Defending apologetics

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by Pergamum, Feb 15, 2009.

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  1. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I am looking for some personal answers....

    Random thoughts on apologetics:

    Apologetics is to win people mainly, not just to win arguments.

    All apologetical arguments are like tools in your workshed. A hammer will work for some people, a screwdriver for others. I am not sure why presups and evidentialists always have infighting. Why diss the other one's tools?

    Really, there is no truth that is undeniable - because people will deny even the most basic truths.

    However, many folks find a fascination with complicated apologetics and spend much time on it.

    Most people come to Christ not for logical reasons alone anyway, but for sentimental reasons and by being loved into the kingdom, or coming to God in a crisis or having close friends and family that have become Christians and have had changed lives.

    My experience with some of those who love apologetics is that they read much and actually use their apologetics little and, when they do, they do so by going after the jugular and are after a "win" in their syllogisms and not after helping win the person to Christ.

    The most effective witnessing I have seen has always been done by folks who are largely ignorant of apologetics? Why is this so?

    Also, I have noticed that most people that read deeply in Reformed apologetics are already Christians. Nonbelievers prefer the layman oriented books like Josh McDowell's stuff? Or C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity approach, rather than Van Til.

    What am I missing? Why don't I like Reformed apologetics? Am I wrong for taking Josh McDowell over Van Til any day?

    How is apologetics and missions/evangelism related? How do most people put it into action?
  2. JohnGill

    JohnGill Puritan Board Senior

    1) Presuppositionalists do not believe that the evidentialist approach is biblical. Sinful man has no right to autonomously judge whether or not God is real. This is a simplified explanation. I would listen to the debate between Bahnsen (presuppositionalist) vs. Sproul (evidentialist) to get a more complete understanding. Presuppositionalists do not 'diss' evidences as they use them, but they instead disagree with the evidentialist method.

    2) Apologetics is to be used to silence the mouth of the unbeliever (Rom 3:19). It is a necessary tool in evangelism, though not in all evangelistic encounters. My job in sharing the gospel is not to win the person to Christ, as I cannot do this, but to faithfully present the gospel and silence the unbelievers objections to the gospel through biblically based reasoning. Nothing wrong with going for the jugular as long as it is done in the right spirit.

    3) I've found the opposite to be true up here. Those largely ignorant of apologetics are unable to deal with unbelievers objections to the claims of the gospel, such as Christ is the only way. I've found that knowing some apologetics has been very helpful in dealing with these objections and removing obstacles for a clear presentation of the gospel.

    4) Which type of Reformed Apologetics? Evidentialist or Presuppositionalist? I've found Van Til's Why I Am A Christian to be more effective to place in the hands of an unbeliever than McDowell. McDowell would be a follow up book for after they have become a Christian. Presenting evidences to a lost person will not convert them. (There is a university professor, I'll try and find the name, who believes in evidentinces that prove the resurrection of Jesus, but he does not believe Jesus is God.) Neither will silencing their arguments through the presupp approach. Only the gospel faithfully presented empowered by the Holy Ghost will ever do this.

    5) As there are evidentialists and presuppositionalists in Reformed Apologetics, your question must be modified. As to which is to be preferred, Van Til over McDowell, that is an erroneous question. Which is the biblical method, presenting evidences to a lost man and telling him to judge for himself (evidentialist) or demonstrating to a lost man that his sinful view of the world leads to an absurdity and silencing his mouth, in order that you may present the gospel? (See Bahnsen series on the Myth of Neutrality.)

    6) Apologetics and Evangelism are two sides of the same coin. You can't have one without the other. Acts 17 & 26 makes this clear.

    I'm sure the evidentialists will disagree with my assessment of evidentialism, but it is the gist of the debate between Drs. Greg Bahnsen & R. C. Sproul.

    I'm presupp
  3. kalawine

    kalawine Puritan Board Junior

  4. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Even in the States, I have hardly ever used anything past basic apologetics in evangelism. And the Josh MCDowell basic stuff seems to give the most blessing to nonbelievers.

    Why is my experience so much different then. Van Til and Gordon Clark both seem irrelevant when it comes to personal evangelism.
  5. catechumen

    catechumen Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm not well-versed in apologetics, but it seems to me that it is far too limiting to require an immediate utility for all apologetics literature in one-to-one evangelism. Surely the sorts of questions that Van Til is addressing are important in themselves, for confirming believers in the coherence of biblical Christianity against all other world views. The church as a whole is strengthened by this sort of work, especially those called to the ministry, even when it seems academically rarefied. In this context, the distinctions between presuppositionalism and evidentialism may well be much more important.
  6. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    On a practical level, how can apologetics be better harnessed for evangelism and missions work?

    I just don't see it being used well by most of the "reformed".

    In fact, I recently got chided because I use Josh McDowell in helping out some folks who are open to the truth. I dare not give these folks Van Til, but the first chapter of Mere Christianity is high onmy list.

    What use is apologetics in most day to day encounters? How can we make it more practical and more of a blessing for those for whom it is intended - nonbelievers.
  7. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritan Board Doctor

    Your experience isn't "different." Your experience is quite the norm. There's a reason why McDowell is well known and Van Til and Glark are not...

    I think part of it is that we live in an empirically oriented world - or at least people like to think that they are basing their positions and beliefs on "real" evidence. The likes of McDowell make a lot of sense to people who want to see the "evidence."
  8. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    So, is there a "reformed" way of doing apologetics then? And if so, how does this effect our "reformed way" of doing witnessing or evangelizing?

    Must we be purists and argue for an apologetical camp? And if so, what about Josh McDowell and his fine books?
  9. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I am not a Van tillian anymore, but some of McDowell's stuff is naive. While much is helpful, he rarely gives the context for the evidence to make sense. His use of evidence is often surface level. Many of his "prophecies that point to Christ" are typological or indirect, which even though good and fun, McDowell does not inform the new reader, so making this prophecy or that an embarrasment to belief because most people today, Christian or not, are moderns and don't think typologically.

    But then again, if using McDowell actually works for you and people come to Christ, don't stop. In my experience McDowell is often ridiculed where I come from and so I never, ever use him.
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    If apologetics is for reaching out to nonbelievers, why do most missions and missionaries prefer to focus on learning cross-cultural skills rather than focusing on apologetics?
  11. JohnGill

    JohnGill Puritan Board Senior

    Don't know, but I do know the Bible commands apologetics:

    1 Peter 3:15 - But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

    Both camps of Reformed Apologetics, Presuppositionalists and Evidentialists, agree on this.
  12. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    If you want someone to "make a personal decision" to "let Jesus into their heart" then it makes sense to give them the evidence they may need to make up their own minds. If you want to assume that the person is suppressing the truth in unrighteousness; but that if they are one of Christ's sheep they will hears His voice and come -- then give them the gospel.

    BTW, it was his detractors that initially put the "presuppositional" label on what Mr. Van Til referred to as reformed apologetics.
  13. uberkermit

    uberkermit Puritan Board Freshman

    It may be true that we get our English word 'apologetic' from ἀπολογία, but I do think one should be careful with this passage, in terms of understanding. It seems to me that Peter may not have had anything like 'Reformed apologetics' in mind when he wrote this, yet I fear that when we (in reformed circles) read it, we do transpose that idea onto the text.
  14. JohnGill

    JohnGill Puritan Board Senior

    I agree that we should use exegesis and not eisegesis in determining what it means. But we do have examples set forth in Acts from the apostle Paul that we are to defend the faith with scripture derived arguments. Setting aside the presup/evidentialist argument, scripture clearly teaches that we are to be prepared to engage in some form of apologetics.
  15. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    Presuppositionalism is the only way to actually present evidence. Evidentialists, just like Arminians, cannot be consistent with their systems without decaying to unbelief.

    When presup is properly understood, it should never be a hindrance to unbelievers -- in fact, one can use McDowell presuppositionally! :) Basically, one must establish that we all have presuppositions and that a Christian is perfectly justified in starting with Scripture, as that is the gist of presuppositionalism, and then one can proceed to show how McDowell's evidence makes sense when we first start with Christianity, and how it doesn't make sense when we first start with naturalism or whatever the other guy's presupposition. Then, if someone attempts to say, "Well, I can still interpret that it was naturally caused," you can bust out the big guns and point out an inconsistency in his worldview which disallows any type of knowledge whatsoever.
  16. Neopatriarch

    Neopatriarch Puritan Board Freshman

    Why are you not a Van Tillian?
  17. steven-nemes

    steven-nemes Puritan Board Sophomore

    Apologetics is important. When you say Jesus Christ came to die for your sins, and someone responds, "I don't believe Christ ever existed"--well surely it is your duty to respond to the objection.
  18. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I doubt that Peter was advocating Van Tillian apologetics.

    -----Added 2/17/2009 at 06:00:47 EST-----

    So, how is apologetics different from evangelism and missions? Why not just say that we are to engage in evangelism, rather than saying that we are to engage in apologetics?

    And is there really a "correct" way to do apologetics?
  19. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    The term especially describes early Christians defending (literally defending) our faith.

    In the sense that God's Word becomes a center of our life, it is an excellent pursuit for Christians, one which God uses. It can allow people to grow in their knowledge of His Word, and build their faith, too.

    The vapid nonsense of this world gets almost all the time and discussion- we need more people who will, in faith, engage in every way, including apologetics.

  20. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    So apologetics would be a sub-set of evangelism or missionary work? I.e. playing defense?
  21. JohnGill

    JohnGill Puritan Board Senior

    1) Apologetics is defending the faith (see the works of Athanasius), evangelism is sharing the gospel.

    2) Wrong question. You should be asking, what does the Bible say about how we are to do apologetics?

    3) Since you haven't studied out what the Biblical method of apologetics is, betrayed by your asking if there is a "correct" method, you cannot assert that one style or the other was not in mind. The examples I mentioned of Paul in Acts before show a presupp method. Regardless, it is your duty as a Christian to research what the Biblical method is.
  22. Denton Elliott

    Denton Elliott Puritan Board Freshman

    Apologetics is nice and all, but it is only The Word that the Spirit uses to convert the soul. I think we must only use apologetics as a means to be reasonable with people, but when it gets down to the "real" issue, it is ALWAYS man hating God and rebelling and in need of a Savior whether he knows it or not.
  23. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Oh, but I HAVE studied the NT and also have studied "apologetics" and I don't find that the Biblical method is necessarily Presup and not evidentialism. I find in most apologetics a needless trifling, one camp pitted against the other, while most souls broguht into the kingdom are not down so through TAG or Van Til's books. Again, all the most effective evangelists and missionaries I know are not in the least bit interested in presup apologetics.

    Prove to me that the NT teaches a presup approach. Paul mentions the great number of witnesses that were there to see the risen Lord. Also, what Paul does - if we allow for a distinction between evangelism and apologetics - is evangelism and not apologetics by and large.

    I just do not see the great importance of apologetics that some of the reformed put into it.
  24. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    The definition involves defending with logic and reason especially Christian theology. If you are looking for input for a more narrow logical construct, or a particular person's method or view of that, it would be a different question.

    Scripture, all of it, is for all-of-life discipleship. Apologetics, as I see it, is a part of that, and a very worthy one at that.
  25. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    So apologetics could be considered a sub-set of evangelism and/or missions?
  26. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    We can say that apologetics is one way the kingdom of God is advanced.

    I wouldn't see things so much in terms of hierarchy ("subsets").

    The Great Commission is to preach the gospel and disciple all men toward that which is revealed in God's Word. It is both. Apologetics is used of God to advance both.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2009
  27. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    Evangelism has to do with proclaiming how Christ saves His people from their sins and calling people to repent from their sins and to trust in Christ alone for their salvation. Apologetics has to do with defending the truth claims of Christianity.

    The Bible teaches that we should do both. When I tell people about Christ, they sometimes raise objections to the Christian faith and I answer those objections.

    Sometimes people initiate conversations with me by asking how I know that God exists or what I think about evolution. I give an answer to their question and then proceed to tell them about the gospel.
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2009
  28. JohnGill

    JohnGill Puritan Board Senior

    Define your term. You're using the term in one way to refer to presupp in particular and in another way to refer to apologetics in general. I can't respond to your questions until you stop equivocating in your usage of the word apologetics.
  29. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Traditionally apologetics is defending the faith against criticism, while evangelism is proclaiming the faith and calling upon people to believe. But in real life, they always go together. They are two sides of the same coin. When you engage in apologetics you are doing evangelism, because you are explaining some aspect of the gospel, and in doing so you are sharing it. When you do evangelism you will provoke apologetic encounters, because most likely you will have to address objections from the unbeliever's worldview. I'm not sure which is a subset of what.
  30. Brian Withnell

    Brian Withnell Puritan Board Junior

    Hmmm... I thought it was to give an account of the hope that is within. The Spirit can use that to either bring someone to Christ or silence the mouth of fools or even convince a thick headed brother like me of the truth of some point of doctrine.

    Now I'm going to go all technical on you as a math teacher. Apologetics is at the root a system of logic. Systems of logic have to follow the rules of logic. For deductive reasoning to work, there are two laws, the law of syllogism and the law of detachment. Any logical argumentation starts with axioms (presuppositions) undefined terms, definitions, and properties -- from those basic blocks, theorems (doctrine in theology) are built. Even an existentialist has presuppositions ... if we don't have presuppositions, we don't have logic. A presuppositional apologist is just puts the axioms in a box and says these are the things upon which I build my system.

    My pastor tells a story of a woman that brought her husband to a psychiatrist and told him that her husband thought he was dead. She asks him if he can help. He says yes, then takes a lancet (secretly) from a counter and the follow conversation follows....
    Psychiatrist: Are you dead.
    Husband: Yes, I died about 2 months ago.
    Psychiatrist: Do dead men bleed?
    Husband: No, they don't bleed.
    The psychiatrist takes the lancet, pokes the man in the hand at which point the man starts bleeding.
    Psychiatrist: See, you're bleeding, you were wrong!
    Husband in astonished exclamation: Doctor, you are right; I was wrong. Dead men do bleed!

    Because apologetics is one of the best means of sharpening our understanding of doctrine. What is doctrine, but the teachings of the Bible? What is the teachings of the Bible but the things revealed that are for us and for our children?

    No one is "argued" into the kingdom of God. No one is converted for sentimental reasons. The only way anyone comes into the Kingdom is through the work of the Holy Spirit, drawing them to Christ, changing their heart of stone to a heart of flesh. Once that is done, they will come to faith and believe. It is not the method that matters, it is the Spirit that matters.

    Hopefully, those that are "going for the jugular" are doing so because someone is blaspheming God and they are refuting the statements of fools. Not all of our interaction with those outside the Kingdom is to bring someone into the Kingdom ...

    If a terrorist breaks into the church and starts shooting, the interaction ought to be designed to stop the terrorist as quickly as possible with regard to protecting the flock from the wolves. That interaction has nothing to do with winning them to Christ. It has everything to do with protecting the innocent. If we see what amounts to a spiritual attack on the flock, I would expect the same level of care for defending the innocent should be used. During the attack, you don't worry about the person attacking, you defend the innocent. We honor those in the military that defend physical life, we should also honor those in the "spiritual military" that defend spiritual life.

    I would suspect that the cases you have seen are ones in which the Holy Spirit, by the council of his will, chose that time to harvest the person being witnessed to by the mouth of the babe. It is not always so ... and I imagine that in the majority of the cases where true faith has occurred, the person has been under the preaching of the word. (Rom 10:14) The ordinary means of grace (being raised in a covenant family, hearing the word preached week by week, and never knowing a time when the covenant child did not believe) almost always uses those that are strong in apologetics (the pastor).

    My wife came to Christ through reading Francis Schaeffer. Might not be the norm, but then the norm is those within the church. Ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit that works within the heart. What we do is not effectively call, that is the Holy Spirit.

    Nothing wrong with preferring McDowell over Van Til. Both are human authors, both have their place. What I see is that you appear to look at everything in the light of "how does this help me be a better evangelist" which probably means you are good and it. Those that are good at defending the faith might be looking at everything through "how does this help me better understand the God I worship" and they would be very good at it. The only way to have that become wrong is if you started thinking that the whole body should be an evangelist (just like an apologist would be wrong to think the whole body should be made of apologists). We all have a duty to be able to give an account of the hope within; we all need to be able to defend the faith; we all need to be able to plant seed; we all need to be able to cultivate the garden. Celebrate the diversity of the body of Christ ... we are not all evangelists; we are not all teachers; we are not all workers of mercy.

    They are all part of the work of the church of Christ. Emphasis differs between differing parts of the body. The body cannot function without all the differing parts. While we all need to be able to do any role when pressed, we all have a role that we are best at.
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