Hello faithful readers and guests, here recently I decided to participate in somewhat of a formal debate with another Calvinist on the subject of Apologetics methodology. I confess to being reluctant (for a number of reasons), I turned him down several times, but he persisted to hint and nudge over a period of months, and so I finally gave in.
Here below is my (rather short) opening statement, with a link to more of the (more detailed) debate on christianforums.com below. So far I have completed the first round, and thinking about the direction I might take for the second. Comments, thoughts, etc. are welcome and appreciated.
Brother Mark Kennedy and I have agreed upon a friendly debate on the subject of apologetics, more specifically apologetic methodology. Mark will be making the case for Evidential Apologetics, while I make the case for Presuppositional Apologetics.
The format will be as follows:
1. Opening Statements
2. Three Rounds of Rebuttals
3. Closing Statements
We have set no time constraints, this allows time for our responses as we have time, and keep in mind this may continue for some time. If you wish to respond before we are finished, please be brief so as to help us focus efforts on the many issues related to this debate.
Please pray our faith may be increased and strengthened and for mental clarity as we work through the important issues of this debate and we hope you the readers will be blessed and be strengthened from our discourse.
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
Laying out the groundwork
Christian apologetics includes both an offense and a defense; this entails both negative and positive aspects. Presuppositionalism tends to be characterized as an offensive approach, however it is also defensive. For example, if a positive argument for the existence of God is given, this is offense/positive, while responses to contrary arguments against the positive may be defensive/negative in nature.
The role of Epistemology
Which apologetic method should a Christian defend the faith with, one of the two advocated in this debate , neither, or both? Which method is Biblical, one of these two, neither or both? Are these two methods equal in what they can account for? I hope we will be able to answer these and many more throughout this debate.
To sort differences between them, presuppositionalism is an epistemological method which is primarily philosophical in nature, and concerned with theological/philosophical justification. Evidentialism is an epistemology which assumes the basic reliability of natural sense perception, and is concerned with justification by physical evidences. These may be presented as scientific, archaeological or historical, and usually learned from secondary sources such as books or videos. An epistemological issue for evidentialists is the philosophy of a fact, or the necessary interpretation involved with facts and the necessary philosophy to interpret reality through the natural senses.
For the sake of clarity, I am not defending a generic presuppositionalism, nor a generic epistemology, nor a neutral epistemology, I am defending what is called “Revelational Epistemology”, a Scriptural grounds and means for justification of knowing facts in an objective sense, while still maintaining our dependency on God in our interpretation of the God created facts. To be clear, it is my position our knowledge includes both objective and subjective elements. The difference is justification for knowing anything objectively apart from the Christ of Scripture.
I am a Christian, but more specifically, I affirm the Reformed faith, therefore my defense of the faith should be consistent with my faith. I am not a generic “presuppositionalist”, I presuppose the Reformed faith from the start to the end. Reformed believers hold to the doctrine of “Sola Scriptura”, which relates to the source for knowing, the self-attesting Christ of Scripture. The Scriptures are the justification for all true knowledge of the God created facts. In Scripture we read: in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” Colossians 2:3 Christ as the supreme authority of knowledge is our justification for knowledge (in an objective sense) concerning the God created facts (objectively speaking).
The role of Worldviews
Throughout the history of apologetics, it is not uncommon for a classical or evidentialist apologist to assume for the sake of the argument a common or neutral ground as a starting point to debate or argue with the non-Christian. I strongly disagree with this approach especially on a formal level for a number of reasons. To assume neutrality is to loose contact with the Christian faith and therefore justification for knowing the facts objectively, it is to assume a position of pure subjectivism, which denies the facts are created by God. One cannot rise to objectivism from pure subjectivism.
Even when/if the classical or evidentialist apologist begins with a Christian worldview, both approaches, even combined end up falling victim to the deserved title of “god of the gaps” arguments. Let’s suppose that a Christian provides a convincing argument for the existence of God, such that the debate opponent surrenders. The question that follows is “which God?” From here we cannot really get to Jesus Christ, because this involves proving the Scriptures according to Christianity are from God, before we could ever get to arguments for the resurrection of Christ. Try as we might to avoid it, proving the Scriptures are revelation from God, involves circular reasoning.
We might point to qualities about the Scriptures which demonstrate: popularity, survival, uniqueness, unity-diversity, explanatory power of origins, the central uniformity of primary emphasis, and so on, and while they compose a supportive collaboration of evidences, there is still a logical leap involved from establishing human origin to divine origin.
Unfortunately, so many seem to have almost subconsciously bought into the notion that the non-Christian can be brought to faith in Christ through human reasoning and the five senses (alone). All Reformed believers should recognize the necessity for God to intervene through the supernatural act of (monergistic) regeneration, for the non-Christian to be “born again” or “born from above” before the non-Christian will assent or respond positively to the reasons and facts from a faith made alive by God. I hope this past statement is considered as evidence that I am not opposed to the God centered facts or God centered reason.
So it is my contention that the Romanist Christian worldview, the Romanist methodologies of defending the faith are not sufficient to defend the faith, and never have been. It is also my contention that only a Reformed presuppositionalism is sufficient to defend the faith in a Biblical, God honoring way.
As a final note, I have purposely left out several important distinctives of the Reformed apologetic from this opening statement to make this brief. These include the Creator-creation distinction, the role of self-deception in apologetics, the impossibility of the contrary, the role of antithesis in apologetics, and the transcendental argument for the existence of God (TAG). I left these out because I expect to get into these as the debate continues.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and may God be glorified through our discourse.
Apologetics (short and detailed definition)
Apologetics (detailed definition)
Presuppositional Apologetics (short definition)
Presuppositional Apologetics (detailed definition)
Epistemology (short definition)
Objective (Dictionary.com )
Objectivity (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Justification (Dictionary.com )
The Old New Reformed Epistemology (Revelational Epistemology) by Dr. Oliphint
Presuppositionalism and Frame’s Epistemology by Dr. Anderson
Science, Subjectivity, and Scripture by Dr. Bahnsen
The Theistic Preconditions of Knowledge by Dr. Anderson
Van Til Frequently Encountered Misconceptions by Dr. Anderson
Redeeming Science: A God Centered Approach (book) by Dr. Poythress
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