views in Conflict:
Defending the Christian Faith

By Jesse Morrell

When seeking to obey the command to defend the Christian faith it is vitally important to understand the full scope of the situation that the apologist is in. It must be correctly understood that the believer and the unbeliever are not standing upon common ground of reason or logic, while the believer has more information then the unbeliever. Rather, the believer and the unbeliever are standing on two separate grounds completely.

The believer stands upon the solid rock of Jesus Christ, (from which all knowledge of the truth comes through revelation seeing that Christ is the truth), while the unbeliever is forced to, though willingly stands, autonomously upon his own arbitrary reasoning and understanding as the final authority of truth. The conflict between the apologist and the unbeliever arises because of two separate final authorities. To the believer the final authority is God while to the unbeliever he is his own final authority. That is, his understanding and reasoning becomes the filter and final authority of what he believes, as opposed to the written Word of God.

That is not to say that reason and understanding are not good. For they are in fact part of our qualities as human being created in the image of a reasonable, logical God. However human reasoning and understanding must be understood to be corrupt when in the hands of sinful men, who attempt to use their so called knowledge against the knowledge of God. As John Locke had said, “The mad man reasons rightly but from wrong presuppositions”. In which case, even his reasoning is wrong.

When arguing to defend the Christian faith, it is exceedingly important for the apologist to recognize that he and the unbeliever are not on common ground and simply disagree on some of the finer points regarding issues like creation, the flood, the crucifixion and resurrection etc. Rather, the conflict is a collision of two entirely different world-views, completely different presuppositions.

Because of the failure to recognize that the conflict is between two different outlooks on life, the apologetics often finds himself involved in a very time wasting, energy exhausting, piece meal approach to apologetics which defends the Christian world-view one point at a time as opposed to laying the axe to the root of the tree and defending the Christian world-view as a whole all at once. The reason the believer and the unbeliever disagree on points such as creation, the flood, the crucifixion and the resurrection, is because both the believer and the unbeliever have a completely different outlook on reality (metaphysics), knowledge (epistemology), and morality (ethics). These are the three vital ingredients which make up the network of presuppositions which make up ones entire world-view.

Because of these entirely different outlooks on life, any factual data that is given to the unbeliever will be taken and re-interpreted to fit the unbelievers own world-view, his already established pre-commitments or already accepted presuppositions. So the direct approach of apologetics that deals strictly with “just the facts” ends up being a fighting match between two separate interpretations of the facts. Both of these interpretations are solely rooted in ones presuppositions. If one has faulty presuppositions then he will have faulty conclusions. And thus is the case for the unbeliever.

When these faulty presuppositions are not confronted by the apologists, the apologist often attempts to defend the faith on the terms of the unbeliever’s presuppositions. For example, the empiricist will say, “I only believe what can be empirically proven. I only believe what I can see, touch, taste, and smell. God cannot be seen, touched, tasted, or smelled; therefore I do not believe in God.” Rather then challenging empiricism which is the foundation of the argument, many apologists attempt to prove the existence of a god empirically. This is playing our game on their terms, it is fighting our war on their field, and it is trying to build our argument on their faulty foundation. It is answering a fool according to his folly and you end up being like him.

We see this as well when an unbeliever says, “Prove to me that the bible is the Word of God” and an apologist appeals to some outside source which the unbelievers recognizes as creditable such as naturalistic science. So to prove the authority of the bible the apologist appeals to the authority of science. To attempt to prove the ultimate authority of the bible, by appealing to an outside authority, is in action nullifying your point. Though science can be used to prove the bible, by appealing to science to prove the bible the apologist unwillingly submits and recognizes the false final authority of naturalistic science. He shows that he believes science has more authority then the bible. While in the Christian world-view nothing at all has more authority then God and His Word though all of creation testifies to the glory of God.

The bible is not to be tested by naturalistic science, but naturalistic science is to be tested by the Word of God. This statement helps us to see how the battle ultimately is a collision between two separate final authorities, the Word of God or the autonomous reasoning and understanding of men.

Rather then getting involved in a piece meal apologetic approach which is time wasting and energy exhausting which ultimately leaves the foundation of the unbelievers world-view without dent or damage, the apologists must go for the root of the issue, which is a network of faulty presuppositions also known as a false world-view. It is from these presuppositions that all the arguments the unbeliever has against God come from, so it is on this foundational presupposition level that the belief of unbelief must be attacked and the Christian faith must be defended.

The weaponry for the presupposition battle is that of the internal critique. Our arguments are not to merely consist of externally critiquing by saying, “the bible says”. Though in the Christian worldview the final authority of everything is, “the bible says,” this is not so in the worldview of an unbeliever. An internal critique is when you, for the sole sake of argument, step into his shoes and look around to point out the inconsistencies and impossibilities. When attacking the belief of unbelief, you do so on the terms of their worldview. Then when establishing and presenting the Christian faith, you do so on the terms of the Christian faith.

Let’s take empiricism as an example. The empiricist’s presupposition is empiricism. He believes that knowledge can be known only through the material world by empirical proof. But if you ask an empiricist if empiricism can be empirically proven he cannot do so. Empiricism is a philosophy or a theory of knowledge that cannot be proven with empirical proof. The empiricist accepts empiricism dogmatically. If he appeals to anything at all, including reason and logic, to prove empiricism, then he is in action a hypocrite because he is not abiding by the standards that he himself holds others to. To internally critique an empiricist is to disprove his beliefs on the terms of his own beliefs.

The relativist will say “truth is relative”. But if truth was relative, for the sake of argument, one could not even say that truth were relative in any sort of absolute fashion. If truth were relative, then the statement itself that truth were relative, would be a relative truth itself and therefore the statement would not always be true. Relativism self-explodes on the terms of relativism. Relativism cannot stand even on its own terms. It cancels itself out. So you internally critique relativism to disprove relativism on its own terms.

Christianity is ultimately proven through the impossibility of the contrary. Rather then attempting to use science to prove the bible, the apologist must show how science itself cannot exist if the Christian God does not exist. In the world of the unbeliever, the universe came about by time and chance and he cannot account for the uniformity of nature manifested through the laws of nature though he acknowledges these things and all of science depends upon this uniformity. Only in the Christian worldview can uniformity exist in nature because the Sovereign Lord controls the universe.

You must show an unbeliever that to question God means you must question everything. You must question reality (metaphysics), intelligibility (epistemology), and morality (ethics).
If you do not presuppose, “in the beginning God” you have to question whether or not we or anything else even exists in reality. You’d have to question whether or not knowledge even exists let alone whether or not knowledge is even knowable. You’d have to question any universal morality as being universal since there is no universal Law Giver. In the world of unbelief, meaningful discourse itself would not be meaningful at all because meaning itself could not be said to exist, thus even a debate over the existence of God could not be justifiable. To question the existence of God requires the questioning of absolutely everything.

But ultimately it is totally impossible to question absolutely everything without any presuppositions. If you want to reasonably question everything you have already taken for granted reason, it has already been presupposed. If you question everything you must also question whether or not you should question everything. You must question whether or not something can even be questioned because you must question whether or not anything at all exists, including yourself as the questioner. To question everything requires that there be no presuppositions, but without presuppositions questioning itself could not be done.

So we see that presuppositions are a requirement in intelligibility because without them the ultimate outcome is absurdity through uncertainty of everything, not only uncertainty of certainty but also uncertainty of uncertainty. However the only self-attesting, self authority presupposition or starting-point to answer any question must be “In the beginning God”. Without this fundamental presupposition absolutely everything falls apart.

To put it plainly, through internal critiquing you show the empiricist to be dogmatic, the pragmatist to be arbitrary, the relativist to be impossible, and unbelief as a whole to be foolish, on it’s own terms.

The form of argumentation is called, “reductio ad absurdum” which means “reduced to absurdity”. Take your opponents position and show him its ultimate outcome and conclusions. Show the atheist that the implications of atheism means there is no Universal Law Giver, which means there are no Universal Laws, which means an atheist cannot condemn Hitler, the KKK, or the brutal slaughter of his own family without being entirely arbitrary in his reasoning. In which case, the atheist must also allow every other individual the same amount of arbitrariness to define their own morality, even if it directly contradicts their own arbitrary morality and condones Hitler, the KKK or the brutal slaughter of his own family.

In the world of an atheist morality would simply be one personal opinion verses another personal opinion but no ultimate authority which transcends individual opinions of morality. Show an atheist how God and God alone is in the authoritative position to dictate any sort of universal code of conduct or ethical system and any attempts to hold on to universal morality without a universal Law Giver is unreasonable and illogical.

The atheist has no grounds to stand upon to even believe in reason or logic. The Christian does because the Christian acknowledges that he was created in the image of a reasonable, logical God. However the atheist cannot account for reason or logic, through he acknowledges them. The unbeliever knows the truth and even practices the truth though he denies the truth in unrighteousness.

It must be pointed out that the unbeliever has no grounds to stand upon to believe in reality, intelligibility, or morality without the presupposition of “in the beginning God”.
Once you demolish the faulty foundation the unbeliever is standing upon in which he viewed the entire world, you invite the unbeliever to step into the Christian world-view and look around. You then show how the Christian world-view alone meets the preconditions for reality, intelligibility and morality. You show how, “in the beginning God” is the only preconditions for these things. You preach the gospel to him with humble boldness once you have “ripped the carpet out from under his feet” to reveal to him that he has saw off the branch he’s sitting upon, has set his feet firmly in thin air and must come to stand upon the solid rock of Jesus Christ.

It must be pointed out to the unbeliever that he is not an unbeliever because of intelligence but because of convenience. It is convenient for him to deny the existence of God, the Lordship of Christ, the certainty of judgment, and the punishment of hell. Why? Because he loves his sin and wants to continue in it.

The unbelieving sinner is not one who is ignorant in need of information from an educator but he is one who has the inescapable truth of God but is unwilling to obey the truth God has already given him of His Law and Himself. The sinner ultimately does not need to be educated but needs to be rebuked. He is not a poor victim to be pitied but he is a monstrous criminal to be blamed. Jesus did not die the death of a criminal because sinners are ignorant. Jesus did not die the death of a criminal because sinners are victims. Jesus died the death of a criminal because sinners are criminals and Christ came to save criminals. After all the rocks which he hides beyond are removed, charge the sinner as being one who knows the truth yet suppresses the truth in unrighteousness.

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For more advance reading and studying on “Presuppositional Apologetics” I recommend, “Always Ready” by Greg Bahnsen, “Christian Apologetics” and “The Defense of the Faith” both by Cornelius Van Til.

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