1 Corinthians 1:10-17 (NIV), “10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul;’ another, ‘I follow Apollos;’ another, ‘I follow Cephas;’ still another, ‘I follow Christ.’ 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
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1. Three Forms of Christian Apologetics
- Proof: “Presenting a rational basis for faith or “proving Christianity to be true.” Jesus and the apostles often offered evidence to people who had difficulty believing that the gospel was true. Note John 14:11; 20:24–31; 1 Cor. 15:1–11. Believers themselves sometimes doubt, and at that point apologetics becomes useful for them even apart from its role in dialogue with unbelievers. That is to say, apologetics confronts unbelief in the believer as well as in the unbeliever.” (pp. 1-2, loc. 918).
- Defense: “Apologetics as defense: answering the objections of unbelief. Paul describes his mission as “defending and confirming the gospel” (Phil. 1:7 NIV; cf. v. 16). Confirming may refer to number 1 above, but defending is more specifically focused on giving answers to objections. Much of Paul’s writing in the New Testament is apologetic in this sense. Think of how many times he responds to imaginary (or real) objectors in his letter to the Romans. Think of how often Jesus deals with the objections of religious leaders in the Gospel of John.” (p. 2, loc. 938).
- Offense: “Attacking the foolishness of unbelieving thought (Ps. 14:1; 1 Cor. 1:18–2:16). In view of the importance of number 2, it is not surprising that some will define apologetics as “the defense of the faith.”22 But that definition can be misleading. God calls his people not only to answer the objections of unbelievers, but also to go on the attack against falsehood. Paul says, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Non-Christian thinking is “folly” (ESV), or “foolishness” (NIV), according to Scripture (1 Cor. 1:18–2:16; 3:18–23), and one function of apologetics is to expose that foolishness for what it is.” (p. 2, loc. 938).
2. Three Basic Approaches to Christian Apologetics
- Presuppositional (no neutral ground, only God can make sense of reason and existence): “is a school of Christian apologeticsthat believes the Christian faith is the only basis for rational thought. It presupposes that the Bible is divine revelation and attempts to expose flaws in other worldviews. It claims that apart from presuppositions, one could not make sense of any human experience, and there can be no set of neutral assumptions from which to reason with a non-Christian. Presuppositionalists claim that a Christian cannot consistently declare their belief in the necessary existence of the God of the Bible and simultaneously argue on the basis of a different set of assumptions that God may not exist and Biblical revelation may not be true. Two schools of presuppositionalism exist, based on the different teachings of Cornelius Van Til and Gordon Haddon Clark. Presuppositionalism contrasts with classical apologetics and evidential apologetics” (wiki).
- Differences between Van Til and Clark, https://douglasdouma.wordpress.com/2016/10/13/a-list-of-differences-between-the-thought-of-gordon-h-clark-and-cornelius-van-til/
- Helpful video on the differences, https://youtu.be/VV5PE-y4njs
- Example of presuppositional apologetics with Bahnsen and Tabash, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCo4GAiTQBE
- Classical (reasonable arguments points to Jesus): “is the dominant approach to apologetics in church history, especially prior to the modern period. It emphasizes the presentation of Christianity as rational—as logically coherent and supportable by sound arguments—and offers what its advocates consider proofs of various types (though especially philosophical proofs) for the existence of God as a first step in defending the truth claims of the Christian faith” (Bible.org)
- Source for info above and more study, https://bible.org/seriespage/5-classical-apologetics-it-stands-reason
- Example of classical apologetics with William Lane Craig versus Christopher Hitchens, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KBx4vvlbZ8
- Evidential (God given facts lead to truth): “is an approach to Christian apologeticsemphasizing the use of evidence to demonstrate that God exists. The evidence is supposed to be evidence both the believer and nonbeliever share, that is to say one need not presuppose God’s existence. Evidential apologetics is not necessarily evidentialism, however many associate them as the same. Evidential apologetics method looks at the New Testament’s historical documents first, then upon to the Jesus’ miracles in particular the resurrection which evidentialists believe points to Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Some of the top supporters of this method include Gary R. Habermas, John W. Montgomery, Clark Pinnock, and Wolfhart Pannenberg” (wiki).
- Example of the evidential approach with Gary Habermas versus Anthony Flew, https://youtu.be/Ksa8uGe21rw
- More on evidentialism, https://bible.org/seriespage/10-evidentialist-apologetics-faith-founded-fact
3. Faith, Scripture & Evidence
- Faith: “is not mere rational thought, but it is not irrational either. It is not “belief in the absence of evidence”; rather, it is a trust that rests on sufficient evidence. This fact is evident in Scripture. Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen. 22) is often presented as an example of a faith that contravenes moral and rational norms. But this analysis often fails to take account of the fact that Abraham had a very firm basis for doing what he did—namely, the command of God.” (p. 53, loc. 1865).
- Scripture: “What God says can be neither irrational nor immoral, for his Word defines rationality and morality for us. When God tells us to do something, we need no greater rational basis for doing it. So faith does not believe despite the absence of evidence; rather, faith honors God’s Word as sufficient evidence. Romans 4:20–21 describes Abraham’s faith—always in the New Testament a model of Christian faith—as follows: “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” (p. 53, loc. 1872).
- Evidence: “The ultimate proof, the ultimate evidence, is the Word of God.106 Eyewitnesses are important, but they die, and memories of them fade. Only if their testimony is preserved in God’s written Word will that testimony have continuing value down through the history of the world. To trust God’s Word as ultimate evidence is not to deny the importance of reasons. God does not always reveal the reasons for what he says and does, but as a wise, true, and faithful God, and as the very standard of rationality, he always has a reason—of that we may be confident. Often he does reveal his reasons to us. Abraham knew that God had a reason for commanding him to sacrifice his son, even though that reason was hidden at first.” (p. 54, loc. 1887).
4. Understanding Proof in Presuppositional Apologetics
- Proof: “Cornelius Van Til says that ‘there is absolutely certain proof for the existence of God and the truth of Christian theism.’ He continues: The Reformed apologist maintains that there is an absolutely valid argument for the existence of God and for the truth of Christian theism. He cannot do less without virtually admitting that God’s revelation to man is not clear. It is fatal for the Reformed apologist to admit that man has done justice to the objective evidence if he comes to any other conclusion than that of the truth of Christian theism.” (p. 56, loc. 1921).
- Example Argument from Scripture that Proves God’s Existence:
- “Premise 1: What Scripture says is always true.
- Premise 2: Scripture says that God exists.
- Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.” (p. 56, loc. 1921).
- Not All Proof is Effective to Non-believers: “But there is something lacking here. Practically speaking, we would not be likely to use this proof in our witness to non-Christians. Most intelligent unbelievers today would dismiss it simply by denying the biblical authority on which it is based. The circle is too narrow.112 In one sense, the problem is not with the proof, but with the unbeliever: he ought to accept biblical authority, and therefore he ought to accept our proof. But of course he doesn’t.” (p. 57, loc. 1941).
- To Use or Not to Use Proofs Based on Effectiveness with Unbelievers: “Ultimately, the only cure for repression is the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, as we construct arguments, we have little idea of what sort of argument will be persuasive to any particular individual or audience. No argument is guaranteed to be persuasive to all people. Not even arguments from Scripture alone are guaranteed in that way, though we know from the discussion above that they are pleasing to God.” (p. 57, loc. 1941).
- Proof, What Ought to Persuade: “Perhaps we can remedy the situation by defining proof as that which ought to persuade, rather than as something that actually persuades. But this definition brings us back to the narrowly circular proof that we originally considered. The unbeliever ought to accept that proof together with the scriptural authority it presupposes. As a matter of fact, he ought to believe in God without any such argument at all, simply on the basis of God’s revelation in creation (Rom. 1:18–21, again). If our task is simply to put the unbeliever into a position in which he ought to believe, then we are best advised to do nothing, for he is in that position already. I think it is right to define proof as that which ought to persuade.” (p. 58, loc. 1958).
5. The Need for Proof in Presuppositional Apologetics
- Basic Beliefs: “In one sense, not everybody needs a theistic proof. Some people, such as W. K. Clifford, have said that it is wrong to believe anything without evidence. But that initially plausible view has been effectively countered in our time by philosophers Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff. They point out that we believe many things that we cannot necessarily prove. That other persons have minds like mine, for example, is a very difficult proposition to prove to someone disposed to challenge it. Or take my belief that Violet Frame is truly my mother, or my belief that my wife really loves me, or my belief that 2 + 2 = 4. Such “basic” beliefs (as Plantinga calls them) are easy to accept as being obviously true, especially when alleged proofs for them are complicated and hard to follow.” (pp. 58-59, loc. 1982).
- Fools & Proof: “But as we have seen, it is possible to go beyond these general recommendations and produce specific arguments for God’s existence. A wise man does not really need these; they are for fools. But God is very patient and gracious with such fools as we all once were. Once we get beyond simply pointing the unbeliever to the creation and the statements of Scripture, proof becomes a fairly complicated matter. Since everything is created and directed by God, nothing may be properly understood apart from him. That means that any fact may become the focal point for an apologetic; the apologist may show how that fact derives its intelligibility from God. We may use a wide variety of approaches and methods, consistent with our overall presuppositional commitment. Since proof is person-variable, we are particularly interested in choosing an argumentative approach that makes contact with the individual or group we are talking to. That decision is not an easy one.” (p. 61, loc. 2021).
- Example Proof for Non-Fools:
- “Premise 1: If Jesus is Lord and Savior, then he is reliable.
- Premise 2: If he is reliable, then God exists.
- Premise 3: He is Lord and Savior.
- Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.” (p. 61, loc. 2044).
- Point of Contact: When we encounter people who are foolish in the biblical sense, not excepting the claims of the Bible because they are suppressing the truth of God in wickedness, we should offer them a rebuke and then the proof of God in the form of showing them the absurdity of their position. We do this in gentleness and respect, praying that the Holy Spirit will convict them of their sin and unbelief.
6. Review Questions
- List and describe the three forms of apologetics.
- List and describe the three main methods of Christian apologetics.
- Describe how presuppositional apologists understand faith, Scripture and evidence.
- What is a good definition of proof?
- Why are proofs rejected by non-believers according to Romans 1:18?
- What is a basic belief?
- How should presuppositionalists use proof?
Dialogue Between a Classical and Presuppositional
The discussion with myself starts around the 30min mark.