Archive for January 17th, 2014

Michael Boehm youth apologetics

I first heard of Michael Boehm’s ministry on Sermon Audio.  Through his ministry, Youth Apologetics Group, he makes available for free many of his teachings.  They cover a vast area, ranging from the cults, worldviews and atheism.

I don’t doubt his ministry is used by the Lord to bless others and he certainly seems like a sincere nice guy.  He has recently written and spoken on three types of apologetics that touches on Evidential, Presuppositional and Classical school of apologetics.  While I haven’t listen to the audios yet, I think his written overview on Presuppositional apologetics could have been better and merit a response.  This response in no way take away from what he is trying to do in serving the Lord.  I hope in some way this might encourage him to give Presuppositional apologetics a closer look in the future.

In what follows, I quote Michael Boehm followed by my thoughts.


1.) “The name Presuppositional Apologetics was formally coined by apologist Cornelius Van Til and popularized by Greg Bahnsen.”

Response: Typically it would make sense to assume that the father of a movement or school of thought would have the privilege of naming it what they want it to be named.  However, this isn’t always the case.  To be historically correct, Cornelius Van Til didn’t coin the term “Presuppositional apologetics.”  Presbyterian historian and Van Til biographer John Muether describes the interesting story behind the name “Presuppositionalism”:

The term presuppositionalism was probably coined a decade before the Clark controversy by Allan MacRae, Van Til’s antagonist on the early Westminster faculty, and it was intended as a term of derision.  J. Oliver Buswell later popularlized it in a series of articles in The Bible Today that ran in 1948 and 1949.  The term was not Van Til’s choice, although eh frequently referred to the necessity of reasoning by presupposition

Still, it is striking to discover in Van Til how rarely he labeled his own work as ‘presuppositionalism.’  As MacRae and Buswell trafficked in the term critically and disparagingly, Van Til seemed to respond by acknowledgin that, despite its vagueness and ambiguity, it was of some usefulness.  However, he seldom chose to call his system by that name.  He tended to refer to it simply as ‘Reformed apologetcs,’ thereby stressing its consistency with Reformed theology and epistemology.” (John R. Muether, Cornelius Van Til: Reformed Apologist and Churchman, 113-114)

One of Van Til’s successor, K. Scott Oliphint himself advance the thesis that it’s better to rename Van Til’s apologetic Covenantal apologetics, since he believes that Presuppositional apologetics “is no longer descriptively useful, and it offers now more confusion than clarity when the subject of apologetics arises” (K Scott Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith, 38).  Many reasons drive Oliphint to say that and no doubt among them is the fact that Van Til himself didn’t invent the term.  I do think the term Covenantal Apologetics is also a loaded term but as they say, that’s another sermon for another time.

2.) “Presuppositionalists understand that everyone has presuppositions or starting points.  The starting point for the believer is that God exists and he has written His law on our hearts.  It is also presupposed that everyone deep down inside understands this.”

Response: I agree.  But I think it’s also important to add that a distinctive of Presuppositional apologetics is how these truths shape the Presuppositionalist’s apologetics: To demonstrate that the unbelievers suppress the truth inside, the apologist must make the unbeliever “epistemologically conscious” and show how the worldview they claim will reduce the intelligibility and meaningfulness of everything, yet they believe there are some things in life that is meaningful and intelligible indicating another worldview is actually presupposed.

3.) “Presuppositional Apologetics allows you to skip past the multitude of intellectual arguments and go straight to the heart of the issue which is their sin and need for a savior.  By skipping over the intellectual and personal objections you can get to the gospel every time.”

Response: I don’t think we can find in the writing of Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen (the two Presuppositionalists Michael Boehm referenced) saying we must “skip” the unbelievers intellectual objections per se.  While they stress the priorities of presuppostions that shape one’s intellectual objection against the faith that must be first addressed, Presuppositionalism isn’t a strategy of dodge and run.  It doesn’t seem that Boehm is accusing Presuppositionalists of this but I want to clarify so it doesn’t seem to imply to this for those who might read his article and are skeptical of Presuppositionalism.  It is true though that a Presuppositionalist must go to the heart of the matter and to the Gospel when they are dialoguing with an unbeliever, as any apologist must do if they are Christian.  I also believe hitting on the core presuppositions that are dear to the heart allows one to be closer to address the issue of the heart, intellectual idols and ultimate commitment, etc., that makes a great bee line for the Gospel.

4.) “Presuppositional Apologetics often tends towards a hyper-Calvinistic position.  Because hyper-Calvinism puts a heavy emphasis on God being the one that does all the work converting the sinner, the hyper-Calvinist may not put as much passion and effort into witnessing.”

Response: I disagree.  A hyper-Calvinist who erroneously believe that God does all the work and that He has not ordained believers as the means to His purpose will end up not doing anything–not even engaging someone with Presuppostional apologetics.  So I don’t see how Presuppositionalism “tend towards a hyper-Calvinistic position.”   Presuppositionalism does not necessitate hyper-Calvinism nor vice versa.

5.) “Another potential drawback to Presuppositional Apologetics is that the sceptic might accuse you of begging the question.  They may feel that you’re not proving your point and that you’re assuming what you’re trying to prove.”

Response: This is the biggest objection people typically bring against Van Til’s apologetics, the charge of circularity or begging the question.  It is a charge that I’m often surprised at since it has been addressed many times by Presuppositionalists.  For instance, Van Til himself took on the Charge of Circular Reasoning, Chris Bolt of Choosing Hat some years back has written “It’s Circular Because It’s Circular” and many other individuals r.”  One might find what these men written helpful.  My own thoughts on the issue of authority and circularity can be found in outline teaching form at “.”

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This is helpful!


commentariesAfter I posted my annual review of the books I heard and read over the past year, an acquaintance asked me how I chose the commentaries I use. I gave it a bit of a think, and though I have no particular “method,” I thought I would share what I have learned over the years anyways. Maybe it will be helpful.

I’ll start from the beginning.

Within just a few months after the Lord saved me in college, my thirst for biblical knowledge began to increase enormously. I quickly amassed a small shelf’s worth of theological books, and because my discernment was profoundly immature, I unwittingly gathered books from a variety of authors, some good, some not so good. I was also persuaded by the study philosophy I was picking up from my favorite pastors, like John MacArthur, that said if I planned to teach a book from the…

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