Presuppositional Apologetics

New Publication from Kuyperian Press: A Case for Infant Baptism

New Publication from Kuyperian Press: A Case for Infant Baptism

Kuyperian Press was founded to provide works that are accessible to the layman in the parish. In this new work, Dr. Gregg Strawbridge provides a wonderful summary of the case for infant baptism in the Bible.

What makes this booklet different?

Strawbridge has provided various charts and biblical connections making the case that the Bible’s promise to the children of the covenant has not been forgotten in the New Testament.

“In this little book, Gregg Strawbridge provides a clear, concise and compelling case for infant baptism. He anticipates the important questions, provides succinct answers, and thereby adds a highly valuable resource to the current conversation.”

–          John G. Crawford, Author of Baptism is Not Enough

 

Joe Torres and Presuppositional Apologetics

At 12 Central/1Eastern, I will be interviewing Joe Torres on presuppositional apologeticsat Trinity Talk.

Joe summarizes our interview as follows:

On  Thursday, July 2nd, I’ll be discussing the topic of presuppositional apologetics on Trinity Talk with Uri and Jarrod.

Uri and I have known each other for several years now. We’ve worked together and attended seminary together. Now he’s a pastor, and i’m a professor. We have our theological disagreements, but we both love discussing them as iron sharpens iron.

In the interview we’ll be talking about something that’s view close to our hearts, a robust, powerful, and God-glorifying way of defending the faith. Here’s a sample of the kind of questions we’ll discuss:

a) What is apologetics?
b) What is presuppositional apologetics?
c) How does presuppositionalism differ with other apologetic positions?
d) How does a presuppositional apologetics answer charges from atheism
?

Bahnsen’s Lost Book

Last year during the CREC General Council, I spent a weekend with Pastor Randy Booth. I have told many that those two days I received from Randy some of the most profitable pastoral insights I have ever received. Randy is the owner of Covenant Media Foundation. He continues to make available the audio works and books of the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen. When I was with him last year, he told me that they had found some manuscripts that Dr. Bahnsen had never completed. Joel McDurmon says that that manuscript was intended as a book that was edited by Gary North some decades ago. Nevertheless, in light of Bahnsen’s thoroughness in book writing and Gary North’s pressing Greg for the manuscript to be completed, Bahnsen was never able to use that manuscript for that particular book.  Now, that manuscript is going to be published by American Vision in about eight weeks.  It will serve to continue the faithful Biblical and Reformed understanding of apologetics.

Van Til, Evidence, and Fideism

van_til.jpgThe charge that Cornelius Van Til was a fideist has come from many camps. Clark Pinnock (now an open theist), leveled many attacks some decades ago attempting to discredit the proliferation of favorable responses to Presuppositionalism in the Reformed community. But again, Pinnock, Geisler, and others were blinded by their semi-Pelagian assumptions. In 1984, the first Reformed response to Presuppositionalism emerged. A triad of authors: Sproul,[1] Gerstner,[2] and Lindsley wrote Classical Apologetics.[3] The book traces the history of philosophy, apologetic methodologies, and provides what they consider “a reconstruction of Natural Theology.” The latter part of the book devotes itself to a critique of Van Til’s apologetic.

The central charge against Van Til is that he was a fideist; one who has thrown away reason in exchange for emotions and faith. In a section entitled Between Two Fideisms, the authors assert that presuppositional thought “has boldly rejected the traditional theistic proofs and Christian evidences.”[4] The authors, in one sense, define well the different starting points of the classical and presuppositional approach. The classical approach believes that the ultimate starting point is human autonomy, whereas, Van Til argued that God is the ultimate starting point. In light of this affirmation, critics of Van Til argue that his disciples believe in blind faith, and hence the charge of fideist. However, Van Til never denied the use of logic or rationality. In fact, as he argued in his Introduction to Systematic Theology: “The gift of logical reason was given by God to man in order that he might order the revelation of God for himself” (256). So, it is not that Van Til and his disciples deny logic or reason, it is that they deny a certain use of logic or reason. The authors of Classical Apologetics misunderstand the nature of proof and evidence. It is perfectly legitimate to use evidence and proofs for God’s existence, but they must be used properly; against the background of the nature of God.


[1] According to Professor Frame, Sproul is an honorary Presuppositionalist because he affirms the need to assume God in a theistic sense. In my opinion, Sproul has softened a bit to Van Til’s ideas in the last ten years, though still a strong advocate of autonomous reasoning.[2] Gerstner, who has gone to be with the Lord, was truly the father of Classical Apologetics in the Reformed tradition. He was highly influential in R.C.’s thoughts.[3] Sproul, Gerstner, & Lindsley. Classical Apologetics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.[4] Ibid. 185.

A Reformed View of Apologetics, Part 2

One of the assertions of a Reformed view of apologetics is that apart from God’s revelation, man cannot account for anything, or as Van Til once put it: “…the atheists cannot account for accounting.” It is the “voluntary revelation” of a gracious God that leads us to think His thoughts after Him. Once again Van Til:

He must therefore be known for what He is, and known to the extent that He is known, by authority alone.[1]

The Christian Reformed apologist can rightly boast that his system or method for apologetics endeavor is far superior to his opponent. The Christian argues presuppositionially; God is the all in all of apologetic encounter. Though our apologetic is superior, there is a humbling sense when we acknowledge that we are solely dependent on God’s grace in revelation for our interpretation of the world.

When we spouse this position, some may say that it is theologically immature to assume things before we enter into a formal discussion. However, the reality is that no one enters into a discussion neutrally. We all reason presuppositionally! For the Thomist, “human reasoning” is his presupposition; for the Reformed thinker, God is the presupposition. Van Til summarizes this:

Psychologically, acceptance on authority precedes philosophical argument; but when, as epistemologically self-conscious grown-ups, we look into our own position, we discover that unless we may presuppose such a God as we have accepted on authority, the Moment will have no significance.[2]

Part 1 A Reformed View of Apologetics


[1] Van Til, Cornelius. Common Grace. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1947. pg. 8.[2] Van Til, Cornelius. Common Grace. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1947. pg. 8-9.

A Reformed View of Apologetics, Part 1

Editor’s Note: In these posts, I have tried to offer a simple introduction to Presuppositional apologetics. Many in our day are unaware of the incredible influence of Professor Cornelius Van Til. These posts serve to distinguish the Reformed View of apologetics from Thomistic approaches and to encourage Christian thinkers to self-consciously presuppose God’s existence in every apologetic encounter.

Just as Calvinism distinguishes itself from other systems of thought in the area of cultural transformation,[1] so too, does Calvinism differ itself in the area of epistemology.[2] The superiority of the Reformed tradition over other philosophical approaches to epistemology is even clearer when we examine the foundation of their thinking.

We are how we reason; we reason how we were made to reason. Though Christian humanity is filled with dignity, we are also filled with sin. This is what some call the “noetic effects of the fall.” Simply put, our minds are in the “valley of the blind.”[3] Our new humanity rescues us from our autonomous epistemology. It is for this very reason that we are to think as God intends us to think.

180px-cornelius_van_til.jpgThe Reformed tradition differs substantially from Roman Catholic, Arminian, and atheistic thought.[4] All three of these systems begin their reasoning process from an autonomous framework. They all follow a Thomistic[5] approach to reason, and hence, do not begin as God intends them to begin. God’s intention is that the Christian begin his thinking with God’s counsel as the presupposition of all reasoning. The consequences of denying God’s counsel as a presupposition to all thought is disastrous. As Van Til summarizes:

Romanism and Arminianism[6] have virtually allowed that God’s counsel need not always and everywhere be taken as our principle of individuation. This is to give license to would-be autonomous man, permitting him to interpret reality apart from God.[7]

The Reformed thinker cannot fathom reality apart from God’s revelation. On the other hand, autonomous man cherishes-for the sake of reason-non-Christian presuppositions. Our standing before God is one of gratitude. We are grateful that God has redeemed our minds to think His ways and not ours. As Van Til powerfully concludes:

The Reformed believer knows that he himself has been taken out of a world of misinterpretation and place in the world of truth by the initiative of God.[8]

—————————————

[1] See my articles on Abraham Kuyper on the Abraham Kuyper archive list.

[2] Epistemology refers to “how we know things.”

[3] This is the language used by Cornelius Van Til.

[4] For instance, consider atheist George Smith’s methodology. In his debate with Professor Bahnsen he stressed that his philosophy is Aristotelian. This form of reasoning was later picked up by Thomas Aquinas.

[5] By Thomistic, I mean the works of Thomas Aquinas, who strongly emphasized the use of natural reason to come to theistic conclusions.

[6] Arminianism is a system of doctrine that teaches that man has the free will to choose or reject God, and his salvation is dependent on a cooperative effort.

[7] Van Til, Cornelius. Common Grace. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1947. pg. 7.

[8] Van Til, Cornelius. Common Grace. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1947. pg. 7.

Rushdoony and the Inescapability of Religion

In 1978, Rousas Rushdoony wrote his influential book, The One and the Many.1 In it, he argued that every culture is inherently religious. The makeup of a society will reflect the religious inclinations of the people. The faith of the modern age, argued Rushdoony, is humanism:

A religious belief in the sufficiency of man as his own lord, his own source of law, his own savior. Instead of God and His law-word as the measure of all things, humanism has made man the measure of reality.

No man can escape the centrality of faith in their lives. Religious neutrality is impossible. The more one avoids the question, the stronger his religiosity becomes. As with humanism, Christianity cannot avoid the consequences of its faith in contemporary society. In the words of Rushdoony, “every culture is a religious externalized, a faith incarnated into life and action.” Christianity is by its very nature an active faith, an activist religion.

Activism can be described also by its common assertion of pacifism. If a Christian decides to live only to self and not engage society around him, he is acting against the cultural mandate. It is always an activist faith. Even pacifism is active in denying activism. Pacifists have a cause, and it is just as active as those who are idealists.

The result of many years of what I call “negative activism”2 is a completely defensive tactic against humanistic faith. What the church is doing today is retreating from her call to engage, thinking that God has not called us to be active; they are by nature being active opponents of Christianity.

 

  1. R.J. Rushdoony, The One and the Many (Fairfax, VA:Thoburn Press, 1978), 371-375 [ back]
  2. Negative activism is synonymous with pacifism. By retreating, some Christians are actually being active supporters of those who oppose the Christian faith [ back]

Ten Years after Greg Bahnsen

images.jpgOn December 10th, a group of friends, associates and admirers will gather for a dinner to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the passing of a man who was hardly a household name, but perhaps ought to be. He is the Christian apologist Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen.

Dr. Bahnsen was opined by many as the most prolific Christian apologist in the last quarter of the 20th century in terms of defending the Christian perspective against the assaults of atheism. His 1985 debate with atheist scholar, the late Gordon Stein, was dubbed The Great Debate, and remains a classic as well as a benchmark in Christian apologetics.