Essay on Presuppositional Apologetics

Grace Theological College
Christian Mind 2015
Term One: Essay
Brendon Ward

It’s hard to argue that natural science has nothing to say about God or that it’s discoveries have no place in a Christians thinking, but I have never had a great deal of confidence in presenting a case for Christ on the basis of natural proofs that can be equally appreciated by Christians and non-Christians alike.

The basic tenets of Christian epistemology and Reformed apologetics will not allow for the presentation of brute facts which unaided reason can analyse and use to arrive at the truth that back of creation is a Creator whose person and work find record in the Scriptures.

Rather, all men, Christian and non-Christian, appreciate science, discovery, and brute fact through presuppositional lenses. The non-Christian, being dead in sins and trespasses , being at enmity with God in his mind , being the truth suppressing wise who deem foolish the things of the Spirit of God , will approach brute facts that clearly point to the God of Scripture, and claim they have no relationship to the God of Scripture.

The reason? Not that the proofs are deficient in and of themselves. Rather, it is a question of presupposition. The presupposition of the natural man who rejects the God of Scripture is described by Paul the apostle as he writes to the Romans. He suggests that the reason the non-Christian rejects the proof of God as proof at all, is because he suppresses the truth in his unrighteousness. So adamant is Paul in this regard that he claims these proofs are not only knowable, but clear and actually known to all. Known, but supressed, and therefore viewed as unknown.

The presupposition of the non-Christian are so engrained that in order to propose justice to brute facts, his analysis results in an ever increasing sense of madness. The non-Christian goes to great lengths to divorce the fact of a created and orderly universe from an all wise and all-knowing Creator. Carl Sagan, in rejecting the God of Scripture, claims that the cosmos is eternal, all there is and ever will be . Creation points to intelligence. In rejecting God as that intelligence, Sagan must attribute that intelligence to something within the box. Thus, the cosmos, being the stuff inside the box, must possess that intelligence, and because there is nothing outside the box to create, must conclude that that which is, i.e. the cosmos, must be eternal.

In apologetics, Christians will often seek to construct a ladder out of the box, but do so by looking at the stuff in the box, and using stuff in the box to construct that ladder. That is to say, many Christians will present the evidences of a Creator found within creation. They will seek to prove creation as created and the necessity of a Creator. Once established, it will be the Christians task to make a connection between the necessity of a Creator and the sufficiency of the God of Scripture as that Creator. And yet, because of the non-Christians innate suppression of the truth, he will never acknowledge this connection, no matter how sound the argument might prove to be. Rather, the non-Christian will echo Sagan.

The lens through which the non-Christian analyses the truth is connected to his being in that he is fallen. This state of fallen-ness came about when man became a sinner and made himself the ultimate or final reference point . He will not accept or reject the truth on the basis of the God who is true and determines what is true. Rather, he will attribute that determination to himself. Thus, brute facts are not neutral because the non-Christian will accept or reject them based on his own, ultimate reference point. If the evidence in the box does not collude with his presupposition, understanding, or experience, they may be rejected as evidence.

If the non-Christian agree that the natural proof of a created creation are valid, his conclusion will not be valid. He may, of his own imagining, conceive of a god, but this god will not resemble the God who has revealed Himself in the Scripture .

This is in fact the case with my own apologetic experience. In engaging strangers on the street in hope of presenting the gospel, it seemed most had a god-concept. Sadly, most god-concepts had no resemblance to the God of Scripture. The god of the man on the street either resembled a beneficent grandfather, or the distant watch winder of deism. The reason is that neither the beneficent grandfather nor the watch winder of deism call men to account, expose him as sinner, or present the necessity of atonement for sin in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

It was at that point that seemingly civil conversations about spiritual things would turn hostile. It was when I would attempt to connect their vague god-concept with an intervening, interfering Messiah that the ad hominem card would be produced. Jesus’ exclusive truth claims, as the truth of God, the judge of the living and the dead, was too much, and therefore foolish to the worldly wise.

In recent years my confidence in creation evangelism has waned. I am now at the point where I will debate with Christians about the use of natural proofs in evangelism based on a renewed appreciation for Christian epistemology and Reformed apologetics. This waning confidence and increased contention regarding the use of natural proofs in evangelism has come with an increasingly consistent theology of the mind. Romans 1 is a passage that is ringing louder these days. So, what may be known about God is plain to all, but fallen man, in the rebellion called autonomy, suppresses this truth and will suppress all natural proof, in his unrighteousness. That these natural proofs belong to the Spirit of God, and inherently point to God as Creator will remain as foolish to the natural man. As they are spiritually discerned, being born of the Spirit is prerequisite in understanding them as they really are .

Staying with Romans 1, in verse 16 Paul affirms that which is the power of God unto salvation is the gospel. He, nowhere, says that a presentation of irreducible complexity necessitating a complex mind and thus a divine mind is the power of that divine mind unto salvation. On the contrary, he writes to Timothy and says that the worldly wise are ever increasing in knowledge but never coming to the knowledge of the truth. Were it true that an increased appreciation for natural science lead to a greater appreciation of the truth, it would be the biologist and not the theologian (in the sense of a scholar committed the truth by faith to the God of Scripture) who was at greater liberty.

On the one side, Christian epistemology and Reformed apologetics have influenced my understanding in evangelism. On the other, it has influenced my understanding in how Christians are to think biblically about knowledge and science.

I am at the point where I am viewing knowledge of things in the box not the by-product of natural laws by which to be fascinated, but the work of God the Creator as revealed in Scripture. By scientific classification, the reality that objects held and then released from my hand hit the floor is called gravity. To gravity alone is to be attributed much fascination and wonder. But where is God in gravity? God is the Creator as revealed in Scripture who upholds all things by the Word of His power. Objects held and then released from my hand hit the floor as a result of what God is doing in creation as He upholds it by the Word of His power.

In the field of knowledge, I can no longer say that Sir Isaac Newton discovered the theory of gravity, or that he discovered anything. For to discover assumes something previously unknown. This does not agree with the reality that God has already discovered everything, knows everything completely and exhaustively, and so what man might do is merely rediscover what God has always known. God has also thus interpreted all natural phenomenon leaving man with the task of reinterpretation.

This rediscovery and reinterpretation is the challenge given to all who bear His image and is in effect the call to think God’s thoughts after Him.

In terms of the development of Christian character, a renewed appreciation for Christian epistemology and Reformed apologetics leads not to intellectual pride, but humble confidence in the gospel as the power of God unto salvation. Convincing the non-Christian about the truths of God, is not a matter of my ability to reason or present irrefutable proof. Rather, humble confidence that salvation belongs to God and it is the work of His Spirit that opens the eyes of a non-Christian to the truth that back of all things is God.

If the gospel is presented to the non-Christian, and he repents and begins to see creation as the canvas upon which God paints, this is His doing, for His glory and I can trust Him with the process and the product.

If the gospel is presented to the non-Christian, and he does not repent and begin to see creation as the canvas upon which God paints, then this is His doing, for His glory, and I can trust Him with the process and the product.

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van Til, C. (1955). The Defense of the Faith. Presbyterian and Reformed.