Thursday, October 25, 2007

Reality, Certainty, and Demolition

I have pasted a little one page article I wrote about the importance of apologetics for my apologetics class. Because this is only a one page article, I was not able to qualify anything, however I think there are some helpful ideas here. Anyone, please feel free to share how the Lord has used apologetics in your life--whether it be in a personal way or in evangelism or whatever.

As a minister, it is imperative that I not merely proclaim the truths of God’s Word, but that they become a reality to me personally. Unless God’s Word becomes a reality, my ministry will be fruitless. Apologetics is of utmost importance to me because it gives me certainty that the infinitely splendorous God that I read about, lets say, in Hebrews 1 or Isaiah 6, actually exists. Could there be a more life-giving quest than to prove that this glorious God (in all of His infinite glory, beauty, and splendor) truly does exist?

The fact and certainty of His existence guards me from beholding God as a mere theology or idea. This God, who has been revealed in Scripture, can be pursued and enjoyed because he is real, and the quest of Apologetics is one of the things that the Holy Spirit uses to convince me of this fact.

Because of the rising influence of postmodernism in the west, Christians are suffering from a lack of certainty. Genuine believers desire truth, but have been so shaped by the culture in which they live that they sheepishly seek out certainty as if it were somehow unattainable. Apologetics is often the tool used by the Lord to reveal the faulty foundations of radical perspectivism. I have seen many believers gain a greater passion for the Gospel and the proclamation of it because of the task of apologetics and the certainty it spreads. Because of the present cultural context, neglecting apologetics can have weighty consequences.

One of the primary goals of an evangelistic minister is to remove every stumbling block to the gospel, to the best of one’s ability. The goal is to get the unbeliever to a place where the claims of the Gospel are, in some sense, feasible. Although it is best not to equate evangelism with proving the existence of God to an unbeliever (many theists go to hell), this often times has to be the first step in getting someone to the Gospel message itself. Apologetics is the steam roller which paves a (somewhat) smooth road to the ultimate stumbling block—the cross.

3 comments:

Pastor Luke said...

Jimmy,

As you know this is an issue I have thought a lot about over the years. The best way to express my concept of Apologetics is that it is a spring board propelling us to get to the Gospel. Apologetics are not the Gospel, they help, but are not the Gospel. Apologetics, when properly used, get us from a question outside the perameters of the actual Gospel message to the heart of the Gospel. Seeing Apologetics in this way prevents us from engaging frivilous debates that end without ever getting one's need for Christ.

One quick note - Cornelius Van Til rocks on this issue; see his "Christian Apologetics," John Frame's "Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought" and Greg Bhansen's work on Van Til.

What do think about sole presuppositionalism v.s. traditional apologetics, how should both be used and to what degree?

Jimmy Snowden said...

Luke,
Thanks for your thoughts. I am not an expert in apologetics and so will probably refer people to you for questions (as you have studied it quite a lot). I am in no way opposed to Classical, Evidentialist, or Cumulative Apologetics. I think every brand of apologetics has it's benefits.
As I said in my post: Apologetics is a tool we use to remove every possible stumbling block to the gospel, to the best of our ability. Apologetics is to serve the Gospel. If any one approach fails to serve the Gospel and rather gets one sidetracked onto other things I cannot see how it is helpful. However if one's evangelistic apologetic approach which ignores the unique questions that lost people have can also be faulty. I love presuppositionalism and it's focus on the authority of God's Word. I am also 100% in favor of their circular arguments--circular arguments are necessary when appealing to an ultimate authority. Anyways, just some thoughts. I really don't think there is such a thing as "sole" presuppostionalism or traditional apologetics anymore.It seems that Apologetic leaders (not all, but most) are all seeing the benefits of all the approaches, which is a good thing because all of the different approaches can be found in the Scriptures. The days of the HUGE contrasts between presuppositionalism and Evidentialism are gone. I would suggest to anyone reading this blog and has ability to get through some thick reading the 5 Views on Apologetics. All of the writers see the great need of each of the other apologetic methodologies. Pretty interesting.
I have found in my evangelism that I am not evangelizing robots. I am evangelizing real people who see the world from a unique vantage point. most people, for the most part, could care less about evidences. I think in our postmodern culture Cumulative Apologetics (C.S. Lewis type Apologetics) are probably most useful in talking to folks, because postmodern people think in a certain way, and Cumulative Apologetics seems to make sense to these folk. Presuppositionalism is always good, because everyone needs to be reminded that when the King speaks, you need to just shut up, listen, and obey. Presuppositionalism, seems to meet the needs of philosophical thinkers pretty well too. I have used the transcendental argument with philosophical type people. But this sort of argument seems to go over the heads of most people (as does evidentialist and classical type arguments). What do you think?

Pastor Luke said...

Jimmy,

I wholly agree that there needs to be a holistic approach to apologetics - that we should draw from the vast well of empirical and philosophical foundations of our faith.

Having read Van Til quite a lot, he brings up the issue of the "point of contact." His argument is that due to the radical nature of sin in the unregenerate and the deadness of their spiritual reasoning, it is pointless to do anything but preach the Gospel which is the only hope of bringing about regneration. Presuppositionalism is creatively catered to serve this purpose - to get to the Gospel.

While I agree that we have little to no genuine point of contact with which we can genuinely reason with the unregenerate on spiritual matters, most apologetic type issues are not spiritual matters to begin with (and in this statement I am not attempting a secular/sacred distinction).

Given this, I would propose using a more traditional evidential approach initially then move on to a presuppositional which then moves on to the Gospel. Rather than choosing when to use a particular approach, I find it helpful, if givent the opportunity, to use them all in sequence.

It would look something like this:

Question: How do you know that God created the world?

Answer: Something that exists as irreducibly complex could not have evolved, or simply appeared from nothing, must have been created by something or someone (traditional/evidential approach).

I do not possess the natural reasoning capacities within me to assess the world in a rational way to determine for myself what this source of creation must be. I therefore must submit my reasoning under the authority of an all knowing creator who may teach me what I should know on the matter. Thus, I must submit my understanding under the scripture and what God, himself teaches us about creation. (Presuppositional approach)

The scripture teaches us that God created the world and that he created man in the Garden to worship and serve him completely...then on to sin and the need for a savior.

Using a sequence as such is most helpful, in my experience and opinion. However, as you may know by experience, there are few people who will ever care to reason with you for more than about 5 seconds. So, usually it is a quick route back to the gospel...very frustrating! But, it is fun when someone actually cares to know what we think!

Your thoughts?