A Question I Was Asked:

"I realise that you oppose making Christian Apologetics too complicated and you feel that it should be accessible to all, however, will you just briefly define the term 'Presuppositional Apologetics' for me?"


My Response:

Okay. The word "apologetics" comes from the Greek word 'apologia,' and it really means, "a stated (or verbal) defense." The word occurs about eight times in the New Testament: Acts 22:1; 25:16; 1 Corinthians. 9:3; 2 Corinthians. 7:11; Philippians 1;7; 2 Timothy 4:16, and 1 Peter 3:15-16.

The text in 1 Peter is especially important for the Christian apologist:

'.... always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.' (1 Peter 3:15-16, NIV).

Notice here that the Christian Apologist should strive to use good behaviour towards those who, at times, may be distinctly annoying; standards of fairness and respect for the questioner must be maintained.

Basically, apologetics can be divided into:

1. Evidential (or, Classical) Apologetics.

Evidential apologetics deals, as the name implies, with the evidence for Christianity: the resurrection, the biblical manuscripts, fulfilled prophecy, miracles, and much else. It presumes, perhaps, that the listener, or questioner, is not necessarily prejudiced and should recognise truth, or at least, good evidence for truth, when it is made available. The classical apologist is usually well aware that 'fallen depravity' has affected all minds yet remains essentially optimistic that - in any particular case - the Holy Spirit could be at work in opening a person's mind.

2. Presuppositional Apologetics.

Presuppositional apologetics takes a far more cynical view towards those who approach the Christian apologist. This methodology purposely sets out to deal with the presuppositions of those who oppose Christianity, because presuppositions affect how a person views evidence, reason and the world in general. An Apologist operating from this base would feel that things such as evolution, moral relativism and atheism must be confronted before any progess towards explaining biblical manuscripts and the resurrection (the main thrusts of evidential Apologetics), can be made. Especially in our day, this is often correct. But many presuppositionalists would not stop at this and would also want to confront the Arminian and Catholic, whereas more traditional Christian apologetics would refuse to bring denominational differences into the apologetics arena.

The origins of presuppositional apologetics probably lie in the work of Dutch theologian Cornelius Van Til, and it tends toward being a reformed (Calvinist) approach which rejects apologetics produced from other Christian schools (such as Catholic or Arminian). For the strict presuppositionalist, no apologetics endeavour has any point unless one wholly accepts biblical revelation. This initially seems very worthy and meritorious but, unfortunately, the final and logical outcome of this must be - in many cases - that one would simply refuse to answer the honest seeker after truth because of that person's lack of knowledge. Taken to an extreme, presuppositionalist apologetics can actually mean: no apologetics!
Contrary to this, the apostle Paul was quick to engage in apologetics even with pagans! Therefore, while not rejecting the strengths of this particular school of apologetics methodology, we must conclude that it has often been too narrow and exclusivist and that it tends to fall down on the 1 Peter 3:16 point of the Christian Apologist being prepared to show respect and consideration for any honest questioner. The Scriptures which reveal the Apostle's willingness to engage in Christian Apologetics with high priests, pagans, rulers and the uneducated alike are: Acts 3:11-26; 4:7-22; 5:27-40; 7:1-53; 10:4-48; 13:15-41; 17:16-34; 22:1-22; 24:10-23; 25:22-32.

The UK Apologetics approach:

UK Apologetics would agree that one's worldview often needs to be quickly tackled before any real progress in apologetics understanding can be made but we would reject the more extreme 'straitjacket' and exclusivist approach of some presuppositionalists. We do employ certain of the insights offered by the presuppositionalists, but we much prefer to use an 'open' approach as, it seems to us, the apostles used

Robin A. Brace, 2007.

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