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Archive for the ‘presuppositionalism’ Category

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1.) Describe your present ministry. (NOTE: I know you answered this already, added if you want to expand upon it)

I am an active member at Berean Baptist Church in Pickerington, OH. We are a small church so we all wear a lot of hats. I frequently teach Sunday school for all ages and give devotions or preach at special events. My church and church leaders are very supportive of my evangelism where I street preach and hand out tracts.

I assist Andrew Rappaport with the Spreading the Fire events for Striving for Eternity. I have spoken for him and I am the emcee for all 2014 events. I am also a part of Tony Miano’s Pulpit and Streets SermonAudio page where my teachings are posted.

That is the extent of “my ministry” as it often termed. But I would also consider the few hours a week I spend personally discipling Christian men 1 on 1 and my time spent with wife and 4 children to be ministry as well. I have a full time job which pays the bills, so I’m not as active as some of the “other guys.” (All of whom I love and respect!)

My blog is michaelcoughlin.net. I appreciate you checking it out.

2.) How did you come to embrace Presuppositional apologetics?

I learned the term ‘presuppositional apologetics’ from reading Answers In Genesis publication “Answers.” But to be honest, it seems when I was converted I simply embraced what most people think of as a new movement called ‘presup.’ The way I see, good, bible-believing Christians have been doing effective ‘presup’ since the beginning of time. The fact that we need a special name for it is more a testimony to how far from defending our faith biblically and rationally we have come as a Christian culture. I do suppose it is good that there is a sort of “reformation” going on where more people are learning what it means and I’m not opposed to labeling things if it helps people catch on.

3.) Some people think Calvinism is incompatible with Evangelism, what is your take on this?

As an unashamed 5 point Calvinist who evangelizes more than most Christians I know I obviously find this laughable to an extent. But I recognize the argument. The belief that God can and will save only his elect in and of itself ought to be a deterrent to evangelism. But when we look at the whole counsel of God and see that God has ordained salvation by grace through faith through the hearing of His Word, through the foolishness of preaching, then we get the whole picture. We see that Calvinism is not a deterrent to evangelism, but it is evangelism’s only hope for any success in seeing converts made.

God “can” persist my life if I do not eat at all. Yet we know that God has designed things such that we must eat to fuel our bodies or we would die. We would never ‘test’ God in this way. I believe that it is biblical to say that in the same sense God has designed things such that He will save whom He wills through people hearing or reading the gospel and believing – which makes evangelism required in the Calvinist worldview.

4.) How do you incorporate Presuppositional apologetics with evangelism?

I try to be careful to keep 1 Corinthians 2:14 at the forefront of my mind. I don’t shy away from what some people would call evidential arguments if only for the sake of entertaining the listener slightly. I’d also talk about NFL football with someone for a few minutes during an evangelism encounter. But ultimately, my belief is that ‘even if someone were to return from the dead, they still would not believe if they will not heed God’s Word.’ So my goal is to faithfully preach what the Bible actually says about man, God, Christ and the gospel command and leave the conversion up to God. I don’t try to convert men to presuppositionalists when I’m giving them the gospel any more than I try to convert them to Christ. I simply lay out the Truth of scripture. I’ve seen too many people practicing presup who seem more intent on winning the argument than the soul. May God forbid that ever be me.

I try to help people who are willing and honest to see the logical fallacies of their own arguments and how those inconsistencies are rooted in their presuppositions. I am not opposed to asking a nonbeliever to consider that my worldview makes sense, ‘assuming the Bible is my foundation.’ I’ve had a few people vehemently opposed to my preaching about hell or against homosexuality who have agreed with me that ‘assuming I really believe the Bible,’ my preaching was the most loving act I could do toward them.

5.) Tell us more about Spread the Fire.

Spreading the Fire is an umbrella title for 3 conferences held each year to equip saints to evangelize. Striving for Eternity is the organization which puts on the events, and I’m happy to assist. Three things make these FREE conferences unique, and, I think, better.

The first is that it is not only an evangelism conference. We provide teaching to equip saints to grow as Christian men or women, not only as evangelists. In fact, this year’s conference theme for 2 of the events is “Family.” The second thing which I believe causes us to stand out is that we have a conference, and then we actually take people out to the street to actually evangelize and we stand by them side by side to help. Finally, and most importantly, we try to partner with local churches and we instruct our attendees of the requirement that they become accountable to a local church as a follower of Christ. Visit OhioFire.org for more info about all 3 conferences.

6.) What would be your encouragement to a young man who desire to be involved in open air outreach?  Any resources?

Yes. Start with your local church and pastor. Read the following articles: http://michaelcoughlin.net/blog/index.php/2013/02/caution-young-street-preacher/and http://www.crossencounters.us/2014/04/approaching-your-pastor-about-evangelism.html. Assuming your local church is supportive, contact us at http://pulpitandstreets.com/pas/index.php/get-in-touch/ and we will figure out how we can be of service to you.

Ultimately, evangelism and open air outreach are not new things. All a man needs is authentic conversion, love for Christ, a desire for holiness and an earnest wish to see the lost get found to start telling people of the greatest display of love ever in the cross of Christ and glorious hope in his resurrection.

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Façades

Here are the links on Presuppositional apologetics from April 7th-14th, 2014!

1.) Are Psychopaths Just Consistent Atheists?

2.) Can we be good without God? Jon Kaus vs. Dan Courtney

3.) FAITH AND REASON IN CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE – PT. 3

4.) Christ & Buddha

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Internet Husband on Presuppositional apologetics

Here are the links gathered from the internet on Presuppositional apologetics.

Which ones blessed you?

1.) A Christian Philosopher’s Thoughts On “God’s Not Dead”

2.) BackPack Radio Interview with Chris Bolt: The Myth of Neutrality [04/06/2014]

3.) Van Til: Beams Under the Floor

4.) Christian Book Review: ‘How Jesus Became God’ by Bart Ehrman

5.) Which Comes First, Metaphysics or Epistemology?

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20388086

 

Vern Poythress is quite the Renaissance man; or more appropriately I should say he’s quite the Reformation man. With degrees in Mathematics from Cal Tech and Harvard balanced with a theological degree in apologetics from Westminster and also New Testament studies at Oxford, Poythress over the years have shown himself to be quite a capable scholar when it comes to discussion of various disciplines from the Christian Worldview.  When I learned that the editors for the “Christian Answers to Hard Questions” series has selected Poythress to write in defense of the historicity of Adam, I was quite delighted.  The debate on the historicity of Adam has been a source of contention the last few years in Evangelical circles and survey of the literature reveal that it involves the discipline of biology, Old Testament studies and Ancient Near East studies.  Given the inter-disciplinary nature of the debate, Poythress’ ability to navigate through inter-relationship of disciplines would be helpful (for an introduction to Poythress’ view on the relationship of disciplines, see his book Symphonic Theology).

Like other works in the Christian Answers to Hard Questions series, this is a short book.  The short length forces its contributors to be concise.  Poythress did a masterful job of engaging the reader.  I enjoyed and learned the most from his evaluation of the claim that man and Chimpanzees share 99% of the same DNA. He spends a considerable length addressing this issue.  Poythress’ footnotes demonstrate that he is informed and up to date with the latest peer review articles on genetic studies and I appreciate the caliber of his sources behind his effort to debunk the claim that Chimpanzees and man are 99% alike genetically.  It turns out that the data has been manipulated and some of the genetic materials that are not similar between man and Chimps have been eliminated from the percentage count.  I also appreciated the discussion of what one’s interpretative grid of the percentage means.  One sees here how Cornelius Van Til and Thomas Kuhn influenced Poythress on the importance of one’s philosophy of science that plays a role of how one understands the evidences.

I did not disagree with the conclusion or the arguments presented in the book.  However, the book could be improved in two ways.  First, it would have helped to let his readers know what his conclusion is in the beginning of the book rather than the end.  Secondly, I think Poythress shouldn’t have begun the book with a lengthy discussion about the genetics similarities between man and chimps.  Towards the end of the book Poythress noted that the discussion of the historicity of Adam takes place in various disciplines—theology, biology and Biblical studies.  I think it would have been helpful to put this in the beginning of the book as preparation for the genetics discussion.  Overall the book is more theological rather than exegetical but I wouldn’t dismiss it for being so since it paves the way for the Biblical data to speak on the question of the historicity of Adam.  In fact, I would recommend those who want to start understanding the debate to begin with this book first, followed by Zondervan’s recent Four Views on the Historicity of Adam.

NOTE: This book was provided to me free by P&R Publishing and Net Galley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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Hut Gang

 

Because of our series on Calvinistic Dispensational Presuppositionalism, we pushed back our regular link round up so here are the links for those interested in Presuppositional apologetics gathered between March 22nd-31st 2014.

Enjoy!

1.) 22 Questions for Creationists From Smug Atheists with Pony Tails and Giant Earlobe Discs

2.) Inerrancy and Apologetics by Scott Oliphint

3.) 

4.) A No Holds Barred Review of Noah : The Movie (2014)

5.) God’s Not Dead but Christian Screen Writing Is

6.) 

7.) The Childishness of Presuppositional Apologetics

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Presuppositional Dispensationalism

 

This is an expansion of an “index” to a previous series on Calvinistic Dispensational Presuppositionalism I had about two years ago.  I’m trying to have a “one stop shop” page that has links to everything online related to the tiny niche of Calvinistic Dispensational Presuppositionalism.  Bookmark it as I will add to this page from time to time!

HISTORICAL CONSIDERATION

PERSPECTIVALISM: INTER-RELATIONSHIP OF ESCHATOLOGY, APOLOGETICS AND HERMENEUTICS 

INTERVIEWS

THESIS AND DISSERTATIONS

ARTICLES, BLOG SERIES AND OTHER WRITINGS

MULTIMEDIA TEACHING RESOURCES ON PRESUPPOSITIONALISM BY DISPENSATIONALISTS

APOLOGETICS TACTICS

REVIEWS

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In *light* of April Fools, I thought I put up this *light* post.

Do you know your Reformed apologist?  Can you guess the name of each apologists represented by pictures?

Enjoy this game of Picture Charades!  If you need extra help for some, click on the thumbnail to enlarge the picture.

(Answers will be posted in the comments a few hours from now)

 

 

1.) Random fact: Born in May 3, 1895.

corn

aliasblue-van-hi800px-Geschiebemergel

 

2.) Random Fact: Taught at a non-Christian university.

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3.) Random fact: Bicycle rider.

kjv1611 whiteout.500.500.s

 

4.) Random fact: Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Frame Charade

5.) Random Fact: Former host of a radio show.

Genewoman_cooking

 

6.) Random fact:  Undergraduate studies at West Texas State University.

KCelephant-clipart-2

 

7.)  Random fact: Dad lived in Indonesia before.

(SIGH) +10

 

8.) Random fact:  Incredible blogger.

steve_jobshay

 

How many did you guessed?  Let us know!

Not Pictured because it was too difficult:  Greg Bahnsen, Vern Poythress.

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Sorry for the delay in posting this essay in our Calvinistic Dispensational Presuppositionalism’s series.Titanic-redo

In July 2012, the popular Presuppositional Apologetics’ blog “Choosing Hats” had a post titled “The Transcendental Argument Against Dispensationalism: What is Dispensationalism?” It was written by one of their contributors who goes by the handle “Ben W.”  The post was supposed to be the first of a series critiquing Dispensationalism.  The opening paragraph made it clear that Ben was “not planning to make a historical argument against Dispensationalism.”  Instead, Ben stated in the last sentence: “As this series continues, we will explore further the developments which Progressive Dispensationalism has made to these tenets and discuss whether or not a consistent application of these hermeneutical principles can allow us to interpret scripture intelligibly and consistently.”  The angle sounds interesting but unfortunately the series was discontinued before any Transcendental argument against Dispensationalism (hereafter TAAD) materialized.  What makes the idea of TAAD interesting is that Presuppositionalism is big with the Transcendental argument for the existence of God (TAG) and to see another Transcendental argument successfully refute another “ism” further boost Presuppositional apologetics and also advance the thesis advocated by some that Presuppositionalism and Dispensationalism are incompatible.  For those interested, I have written on the topic of hermeneutics, Dispensationalism and Presuppositionalism here but reached an opposite conclusion.

The best argument I’ve seen against Dispensationalism by Presuppositionalists that mimic the Transcendental Argument is offered by those within the Christian Reconstructionist camp.  There are some Christians I know who have an instant knee-jerk reaction to anything Christian Reconstructionism, which is also known as Theonomy, due to a lot of misrepresentations out there (all Theonomists reject salvation by grace alone, they want the Church to persecute non-Christians, etc).  I must say that I have benefited from many Theonomists and what they have to say (see our blog’s tag on the category on Theonomy).  I believe non-Theonomists can benefit from reading Christian Reconstructionists, even if they disagree with them, but that’s another subject for another time.  Here in this post I want to limit the scope to the Theonomists’ “Transcendental” argument against Dispensationalism and whether its argument has any weight.

Christian Reconstructionists are Postmillennial in their eschatology and are critical of Amillennialism and Premillennialism.  In 1990 Gary North published a book titled Millennialism and Social Theory. The inside book flap says “In Millennialism and Social Theory, Dr. Gary North, co-founder of this movement, examines why both pre-millennialism and amillennialism have never developed independent social theories, and why the spokesmen of both positions appeal to the prevailing ethics of contemporary humanism as the only possible way to run society.”  Inside on page 95 North writes

“If there is no cultural alternative to humanism available in history, then the one reasonable Christian response is to pray for either the Rapture (dispensationalism) or the end of history (amillennialism).  (Historic premillennialists and post-tribulational dispensationalists believe that the millennium will come only after Christians have gone through Armageddon and the Great Tribulation.  I have no idea what they pray for.)

Premillennialists and amillennialists share a commitment to a coming cosmic discontinuity as the Church’s great hope in history: deliverance from on high (and in the case of premillennial dispensationalism, deliverance to on high).  Again, citing Norman Geisler: ‘Hence they do not view their present social involvement as directly related to the emergence of the future kingdom of God.  In this respect amillenarians are more like premillennarians and have thereby often escaped some of the extremes of postmillennialism.’  This affirmation of a coming cosmic discontinuity cuts the ground from under the Christian who would seek to discover a uniquely biblical social theory.  It also undercuts the incentive for social action.  Social action becomes a holding action at best and a kamikaze action at worst.”

The result? According to North, “The result is predictable: the absence of Christian social theory” (Page 95).

Here we see an argument where North argues that Christian must have a distinctively Christian social theory (as opposed to that of humanistic and godless social theory); I imagine most Christians who desire to be Biblical would agree.  North argues that amillennialism and premillennialism is a defeater for Christian foundation for Christian social theory because its pessimistic philosophy of history would undermine any social endeavor by the Christian.  As the rest of Gary North’s book argues, Postmillennialism’s philosophy of history is optimistic and is a great foundation for Christian social theory.  We see here the argument is Transcendental in form and hence I think it’s helpful to see it as TAAD.

To simplify the above, think of the following illustration from the Titanic.

Titanic orchestra

 

Let’s say you know the ship will sink.  As Theonomists love to quote from Vernon McGee, “Do you polish brass on a sinking ship?”  If you knew that the ship is going to sink at any moment, it seems that polishing brass is relatively unimportant or for that matter anything that doesn’t contribute to survival such as playing music! This illustration originated with McGee but it has been recycled by Theonomists against McGee’s own Dispensationalism ever since Gary North employed it on page 100 of his 1993 book Rapture Fever.  This illustration and argument is really an “internal critique” of Dispensationalism since it attempts to adopt the view of Dispensationalism to show how it is internally problematic.  Again, internal critique is an important Presuppositional apologetics’ motif.

While it’s a powerful and vivid illustration I think it’s an inadequate illustration and argument: In the scenario of the sinking ship, it does not account for the reality of spiritual warfare that will always be the context of constructing any Christian social theory against the prevailing false and unbiblical social theory of the World.  I imagine a better illustration is the following:

There is a big war between the forces of darkness and the forces of light.  You are a warrior in the forces of light.  You know that the eventual outcome would be victory of the side of Light.  However, the outcome of individual battles is not something you know.  Your immediate group of men are surrounded and it seems that as the battle rages on, your sector has all the factors stacked up against you.  Surrounded and having several grounds lost to the enemy, the enemies proposes you surrender and surrender means you must now switch allegiance and fight against the very forces of light.  The other option is futile resistance and you will be anhiliated.  You want to please your King no matter the personal cost.  What will you do?

MarineFallujah

Again, I believe this is a better illustration because it captures the ethical and spiritual warfare dimension of the Christian.  This is also a better illustration because all Christians know that victory is in the Lord and there is a sense of optimism that even Dispensationalists hold on to with the Lord’s victory.  However, where Premillennialists are not as optimistic is the more nearer aspect of End Times events which this illustration captures.  Futhermore, the illustration seems to be more fitting because it stresses the issue is one of faithfulness rather than the pursuit of meaningless activity.

Seen from this angle, one can be dispensational and not have one’s eschatology undermine the meaningfulness of studying and applying a distinctively Christian social theory.  To mix Kuypers’ and Van Til’s illustrations, every square inch is own by God, even those squandered by rebellious renters who do not show respect for the Lord who owns it.  If every sphere belongs to the Lord, we as Christians must be faithful to the Lord in every sphere we are involved with.  It comes down to an issue of being faithful to God despite the opposition and personal costs.  Even if the situation seems very pessimistic, one should continue to be faithful to God in every sphere one is involved in.  We know compromising does not mean peace, but rather that we have now switch sides and at the very least we are enabling the enemy to advance, if not even more, actively fighting God’s Side.

As any good Marine knows, surrender is not an option.  Sometimes it means we lose the battle but we’re not going to be unfaithful to the One who is ALWAYS FAITHFUL.

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Paul Henebury

Dr. Reluctant of Telos Theological Ministries has recently loaded online a series of lectures on Apologetics and worldview.  It’s five session and one can download the audios below:

Session 1 – Worldviews Get in the Way

Session 2 - Apologetics and Worldviews Pt.1

Session 3 – Apologetics and Worldviews Pt.2

Session 4 – Which Books Belong in the Bible?

Session 5 – The God of the Bible and the God of Islam

 

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(NOTE: The following is a quick sketch of my thoughts on the hermeneutical connection between Calvinism, Presuppositionalism and Dispensationalism; I plan sometime in the future to interact more with the literatures on Covenant Theology, hermeneutics and Presuppositionalism, particularly the essays in Revelation and Reason by the faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary, many of whom I have grown so much from their work!)

As Christians, one’s ultimate authority should be the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16, etc).  Its authority should be over every area of our lives.  If we truly believe the Word, we would live our lives in light of it’s truth; namely it should be interpreting our experience, prescribing to us what to do and not to do, along with the Word providing the provisions of God’s truths that motivate one to obedience (Note: John Frame’s Perspectivalism is helpful here, with his triade of the situational, normative and existential).  That’s a round-about way of saying that knowing Scriptural truths should lead us to apply God’s Word.  Heed the word of James 1:22 (NASB):

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”

If we could illustrate this truth:

Bible apply to life

But one must remember that one can also misapply God’s Word.  That can happen in two ways: (1) One can misinterpret the truths from the Bible, (2) or one can misinterpret one’s situation and apply the wrong Biblical remedy, even though the principles themselves are true and from God’s Word.  Two quick examples: With (1), you have a cultist who thinks the Bible teaches salvation by works which bring with it  an array of negative effects (damnation in eternity, and present experience of  unresolved guilt, condemnation from one’s conscience, etc).  An example of (2) is when you have someone who knows that the Bible teaches marriage fidelity between a man and a woman; but then this individual is calling a particular girl he likes to be faithful to him–even though they are not in a relationship and she doesn’t want to be with him.  He just merely thinks he’s married already.

The fact that we can misapply God’s Word by misinterpreting what it says should sober us and make us desire to be more conscious of how we interpret the Bible.  In fact, interpretation of God’s Word has logical priority over it’s application, because one cannot apply God’s Word if one does not understand or know it.  In order to get the proper interpretation, we want to apply good and sound principles of interpretations to the Word.  The study of the principles, method and other presuppositions involved in interpretation is called hermeneutics.

We illustrate it like this:

Bible hermeneutical bridge to life

To reach the goal of applying the Bible to one’s life, the journey of interpretation travels over a hermeneutical “bridge.”  I think the bridge is quite an appropriate analogy since it is foundational for interpretation.  Furthermore, a good hermeneutic will rise above and not crumble into the sea of meaninglessness, subjectivism, etc.

If one wants to be more nuance, we might add that the content of one’s interpretation of the Bible is what we call doctrine.  Think of God’s attributes, the Trinity, Incarnation, etc.  For the purpose of this essay, we will call bodies of doctrines ” theology.” The content of our theology will impact our lives, but we want to make sure they are coming from God’s Word.  Our illustration is thus modified:

Bible hermeneutical bridge to theology

 

Theology can be quite broad.  For instance, we have the following traditional divisions in theology:

  • Bibliology (Doctrines pertaining to the Word of G0d)
  • Theology Proper (Doctrines pertaining to God Himself and His Works)
  • Anthropology (Doctrines pertaining to man)
  • Hamartiology (Doctrines pertaining to sin)
  • Christology (Doctrines pertaining to Christ)
  • Soteriology (Doctrines pertaining to Salvation)
  • Pneumatology (Doctrines pertaining to the Holy Spirit)
  • Ecclesiology(Doctrines pertaining to the church)
  • Eschatology (Doctrines pertaining to Last things)

More could be added, to include:

  • Israelology (Doctrines pertaining to the ethnic group of Israel)
  • Apologetics (Doctrines pertaining to the defense of the faith)

Or things concerning a “Christian philosophy:”

  • Epistemology (Philosophy of knowledge)
  • Metaphysics (Philosophy of reality)
  • Ethics (Philosophy of moral standards)
  • Aesthetics (Philosophy of beauty)

We can go on and on, but you get the idea.

As one notice above, I put apologetics under theology, because I believe apologetics ultimately is the application of God’s Word to unbelief.  I also believe one’s theology will shape one’s apologetics:

Bible hermeneutical bridge to apologetics

 

The divisions in theology that will shape one’s apologetics include the following (note the sample questions):

  • Theology Proper (Is God knowable or not?)
  • Bibliology (Is God’s revelation of Himself clear?  Is the Bible self-evidencing?)
  • Anthropology (What is man and does he have dignity and meaning?)
  • Hamartiology (What is the extent of man’s sinfulness and how will he interpret the evidences?)
  • Soteriology (How does God bring people to a saving knowledge of Himself?)
  • Pneumatology (What is the role of the Holy Spirit in apologetics?)

How Calvinistic Theology answer the above question will lead to a method called Presuppositional apologetics (those unfamiliar with Presuppositional apologetics might want to listen to Greg Bahnsen’s lectures first):

Bible hermeneutical bridge to calvinistic theology then presuppositional apologetics

 

If we answer the above questions we get this:

  • Is God knowable or not?  Yes (Psalm 19:1-6).
  • Is God’s revelation of Himself clear?  Yes (Romans 1:18ff, Psalms 19).
  • Is the Bible self-evidencing?  Yes (Luke 16:31).
  • What is man and does he have dignity and meaning?  Yes, because He’s made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26 cf. James 3:9).
  • What is the extent of man’s sinfulness and how will he interpret the evidences?  Total depraved, who suppresses the truth (Romans 1:18ff).
  • How does God bring people to a saving knowledge of Himself?  Among many things, the Gospel being preached (Romans 10:14-15); ultimately, salvation is not on the basis of man’s will (John 1:12) since man doesn’t even seek God (Romans 3:10) unless God bring about through His effectual call.
  • What is the role of the Holy Spirit in apologetics?  Holy Spirit convicts and regenerate sinners on the occasion of the Gospel being preached (John 16:8, Titus 3:5, etc).

The above answer will definitely shape how one goes about defending the faith such as what constitute as evidences, the weight of the evidences and how does the nonbeliever handles the evidences, who should be in the “dock,” etc.

No doubt the Calvinist believes that his answer is properly drawn out from the Scriptures (see the verses with it; obviously space does not permit a lengthy exposition of the above but an older Reformed Systematic Theology text by Berkhof can be accessed here).  The Calvinist will say that his correct interpretation of the Scriptures is the result of a strong hermeneutical foundational “bridge.”

What is the Calvinist’s foundation that led him to arrive at his answer in interpreting Psalm 19, Romans 1, Luke 16:31, Titus 3:5, etc?  It’s the historical-grammatical approach:

Bible historical grammatical hermeneutical bridge to calvinistic theology then presuppositional apologetics

He interprets the passages in it’s original context, with consideration of the function and meaning of words while aware of the literary forms of what’s he’s reading.  He looks at the verses and is careful to draw out grammatical and syntactical insight from the Bible.  To that I say praise the Lord!

Recognizing how foundational hermeneutics is should definitely make us give it some attention in one’s own theological approach and also when we dialogue with others; and an important litmus test of a good hermeneutic is consistency.

When the subject of Dispsensational theology comes up, the majority of Calvinists reject it (there are of course a subset that are Dispensationalists). An example of this rejection happened in a recent discussion I had with a particular individual:

Dispensationalism is built upon two foundations or presuppositions. (Ryrie et. al.) Number one is that we must absolutely make the distinction between Israel and the church. We must not confuse those two. The second foundation or presupposition is that we must take a literal interpretation of the Scriptures, especially Old Testament prophesies. So, from that foundation, it is asserted in dispensationalism that God has two peoples, his earthly people – the Israelites, and his heavenly people – the Church.

From that, it is taught that in the OT, God primarily dealt with his earthly people, gave them his law, promised to give them the land of Canaan forever etc. So, when it comes to reading the books of the major and minor prophets, and the prophesies concerning the regathering of Israel into the land, the rebuilding of the temple, the sending of a Davidic king to physically reign on earth etc., they expect all that to be fulfilled literally.

This individual also added: “Reformed theology on the other hand, sees the history of salvation completely differently.”

To reject Dispensationalism because of it’s literal, historical and grammatical hermeneutics as a Calvinists seems problematic:

  1. If Dispensational theology is the product of interpreting the Bible via a literal reading of the Scriptures, then IT IS what the Bible teaches.
  2. Calvinism is arrived at from a literal hermenutic.  So is Dispensationalism.  If I may give the analogy, both Calvinism and Dispensationalism are like two trucks of God’s truth crossing the hermeneutical bridge of historical and grammatical approach:

Dispensationalism Calvinism Hermeneutical Bridge

 If you want to “blow up” the bridge, you also blow up the very bridge that Calvinism is traveling on.  If you don’t attack the bridge, Calvinism comes out from the Bible–with Dispensationalism right behind it.

3. I realize that one might object to my second point, that the interpretation is not as literal for the Old Testament prophetic books, etc.  However, there are prophecies in the Old Testament that are taken literally in predicting the fulfillment of the Messiah.  I would say that the same historical-grammatical hermeneutic that Christian apologists used to demonstrate that the Old Testament points towards Christ is also the same hermeneutic which reveal certain promises to Israel in the Prophetic genre:

Hermeneutics Bridge

Sometimes these Messianic prophecies and promises to Israel are closely interwined in the text.  The same historical grammatical approach in the Messianic passage also yield the promises of God to Israel.  Again, for the Calvinist who reject Dispensationalism it’s a case of inconsistency:  Will one accept these literal Messianic prophecies while rejecting the embedded promises to Israel as being literal?

I can only provide a sketch at this time but Lord willing I would like in the future to explore more Messianic prophecies and how some are sitting right next to additional promises God made towards Israel.  These are promises to Israel that God hasn’t fulfilled yet–and suggests eschatological significance.  I have looked briefly in Zechariah 12:10 in the past as one example and again, I hope to explore more of Christ in the Old Testament–while also discovering promises to Israel in the context as well.

CONCLUSION

I know many who read this are cautious about the subject of Dispensationalism; like you, I’m rather weary of  the sensationalism of Pop Dispensationalism (think of Left Behind Series, Chick Tracks, the guy who read the headlines to interpret the Bible, those who have End Times as a hobby horse but have no love for other truths in Scripture , etc).  But it seems that as we look at the hermeneutical foundation for Presuppositional Apologetics, it does have implication concerning Dispensationalism.  Specifically: the very hermeneutic that leads one to interpret the Bible and become a Presuppositionalists is also the very hermeneutic that gives us from the Bible Dispensational truths.

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Brian Rickett Presuppositional apologetics

Note: We appreciate Brian Rickett taking the time to contribute to this interview in light of his busy schedule with ministries as a Professor and a Pastor.  It is my prayer that God will allow him a full recovery after his accident that led to a broken neck.  Mr. Rickett also maintain a blog that you might want to bookmark. –SLIMJIM

1.) Describe your current ministry to the Lord and your educational background.

Current Ministry.  I’ve always considered myself to be a minister who tries to seize every legitimate opportunity to serve the Lord, not exclusively any one thing, but just a minister, generally speaking. This has at times included pastoring, church planting, and academic work, often simultaneously.

Since my M.Div. days, though, I have been a classroom instructor specializing in biblical languages.  My testimony about this can be found here.   I began with the Logos Bible Institute of Grace Community Church, then added The Master’s Seminary, and then College.  I taught on an adjunct basis from 1998-2008, for a combined 10 years, the last 5 of which was in a full time staff position for the biblical counseling department at TMC.  During that 10 year period, I was blessed to be able to teach the Bible in five languages in a variety of settings, as well as in each of the divisions in a typical theological curriculum.

Most relevant to this interview, I considered my emphasis to be the application of original language exegesis to theological systems/methods, particularly apologetic and counseling methodology.  During my time at TMC/TMS, I was able to teach both apologetics and counseling, and integrated these into a single MABC course—BC509: Apologetics and Biblical Counseling.

Those familiar Van Tillian thought will know that nouthetic counseling is essentially Van Til’s model applied to the ministry of discipleship.  Even more, though, one of his fundamental contributions was to urge a consistent application of reformed theology to every area of thought, life, and ministry.  The guys who started/currently oversee the Biblical Counseling department at TMC did their terminal degrees at Westminster and understand this.  This was part of the reason John Street hired me to work in his counseling department back in ’04.

When we moved to Arkansas in 2008 to plant the church where I now pastor, we naturally incorporated the best of what I had learned and taught into our church’s ministry philosophy.  In that sense, our whole philosophy of ministry is a Van Tillian model applied to a Bible Church, i.e. non-Presbyterian ecclesiology.  Here’s a sample of how we typically present it:

Our philosophy of ministry is three pronged.

1.  Preaching/Teaching. Key to the health of any church is biblically faithful preaching and teaching.  God takes the preaching and teaching of His Word extremely seriously (James 3:1).  So, a key distinctive of The Bible Church of Beebe is a very high view of those tasks (Ezra 7:10; 2 Tim 2:15).  Specifically, our pulpit and teaching ministries strive to be characterized by passionate, word by word and verse by verse expositional preaching/teaching that bring biblical principles to bear on the life of the believer.  Typically, we gather three times a week.  On Sunday mornings I preach from the NT.  On Sunday evenings I preach from the OT or address some or another issue.  On Wednesday nights I typically teach theology, counseling, or apologetics.  Currently, though, our Wednesday evening services are suspended due to a car accident in which I broke my neck.  We hope to recommence Wednesday evening services this summer.

2.  Shepherding the Flock. As the most basic function of shepherding, discipling believers is fundamental to our ministry.  Discipleship means to train believers to faithfully follow Christ.  We work hard at this.  Further, our shepherding model includes biblical counseling, which we also describe as intensive discipleship.  Biblical counseling means that we endeavor to assist believers in honoring Christ through specific challenges.  Finally, we endeavor to equip the saints “to do the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12).  So, one of our distinctives is that we are committed to Christ-centered discipleship, an important component of which is biblical counseling (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 5:1-3).

3.  Evangelism/Apologetics.  We are committed to faithfully obeying the many commands of Scripture to engage in evangelism and apologetics (Matt 28:18-20; 2 Cor 10:3-5; 2 Pet 3:15; Acts 17:23-31).  In evangelism, we endeavor to proclaim the Gospel to unbelievers with a message and method that honors Christ (2 Tim. 4:5).  In apologetics/irenics, we actively endeavor to defend the system of Christian truth, and to respond biblically to the many challenges that come against biblical Christianity (Titus 1:9; 2 Tim 4:3-5).  So, we are committed to evangelizing the lost and to providing a reasoned defense of the system of Christian truth.  We boldly proclaim that Christianity is not a blind faith, but that it is the only internally coherent and rationally viable worldview.

The academic year following the church’s organization, I returned to the classroom teaching biblical language and other courses for the Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary.  BMATS was founded in the 1950s, has about 175 students on its two campuses, in Jacksonville, Tex. and Conway, Ark.  The Ark. campus is about 25 miles from our church.  We planted the church relatively close to the seminary to give students an opportunity to study our ministry model, while reaching an area without a similar church.

Currently, I am both the Pastor-teacher of The Bible Church of Beebe as well as Professor of Biblical Studies for BMATS—amazingly, by God’s grace I get to teach all of my favorite subjects in both the church and classroom.  Beginning June 1st, however, I will add an administrative role. At that time I will become Administrator of BMATS, Arkansas.  There will be some other exciting developments at our campus that may be of interest to your readers.  You’ll want to check up with the seminary in early June to see what’s happening.

As Administrator/Director of BMATS, Ark, I hope to continue refining our curriculum, and training students in the tasks of expository preaching, biblical counseling, and presuppositional apologetics based on solid exegesis.  Already we have brought in a biblical counseling professor (John Street) from The Master’s College on an adjunct basis to teach Introduction to Biblical Counseling.  There are other things as well, but check back in June.

Educational Background: I did a BS in Bible (1996, Central Baptist College, Conway, Ark.), M.Div. (2000, The Master’s Seminary), Th.M. in OT (2003, TMS), and did Th.D. work in OT (2004-07) for a time until a debilitating eye condition forced me to become inactive.  However, in connection to improvements with my eyes, increasing cultural challenges, and my new administrative role at BMATS, I’ve begun the new D.Min. program in Christian Worldview and Cultural Engagement at SWBTS.  I know what you’re thinking—yes, they knew who I was when they accepted me.

Going forward, I expect to devote a strong percentage of my energies to issues related to worldview and cultural engagement and in preparing Christian leaders to do the same.  I invite readers interested in getting this sort of diverse, cutting edge training to shoot me an email.  I would be glad to talk about how BMATS can give them a robust set of ministry tools they can use in their chosen ministry environments.

2.) How did you became a Presuppositionalist?

I became a presuppositionalist at TMS during my M.Div. days.  I am attracted to multi-perspectival thinking in the vein of Poythress (cf. Symphonic Theology)—considering the details of things from various perspectives, systematizing the details into a whole, developing a method, and then evaluating and practically testing the method.  Presuppositionalism was/is attractive to me for this reason.  Even more, though, I have found it to be the most biblically faithful model, as well as the most powerful method for apologetic interchange.  When I employ Van Til’s “indirect method,” I have the sense that not only am I’m honoring the Lord intellectually, but I’m engaging in a palpable act of worship.

3.) What is a typical objection to Presuppositionalism that you hear?

The objections I encounter have changed with a change in ministry venue.  Before, criticisms were based largely on misconceptions and superficial analysis.  The charge of fideism often came up, which I addressed in Chapter 2 of my Th.M. thesis on ‘04.  One interesting challenge that sometimes comes up is related to differences between Frame and Bahnsen.  I understand these, but am not disturbed by them.

Another common criticism is that it’s too philosophical.  Admittedly, often it is, but it doesn’t have to be.  The justification for the system gets philosophical real fast, particularly as proponents seek to justify the method theoretically in contrast to other approaches.  Practically, though, there is little reason for this.  People in your church can learn to use presuppositional apologetics without having to ever hear about the more philosophical stuff.  Quite frankly, most of us enjoy talking about the philosophical, theological, and nuanced aspects of such things and so we overdo it and turn people off in the process.  This is particularly true in connection to another often valid criticism—when enthusiasts go about charging non-proponents with heresy or making other overly aggressive assertions.

Right now, we have a college student in our church who is benefitting from training in presuppositional apologetics.  This semester he is sitting under a hostile professor in his philosophy course at the state university down the road.  Our student’s ability to interact with the professor’s thinking is impressive, and we’ve rarely exposed him to all of the philosophical stuff.

In our current environment, no one really questions presuppositionalism, because few people here really take apologetics seriously.  Our biggest challenge is anti-intellectualism generally.  In California, there was a clearer distinction between believers and unbelievers.  Here, most churches are seeker sensitive, tend towards mysticism, or are just dead.  Discussions over apologetic methodology just don’t come, it just isn’t where people are.

To expand the “overly aggressive” idea mentioned above, I remember years ago when a friend of mine who is a Professor of Philosophy and Apologetics introduced me to his wife.  As I recall, he is thomistic in his approach.  When we met, she was genuinely surprised to learn that I was a presuppositionalist, friendly, and didn’t intend on attacking or making trouble for her husband.  Apparently, she had been very hurt by something like that in the past and held all presuppositionalists in suspicion.  The point is that one of the criticisms of presuppositionalism that has concerned me most is this one.

 

4.) Some people believe that Dispensationalism and Presuppositional apologetics are incompatible.  Do you believe this is so?  Why or why not?

What does John Frame think?  I’ll side with him on this issue.  To me, this sounds like the debate over who’s the most reformed, where the guy who thinks he is the most reformed wins.  What is the minimum set of criteria required to be a presuppositionalist? If I employ a methodology where I seek to expose the internal tensions inherent within the unbeliever’s world and life view, and then to show the unbeliever how his irrationality is immoral due to his failure to acknowledge and submit to the Christian God in his thinking and living, do I qualify?  What if I successfully expose the rational/irrational dialectic in my friend’s thinking and then present the gospel as the only means via which he may ever hope to have his irrationality/immorality resolved, do I qualify as presuppositionalist?  Here’s what I teach in my classes.  See if this makes sense:

The presuppositionalist argues that: a. the espoused presuppositions of the unbeliever (his articulated worldview) cannot account for reality as we know it, and b. reality is as our experience and knowledge demonstrates it to be because it has its ultimate basis in the Christian God, without whom nothing—including reason itself, can be accounted for.  Furthermore, c. at heart the unbeliever knows this to be so, but sins against better knowledge by suppressing the truth about God in his unrighteousness (though evidence for God is abundant—existing within him and without, screaming at him from every existing fact with the result that he is culpable for his disbelief and without excuse).  Finally, d. as explained in Scripture, the unbeliever’s irrationality is fundamentally immoral and must be confronted with the gospel.

So, following Bahnsen, here’s what we do methodologically:

Step 1: Identify the opponent’s crucial presuppositions.  Do this by asking key worldview questions.  Then, once you have done the necessary data collecting, proceed to step 2.  Step 2: Criticize the autonomous attitude that arises from a failure to honor the Creator-creature distinction.  That is, call the unbeliever to account for his attempt to operate out from under the authority of God and in accord with his own reasoning.  Step 3: Expose the internal and destructive philosophical tensions that attend autonomy.  That is, perform an internal critique (transcendental critique) of his worldview.  Demonstrate to him how his worldview is unable to provide the necessary preconditions for the intelligible interpretation of reality, i.e. expose the rational—irrational dialectic in his thinking.  Be sure to demonstrate to him how his professed world and life views contradict his ultimate presuppositions and render rationality impossible.  Step 4: Set forth the only viable alternative.  Expound the Christian position by providing him with the biblical answer to the tensions you have uncovered in his worldview and specifically show him how Christian-theism provides the fundamental preconditions for the intelligible interpretation of reality.

A simplified way to express this would be: 1.) Identify what the unbeliever believes or thinks; 2.) rebuke your friend for his failure to submit to God; 3) Show your friend how his espoused worldview is contrived and makes no sense based on what he has said; 4.) Present the Gospel as the solution to his folly and call him to repent.

Perhaps the critic of dispensational presuppositionalism has some specific objections he needs to have clarified.  I suspect these will be person variable, but part of the problem may result from a misconception that this means a rejection of covenantalism in the sense employed by Oliphint in Covenantal Apologetics.  Honestly, I haven’t heard what I thought was a credible charge of incompatibility.

By the way, the first time I taught a seminary presuppositional apologetics course, it was at The Master’s Seminary in ’04.  The opportunity came up quickly and I needed some help preparing.  So, I emailed John Frame, who was one of my thesis readers, for help.  He emailed me his personal teaching notes and gave me access to many of his own files.  The result: he aided and abetted me—a dispensationalist teaching presuppositionalism at a dispensationalist seminary.  Now who wins?

Note: John Frame is so humble, he doesn’t remember helping me, so whenever I remind him, it’s as though he’s hearing it for the first time.  Admittedly, though, he has more important things to do than to think about me.

5.) What prompted you to write your thesis on Psalm 19 and Presuppositonal apologetics?

I gave an extended rationale for this in the first chapter of the thesis.  In part, it was related to: 1.) the debate over which apologetic method was most consistent with biblical theology, and 2.) the lack of exegetical work that had been done to validate presuppositionalism.  Those familiar with Van Til will remember this was an issue he admitted.

6.) Any resources on apologetics, worldview or theology that you recommend?

Read everything by Frame and Poythress.  Read James Sire’s The Universe Next Door.  Familiarize yourself with the complete works of Francis Schaeffer including valid criticism’s of his work.  Don’t forget Bavinck’s Creation Theology.  Get a good feel for the best of what has come from the reformed epistemology movement.  A good little free book for Kindle that serves as an introduction to Greek Philosophy is John Marshall’s A Short History of Greek Philosophy.  It’s dated, in a good way, free, and imminently readable.  Familiarize yourself generally with logic and logical fallacies.  You can find this sort of thing for free on the internet, but try to make sure you are reading a credible source.

Everybody by now has read Rosaria Butterfield’s book, Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert, but in case you haven’t, you should do so.  By the way, she agreed to address my apologetics class at some point.  We’re doing some different things with our seminary schedule, so we’ve made it a bit tough on her, but hopefully we can get to this.

7.) You have taught Biblical Hebrew, among other subjects.  Do you see any relationship between Presuppositional apologetics and academic work in the Old Testament?

Absolutely, yes. My Th.M. thesis provides a presuppositional critique in Chapter 3 of many OT scholars & publications related to Psalm 19.  There, I tried to show that their presuppositions have so predisposed them to modern, critical views of the text they may justifiably be accused of incompetence in their work.

Apologetics makes use of philosophy as a tool built on logic, employing it to engage in the critical evaluation and scrutiny of truth claims.  In this way, it is appropriately suited to engage in critical analysis of various theories, including but not limited to literary theories/linguistic approaches to the text, as well as the methods and conclusions of such approaches.

Let’s consider some of Tremper Longman’s work for example.  In His argument against Solomonic authorship of Ecclesiastes in his commentary, he commits several basic errors.

One that comes to mind combines a grammatical error with a procedural problem.  Working off of the NIV, rather than the Hebrew text, He cites Ecc. 1:12 as an argument against Solomonic authorship.  It states, “I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem” (NIV).  He then argues that the verse identifies a time when Solomon had been alive but not king, basically concluding that since this doesn’t fit with what we know of Solomon it wasn’t really him.

This is a scandalous assertion.  Longman seems not to know that, 1.) Hebrew uses the perfect conjugation to express either simple past or past perfect verbal ideas.  Thus, “I was king” or “I have been king” are equally valid translations that any student of basic Hebrew would know—seriously.  2.) A consultation of other translations should have at least tempered his argument. 3.) In actuality, the statement seems merely to place Qoheleth’s attitude within its historical setting.  This deficiency on the part of Longman suggests either incompetence in the language, or some unargued philosophical bias that prevents honest assessment here.  But there’s more.

Citing 1:16, he argues, “It would be strange to hear Solomon state:I said to myself, ‘Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge.’”  Why is this strange—because there was only one king before Solomon?  However, the chronicler in 1 Chronicles 29:25 uses this exact language to make the same case.  He says, “The LORD highly exalted Solomon in the sight of all Israel, and bestowed on him royal majesty which had not been on any king before him in Israel” (1Ch 29:25 [emphasis mine]).  Longman seems to arrive at his conclusion without adequate scholarly reflection on the wording.  Is the phrase an idiom, figure of speech, a common way of taking into consideration powerful men including but not limited to the reigning monarch?  These would be the normal sorts of questions to ask.  These are not addressed though.  When combined with other textual arguments, one can only conclude that Longman simply didn’t read/think carefully about this.  So, failure at this juncture also looks suspicious.  But there’s more.

Longman argues that Qoheleth is a pseudonym for the one assuming the Solomonic persona, or if applied to Solomon, a “nick-name.”  He writes:

“One must ask what is gained or what possible reason could Solomon have had for adopting a name other than his own in this book?  Is he hiding his identity from someone?  If so, for what possible reason?  Does the nickname add anything to the message of the book? After all, the connection to Solomon is tenuous, and no one has argued that the name contributes to the meaning of the book.  It is much more likely that the nickname Qohelet was adopted by the actual writer to associate himself with Solomon, while retaining his distance from the actual person” (p. 4).

Apparently, Longman is unaware that Hebrew nouns typically come from verbs, so that the title Qoheleth is most likely derived from some activity for which he was noted.  Since the verb is qahal, the title Qoheleth is connected with some assembling activity, perhaps the assembling of people or proverbs, etc.

Finally, at least for this interview, it is notable that Longman begins his arguments against Solomonic authorship seemingly by committing the “snob approach” variety of the argumentum ad poplum fallacy.  He states, “Attentive readers of the Bible have felt uneasy about the simple identification of Qohelet with Solomon for a long time” (p. 4).  And, “Even in the light of strong internal and external testimony to the contrary, a small, but vocal group of evangelical scholars still advocate this [Solomonic authorship] view” (p. 3).  He then props this up with poor arguments including the ones above.

Notice how he is arguing that anyone who fails to recognize the truth of his assertion is not an intellectual (“attentive”), and it would be in the best interest of the reader to listen to himself.  There are additional points in this particular case to argue, but this is not the place for that.  I would just say that Longman’s argumentation against Solomonic authorship is scurrilous.  To answer the question, is apologetics helpful for biblical studies generally and OT specifically, again, yes.  Perhaps if more biblical scholars were trained in apologetics, a lot of the stuff that passes for biblical scholarship would never gain a legitimate hearing.  Instead, junk scholarship is published and passed off as cutting edge and respectable.

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Marines demonstrate Corps tactics, principles

Introduction and an Illustration

Before I develop the point of my post on apologetics’ tactics, let me begin with a physical illustration (pun intended).  Before I was a Pastor I’ve spent some time around men who are incredible warriors and fighters (although I’m not really a physical fighter myself ).  The US Marines have a saying: “One mind, one weapon.”    You will be amazed at how good fighters put quite a bit of thought into their training and actual fighting–and one man I know described it excitedly as a game of chest in light of your opponent’s intelligence and ability.  Serious fighters realize that training someone to be a skillful fighter is more than memorization of a few move–it involves the whole mind, a mind that wisely know which moves to employ at any given situation; and at times, the wisdom of not doing anything.  Although I stress the mind, that is not to say that learning tactical moves are not important–in fact a lethal warrior mind that learn some new moves will find a way to incorporate it into the way they think and become a part of who they are in terms of practically deal with an opponent.  And sometimes the simple move goes a long way.

My favorite move from the Marines is rather simple; it’s called the Iron bar take down.

marine iron bar take down

One might laugh at how it’s doesn’t even look like a Ninja move.  You simply grab the guy’s wrist with one hand while using the other hand to grab their upper arm so you can force them to the ground.  I have spent some time thinking about this move.  Since I’m a much smaller guy I like to throw my whole hip when I execute the movement in a spiraling descending direction to get the momentum from my body as additional force.  The key is to do it quickly.  Like I said, it’s not a move you’ll see in the movies because it doesn’t look Ninja-cool.  But it has helped me in the Marines and later as security for Hollywood’s red carpet events (Hollywood has its shares of weirdos).   Again, sometimes the simple move goes a long way.

I believe the same is true with apologetics’ tactics.

Unger Who?

Those who frequent Veritas Domain might be familiar with Lyndon Unger.  Mr. Unger is a Calvinistic Dispensational Presuppositionalist.  He blogs on WordPress under the name MennoKnight and is a regular contributor at The Cripple Gate.   John MacArthur has also mentioned his research.  Before he became (in)famous(?), Lyndon once shared with me a good and simple apologetics tactic.  I’ll call it the “Unger Move.”  Again, it’s not a complicated karate chop but remember, sometimes the simple move goes a long way.

The Unger Move

Those engage in apologetics for any length of time will inevitably run into those who says, “There are too many evidence for _______,” or “There are too many reasons against _____________.”  Typically conversations with such individuals also include them throwing out objections after objections against Christianity.  They might go on so long with their ranting, you are not given  time for a rebuttal–or if you do disarm one objection, they go ahead to offer another objection followed by another, etc.

As Calvinists, we must acknowledge the Biblical truth that nonbelievers will suppress the truth and will keep on doing so, since Romans 1:18-19 states:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth [l]in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident[m]within them; for God made it evident to them.

Yet we must also acknowledge that God wants us to refute error as 2 Corinthians 10:5 exhort:

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,

While also realizing that if someone were to ever convert and be saved, the Gospel needs to be shared in the apologetic dialogue.

How does one deal with such a conversation and be faithful to all three of these Biblical truths?

  1. Set the Ground rule
    1. Tell the individual since there are too many reasons/objections they are giving, ask that they limit their presentation to their TOP reason/objection/argument.
      1. Explain the rationale:  Best use of time.
      2. Explain the rationale:  Present their best one, because if their top argument “works,” they have already establish their perspective is rational.  Other argument, if there is merit to them, will confirm it.
      3. Explain the rationale:  Present their best one, because if their top argument fail, then the other arguments/objection/reason by their own admission presents a weaker case.  If the best reason presented is unconvincing, the lesser reasons will be even less convincing.
    2. Tell the individual that after their TOP reason is given, you should share whether or not there is merit to their case.
      1. Explain the rationale:  Fairness of both individuals speak in the conversation.
      2. Explain the rationale:  Just because someone says an argument is reasonable doesn’t mean it is; we need to scrutinize it.
  2. Let the individual share their TOP argument.
    1. Listen carefully.
    2. Rationale: For true understanding of the other person’s view so as to love them and not misrepresent them.
  3. Refute it.
    1. Bring Presuppositional apologetics to bear.
    2. Rationale: Don’t get lost in trails with the particular details (they do have it’s place), but remember the bigger picture of worldview analysis.
  4. Present the Gospel
    1. Be Biblical in the Gospel presentation.
    2. Rationale: Only the Gospel will save sinners and soften harden hearts.

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Kevin D. Zuber

 

We want to thank Dr. Kevin D. Zuber from his busy schedule of the pastoral ministry and being a professor to take part in this interview!

1.) Describe your current ministry to the Lord and your educational background.

I graduated from Grace College, Winona Lake, IN (BA 1977) and Grace Theological Seminary (MDiv 1981; ThM 1985) and from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (PhD 1996). I’ve been a pastor for over 25 years (Indiana, Iowa, Arizona, Illinois). Currently, I’m Professor of Theology at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL and Pastor of Grace Bible Church Northwest in Schaumburg, IL and I’m also an Adjunct Professor with Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, Chang Mai, Thailand. At Moody, my full time job, I teach Systematic Theology classes and electives, some Bible classes (Romans, Life of Christ), and some classes in philosophy. The church where I serve is small and we meet only on Sunday mornings in a rented facility—it’s mostly just me preaching (expository) for an hour, with some prayer time, and q & a once a month (www.gracebiblechurchnorthwest.com — don’t expect much, our website rather minimal – don’t everybody go there at once!). ABTS is an extension of Cornerstone University (Grand Rapids) and I teach one class a year in various SE Asian countries (e.g. Theological Issues in Asian Ministry).

At Moody I teach an elective class called, simply enough, Presuppositional Apologetics. More on that later.

 

2.) How did you became a Presuppositionalist?

Backing up a bit, I became a believer after high school. The girl I dated on and off in those years was a Christian and I wasn’t; so after high school she broke it off. That led to me reading the New Testament a couple of times through (I understood none of it!). On a later occasion I had a chance to see that girl again and she took the opportunity to share the gospel (again) and this time the Spirit worked and I became a Christian and we got married (I’m shortening the story!)

I knew nothing about the Bible or biblical theology so we headed to Grace College so I could get an advanced course in being discipled. Everything was new to me; when I took NT intro I had no idea who this fellow Paul was! I read voraciously (and out of desperation) everything anyone recommended. Someone hooked me up with the tape ministry of Believer’s Chapel in Dallas and the teaching of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. He was expository and his tapes on Systematic Theology (ST) were foundational to all my thinking as a young believer. Later I was introduced to the writings of Francis Schaeffer and was overwhelmed. All through my college years I felt like I was playing “intellectual catch-up”; everything was new! I wanted to know how these men came to such knowledge so I read what they said to read. Dr. Johnson, in the tapes on ST said to read Berkof’s ST, Berkof’s notes referenced “Dutch Reformed” men (I had no idea what that meant at the time.) Schaeffer referenced a lot of philosophy; my college didn’t have a lot of that to offer so I tried to read stuff like Descartes and Spinoza with no net! The apologetics I was exposed to in college was evidentialist / rationalist (again, I didn’t know what that meant at the time) but Schaeffer’s writings seemed to point in another direction. Some research led me to where Schaeffer might be getting his ideas—and that led me to some badly-copied mimeograph notes from one Cornelius Van Til. I didn’t really understand much of it . . . BUT it seemed to match up better with the theology (a just “what the Bible says” type of theology) I heard preached by S. Lewis Johnson. I read “Why I Believe in God” and tried to wade through “Apologetics” and  “Introduction to Systematic Theology” by Van Til. I’m not sure how much stuck.

When I moved up to Grace Seminary I took apologetics from John C. Whitcomb, Jr. and he actually assigned some (easier) writings from Van Til. That’s when I heard the term “presuppositional apologetics” and things began to “click.” I’d come across some more badly-copied mimeograph notes from one John Frame and that along, with yet more preaching (via cassette tapes) from Dr. Johnson, and John MacArthur, grounded me – that’s how I became a presuppositionalist. I started to “get” the theology, hence the worldview, of the Bible and presuppositionalism “fit” better.

 

3.) You have been teaching at Moody Bible Institute for over a decade now, what are some frequent challenges students might have in grasping Presuppositional apologetics?

First, it used to be that the term “presuppositional” was new to the students – now, often, the term “apologetics” is a new term as well. As with most Christians who live in “two world-views” (one in church / in private devotions [Christian Mind] and the other out there with the work-a-day world [Worldly Mind]) students have never thought about “how they think” (epistemology is another new term for them.) The “evidentialist / rationalist” way of thinking makes most sense to them because they spend most of their time / lives out there where everyone else lives. It also seems “logical” that we must try to win the unbeliever on his/her terms, with arguments that make sense to him/her. At least, that’s what they’ve been exposed to if they’ve been exposed to “apologetics” at all. “Evidence that demands a verdict!” “The Case for This,” “The Case for That” and all that—this is what they’ve heard and it makes sense to them on the “Worldly Mind” level. This is the method of “You should trust the last smartest person you’ve talked to”; and I ask the students if they recognize that—and they do. And I ask them if they know anyone who left their youth group and went to university and lost their faith—and they all know examples of that—and I explain it’s because we have taught them to “trust the last smartest person they’ve talked to”—and if that’s a pagan university prof, well, what else would we expect?

So in short, the biggest challenge has been that students don’t think Scripturally; as Harry Blamires said years ago, “There is no Christian mind.” Hence they don’t think apologetically at all. On the other hand, I’ve had students who do like apologetics but by the time they get to my class they are most often already committed to a “brainy apologetics” that tries to be that “last smartest person” (e.g. as in so-called debates between high-powered Christian apologists and hapless atheists who accept the invitation to such dog-and-pony shows.) I see my main task to get students (Christians) to think with the world-view of Scripture (I do that with good theology and exposition) and then to do apologetics with that worldview! I think this is exactly what Paul is arguing for in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2.

 

4.) Some people believe that Dispensationalism and Presuppositional apologetics are incompatible.  Do you believe this is so?  Why or why not?

Well, I think this actually relates to a more basic question and that is the relationship between dispensationalism and reformed (small “r”) theology. For reasons I can’t get into here, I don’t think someone can be a consistent presuppositionalist and an Arminian. I see dispensationalism and the “doctrines of grace” as fully compatible (Michael Vlach at The Master’s Seminary has addressed that issue along with others.) But to the point, I don’t see any place where dispensationalism and presuppositionalism intersect in a contradictory way. I think it may be the Reformed (big “R”) guys who want to preserve presuppositionalism for covenant theology who argue that but I’m not seeing it. (I think Fred Butler’s answer on this point was a good one, so I’d defer to his analysis—link to his interview here.)

 

5.) Seeing how you have many years of faithful ministry to the Lord, what would you caution, encourage and exhort to a young man interested in apologetics?

If I can go back to my brief testimony above—I came to my “Calvinism,” my “dispensationalism,” and my “presuppositionalism” in the most un-dramatic but (I think honest) way possible. In my college and seminary years I just listened to S. Lewis Johnson preach the Word. All through my pastoral years I’ve listened to John MacArthur preach the Word. I still can’t get enough of listening to the Word preached. I read the sermons of preachers—Calvin, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones. I came to read the Puritans after seminary and wish I’d read them before and during those years—especially Thomas Watson. I got “into philosophy” but never as a “primary study”—it was only to try and understand theology. But my theology was driven by exposition.

I explain to my students that I don’t see apologetics, or evangelism, or preaching to a congregation, or even counseling as fundamentally different activities. I think it was John Frame who defined apologetics as “the application of Scripture to unbelief.” Well, in my mind expository preaching is the application of Scripture to the needs—spiritual, practical, ecclesiological—of a local church. Counseling is the application of Scripture to an individual—spiritual, practical, personal, matters / issues. Evangelism is the application of the gospel (The Word) to sinners.  Even “personal devotions” are the application of Scripture to . . . me!

So, I’d say that a young man or woman who wants to do “apologetics” well, should master . . . or better, be mastered by Scripture. Know the Word! The worldview of Scripture needs to be so ingrained that the worldview of the world looks “odd.”

 

6.) Any resources on apologetics, worldview or theology that you recommend?

The textbook I use in class is Greg Bahsen’s massive volume on Van Til. We just jump in—it’s the “sink or swim” method—perhaps not the best but most students don’t drown (!). Actually, I use the links provided here at this website pretty often to supplement that text. Otherwise, the recommendations made by others in this series of interviews are the one’s I’d offer as well.

Read lots of good theology—listen to lots of good exposition—then one’s apologetics should flow naturally from that.

 

7.) What is the role of resurrection?

Very briefly, when I read the Book of Acts I never see anyone arguing for the veracity, historicity, reality of the Resurrection of Christ but they did argue from the Resurrection. Or, to put it better, the Resurrection was not something to “be proven” but something that “proves”—it was deployed to prove that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed, the Lord and Christ! (See the end of Peter’s Acts 2 and Paul’s Acts 17 sermons) Here I’m just following Van Til – we cannot separate the historical and theological facts about the Resurrection – if we do we may find folks willing to accept the historical fact (“So He was raised from the dead, wow, that’s weird.”) but not willing to accept the theological fact (“Raised? Maybe—but it doesn’t mean anything.”) Actually, the apologetic question or issue here is not the Resurrection but the credibility of the Bible—and on that I hold that the Bible must be self-authenticating. But that’s another question.

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federico_del_vecchio_irrationality

Here are the links pertaining to Presuppositional apologetics (Covenantal/VanTillian, etc).  The links are from the World Wide Web between March 15th-21st, 2014.

1.) Fristianity Objection to the Transcendental Argument Dialogue–Transcript of a discussion with the guys from Choosing Hats some years back.

2.)Language Assumes Realism–Ben Holloway on philosophy of language.

3.) FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 13 Jacob Bronowski and Materialistic Humanism: The World-View of Our Era (Feature on artist Ellen Gallagher )

4.) Index to TurretinFan’s Formal Oral Debates–TFan’s debates complied in one post.

5.) Another Atheist Proves He’s a Fool–An article from American Vision.

6.) Bill Maher slanders God because He wants to be God

7.) Only Two Companies Hiring–Scott Oliphint’s article

8.) Mobile Ed Conversations: K. Scott Oliphint and Carl Ellis–An audio interview.

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Brace Yourselves Presuppositionalist posts

In the past we have done a Marathon series on the small stream of Calvinistic Dispensationalists who are Presuppositional in their apologetics (VanTillian).  This might have just been a quiet phenomenon but in God’s providence discussions as a result of Scott Oliphint’s thesis to call VanTil’ apologetics “Covenantal apologetics” has even brought some to ask if Calvinistic Dispensationalists could even be Presuppositionalists if they don’t subscribe fully to Covenant Theology.

Beginning next Monday, March 24, 2014, we will be doing a second series on Calvinistic Dispensational Presuppositionalism.  Lord willing, throughout that week we will be having some written interviews, articles and resources posted.  Make sure to check them out, share your thoughts and share them with others if they edify you!

The link to the “index” of the first Marathon series can be accessed here.

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