Readers may wish to review my introductory article on this subject before proceeding.
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 everywhere 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.”
- 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 all of 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.
- Their 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 for building 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.