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

Friday, March 02, 2012

God Fearing Apologetics

evangelizing

Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men… (2 Cor. 5:11).

I've been interacting with some comments from a self-described Classic apologist. Because my commenter advocates for the apologetic methodology the average church-goer hears on Christian radio and reads in popular level books, my key objective has been to highlight fundamental starting points between his methodology and mine and then offer my critique. I provide more background HERE if you'd like to get up-to-speed. I would also encourage folks to read through the comments also.

I stated at the end of that first post that I found the practice and application of classic apologetics in real life encounters with the unbelieving world to be both problematic and offensive. Those are rather bold words, but I am prepared to back up my claim.

Let me begin by setting the tone for my evaluation with some introductory remarks.

First, I understand evangelism and apologetics to be one and the same as an endeavor. In other words, I do not separate "evangelism" from "apologetics" as if they are two categories. The mindset among many "apologists" is that apologetics is clearing the way for evangelism, or what I understand my commenter to mean when he writes about the use of evidence to clear away intellectual obstacles. Once the obstacles are cleared and the terms of the evidence agreed upon by both the Christian and the unbeliever, THEN we can proceed to the process of "evangelization."

Rather, I understand apologetics to be evangelization. In one of the key evangelizing passage of the NT, Jesus stated that we are to go into all the world and make disciples of all men (Matthew 28:19). Going into "all the world" means that we will be engaging unbelievers as a matter of course in our daily life. "All the world" entails our family and the people at our schools and work. Without fail they are going to ask you about why you believe what you believe by making comments and asking questions. When we offer our defense, we certainly want to answer their questions, but our overall attitude should be focused upon sinners in need of salvation and Christ being the only means they have for their salvation.

Secondly, I further understand apologetics/ evangelism to be a proclamation. I am telling the lost world about the power of a sovereign God, Who in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, overcomes and changes the treasonous hearts of sinners.

Third, When I am discussing matters of "apologetics," I begin with addressing what is revealed in Scripture concerning what it is all men know in their hearts already: that they know there is a God, they are at enmity against Him, His wrath abides upon them, and the only hope they have is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

My detractors, however, will argue I am begging the proverbial question with this approach. In other words, I am calling people to believe upon a religious message without giving a reason for the reliability of that message first.

In response, my commenter outlined his approach by stating how he first shows the unbeliever that truth is knowable. From there he proceeds to showing that the theistic God exists and that His existence makes miracles possible. He then would move to showing how the New Testament is historically reliable, that the NT said Jesus claimed to be God, and that Jesus proved He was God by His miracles, most significantly, the Resurrection. With that background, we can conclude that Jesus is God, and anything He says is true. Because Jesus said the Old Testament and the promised NT is the Word of God, the Bible is therefore true and the Christian faith reliable.

That sounds "reasonable," but the apostolic witness modeled for us in the NT never begins with building a complicated case for Christ first before engaging the lost.

For example, notice Paul's message to the pagans in Lystra in Acts 14:8-18. Keep in mind these are pagans with no background in Judeo-Christianity, so a person would think Paul would want to "show" them the reasonableness of Christ's truth claims first. Yet that doesn't happen. After the people had witnessed a miracle of healing performed by Paul, the pagan crowds began worshiping him and Barnabas as Hermes and Zeus. I am guessing it seemed "reasonable" to the Lystrians pagans that these two men were gods who had come down to them. Upon hearing their "confusion," Paul preached to them. The content of his message directed the people to what they already knew to be true: there was a living God who was their ultimate creator and He revealed Himself through acts of general providence and grace. Paul didn't get to finish his presentation, because the people wouldn't listen.

Paul did, however, get to finish when he addressed the Athenian academic elites in Acts 17. Again, he didn't build a case for Christ by showing them reasonable "proofs." He began with the same points he did with the Lystrians, but instead of being interrupted, he climaxed his preaching with the proclamation of Christ's victory over death in His Resurrection.

There is no building a case for Christianity in either of these two episodes. He started with what he knew was true of all men, told them they were guilty before God, and the only remedy for this problem is Jesus Christ. I would think that is where all Christians would try to begin when engaging unbelievers: With an apologetic methodology that is grounded in biblical theology.

Now, my commenter would claim I am being unfairly misleading, because the classic apologist also has in mind the glory of God when he does apologetics. He doesn't believe there is any inherent "power" in the evidence, or that the sinner can be reasoned to faith. The classic/evidentialist apologist believes just like me; that the Holy Spirit has to take the work of the apologist and apply it to the heart of the sinner.

Well, perhaps they say this, but I don't see any consistently meaningful attempt to apply their words. In fact, I see what I consider to be serious obfuscations on the part of popular apologists that circumvents the role Scripture and theology plays in apologetics and evangelism. Let me draw our attention to three problem areas I see with the application of classic apologetic methodology and I’ll offer my evaluation:

1) The appeal to secular philosophy as an interpretive grid to understanding the Bible and presenting theology. When I pointed out how apologist William Lane Craig is notorious for elevating secular philosophy over biblical authority in order to understand theology, my commenter wrote that he understood Lane's reason for doing so: because theology and the Bible has to be interpreted. I can only conclude then, that secular philosophy - and I am talking about Greek philosophy primarily - is a necessity to interpreting the Bible.

Two things:

aristotleFirst: What possible good can we gain learning from pagans and their false views of knowledge? How exactly does their "reason," which is self-centered and starts with man, teach biblical Christians how we should read the Bible properly and draw conclusions about theology? The Greeks were all over the map when it came to their ideas. They wrote about demiurges, prime movers, ideas/forms, "substances," and atomism among other things. What relevance do any of these concepts have with Christ? Honestly, the most useful thing we can learn from studying Greek philosophy is seeing the disastrous consequences of a society groping after God apart from biblical revelation. I am just flabbergasted any right thinking Christian would believe the Greeks have anything worth teaching us regarding how we interpret the Bible and apply our faith.

Second: How does WLC, or any classic apologist who seeks to utilize Greek philosophy as an interpretative grid for theology, KNOW the philosopher and his philosophy in question is trustworthy as a guide? The only reason the classic Greeks are even considered is because the Muslim philosophers brought the works of Aristotle and Plato with them during the Islamic expansion into Europe. If Islam had been successful going into China, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

The Muslims, a false, violently anti-Christian religion, used Greek philosophy to interpret their religious faith. When they came to Western Europe, Catholics in the Middle Ages used Latin translations of Arabic translations of the Greek. From that, you have Thomas Aquinas developing his theology and classic apologists claiming it is the best way to do apologetics. Really? And this is suppose to be significant for my understanding of the Bible?

2) Classic apologists tend to accommodate theologically errant perspectives. What I have always found disheartening among the groups of popular apologists is the ease at which they willingly affirm other individual apologists who may share similar methodology, yet are divergent from each other in what I consider important areas of theological faith. The divergence can be so severe at times that it makes me wonder about their ability to discern. But I guess this apologetic ecumenism is expected if you view the Bible as a secondary component to your apologetic efforts.

As I write this, I have a copy of the latest edition of the CRI journal (March 2012). It's a special issue addressing the question of origins and matters of creation and evolution. A number of contributors write on such subjects as DNA, biology, stellar evolution, and the meaning of life. Even though the focus of the writers is directed at answering the question emblazoned on the cover, "What were the origins of life on earth?," because so many of them hold to such radically divergent theological opinions from one another, a person is left with a fuzzy picture of what Christian theism actually says on this subject of origins. Let me point out a few examples of what I mean by noting three contributors.

- William Dembski published in the past a convoluted, sub-biblical theodicy it makes one wonder about his overall perspective on God and evil.

- A couple of years ago, Fuz Rana made some disturbing remarks about ancient man when evolutionists were crowing that the genetic evidence proved modern humans and Neanderthals interbred. The AIG/Creation.com folks merely pointed out what they had been saying for years: that Neanderthals are an extinct ethnic group of human being, hence the reason for the genetic link. The RTB ministries, on the other hand, rather than renouncing their long held position that Neanderthals were soul-less hominids, doubled-down and had Rana issue a statement suggesting the interbreeding indicates proof of bestiality and the depravity of man. But, of course, this ignores the major problems with adopting such a view.

- Kenn [sic?] Wogemuth, who is a co-contributor explaining why geology tells us the earth is billions of years old and YEC are idiots, is someone I have interacted with personally on a number of occasions. Back in 2010, when Grace to You did an extended blog series defending an historical Genesis, biblical creationism, and exposing Biologos as nothing but a writhing nest of stealth atheists, Kenn (He spelled his name "Ken" in our correspondence), would document-bomb me with papers that allegedly refuted my view. When I pressed him about his understanding of Genesis, the historicity of creation, and the flood, he never gave me a straight answer. Instead, he sent me to blog sites of questionable writers who affirmed his old earth views, but also denied other essential doctrines, along with advocating for gay marriage.

My classic apologist detractors may say those differences are insignificant, minor, or irrelevant. To borrow a phrase from the Bible Answer Man, things Christians can debate vigorously but never divide over. What I should be concerned with is the ideas put forth by the person, and not what the person personally believes about God, the Bible, and salvation.

But theology does matter. If the main goal of apologetics is providing reasons for the Christian faith and clearing away obstacles that keeps a person away from God, eventually – or at least I think - the apologist will get a person to the "Christian faith." I mean, I am only assuming that over time some people will be convinced by the evidence, right? They'll give the Christian message a fair hearing and even commit themselves to the faith. Okay, now what? What are they to believe about the Bible? Where will they attend church? What the Episcopalian and Catholic "apologists" believe about the Christian faith is much different than what Baptists "apologists" may believe, or the Calvary Chapel "apologists." Is it at this point we bring the Bible into the conversation?

That leads me to a final problem area,

3) Classic apologists diminish the Bible's authority in their apologetic presentations. I cannot recall how many times I've caught myself talking back to my radio saying "It's in the Bible, SAY IT!" when I hear a program on which a popular apologist is "defending" the Christian faith against whatever issue under discussion. It seems as though they are embarrassed of the Bible's authority on the matter.

Take for instance "gay" marriage. I'll be accused of generalizing with my words when I state this, but most of the arguments against "gay" marriage I hear from popular apologists are purposefully presented so as to leave the Bible out of the debate. The apologist will appeal to what has been "acceptable" in societies since the beginning of human civilization, or the importance of the male/female family unity in society, or collections of statistical data. Sometimes the apologist will boast, "See, I haven't even used the Bible as my authority when I have argued my case." It's like the guy is proud of it. It's the same thing when I hear them argue against abortion or in favor of intelligent design. Yet the very institution of marriage is a creation mandate. Jesus specifically grounds his argument for marriage in the Genesis record (Matthew 19:5-6), as did Paul (Ephesians 5). Why can't I?

Of course, this goes back to what my commenter has already stated, that I am begging the question if I were to start with the Bible as my authority. But why should I have to prove the Bible independently first as a reliable depository of truth BEFORE I can appeal to the truth contained within it? Is it not truth? I thought truth was truth, no matter where it was found; yet for some reason the Bible is off limits in the conversation.

Which makes me wonder why the classic apologist engages in apologetics to begin with. If he says, "because God wants us to as Christians," where exactly does he find that exhortation? If he says the Bible, was that a "true" exhortation before he was persuaded of the Bibles truthfulness? Or did it become "true" AFTER he was persuaded of the Bible's truthfulness?

When I defend the Christian faith I want to not only persuade men of my position, but I want to glorify God in the process. The Gospel is His plan and His message. He has entrusted me to present it to a lost world. It behooves me to do so articulately and faithfully, and that involves striving for consistency between the theology I affirm and the message I proclaim.

In practice, I see a disconnect between the theology classic apologists proclaim and the methods they use to present the message. That doesn't mean I believe they are unsaved, or even have nothing of value from which I can learn. It means that inconsistency must be addressed so that God can be fully glorified.

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24 Comments:

Blogger Brian Kinley said...

Great points Fred! Coming from an atheist background and working in the science field still I would concur that evidential and classical approaches to apologetics lead to an impasse rather quickly. I know in my own case if someone would have come to me seeking to defend the Christian faith using "evidence" or "philosophy" I would have simply laughed, cited contrary evidence or philosophy and that would be that. It was the simple preaching of the gospel, as detailed in the Scriptures, empowered through the Holy Spirit that opened my eyes...not any clever arguments or historical facts.

See you at Shepherds next week!

2:16 PM, March 02, 2012  
Blogger Adam said...

Mr. Butler,
Thank you for taking the time to engage this issue further. I've read through your post once, and am not ready to respond just yet. I'm not really even sure where to start. You make quite a few generalizations and take what I would consider a few cheap shots, but again, I've only read through the post once and perhaps I'm reading more into your words than is actually there.

Out of curiosity, have you had a chance to read my comments about the paper you linked in the comments of the other post? Thanks again...

7:14 PM, March 02, 2012  
Blogger Kevin Zuber said...

Good post Fred!

It's tough to stand for biblical apologetics when the so-called "classical" apologetics is so dominant in evangelical circles (esp. academia).

I've always said the reason why evidentialist / rationalistic apologetics seems to make sense is because it fits much better with the way un-regenerate people think and the evidentialist / rationalist thinks we have to "win" them with reasoning that makes sense to them; contra Paul in Acts 17 or even Jesus in John 3.

6:41 AM, March 03, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Adam,
Appreciate the challenges as always. BTW, thanks for pointing me to that article about Ken Ham, I got a response already in the works. I'll try to work my way through your last responses this weekend. I may not respond to them, but I'll certainly read through them. I do have a big list of chores my wife wants me to accomplish, however.

You're probably right that I made a lot of generalizations, but the reality of generalizations is that they tend to sum up the facts. I am not sure what exactly you think I am "generalizing" but I am confident my evaluation of the main stream, popular Christian apologetics is accurate and would be willing to debate it with anyone. I am of the opinion there are things we cannot "debate vigorously but never divide over." Creation and the historical Genesis account being a prime example.

Maybe to help utilize our time and focus our thinking, instead of giving a point by point rebuttal, pick one or two of the primary items you think are absolutely necessary for me to be challenged about. That will help keep our writing precise and the readers engaged.

Oh, and btw, you can call me Fred. Mr. Butler makes me sound old. =-)

8:37 AM, March 03, 2012  
Blogger Adam said...

Thanks Mr. Butler, I mean Fred :) I'll try to be as brief as possible, but given the length of the post, there are several relevant issues that need to be addressed. First, I don't disagree with much at all from the first portions of your post. I have friends who disagree, but I too tend to see apologetics and evangelism as one and the same, or at least two sides of the same coin. There is much within your post I do disagree with however.

You said, "Third, When I am discussing matters of "apologetics," I begin with addressing what is revealed in Scripture concerning what it is all men know in their hearts already: that they know there is a God, they are at enmity against Him, His wrath abides upon them, and the only hope they have is the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

I agree God has revealed His existence to everyone via creation and conscience. But, where exactly within Scripture do you find that "all men know in their hearts already" that "the only hope they have is the Gospel of Jesus Christ"? If all men knew this already why would we need to tell them. Rom. 10:14-15 seem to indicate otherwise.

You said, "My detractors, however, will argue I am begging the proverbial question with this approach.  In other words, I am calling people to believe upon a religious message without giving a reason for the reliability of that message first. "

This is precisely what you're doing because all men do not already know that their only hope is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Why should anyone believe that? I could just as easily say Allah is your only hope, or the Book of Mormon says its way of salvation is your only hope, or Obe Wan Kenobi is your only hope,etc., etc. A reasonable person would need a good reason to believe any of these claims. One could certainly believe the claims blindly or via subjective feelings/experience, but then how would we adjudicate between these opposing truth claims since they can't all be true?

You said, "That sounds "reasonable," but the apostolic witness modeled for us in the NT never begins with building a complicated case for Christ first before engaging the lost." And then you list some instances from Acts 14 and Acts 17. You then say, "There is no building a case for Christianity in either of these two episodes. He started with what he knew was true of all men, told them they were guilty before God, and the only remedy for this problem is Jesus Christ.  I would think that is where all Christians would try to begin when engaging unbelievers: With an apologetic methodology that is grounded in biblical theology."

I think this is very important, so let's look at the passages involved. Why did the crowds worship Paul and Barnabas? You say yourself, because Paul performed a miracle. In other words, the people had a good reason to think Paul was something special. People were not expected to just simply take Paul's word for it, nor Jesus' for that matter. Jesus and the Apostles did miracles to confirm their message (Matt. 11:3-5; John 20:30-31; Acts 2:22-24; Acts 14:3; 2 Cor. 12:12). Moreover, you're right, Paul went own to appeal to creation and nature as reason to believe in the God of the Bible and not the mythical gods. But he didn't merely assert this, he was providing reasons for believing this, not to mention he had already provided reason, via the miracle, for the people to listen to him. I'm not quite sure how this supports your case.

12:03 PM, March 03, 2012  
Blogger Adam said...

You go on to mention Acts 17 and say, "Paul did, however, get to finish when he addressed the Athenian academic elites in Acts 17.  Again, he didn't build a case for Christ by showing them reasonable "proofs."  He began with the same points he did with the Lystrians, but instead of being interrupted, he climaxed his preaching with the proclamation of Christ's victory over death in His Resurrection."

Again, I'm not sure how this supports your case. Paul started with where his audience was. This audience, being "very religious" and thus not a group of atheists, already believed in the supernatural and Paul met them there. After laying out some very Thomistic sounding metaphysics and theology regarding what type of existence this God has, he said, "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished PROOF [emphasis mine] to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

I'm not really sure what more needs to be said about this point. How much clearer can it possibly get? He didn't quote Scripture, in fact, he quoted their own poets. He met them where they were and reasoned with them, all while pointing to the Gospel. I think it's safe to assume, since it was his custom elsewhere and the members of the Areopagus asked to hear more, that Paul conversed with them further and probably provided a pretty good argument for the resurrection if it was anything like his argument in 1 Cor. 15.

You went on to say, "1) The appeal to secular philosophy as an interpretive grid to understanding the Bible and presenting theology. 
What possible good can we gain learning from pagans and their false views of knowledge?"


Here's where some of the major problems arise. First, I hope it's safe to assume that you value logical thinking. You've said elsewhere, and the paper you linked agreed (at times anyway), that people can think logically and that it's a prerequisite for knowledge. You've evidenced this by the fact that you obviously think presuppostionalism is definitely NOT the same as non-presuppositionalism. So granting that you think logical thinking should be valued and appreciated, I hope you also appreciate the fact that this whole point commits the genetic fallacy (an informal logical fallacy) by arguing against an idea's origin rather than against the idea itself. The origin of the idea has little to nothing to do with the truthfulness or falsity of the idea in question. It should also be noted that Aristotle, while certainly not inventing them, did have a major hand in discovering and codifying these laws of logic that we are both using. I'm sure we also both enjoy the benefits of the mathematics discovered and worked out by many of these pagan thinkers. Stupid pagans…

Moreover, you claim to know that the pagans, and by implication from your point 1, all of "secular philosophy," had a false view of knowledge. But how do you know this? This seems to bring up the dichotomy that Dr. Howe's blog discusses, which you said you were working on a reply to. I'll await your reply before going into detail here, but suffice it to say that the dichotomy is we either have knowledge via man's word or God's word. The problem is, how can we understand God's word? We can't appeal to God's word for that knowledge because that's the very thing we're trying to gain knowledge about. But again, I'll await your response before going any deeper on this point.

12:03 PM, March 03, 2012  
Blogger Adam said...

You go on to say, "2) Classic apologists tend to accommodate theologically errant perspectives.
But I guess this apologetic ecumenism is expected if you view the Bible as a secondary component to your apologetic efforts."


First, I would consider this either a cheap shot or simply being lazy and arguing against a straw man. The Bible is certainly not a "secondary component." It is primary, but one must first have reason to believe in its primacy. Moreover, I'm assuming you're familiar with church history. Exactly how many apologists through the centuries do you need who are arguing against heresy for you to conclude that classical apologists do not accommodate theologically errant perspectives? Also, as to the basic point of whether or not classical apologetics as a method is biblical and God-honoring, this point is ultimately a non sequitur. But what you're really getting at, as the rest of this point indicates, is that many classical apologists are not young-earth creationists (though many are), and you are convinced this is a true test of orthodoxy. Of course, one would have to ask how you know that, but then we're back to the man's word/God's word distinction and how we can understand God's word in the first place.

You said, "I mean, I am only assuming that over time some people will be convinced by the evidence, right?  They'll give the Christian message a fair hearing and even commit themselves to the faith. Okay, now what? What are they to believe about the Bible? Where will they attend church? What the Episcopalian and Catholic "apologists" believe about the Christian faith is much different than what Baptists "apologists" may believe, or the Calvary Chapel "apologists."  Is it at this point we bring the Bible into the conversation?"

Again, I would take this as another cheap shot and/or caricature. If you need names of folks who have come to Christ via classical apologetics, then those can certainly be provided. Your other questions move out of the realm of apologetics and into many other areas such as hermeneutics, pastoral care, theology, etc. I'm not sure what that has to do with this topic other than the fact that our philosophical understanding about reality will in fact affect these other issues as well. And, again, to pretend that the Bible is not important or completely left out of the equation is simply disingenuous.

12:04 PM, March 03, 2012  
Blogger Adam said...

Finally, you continued that line of thought with this last point, "3) Classic apologists diminish the Bible's authority in their apologetic presentations.
I cannot recall how many times I've caught myself talking back to my radio saying "It's in the Bible, SAY IT!" when I hear a program on which a popular apologist is "defending" the Christian faith against whatever issue under discussion.  It seems as though they are embarrassed of the Bible's authority on the matter."


Again, another straw man. The Bible's authority is not being diminished in the least. Rather, what is actually happening is that the Bible's authority is being ESTABLISHED and not simply asserted. You'd certainly not expect someone to take a Muslim's word for it that the Koran says Jesus wasn't crucified, and well, it claims to be an authority directly from God, so there, Jesus wasn't crucified. If I don't even believe God exists, then who cares what the Bible says! How can there be a word from God if God doesn't even exist in the first place, or at least the God of the Bible? We've got to meet people where they are and go from there.

You said, "But why should I have to prove the Bible independently first as a reliable depository of truth BEFORE I can appeal to the truth contained within it?  Is it not truth? I thought truth was truth, no matter where it was found; yet for some reason the Bible is off limits in the conversation."

I've already eluded to this. I could claim anything is an authority and quote from it, but why should my listener believe me? Furthermore, this contradicts your point one. If "truth is truth no matter where it is found," why is it apparently impossible for us to learn anything from pagans?

Finally, you said, "Which makes me wonder why the classic apologist engages in apologetics to begin with.  If he says, "because God wants us to as Christians," where exactly does he find that exhortation?  If he says the Bible, was that a "true" exhortation before he was persuaded of the Bibles truthfulness?  Or did it become "true" AFTER he was persuaded of the Bible's truthfulness?"

This is simply confused and yet another straw man regarding classical apologetic methodology. Of course truth is true whether anyone believes it or not. That's simply the nature of truth. But how do we know x is true and y is not if one or the other is not self-evident to us? Does our investigation of x or y make one or the other true? Of course not, and who would argue such a thing? But if we don't self-evidently know whether x or y is true, is it not always the case that the reasonable person would investigate rather than guess? Considering God's command in Is. 1:18 and Matt. 23:37 I vote for reasoning rather than guessing.

12:04 PM, March 03, 2012  
Blogger Dusman said...

"3) Classic apologists diminish the Bible's authority in their apologetic presentations.

I did an entire presentation on this issue at my church a few weeks ago on Sanctity of Life Sunday. I discussed how Christian brothers like Greg Kokul and Scott Klusendorf purposefully avoid appealing to the Scriptures when arguing for the pro-life position. In Stand to Reason's "Making Abortion Unthinkable: The Art of Pro-Life Persuasion" DVD series, Kokul specifically instructs his hearers to avoid discussing Scripture because the pro-choice advocate will simply write you off as another crazed Bible-thumper. I demonstrated how this position is self-refuting and can be easily overturned. In you're interested, listen here: http://www.sfofgso.org/sermons/20120129Segers.mp3

2:05 PM, March 03, 2012  
Blogger Peter said...

I grew up with an uncle who was a chemist, a university professor, then a researcher for oil companies. I used to listen to him rail against the faith using Classical rationalist arguments. He is actually easy to defeat using logic. But I listened to various relatives argue with him, and no matter how successful they may have refuted his statements, he would simply side step angrily and go on to something else. Listening to him and learning to refute his bad logic strengthened my faith, but logic could never be used against him.

The reason logic could never be used to bring my uncle to faith is that his misbelief is not based on logic. It is based on him. His fundamental presupposition is him. If one defeated him logically, at best one hurt his feelings because, in his eyes, his self-definition -- his whole world -- was attacked.

His world is Classical rationalism and in it there is no God but the reasoner.

8:05 PM, March 03, 2012  
Blogger DJP said...

Sye Ten Varfenklavemann said it best: evidentialist apologetics is like playing Whack-a-Mole.

8:35 AM, March 04, 2012  
Blogger DJP said...

Your title also says it well: God-FEARING apologetics. That calls to mind Proverbs 1:7/9:10/31:30, which instructs us that the fear of Yahweh is where we start. It isn't a conclusion derived from a hostile premise.

6:37 AM, March 05, 2012  
Blogger Adam said...

Guys, come on now. The Proverbs passages obviously do not mean, nor can they mean, that man can have no knowledge prior to fearing the Lord. One would first have to know what "fear," "Lord," "knowledge," etc. mean before that verse could even have any meaning. One would first know that he himself actually exists, the this "Lord" is one deserving of "fear," that "knowledge" is something we desire, etc. One would also first know that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" is NOT the same as "one can know something without fearing the Lord." Moreover, it's obvious through reading Scripture, and even more so in looking at our everyday lives, that people are capable of knowing all sorts of things about reality without fearing the Lord. Could it be that the "knowledge" being referred to is a specific kind of knowledge and not a broad statement about knowledge regarding reality as such? Verses 2-6 seem to indicate just such a scenario, as does the first part of Prov. 2 which seems to indicate in verse 9 what one is actually gaining knowledge about, "Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course." It's not talking about knowledge as such. It couldn't even possibly be talking that.

7:46 AM, March 05, 2012  
Blogger DJP said...

Adam, did you even read Fred's post? What knowledge are we talking about?

7:51 AM, March 05, 2012  
Blogger Adam said...

DJP, I'm hoping that my previous comments on this post should be sufficient evidence that I obviously read Fred's post.

7:57 AM, March 05, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

But DJP's basic question still remains: What sort of "knowledge" are we talking about here? Know some facts about the Bible and the world, or how to really know according to the "fear of the Lord." I'd be curious to read your take on those passages. What do you mean the Bible is saying when Solomon says "the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord."

BTW, just so there won't be any surprises, Dan is a published author who wrote a 400 plus page book on how to study the Proverbs,
http://www.kressbiblical.com/products/god%27s-wisdom-in-proverbs.html

I would highly recommend it.

8:05 AM, March 05, 2012  
Blogger Adam said...

From my understanding of the context, and freely admitting I could certainly be wrong, the knowledge being referred to is moral knowledge and how to live a God-honoring life by making wise and discerning choices. I whole-heartedly agree that the ultimate end of our knowledge, no matter what type of knowledge we're talking about, is fearing the Lord. But I'm not sure what any of this has to do with classical apologetics not being God-honoring.

8:28 AM, March 05, 2012  
Blogger DJP said...

I saw them, Adam, but frankly they were too long and you don't have the standing to interest me that much. Not meaning to be rude, but (A) you asked, after (B) you engaged me.

So your comment, to which I replied, provoked my response. I thought (and still think) that if you'd read Fred's post thoughtfully, you'd not have written as you did.

Bringing us back to: Fred's right, God-fearing apologetics begins with the fear of the infinite-personal God revealed in Scripture. It doesn't get there from hostile premises.

1:18 PM, March 05, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Sorry Adam for getting back to you late. And I am just responding to your first comment. We're busy here at Church this week with a major conference and I have a homeschooling thing a Sea World of all places.
I do appreciate the comments, btw.

You write,
I agree God has revealed His existence to everyone via creation and conscience. But, where exactly within Scripture do you find that "all men know in their hearts already" that "the only hope they have is the Gospel of Jesus Christ"? If all men knew this already why would we need to tell them. Rom. 10:14-15 seem to indicate otherwise.

I could probably nuance that better by clarifying that all men know there is a God, they are guilty before Him, and under His wrath, AND (the message we bring to them that they don't know because it is only revealed through special revelation) Jesus Christ is their only hope.

This is precisely what you're doing because all men do not already know that their only hope is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Why should anyone believe that?

Exactly. They wouldn't believe it UNLESS the Lord is drawing them unto Himself. Like I noted in my article, Paul never gave reasons for any of those claims. He did to the Christian church in his epistles, say for instance, 1 Cor. 15, but he is writing Christians, not unbelievers. A reasonable person needs saving faith, something that is divinely given, not a "good reason." Their nature has to be dealt with first for them to even consider the reasonableness of any reasons.

Why did the crowds worship Paul and Barnabas? You say yourself, because Paul performed a miracle. In other words, the people had a good reason to think Paul was something special.

But they concluded the wrong things about those miracles. There was a spiritual dimension involved.

But he didn't merely assert this, he was providing reasons for believing this, not to mention he had already provided reason, via the miracle, for the people to listen to him. I'm not quite sure how this supports your case.

Acts 14 is the only place this happened. There are no miracles in Acts 17. He was called to Mars Hill to explain his message (the Gospel).
I'll have some more on Thursday or Friday so if you can wait until then...
Fred

1:45 PM, March 06, 2012  
Blogger Adam said...

No problem Fred. One of our more fundamental disagreements is that Christ draws someone to Himself apart from reason. I completely disagree, and I think the Scriptures attest to this.

You said, "Their nature has to be dealt with first for them to even consider the reasonableness of any reasons." That's simply not true. Yes, salvation is an issue of the sinful nature surrendering to the work of Christ to make the new man, but that decision doesn't happen apart from reason. I mean, it would have to be the case that the sin nature is not the new nature, and that an unsaved person is not a saved person, before anyone could put their trust in Christ. Again, the laws of logic are prior.

Other verses could certainly be cited, but John 20:30-31 make this thinking perfectly clear: "Therefore many other [g]signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name." First someone has a reason to trust Christ, then they can put their trust in Him. Again, people can do this blindly, but why should they?

You're correct that Paul did not personally perform a miracle in Acts 17, at least one is not recorded. But what did he do? He referred to the miracle of the resurrection as "proof" that what God says is true. He gave them a reason to believe God's authority and thus to believe the Gospel. If Paul would lay out such a case for the resurrection in 1 Cor. 15, and say it was in fact the Gospel, how much more would he do so for unbelievers who were hearing these new things?

I realize you'll probably simply say that I'm not a TULIP believing Calvinist and so my soteriology is all wrong, etc., etc. My reply would simply be, if man is so dead that God must give each man what amounts to personal revelation in some mystical sense (sense it can't be via human reason at all) before he can understand anything about the Gospel or make any decisions about it, then what is the point of the Bible in the first place, or prophets, or Apostles, etc.? If each believer receives his own regeneration, and thus understanding of "spiritual things," prior to being able to understand the Bible, or reason about God, or intelligently discuss the truth claims of Christianity, why would God reveal anything to any prophets or Apostles? Why would He give miracles as signs confirming His message and messengers? It all seems pointless. Not to mention, it seems to contradict Scripture. Thanks again for the conversation, and hope your conference went well.

6:53 PM, March 07, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Sorry for the delay. We're just occupied with our conference this week.

I'll break apart your response and offer a handful of observations.

This audience, being "very religious" ... already believed in the supernatural and Paul met them there.
- The Athenians were "religious" but that does not necessarily reflect the thinking of the "philosophers" on Mars Hill. The two primary groups Paul engaged were the Stoics and Epicureans. Of the two groups, the Epicureans were certainly atheistic in the sense that they were naturalistic materialists.

This audience, being "very religious" and thus not a group of atheists...
- You seem to suggest that "atheism" is not religious belief. The atheists are just as religious as the most committed Christian.

After laying out some Thomistic sounding metaphysics and theology regarding what type of existence this God has
- Paul did not try to "prove" God's existence. He merely pointed out what they already knew in their hearts to be true: that God exists. He didn't point them to the "possibility" of one, supreme and sovereign God existing, but declared to them the true and living God and the gods of their culture as false.

he said, ... through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished PROOF [emphasis mine] to all men by raising Him from the dead.”... How much clearer can it possibly get? He didn't quote Scripture
- The "proof," or better translated, the "assurance" or "faith," Paul supplies is his testimony on the Resurrection. An event that is contained ONLY within the testimony of the Christian community at that time and was yet to be inscripturated, assuming Matthew and Luke were in the process of writing out their Gospels. Thus, Paul was calling them to believe his testimony and eventually, the testimony of the apostles in the Gospels. Or the Word of God. So he was "quoting" scripture.

... he quoted their own poets
- Paul certainly cited their poets, because their poets expressed in their writings what was truly known by everyman in his own heart, that there is a creator to whom they will be held accountable. The strategy of all apologists is to challenges the worldview inconsistencies of those to whom they are evangelizing.

and probably provided a pretty good argument for the resurrection if it was anything like his argument in 1 Cor. 15.
- This is speculation at best. Luke doesn't really say, but from the response he got and the immediacy in which Luke records the events in Acts 18, it's doubtful he had any further conversation with them. As for 1 Cor. 15, it is a text written to Christians and is not meant specifically for unbelievers.

... I hope it's safe to assume that you value logical thinking.
Yes, but my value of "logic" is that it is grounded in the character of the revealed God of scripture. I don't go to Socrates to figure out that "A" is not "non-A" in the same way at the same time. The law of non-contradiction is a transcendent reality that pre-existed Socrates, because it is part of creation to think logically because logic is from our creator. .

Moreover, you claim to know that the pagans ... had a false view of knowledge. But how do you know this?

- By reading what they wrote. You have read what they wrote, right?

... how can we understand God's word? We can't appeal to God's word for that knowledge because that's the very thing we're trying to gain knowledge about.

Adam, God created us with the ability to communicate and understand. We have knowledge about how to understand God's Word, because man was created to understand language and communicate. Historical-Grammatical hermeneutics are like the laws of logic: they are transcendent truths grounded in the mind of our creator. You and Dr. Howe are making this way too difficult.

12:32 PM, March 09, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Continuing,
First, I would consider this either a cheap shot or simply being lazy and arguing against a straw man.

I can understand why you say this. There is a tone among younger folks that resonates this notion that we are not to be critical of other positions, especially among individuals who allegedly have the same "goals" in mind with "apologetics" however that is defined. I have a deep concern with this ecumenism among your body of apologists. I just hit on a few examples from the CRI issue. How one thinks about creationism is just a symptom of a deeper issue in my estimation. Dr. Howe, by his own testimony, is a YEC, but he doesn't explain how he came to those conclusions. Why does he believe this way about creation? The evidence? The Bible? By what authority?

Just yesterday at our shepherd's conference, I had a long conversation with a group of pastors and leaders who happen to read my blog and they share the exact same concerns I highlighted in this article, that they see this encroaching compromise along important matters that are far too often placed into the category of "secondary" issues.

Look at what you write, Your other questions move out of the realm of apologetics and into many other areas such as hermeneutics, pastoral care, theology, etc. You see, Adam, I don't separate hermeneutics, pastoral care, and theology from the realm of apologetics as if they are all different endeavors. According to Peter we begin our defense of the faith by setting apart Christ as Lord, and he is just as much Lord over these areas as He is over apologetics. Christianity must be presented as a whole, from Genesis to Revelation. Do you not agree with that? Thus, what Holly Ordway, an Episcopalian, has to say about soteriology and sanctification AFTER the "apologetics" converts a person to Christ, is much different than what Greg Koukl, who has a Calvary Chapel background and is baptistic, may say. Those realities are important.

From the other comments,
The Bible's authority is not being diminished in the least. Rather, what is actually happening is that the Bible's authority is being ESTABLISHED and not simply asserted.

And as I noted in the outset of our exchange, the apostles didn't establish the authority of the Bible with their audience. They presupposed it, which means the simply asserted it. Basically, you would have me lay aside my most powerful weapon, God's Word, when I engage the enemy with truth. That is have to establish its effectiveness first before I can unleash it.

If I don't even believe God exists, then who cares what the Bible says! How can there be a word from God if God doesn't even exist in the first place, or at least the God of the Bible? We've got to meet people where they are and go from there.

And this is our difference, as I have noted all along. People do know God exists, that is where you meet them. God has further promised if I preach to them from the Bible, He will convert them.

But how do we know x is true and y is not if one or the other is not self-evident to us? Does our investigation of x or y make one or the other true? Of course not, and who would argue such a thing? But if we don't self-evidently know whether x or y is true, is it not always the case that the reasonable person would investigate rather than guess?

Put this claim to the test. The age of the earth, a subject you been avoiding from sometime. Is it self-evident that the earth is billions of years old as deep time evolutionists say? Does the Bible have anything meaningful to say to this issue? Which one is correct? Or do you attempt to accommodate both positions?

12:37 PM, March 09, 2012  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

A couple of sources you may appreciate on the subject of Acts 17.

Phil Johnson's message on Acts 17

There are three different versions, so pick one.

Then Travis Allen's message on Psalm 19 that can be found here:
http://www.thegracelifepulpit.com/Sermons.aspx?code=GLC-2007

Download them and give them a listen over the weekend or sometime.

12:53 PM, March 09, 2012  
Blogger Peter said...

Adam said, "One of our more fundamental disagreements is that Christ draws someone to Himself apart from reason."

Isn't that Aquinist/Fideist?

Presuppositionalism doesn't say that. Rather, Christ draws men to himself while purifying, enlightening, and activating their reason. Fallen presuppositions, in fact all starting points outside God himself, cloud man's reason.

After Christ has drawn us to himself, we become a little smarter. Christ redeems while we are on this earth to a little closer to what he intended us to be at creation.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.

8:43 PM, March 11, 2012  

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