Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Friday, February 18, 2011

Applying Presuppositionalism: Exegetical and Theological

Readers may wish to review my introductory article on this subject before proceeding.

Building upon that previous article on presuppositionalism, I want to turn my attention to providing what I think is a theological outline of what I have personally developed by learning from presuppositional apologetic methodology. Like I noted before, I think a person's apologetic methodology is useless unless it can be applied practically with engaging the everyday person in an evangelistic encounter.

Furthermore, I will add here, apologetic methodology should not be so complicated that only academics or theology geeks are the only ones familiar with it. Apologetic methodology must have a practicality to it so that Ricco the shop mechanic, Tina the Wal-Mart associate, and Mary the housewife can learn quickly and utilize it in an effective manner.

Now, I am not saying we Christians should never take the time to sharpen our "debating" skills or that we should shun learning about apologetics in general. As Tina the Wal-Mart associate grows in her faith, certainly she should be discipled to strengthen her ability to present the Gospel. But apologetic proofs in and of themselves shouldn't be the focus of such a presentation. They are not the power of God unto salvation as Paul writes in Romans 1:16.

Presuppositionalism, I believe, presents a better starting point for our apologetic approach. But as I noted in my previous article, presuppositionalism can also be weighed down with complicated philosophical baggage in the form of its concepts. Even the lingo can be flummoxing for the student. So, cutting straight to the chase, let me boil down what I have learned from presuppositionalism and present it in a brief outline.

1) First we need to develop our theology from the exegesis of biblical truth. As we develop our theology from Scripture, we can then shape our apologetic presentation.

2) All human beings are governed by "presuppositions," or unquestioned, fundamental, philosophical axioms an individual will take for granted. This first point is absolutely crucial for a Christian to understand before he or she prepares to confront unbelievers with the Gospel. Grasping this simple, philosophical truth will help cut through much of the difficulty Christians struggle with to evangelize the lost. The Bible declares that our battle with unbelief is with the mind as men submit their thinking to various philosophies and worldviews (2 Corinthians 10:1-5). Dan Phillips goes into a bit more detail regarding presuppositions in the introduction of this article. In short,

  • Those "presuppositions" serve as basic starting points in a person's thinking.

  • A person filters his reasoning through those presuppositions when he or she intersects with the world: society, work, school, family, friends, and other areas of life.

  • A person utilizes those "presuppositions" when considering the big questions in life. Such things as, "where did I come from?" "Why am I here?" "Where am I going?"

  • Those "presuppositions" give direction to the person's worldview.

  • All of this means that all people every where are not "neutral" with their thinking. They serve some sort of "master," as it were. Everyone interprets their world in which they live according to "presuppositions."

3) The Bible tells us all men every where are created in God's image (Genesis 1:26, 27). This means:

  • Man was created to be a spiritual being. He is both physical and spiritual.

  • Man was created to worship His creator and to be in fellowship with God.

  • All men have knowledge of our creator in their hearts and minds.

4) Adam's sin (Genesis 3) separated mankind without exception from fellowship with God.

5) Adam's sin not only separated mankind from God, it placed all mankind without exception under the righteous judgment of God's wrath.

6) Hence, all men are born "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1ff).

  • Spiritually "dead" in that men are born separated from fellowship with God

  • Man's spiritual death will result in his physical death (Romans 5:12, 6:23, I Corinthians 15:56).

7) Man's spiritual "deadness" manifests itself in a number of ways, but most specifically in rebellion against God and His laws. In fact, man's sinfulness can best be described as resulting from a hatred of God. The theological term is total depravity. Sin has corrupted the whole person.

8) Total depravity does not mean all men are absolutely the worse sinners they could be. It means sin has totally permeated man's entire being. Man's nature is under the dominion and the defiling influence of sin (Mark 7:21, 22) so that:
  • Men have no desire BUT to act sinfully.

  • They are enslaved to sin, unable and unwilling to pursue godly righteousness (Romans 6:20).

  • A person could either live in gross immorality or be a moral philanthropist. With either lifestyle, the person is still a sinner.

  • The person is identified with the old man Adam and his disobedience (Romans 5:12)

9) Yet, in spite of man's sinfulness and separation from God, he still retains the image of God as noted under [#3]. Sin essentially mars God's image in man, it does not eradicate it.
  • The image of God gives men an internal knowledge of their creator (Romans 1:19-20). There are no true "atheists" or unbelievers. They may say they don't believe in God, but their lives betray their hypocrisy.

  • That knowledge stirs in men a willingness to seek to be "reasonable" and "rational."

  • They intrinsically understand and do God's laws. Men act morally (Romans 2:14-16) even though they refuse to acknowledge God is the justification for their morality.

  • Men seek to worship. False religions reflect man's heart to worship a "god." The rankest atheist skeptic assigns absolute worth to something outside himself even if that something is in the form of philosophical principles or scientific paradigms.

10) That marring of God's image in man causes man's reason to be fallen. This is something of a conundrum, for men do act rational as noted under [#9], yet the Scriptures declare their minds are darkened and their hearts blinded (Ephesians 4:17-19).
  • Man's darkened reason doesn't necessarily impact his intelligence. Some of the worse sinners and haters of God have been brilliant.

  • Man's darkened reason has more to do with their ethical morals. It is a spiritual problem.

  • In other words, man's darkened reason drives him to pursue sinful behavior that could possibly bring a person to ruin and despair.

  • This folly is demonstrated in the decisions a person makes individually or as a collective whole, as well as the beliefs he mentally ascents to that form his philosophical outlook on life. Those beliefs govern his overall presuppositions that in turn drive how men intersect their world.
11) Man's sinful condition is spiritual, not one lacking education or intelligence.

12) Because man's sinful condition is spiritual, it ultimately has to do with His relationship with God.
  • Men pursue sin, as noted under [#4] because they are separated from God.

  • It is a separation men cannot fix on their own.

13) Considering all that the Bible says about mankind, humanity is in desperate need of a deliverer, one who not only restores fellowship with their Creator, but also spiritually reconnects them to their Creator.
  • A deliverer who can turn away the wrath of a holy God against sinners and restore the fellowship man once had with God.

  • A deliverer who can reorient the image of God in man away from earthly things back to God Himself.

  • A deliverer who can change the nature of sinful men so that they desire to seek God's righteousness.

  • A deliverer who will free man's reason from the shackles of sin so he can now be truly wise (Proverbs 1:7).

These are the foundational points I have learned from presuppositional apologetics. If we establish in our minds a robust biblical theology of sin, man, God, and salvation, we will lay a firm foundation to build an effective apologetic methodology. Our apologetic will be useful and practical, not merely philosophical and theoretical.

In my third post, I'll take up outlining a practical map with applying my apologetics.

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Blogger DJP said...

...apologetic methodology should not be so complicated that only academics or theology geeks are the only ones familiar with it. Apologetic methodology must have a practicality to it so that Ricco the shop mechanic, Tina the Wal-Mart associate, and Mary the housewife can learn quickly and utilize it in an effective manner

What an important point. Thank you for making it. I'm sure that many books on apologetic mostly impress this message: "That author is really deep. I'd better leave this to professionals."

8:58 AM, February 21, 2011  
Blogger Tom said...

So, in other words, presupposationalism presumes the gospel is true?



9:11 AM, February 21, 2011  
Blogger Shazza89101 said...

Very interesting and it does seem to make things easier when you leave out the flare. By flare I mean trying to win an unbeliever with cleaver philosophy and what not. I like what you say about man being a "sinful condition not one lacking in education and intelligence." Very eloquently put. Yes I am looking for to more Fred. Blessings, Sharon.

10:07 PM, February 23, 2011  
Blogger Deb said...

Great outline here! Thank you.
While I find myself nodding in agreement with every point you made, I still have a question: Do some presuppositionalists take a slightly different approach in their apologetics? The reason I ask is that I've been encountering quite a few lately in my denom who do not think that Christians and non-Christians can reasonably share any basis for the truth of the knowledge that God exists. This would seem to go against what you have outlined in terms of common grace and the image of God. I agree with you though.

I suppose that since the folks I'm thinking of are reconstructionists, perhaps they have had to adapt presuppositionalism to fit their paradigm? Maybe I'm wrong? Just wanted to see if you had any thoughts about whether there are different forms of presup? Thanks!

9:45 AM, February 26, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Hey Deb,
I would have to pointed to some examples of what you mean regarding different approaches to presuppositionalism. Certainly they exist. Van Til and Clark and their minions arguing with each other to this day being a good example.

I will draw this out a bit in my third installment on this subject, but there is a sense in which unbelievers don't care about being irrational and inconsistent with their views of the world. Their hatred of God drives them to such foolishness. I strike that up to what Paul writes in Ephesians 4 concerning how men have blinded hearts and darkened understanding.

In spite of that position, we are instructed to engage the sinner's mind with the truth (2 Cor. 10:1-6) and trust God with the results of our efforts.

10:15 AM, February 26, 2011  
Blogger ADieL said...

Hi. Will you be putting up your third installment soon?

2:22 PM, June 13, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

It's in the works. I have my notes sketched out. I just haven't had time to write them up in a coherent post. Other stuff gets in my way, like work and babies. Plus I get distracted with other subjects.

Thanks for asking. I'll spur myself on to try and get it completed.

3:48 PM, June 13, 2011  

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