“A Defense of Presuppositional Apologetics”
CENTURION EDUCATION FOUNDATION
A Theological Article
Dr. Andrew T. Knight
Biblical Presuppositional Apologetics?
Andrew Thomas Knight
DMIN Luther Rice Seminary, 2014
MRE West Coast Baptist College, 2010
MBS Emmanuel Baptist Theological Seminary, 2004
BB Pensacola Christian College, 1994
March 3, 2017
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Presuppositional Apologetics Defined…………….………………… 1
The Perception of the Problem………………………….…………… 2
Hermeneutics in Apologetics…..……..…………………………….. 3
Hard Questions to be Answered..……………………………..……… 4
The Moral God Argument…….………….….………..……………… 5
Heart, Brain and Apologetics…………………………………………. 7
The Practice of Apologetics.…………………………………………… 8
The Bible Authority and Apologetics…………………………………. 9
Biblical Reasoning and Purpose………………………………………. 12
Presuppositional Epistemological Apologetic………………………… 15
Possibilism and Apologetics.………………………………………….. 16
Evidentialism and Appologetics………………………………………. 19
The Transcendental Argument…………………………………………. 20
The Teleological Argument…….……………………………………… 21
The Cosmological Argument………………………………………….. 21
The Ontological Argument…………………………………………….. 22
Biblical Presuppositional Apologitcs……………………………….. 23
INITIAL SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY ………………………………. 24
Presuppositional Apologetics Defined
Most every Bible College or Bible Institute references II Timothy 2:2 as their mission verse. In a
similar fashion most graduate programs or seminaries which offer courses on Apologetics
reference, I Peter 3:15 “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an
answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”
as their mission verse or statement. Ed Hindson and Ergun Caner offered an explanation of
Presuppositional Apologetics this way, “These presuppositionalists offer their fellow believers a
number of reasons to abandon or substantially adjust their apologetic efforts. For one thing, they
urge Christian apologists to presuppose the truth of Christianity and not to think that they can or
must arrive at Christian convictions at the end of a chain of secular reasoning.” Thus
presuppositional apologetics is more than reasoning, it is biblical reasoning.
What the apologist must endeavor to do is to demonstrate that without Christian presuppositions there is no intelligible use of facts and logic—that human knowledge and interpretation fail instantly. Therefore, to be reasonable at all, men must submit to the ultimate standard of God’s self-attesting word; to refuse this is to insist upon intellectual foolishness and eternal damnation.
This definition is a practical one though there is a clear separation between presuppositional
apologetics and classical apologetics. The distinction is human rationalism verses biblical truth.
The Perception of the Problem
Biblical reasoning, or lack thereof, in the culture has increased the need for biblical,
presuppositional apologetics. David Jerimiah has researched this problem and has stated,
A radical trend toward marginalizing the Bible becomes starkly evident when we remember The New England Primer and the McGuffey Readers I cited earlier—schoolbooks used by millions of American children and approved by parents. When the Bible was pervasive in the culture, there was no skepticism about its truth or its relevance. But a slow, subtle, steady shift in how our nation views the Bible has pushed it out of the center of culture to the inconsequential edges.
With the retreat of the New England Primer and the McGuffey Readers in the public classrooms
the country has quickly become a secular population. It should be no surprise that a young
America began growing up without the Bible being taught to them in the public schools might
increasingly have a growing skepticism of the Bible and Christianity as the country’s population
has continued to grow.
This leads to the other major factor relative to the decreased in belief in the Bible, which
is the population growth. Thom Raimer, author of Breakout Churches, wrote, “From 1990 to
2000 the U.S. population grew from 248 million to 281 million, a thirteen percent increase. In
the same period, worship attendance in American churches grew by less than one percent.”
Thus the spread between the percentages of the population which has an increased attendance of
churches and the increased population growth of the country has continued to expand. As a result
of this spiritual divide there has been a growing percentage of the population that have fallen into
the category of unbelievers, and may even be considered to agnostic. With the population growth
which is increasingly in a state of unbelief the need for biblical presuppositional apologetics are
in an increasing demand to advance persuasively the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For clarification,
demand is not used in the context of market demand, but rather kingdom demand, which is to
say there is an increasing need to persuade a growing number of skeptics. This is far different
than to say there is market demand for more housing, grocery stores, or other amenities. This of
course is a clear contract between the economy of this world and the economy of the kingdom of
God as seen in Mark 1:14-15 “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee,
preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom
of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” Thus the quantified factor is the difference
between the number that have not yet received the Gospel and those that are already believers.
Hermeneutics in Apologetics
Did God have a specific meaning in mind when He moved upon the 42 human authors of the Word of God that God might give us special revelation? II Peter 1:20-21 states, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Scripture confirms His intent to give specific meaning to mankind.
There is a theologically scientific method in which mankind can understand what God wants to communicate to us. Mosise’s Silva explained,
The term exegesis (used often by biblical scholars but seldom by specialists in other fields) is a fancy way of referring to interpretation. It implies that the explanation of the text has involved careful, detailed analysis. The description grammatical-historical indicates, of course, that that this analysis must pay attention both to the language in which the original text was written and to the specific cultural context that gave rise to the text.
Thus the study and interpretation of the Scriptures is a scientific process and one which mankind
and have confidence in the text, and its accuracy in its transmission.
Hard Questions to Be Answered
Suffering in the Christian life is one of the more difficult issues to deal with. Suffering
can be a stumbling block for the unbeliever and a source of discouragement for the believer.
Gilbert Meilaender addressed this issue when he wrote,
Part of the pain of human life is that we sometimes cannot and at times ought not do for others times ought not do for others what they fervently desire. Believing in the incarnation that in Jesus God has stood with us as one of us, Christians must try to learn to stand with and beside those who suffer physically or emotionally. But that some understanding of incarnation also teaches us that to make elimination of suffering our highest priority would be to conclude mistakenly that it can have no point or purpose in our lives. We should not act as if we believe that the negative, destructive powers of the universe are finally victorious. Those who worship a crucified and risen Lord cannot give themselves over to such a vision of life.
Suffering is part in parcel to the human experience, and in the Christian experience
suffering is not exempt. What Meilaender is saying is that the Christians should not expect that
their Christian life will be without suffering or pain. He argued that the Christian life was not
made to provide a perfect life but rather one that brings glory to God. Part of the process of
bringing glory to God is how the believer responds to suffering. Furthermore Meilaender argued
that Jesus came and suffered unjustly before all humanity, in part to demonstrate how to suffer.
God the Son pleased God the Father in His suffering. Unjust and unmerited suffering was
endured by the Savior. Whether addressing the believer or the unbeliever relative to suffering the
answer is the same. The answer to this issue of suffering is that this life is about Jesus Christ and
not about the person. That is to say, if one has a man-centered religion one might well be mad at
the gods. But a Christ centered life and one with faith in the Lord then when suffering comes,
than the one that is suffering must accept these as an opportunity to bring glory to the Lord.
We see with the suffering of Job how he responded this way, Job 2:10 “But he said unto
her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the
hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” Job argued
that ethically he could not be angry at God after he has been a recipient of so many blessings
from the Lord. Job demonstrated spiritual maturity and thankfulness in his trials just as he had
demonstrated thankfulness to the Lord for the blessings bestowed upon him.
When one analyses suffering the skeptic rarely if ever blames the suffering on Satan, but
it would seem to this writer that when the blame begins to be heralded at God the apologist might
do well to attempt to convince the skeptic of evil in the world that might only brought about by
the influence of Satan. The opposite argument might also be made with the skeptic, which the
apologist might ask, “What is the Source of the good, which is seen and felt in the life of the
skeptic.?” One might ask, “If evil had a source, which the skeptic is eager to point to God,
wouldn’t the good have a Source too?” The apologist’s strongest argument is still to argue from
the position from the existence of God.
The moral God Argument
This argument made for the purpose of proving God’s existence is a powerful argument.
This author would make several observations, based upon theological convictions, prior to the
next references. First, this author is glad to make references to extra biblical sources for the
purpose of aiding further understanding of Christian philosophy, but a biblical presuppositional
apologetic would always be viewed as the most authoritative. Second, this author understands
that the history of Christendom is very broad in its theology. This author holds to a high view of
Scripture and a baptistic, local church view of ecclesiology. Third, this author holds
conservative, theologians in higher regard and authority then those that might be referred to as
the :Church Fathers” and philosophers.
The argument that God is the good was made by David Baggett and Jerry Walls when
they stated, “In some important sense we wish to argue that God just is the ultimate Good. This
view, too, has a venerable history within Christianity. Thomists, Anselmians, theistic Planonists,
and theistic activists, including such contemporary analytic philosophers as Alvin Plantinga and
Robert Adams, all concur that on a Christian understanding of reality. God and the ultimate
Good are ontologically inseparable.” The argument here is a causation argument, which is to say
that there must be because there is Good there must prove that God exists.
Baggett and Walls further made the argument that there is no daylight between God and
Good when they argued this way,
We are inclined to think that the ultimate ontological inseparableness of God and the Good is something of an axiomatic Anselmiam institution; a vision apprehended, not just the deliverance of a discursive argument. That so many solid theists through the centuries have gravitated toward such a view bolsters this impression. If God is the ultimate Good, such that necessary moral truths are reflective of an aspect of God, then indeed Plantinga is right that to apprehend such truths is to catch a glimpse of God Himself.
This argument for God is a persuasive argument one to be sure, but it maybe that is still leaves
the skeptic punching holes in this apologetic method. This author has made a similar argument
while dealing with a skeptic, before he became a Christian, which went like this. The skeptic was
attaching the Bible’s authenticity during those daily talks. In a moment of frustration this author
blurted out, “Let’s study God without the Bible!” There was a long silence from the skeptic, and
then he stated, “that is a good point.” That skeptic became a believer, the reason being, the
objection was taken away. Once the objection was taken away, (the Bible) the void of not having
a Creator and Savior set in, and it felt desolate to not have a God which is Good.
Heart, Brain and Apologetics
Nancy Pearcey, a protégé of Francis Schaffer, offered a very powerful argument relative
to the culture, though apologetics is the topic at hand, the culture is who the apologetics is
employed to reach. Pearcey argued,
The first step in forming a Christian worldview is to overcome this sharp divide between ‘heart’ and ‘brain.’ We have to reject the division of life into sacred realm, limited to things like worship and personal morality, over against a secular realm that includes science, politics, economics, and the rest of the public arena. This dichotomy in our own minds is the greatest barrier to liberating the power of the gospel across the whole of culture today.
This is certainly part of the apologetic argument, which is to say, to not give up ground to the
skeptics and atheists. What Pearcey is basically saying that if truth is truth Sunday morning it is
certainly truth Monday morning. Furthermore Pearcey is arguing that if truth is truth for
salvation then it is truth for economics and politics, and so forth. Her thought process is that if
one does not give up ground in areas that might be considered secular then their apologetic
argument for theism is stronger. Pearcey then referenced Francis Schaffer this way,
As Schaffer explained, the concept of truth itself has been divided—a process he illustrates with the imagery of a two-story building: In the lower story are science and reason, which are considered public truth, binding on everyone. Over against it is an upper story of noncognitive experience, which is the focus of personal meaning.
What Schaffer has done is more than a technique; he was stating that truth is truth
wherever it is found. The technique he was employing could be considered a negotiating
strategy, which is to say, the use of the two story building takes away the objections of the
skeptic. Once the skeptic understands this he is one step closer to faith in theism.
The Practice of Apologetics
The whole objective of apologetics is not an academic exercise but rather to engage with
unbelievers with the purpose of applying the skillful use of Scripture to persuade the unbeliever
to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Paul exemplified this in Acts 7:22 “Then Paul stood in the
midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too
superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription,
TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.”
Greg Bahnsen stated it this way in his book, “It is time to provide a concrete illustration
or practical application of the principles and tools for defending the Christian faith which have
been discussed in our previous studies. Training manuals on fire-fighting do not put out fires; the
actual fighting of fires does. And when all is said and done, it is not theory of apologetics which
defends the faith and stops the mouths of the critics. Only the practice of apologetics can do
that.” That is to say, the body of study, presuppositional apologetics is one that is practical and
its main purpose is to be put into the spiritual battle for the unsaved of the world.
Bahnsen continued he argument for putting presuppositional apologetics into practice for
which it was developed for. Bahnsen explained, “It would be instructive and helpful for readers
if we could take the approach to apologetics which is advanced above and put it to use in a
concrete case. We need a fire to put out, following the guidelines of our preceding fire-fighting
manual.” Bahnsen was making the case that unless or until a skeptic is confronted with biblical
arguments for the faith if not converted to the faith it is an academic endeavor.
The Bible Authority and Apologetics
One of the most significant arguments for presuppositional apologetics is the inspiration
of the Bible and preservation of the text. It may very well understood that if one does not have an
authoritative Bible and preserved text one cannot have a credible apologetic. Norman Geisler
shared his thoughts on the matter this way,
Jesus is God incarnate. As God, whatever he teaches is true. Jesus taught that the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament are authoritative, written Word of god. Likewise, Jesus, who is God’s full and final revelation, promised that his twelve apostles would be guided by the Holy Spirit into ‘all truth.’ The only authentic and confirmed record of apostolic teaching extent is the twenty-seven books of the New Testament. Hence, the canon of God’s revelation to man is closed. With these sixty-six books we have the complete and final revelation of God for the faith and practice of believers.
One might say, this is all well and good if one believes the Bible, but this does not prove
that God exists. One might well respond, the Word of God has yet to be disproved. Thus, if the
Word of God has not been proven to not be true or accurate, and it does in fact is divine
revelation then by its authority in has proven the existence of God. Edward Carnell discussed his
presuppositional apologetic in the context of evidence found in the Word of God. He explained,
The Christian operates under one major premise—the existence of God Who has revealed Himself in Scripture. We are not exchanging reason for faith, as did Thomas; rather we are seeking to strengthen the faith which we already have, for faith is a resting of the heart in the worthiness of the evidence. The Bible is needed to give us more evidence.
One might think that Carnell is making an evidentialist argument, but if one looks closer to this
last reference it appears that he is suggesting to hold to evidence that is in the Scriptures. Thus,
the presupposition is that the Scripture is the basis for the existence of God.
Furthermore, for one to hold to a presuppositional belief that all other beliefs have the
foundation of their epistemology in the Bible one must also have a presupposition that the bible
has a preserved text. For without a preserved text one cannot have a reliable apologetic. The
basis for a biblical presupposition is seen in the following passages: Psalms 12:6,7 “The words
of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou
shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” Psalm 105:8
“He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand
generations.” Psalm 119:11 “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against
thee.”Psalm 119:152 “Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded
them for ever.” Psalm 119:160 “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy
righteous judgments endureth for ever.” Matthew 5:18 “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven
and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”
II Timothy 4:16 “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God
that it may not be laid to their charge.” II Peter 1:20, 21 “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of
the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of
man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
These Scriptural references are the presuppositional basis for one’s biblical apologetic.
Thomas Strouse explained his biblical apologetic relative to Psalm 119:60 this way, “David
conveyed in Hebrew the sense of the KJV text, which gives the ‘history’ of the truthfulness of
Scripture; it was true at inscripturation, it was true during the temporal ages of man, and shall be
true throughout eternity!” Thus, because of the promises of Scripture, and the reliability of the
text, one can have full confidence to build ones biblical presuppositional apologetic upon.
Carnell continued this presupposition relative to the authority of Scripture like this,
“A careful examination of the Bible reveals that is passes these stringent examinations
summa cum laude. Unlike all other religious volumes, the Bible speaks of, and gives a
metaphysical basis to, the unity and solidarity of the entire human race under God.” The
reliability of Scripture demands that the skeptic take note, and that a believer take comfort in its
Carnell continued with his apologetic relative to the authoritativeness of the human
writers of the Bible. Carnell wrote, “The authors of Scripture speak with authority. Their
words are punctuated with peals of thunder: ‘Thus saith Jehovah ‘that rules heaven and earth.”
Were these individuals who wrote the Bible merely witnessing to what they believed was the
covenantal working of God in history?” Carnell was suggesting that the human writers were
acting with a divine awareness that was beyond human capability. This is to say, that these men
clearly had God’s help and influence upon them as they penned the very Words of God.
Carnell continued, “From Genesis through Revelation, these men wrote sober truth. one
self-consistent, historically accurate, plan of salvation runs through their hundreds of pages of
manuscripts which, astonishingly, were written by men that were relatively ignorant of the
existence of each other.” The authority of the forty-two human authors that penned the
Scriptures demands the respect of any literary or historical person with the least competence and
not hear the Words of God written across the pages of Scripture, nor see the hand of God in
human affairs over 6,000 years of human history.
Biblical Reasoning and Purpose
The purpose of presuppositional apologetics should be clear and simple, which is to
bring the highest glory to God and the greatest help and blessing to man. Greg Bahnsen stated it
well when he said,
A truly Christian defense of the faith must never fail to exalt Christ as Lord over all, including argumentation and reasoning. An apologetic that builds on any other rock than Christ does not honor the greatness of divine wisdom; it is foolishly and audaciously erected on the ruinous sands of human authority.
This was a great argument for a biblical presuppositional apologetic, in contrast to all other
forms or methods of apologetics. This is to say, classical, evidentialism, possibilitism are all built
on human reasoning rather than Divine premises in which to build a biblical worldview.
Bahnsen continued with his explanation of a biblical presuppositional apologetic. He
The task of apologetics must be exercised upon the infallible and presupposed authority of the Word of Christ in Scripture. Apologetics does not first do obedience to human philosophy and science and then proceed to encompass God in its sphere or reverence.
Bahnsen put methods of apologetic practice and philosophy of biblical thought into the correct
order. He made clear that human reason and science do not supersede the authority of the Bible.
Bahnsen goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden to point out the authority
of Scripture. He explained this way,
The moment one abandons his sure footing in the presupposed Word of God his apologetic becomes unfaithful and precarious. A vivid confrontation of that fact can be taken from the account of man’s fall into sin according to Genesis three. Even in the garden man was responsible to submit without question to God’s revelation given by special word to him.
Bahnsen’s argument relative to those in the Garden of Eden having been in subjection to
the authority of God’s Word is a powerful statement and should be seriously considered by
skeptic and believer alike. He continued his argument for the authority of Scripture relative to
contrasting that divine authority with the philosophy of Antony Flew. Biblical authority was
demonstrated as Bahnsen explained,
God cannot have this kind of final authority for Flew, but only such an authority which will first be authorized by the reasoning of man. In the long run Flew and other unbelievers insist that man must not be reduced to bowing in subject dependence upon his Creator as the final authority.
Biblical presuppositional apologetics makes the case that the authority of truth must have
and does rest upon the Creator, and that all must recognize the Creator as the source of truth.
Truth did not originate from man and so man and man’s philosophy cannot be the source or the
foundation of truth. Bahnsen basically argued that if Adam and eve had to summit to the truth
of the Creator there is no one that does not have to summit to the authority of the Creator.
John Frame dealt with this issue of authority as well. He discussed the matter in a manner
that appears to be a historical perspective. That is to say that Scripture has long since been
regarded as the ultimate authority throughout the history of Christianity. Lane stated, “Sola
Scriptura, after all, does not require the exclusion of all extra-biblical data, even from theology.
It simply requires that in theology and in all other disciplines, the highest authority, the supreme
standard, must be Scripture and Scripture alone.” Frame’s argument was rather fair to most
reasonable minded people. Extra-biblical data is useful but not superior to Scripture in terms of
it being authoritative. The only one to oppose this position might be the skeptic, but the only
authority can seem to argue for is some unknown authority which the skeptic cannot even
There can be no objection to mentioning extra-biblical data in apologetics, as long as those data are not presented as ‘counsel to God’ on the same level as Scripture. Human thought, even theology, requires the use of extra-biblical data, for we are always dealing with the contemporary world in which God has placed us.
This position of course would be widely accepted among believers. The skeptics would
of course have difficulty with the final authority of Scripture, but of course the skeptics have no
answers only criticisms. As one coming from a presuppositional apologetic position supremacy
of Scripture is paramount to this biblical philosophy of apologetic as it is the cornerstone of
belief for all faith and practice in the Christian life, and the Christian’s worldview.
Presuppositional Epistemological Apologetic
Worldviews compete and many research for the most important questions in life. The
study of truth is an incredible body of study. The pursuit of the truth is only made possible as the
Lord has given us His Word that we may know truth. John 1:17 “For the law was given by
Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” John 17:17 “Sanctify them through thy truth:
thy word is truth.” The truth relative to God’s Word is declared in, John 1:1 “In the beginning
was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Bahnsen discussed his understanding of presuppositional epistemology as he explained,
In the following studies I aim to present biblical and epistemological reflections which point us toward a presuppositional defense of the faith, clarify and defend this apologetic method by responding to certain popular criticisms of it, and then compare it with a few, basic, other kinds of apologetic strategy which are promoted today.
When one compares presuppositional epistemological apologetic to other methods what
is profound are the different directions these arguments are directed. All the other arguments for
God’s existence all argue trying to prove the existence of God. The distinct difference with
presupositional apologetics is, like the Bible, it assume God’s existence, which is to say, the
Bible simply declares God exists. Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God…”
Bahnsen continued his effective argument for a presuppositional approach when he explained,
Although a presuppositional approach in apologetics is demanded epistemologically, the ultimate source of strength for such a method of defending the faith must come from the self-attesting, inspired Word of God itself. We should expect this to be the case for a biblical presuppositionalist! Since he claims that his authority must be the Word of God, the presuppositionalist is obligated to ‘authorize’ his apologetic method by that very same authority.
This is a central argument as to Who should be obeyed and to whom is ones allegiance
too? It would seem to this author that the unbelieving critic cannot push the biblical
presuppositionalist off his foundation of belief. On the contrary it would seem to offend the
conscience of the believer to go wondering about the Universe for some greater Authority other
than the Creator for a higher authority. Bahnsen continued,
Christ alone must govern our thoughts, and His Word must not be brought into question. In setting forth our reasoned account for the Christian hope in us we are obligated by the Word of the Lord to do so without casting doubt upon Scripture’s veracity. The Lord’s word must be presupposed and obeyed in everything we do—even apologetics.
This argument is a hallmark of the faith, as without the Word of God there is no special
revelation to tell the unbeliever how to know the Creator, nor the believer to know the will of
God for their lives. The orthodox view of Scripture is a high view, one that says that Scripture is
the final authority. Scripture has no colleagues, Scripture has no peers. Scripture is no handmaid
to another. Bahnsen continued his defense of a high view of presuppositional apologetic. He
The Word of Christ, rather than the premises and standards of the unbelieving world, must be presupposed in formulating a defense if an apologist is going to be able to bring the unbeliever to a saving knowledge of God. Unbelieving or agnostic apologetical presuppositions will leave the non-Christian in his unbelieving or agnostic inability to receive the tings of the Spirit.
Bahnsen’s argument did not only demonstrates a high view of Scripture but also was very
practical, relative to the reason believers are left here on earth, which is, besides to glorify the
Lord, to win the lost. It is so important to keep in perspective the reason to learn apologetics is
to persuade the unbelievers to put ones’ faith in Jesus Christ.
Possibilism and Apologetics
Ronald Reagan coined the phrase, “Trust but verify” near the end of the Cold War,
when discussing diplomacy with Russia. Though a good diplomatic policy, it may not be the best
approach with regard to biblical apologetics or ones views on bibliology. Bahnsen described
Francis Schaffer’s view on apologetics this way,
Hence we see that Schaeffer definitely holds out (as did the older form of apologetic represented by men like Butler) that we must follow a procedure calculated to establish the truth of our assertions about the Bible being God’s Word, Christ being God’s Son, exc., exc.
Later we will look at direct quotes from Schaeffer, but as Bahnsen has referenced this does not
seem to be an orthodox position for one to qualify the Word of God. Bahnsen continued,
Against both neo-orthodoxy and Schaefer the presuppositional approach would take Scripture as the most ultimate authority in human affairs, self-attestingly true, and self-interpreting, clear revelation from God. It is not verified (contrary to Schaeffer), and that is because it is God’s authoritative, clear (cognitive) Word of truth necessary to all other intellectual endeavors (contrary to neo-orthodoxy). The Bible is the very words of God; the neo-orthodox does not pay sufficient attention to it as the Words of God, and Schaeffer (in his apologetic method) does not pay sufficient attention to it as the Words of God.
Bahnsen pointed out a significant divide between Schaeffer’s apologetic and that of a biblical
presuppositionalist. As seen in the previous reference Bahnsen took exception to Schaeffer
stating that verification was needed of the Bible. Brahnsen mentioned another major issue
relative to Schaeffer’s bibliology was his neo-orthodox. Schaeffer’s low view of Scripture was
on full display, of which Bahnsen made mention. Bahnsen clearly appealed for closer attention to
be paid to the Scriptures relative to presuppositional apologetics.
Sproul, though a Classical Apologist himself goes after the Evidentialist for the problem
seen with those that take the position of thinking there is a need to verify Scripture. He
explained this way. “To link presuppositionalism with verification must be the ultimate paradox.
Verification is the hallmark of evidentialism and the antithesis of presuppositionalism. One
tradition says that seeing is believing; the other, believing is seeing.” Though no champion of
presuppositionalism Sproul is used as a handmaiden for the benefit of presuppositionalism, and
one might add, Sproul stated it very well, that presuppositions relative to the Bible need no
verification. Sproul continued with an explanation of what evidence is like this,
“Finally, we get an definition of evidences…Scripture is arbitrarily (that is, for no reason) accepted here as the Word as we have shown earlier. On this nonrational foundation, Scripture is accepted as if it did carry rational weight and when applied to factual matters is called evidence. So still there is no evidence for evidence.”
What is on full display here is an example of contempt for the Word of God, but certainly
a lack of faith in the Lord. This might be as good a teaching moment as any to note that the
Lord’s work, which includes knowing Him, must be done in His strength and wisdom. King
David said it this way; Psalm 71:16 “I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD: I will make
mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only.” Sproul may have been half right, in that while
he defends presuppositionalism over evidentialism he does not step back far enough from reason
to actually defend or advance biblical presuppositional apologetics. Stated differently,
biblical presuppositional apologetics is presuppositionalism without qualifiers.
Another apologist, Francis Schaeffer, made in a similar way called the authority of the
Bible and the autonomy of God Himself into question. Schaeffer stated, “Why should God not
communicate propositionally to the man, the verbalizing being, whom He made in such a way
that we communicate propositionally to each other? Therefore, in the biblical position there
is the possibility of verifiable facts involved:” It would seem as though the Lord has seen this
line of questioning before. Job 38:4-6 “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?
declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who
hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the
corner stone thereof;” Certainly one should keep in mind Who the Creator is and who the created
one is. Presuppositional apologetics would seem to be the one approach that is most biblical and,
rightly so, defers to the Word of God as that supreme source of knowledge and truth.
Evidentialism and Apologetics
In the middle of President George W. Bush’s second term in Office he was challenged on
who should decide the fate of Ronald Rumsfeld’s job as Secretary of Defense. President Bush’s
response was, “I’m the decider.” This is the same question relative to truth, the Word of God,
and all other questions which presuppositional apologetics answers. Who is qualified to answer
these questions? Josh McDowell asked himself these questions; “One needs to constantly and
consciously be aware of his presuppositions. I had to ask myself, ‘Do I have the right to my
presuppositions? A key issue is, ‘Do one’s presuppositions coincide with reality, with what
really is? Is there sufficient evidence to support them?” If seems as though Josh McDowell has
set himself up to make the decisions on matters of truth. Said differently, if he has the ability to
verify truth then mankind has the truth and can know the truth, otherwise mankind has been left
in the dark. God has recorded for us in His Word that we can know Him. Philippians 3:10 “That
I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being
made conformable unto his death;” Yes, God wants a relationship with Mankind, and yes, God
has made a way for us to know Him.
The Transcendental Argument
While reading this theory it would seem to be a powerful argument, and no doubt it is
powerful, but could something be missing? John Frame summed up the argument like this,
God must exist if there is to be any meaning to the world. In a biblical worldview, God is the basis for all reality, and therefore for all rationality, truth, goodness, and beauty. Unless God exists, there is no reason to assume the possibility of meaningful communication. This claim can be further conjugated into specific arguments about (1) logic, (2) the uniformity of nature, and (3) moral standards. So unless God exists, there is no reason to assume the validity of logic, the uniformity of nature, the obligatoriness of moral standards.
These are all very good arguments for God, but they do not assume God’s existence. It would
seem as though when one begins arguing for God rather than from His assumed existence that it
is a position which one must catch up rather than one one’s own. The three stated points are all
significant points to be made, but one does not want to win a battle and lose the war. The war
being the battle to win lost souls to Christ, rather than the battle to conquer one’s opponent.
The Teleological Argument
One must prepare before entering into an apologetic discussion or debate, and so it is
incumbent upon the apologist to determine the strongest line of argumentation. The main
contingency of course is that it is a biblical argument. Frame discussed the teleological argument
this way, “The teleological argument is perhaps the strongest argument of all when it is
considered informally, but it has always been one of the weakest when theologians and
philosophers have tried to state it formally.” The choice for which argument method to use by
the apologist should not be a pragmatic one as it is a slippery slope to a place of compromise
rather than a place of faithfulness.
The Cosmological Argument
This argument from the cosmos is of course fascinating, and as a believer one always
want the Christian worldview to prevail. Frame stated, “For while the teleological focuses one
one phenomenon within the world (that of purpose or design), the cosmological asserts that
every finite reality, whether it appears to be designed or not, must be dependent on an infinite
God, simply because of its finitude.” The problem the cosmological argument gets into Frame
states is not knowing everything as does God. Frame stated, “To prove that, one would have to
assure oneself that all possible causes had been ruled out, and to reach that conclusion would
require omniscience.” As a lawyer never asks a question that he does not already know the
answer to, so an apologist might do well not to use an argument which has a large back door.
The Ontological Argument
The ontological argument would appear to be fairly circular in its reasoning. A classical
apologetic and used by many philosophers. The presupposition of the argument is that because
“God is perfect He must be God” It seems to be what may be referred to as a tight circular
reasoning rather than a wide circular reasoning. Though one might very well agree that God is
perfect this argument seems to be longing for a biblical basis for its own existence.
Biblical Presuppositional Apologetics
This study relative to biblical presuppositional apologetics began by defining this method
of apologetics, with both Scripture and an encyclopedia definition. The description of the
growing problem which of which the apologist faces. The significance of hermeneutics
employed in the practice of presuppositional apologetics was addressed. This paper discussed
the hard questions with special attention to suffering and the problem with evil, and as it is
addressed to the skeptic and the believer. The moral argument for God was considered along
with the order of knowing and which was received first, the heart or the brain.
This research also dealt with a number of methods of apologetics that are not as strong,
practical or biblical. The method of possibilism was discussed along with its weaknesses. The
major problems relative to evidentialism were dealt with, and reasons stated for this writer’s
disagreement. The final three arguments were briefly mentioned, the transcendental argument,
the teleological argument, and the cosmological argument were addressed.
The most significant apologetic method was the biblical presuppositional form of
apologetics. This method has its foundational principles in the book of Acts and First Peter.
Biblical presuppositions are authoritative, and seek the conversion of the skeptic rather
than just winning a debate. The study of biblical presuppositional apologetics has for its
purpose to glorify God and to minister to the unsaved. The final point of significance is that
presuppositional apologetics is based upon the epistemology of the Word of God as its truth.
INITIAL SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPGY
Baggett, David, and Jerry Walls. Good God. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Bahnsen, Greg L. Presuppositional Apologetics: Sated and Defended. Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 2008.
Caner, Ergun, and Ed Hindson. The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics: Surveying the Evidence for the Truth of Christianity. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publications, 2008.
Carnell, Edward John. An Introduction to Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976.
Geisler. Noman L. Christian Apologetics, (Grand Rapid, MI: Baker Books, 1976.
Gerstner, John, Arthur Lindsley, and R.C. Sproul, Classical Apologetics: A Rational Defense of the Christian Faith and a Critique or Presuppositional Apologetics. Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.
Jeremiah, David. I Never Thought I’d See the Day: Culture at the Crossroads. New York, NY: Yates & Yates Publishers, 2011.
Lane. John M. Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing CO, 2015.
McDowell, Josh. More Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Historical Evidences for the Christian Scriptures. San Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1975.
Meilaender, Gilbert. Bio Ethics: A Primer for Christians. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing CO, 2013.
Pearcey, Nancy. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. Wheaton, IL: Good News Publishers, 2005.
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Schaeffer. Francis A. The Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy. Wheaton, IL: Crossways, 1990.
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