The Pauline Bootcamp: Session 13
Practical Implications of Paul's Gospel, Part 4
Pauline Apologetics: Defending the One Faith
Trinity Grace Fellowship, 2 March 2002 (Revised 13 June 2002)
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§0. Introduction. The task of apologetics, that is, presenting a defense of the Faith, is one that inevitably confronts the believer as he strives to live living according to Paul's gospel. As it has been demonstrated in previous Boot Camp sessions, what is meant by "the Faith" varies according to the dispensation in which one finds oneself. Thus, it follows that there is no such thing as a proper biblical defense of general theism, for one is not called to defend a general faith, but rather one that is specific and particular that cannot be adequately presented without appealing to the specific household law that is fulfilled by that Faith (Please refer to the first three Boot Camp sessions for a thorough treatment of what is meant by the terms "dispensation" and "household law"; also see the final session, Pauline Law, will provide further application). The objective of this session is to present the biblical methodology by which we are to adequately and properly defend the Faith against the attacks and criticisms launched against it.
I. Defining apologetics
II. Schools of apologetics
III. The Biblical apologetic approach
IV. Examples of biblical apologetics
VII. Selected bibliography
I. Defining apologetics.
A. Source of the word: apologia (627) noun: to give an answer or speech in defense of oneself. A plea, defense before a tribunal or elsewhere [Zodhiates, Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament, 232]. 1) verbal defence, speech in defence 2) a reasoned statement or argument [sic, Thayer's Greek Lexicon, Online Bible module, s.v. apologia 672].
B. Biblical usage
1. Noun: apologia (627) Ac 22:1 25:16 1Co 9:3 2Co 7:11 Php 1:7,17 2Ti 4:16 1Pe 3:15
- a. 1Pe 3:15 says,
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: ["answer" = apologia]
- b. Contrast that to Ro 1:29, which says,
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." [Strong's #379 anapologetos, which is the negation of the above, i.e., "without a defense."]
2. Verb: apologeomai (626) Lu 12:11 21:14 Ac 19:33 24:10 25:8 26:1,2,24 Ro 2:15 2Co 12:19
C. Pauline apologetics: the defense of the One Faith (Eph 4:5), which is inseparable from the Seven Ones (Eph 4:4-6, see Boot Camp session I "The Necessity of Paul's Gospel").
- 1. Definition: Van Til defined apologetics as "... the vindication of the Christian philosophy of life against various forms of the non-Christian philosophy of life." To put it in a proper biblical context of this present dispensation, we might modify his definition thus:
- "Pauline apologetics is the vindication (confirmation, substantiation, justification) of the Biblical worldview against various forms of the non-Biblical worldview and anti-Pauline theologies in the current dispensation."
- 2. Defending all the Hopes: It follows then, that a thorough Biblical defense of the Mystery and the Hope of the Body of Christ will necessarily entail a defense of the Kingdom Hopes (Jew and Gentile).
- 3. Motivation and purpose for defending the faith. Ro 16:25-26 Eph 3:3-9 Ro 2:16.
- 4. The goal of apologetics.
- a. What the goal is NOT:
- a.1. First, it is important that we not confuse apologetics with persuasion. It is possible (indeed typical) to make a coherent and sufficient argument for a position while the opponent remains unpersuaded, despite sound logic and clear exegesis. While it is certainly our desire and our duty to seek to persuade others of the truth of the One Faith, we should not let our desire for a conversion tempt us to use specious or unbiblical arguments. In our zeal for the truth, we may be tempted from time to time to use illogical or unbiblical claims that sound more persuasive because of their emotional or psychological appeal. This temptation might be especially strong if we convince ourselves that the end justifies the means and recognize that appeals actually are often more convincing to a larger audience than sound biblical arguments. But of all people, we, as members of the Body of Christ, should be resisting this temptation. For if we truly believe the scriptures to be logically coherent and the sole authority on matters of doctrine, faith and practice, then we only dishonor those scriptures and their Author by employing unbiblical and logically unsound arguments. People can be persuaded by bad arguments for the truth, but the result does not justify the method. Further, a bad argument (even one in favor of the truth) might be later shown to be fallacious, thereby denigrating the integrity of the truth itself.
- a.2. Second, the goal of apologetics is NOT a matter of weighing probabilities and "evidence for or against the truth." In a world created by Jehovah, there are no possibilities, ultimately speaking. Every detail of history, present, and future is meticulously decreed by God in His transcendence and meticulously governed by God in His immanence. On this basis we are to have full assurance and unwavering confidence in the claims of scripture (Col 2:2,3 & note v. 4. See also Prov. 1:7 14:26 22:17-21 Acts 2:36 Luke 1:4 1Thess 1:5 Heb. 6:11 Ro 4:19,21 Heb 10:22,23). It is therefore unbiblical to discuss the truth in terms of what is "probably true" or "statistically possible" or to speak in terms of "good reasons" to believe a Biblical truth claim.1 There are no evidences against the truth. If we believe the scriptures are assuredly true, we ought not to pretend they are otherwise and reduce our arguments to probabilities or suggest that we believe the Bible because it has been shown to be "probably true."
- b. What the goal of apologetics IS:
- Eph 3:9 "And to make all men see what is the fellowship [dispensation] of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:"
- To "make all men see" means to "give light" (phOtisai). That is, we "hold up" (erechO) the light of scripture, presenting the truth of the Mystery and exposing the falsehood of all competing theologies and worldviews.
- Php 2:14 "Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain."
- Point: Our goal in apologetics is to give light, holding forth the word of life, to proclaim and present the truth of the Mystery. All arguments are to be focused on this task.
- Corollary point 1: We ought to desire others to come to the One Faith and it is our duty to make efforts toward persuading them, but our immediate goal is to find and apply sound biblical arguments, recognizing that as the limit of our task. Belief and repentance are not brought about by the apologist, but rather by the Spirit of God.
- Corollary point 2: While the starting point and/or particular details of our apologetic may vary according to the circumstance or opportunity, the basic biblical approach does not. Quite often, by defining our apologetic method in this way, a complaint is often raised that biblical arguments are unacceptable to the atheist or unbeliever, and that we should modify our apologetic in order to meet them on some common ground. This is false, and will be shown later.
II. Schools of apologetics. Of the various methods of defending the faith, they all can all be classified into one of two different fundamental schools apologetics: Presuppositional and evidential apologetics. Both schools attempt to defend the faith from the gainsayer, the naturalist, the rebel. Presuppositionalism is the uniquely Biblical method for defending the One Faith. That is, it is modeled after Biblical examples and principles. Evidentialism, also called "classical apologetics," refers to the various traditional methodologies and so-called "theistic proofs" for God's existence and related topics. It is inherently Arminian in its application and unabashedly extra-biblical in its formulation.
A. Presuppositional apologetics. This approach to apologetics stresses the importance of defending the Christian worldview from the standpoint of the scriptures, i.e. affirming the Biblical view while critiquing the opposing views at a presuppositional level.
1. Presupposition. "the elementary assumptions in one's reasoning or in the process by which opinions are formed. ... Presuppositions have the greatest authority in one's thinking, being treated as one's least negotiable beliefs and being granted the highest immunity to revision. [Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til's Apologetic, 2n.4]" Thus, presuppositions are the non-negotiable principles of belief that govern all of our thinking.
- a. Examples of presuppositions:
- All truth claims are to be evaluated by the scientific method (atheist).
- There are no absolutes (atheist).
- You can't know anything for sure (agnostic).
- Man has libertarian free will (arminian, open theist).
- b. Presuppositions are not verified by scientific procedures, yet are nonetheless tenaciously held as non-negotiably true.
- c. One is not always self-consciously aware of the presuppositions they hold, let alone having identified them.
2. Worldview. The composite of presuppositions held by an individual that governs his opinions and by which certain aspects of his knowledge and experience are interpreted and understood. One's worldview encompasses and influences one's beliefs about ethics (i.e. standards of morality, good and evil), metaphysics (i.e. existence and what "is"), and epistemology (i.e. what is the nature of knowledge and how do we know what we know?").
3. Two-fold approach of the presuppositional apologetic:
- a. Present the Biblical worldview. "...to make all men see what is the fellowship [dispensation] of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:"
- b. Expose and challenge the incoherency of competing worldviews. To effectively reduce non-biblical and competing worldviews to absurdity and irrationality by laying bare its internal incoherence. Examples below.
4. The advantages of the presuppositional apologetic.
- a. By critiquing competing views on a presuppositional level, not only are the gainsayer's specific beliefs challenged, but the very foundation of his false beliefs are dismantled.
- b. The concept of human autonomy is exposed to be a sham, thus demonstrating the absolute nature of God as the source of all truth.
- c. Internal incoherencies and tensions within the competing worldview exposed.
- d. Presuppositionalism recognizes that all men know God, but suppress the truth about Him in their unrighteousness. Ro. 1:18-20:
- 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:.
- All men held accountable as being able to recognize the truth, and are thus culpable for rejecting it.
- e. All encompassing negative critique. A major point of the presuppositional view is its recognition and declaration that the laws of logic, the scientific method, the intelligibility of human experience, and morality do not make sense on a God-less worldview. The proof of God's existence and the truth of the Bible is that without God we could not make sense of anything at all, making the very notion of "no God" absurd. The presuppositional approach challenges the naturalist to account for the laws of logic, the scientific method, etc. knowing that they cannot do so without question-begging. Similarly, competing anti-Pauline theologies are challenged by the uniquely Biblical consistency held by the Mid-Acts framework.
Point: If a worldview is based on the authority of scripture, then all of human experience, including science, makes sense.
Corollary point: If a worldview or theology is based on anything other than Sola Scriptura (naturalism, autonomous human reasoning, etc.), then it collapses under the weight of its own incoherence.
5. Presuppositionalism is not content-neutral. That is, contrary to false claims, there can be no such thing as a properly presuppositional Muslim or Hindu or etc. The Mid-Acts understanding and application of the scriptures sufficiently refute all competing religions and theologies.
6. No Mexican stand-offs. The Bible doesn't allow competing worldviews to exist in harmony with the truth. We are commanded to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2Co 10:5). One cannot do this with "evidence." It must be done presuppositionally.
B. Evidential apologetics. Also called "Classical apologetics".
1. Two basic steps:
- a. "... establish valid theistic arguments for the truth of theism apart from (but with appeal to) scripture,
- b. Compile historical evidence to establish such basic truths of Christianity as the deity of Christ and the inspiration of the Bible." [p. 154, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Norman L. Geisler, 1999]
2. Flaws of evidentialism. Contrasted to presuppositionalism, evidentialism does not require a justification by the gainsayer to assume the laws of logic, scientific method, empiricism, morality, etc. The evidentialist :
- a. Joins the naturalist/rebel in employing God-less reasoning, using God-less logic, and adopting God-less assumptions;
- b. Implicitly affirms that the natural man is justified in employing God-less reasoning, logic and assumptions;
- c. Claims this must be the method in order to avoid circularity (and thereby commits even worse fallacies by begging crucial questions and making unjustified assumptions);
- d. Begins and ends on a God-less worldview;
- e. Fails to challenge the rebel's worldview, leaving the rebel even wiser in his own conceit (Prov. 26:5).
- f. There are no biblical examples or commands to approach the gainsayer in an evidentialistic manner. The examples provided in scripture are directly opposed to the evidentialist approach. Consider Acts 1:3 17:16-31 2Co 11:3 (cf. Gen. 3).
3. Again, no Mexican stand-offs. The Bible doesn't allow competing worldviews to exist in harmony with the truth. We are commanded to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2Co 10:5). One cannot do this with "evidence." It must be done presuppositionally.
4. Summary. It is not biblical to persuade a person toward a generic belief in a "intelligent designer" then to move them toward believing in the God of the Bible and finally to convince them of the particular Hope of the Mystery. The evidentialist approach to apologetics is insufficient, inherently flawed, and most importantly, unbiblical.
1. The use of evidence: Some erroneously think that presuppositionalism shuns the use of evidence. Presuppositional apologetics indeed employs the use of evidence, but not before critically evaluating the presupposed method by which one determines what constitutes evidence. Evidentialism does not accomplish this and in fact avoids it by uncritically adopting a supposed neutral approach to the debate. "Let's look at all the evidence and see if there are any good reasons to believe God exists," or "Let's look at all the evidence and see whose theology sounds better."
2. Evidentialist presuppositions. All apologists, regardless of methodological label, have presuppositions. We should not misconstrue the intent of the labels. Presuppositionalism critiques competing worldviews on the basis of presuppositions. Evidentialism, using evidentialist presuppositions, critiques competing worldviews on the basis of so-called "neutral evidence."
III. The Biblical apologetic approach
A. Challenging the competing worldview.
Proverbs 26:4,5 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him; Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.
1. While these statements appear to be contradictory, they actually describe a two-fold tack for answering the fool.
2. Answering the fool "not according to his folly" is the positive presentation of the truth. We properly presuppose the Mid-Acts worldview and demonstrate its internal coherence.
3. Answering the fool "according to his folly" is the negative critique of the gainsayer's position. We apply the gainsayer's presuppositions for the sake of the argument in order to demonstrate that the fool's worldview leads to incoherence and ultimately the destruction of all knowledge.
B. Expose and refute the myth of neutrality.
1. Neutrality is impossible. There is no such thing as a neutral data or "brute fact." All truths are either explicitly established or implicitly derived from the Scriptures, that is, the normative hermeneutic, consistently applied. Even simple arithmetic truths are ultimately grounded in special revelation.
2. Ultimate source of all truth. It is important to recognize and acknowledge that most rebels are not consciously aware of their dependence upon God in their knowledge and existence. The gainsayer will say, "I know 2+2=4 and I didn't need God to tell me that." Actually, God has implicitly informed him through creation and his innate rationality, the source of which is God. The fact is, without God, not even simple arithmetic makes any sense.
3. "Borrowed capital." Furthermore, whatever basic truths and correct fundamental beliefs the opponent holds are in fact borrowed from the Biblical worldview. The grass is green, 2+2=4, are truths that require the Biblical worldview in order to make sense. The very use of language and predication is dependent upon Biblical truths.
C. Challenge false and/or indefensible presuppositions. The incoherence and internal tensions are to be attacked at their foundation:
1. Argumentum ad hominem.
- a. This is not to be confused with the ad hominem fallacy, which is the claim that someone's position is false on the basis of the person himself. Example: "That can't be right because an Calvinist said it."
- b. The true argumentum ad hominem demonstrates the incoherency of opponent's world-view and renders him a fool for holding it. Prov. 26:5: "Answer a fool according to his folly..." That is, we assume the rebel's position in order to show that his position is logically absurd, results in an absurd and subjective reality, that on his unbiblical assumptions nothing can be proven or shown to be true or objective. (Jas 1:8; Mt 12:25 "a house divided against itself cannot stand.")
2. Expose the fundamental irrational belief system of the competing worldview. Van Til referred to the gainsayers as "epistemological loafers." That is, they haven't sufficiently thought through and developed the basis for what they truly know (if anything) and they conveniently hold unchallenged beliefs and opinions. We are to expose this "laziness" and challenge them to account for what they claim to know.
D. Make the positive argument. Present the Biblical worldview and demonstrate its unique coherence and all-encompassing accounting for all of history and human experience. We thereby show it to be the singularly consistent world-view. Prov. 26:4; 2 Cor. 10:5.
E. Answering the charge of "circularity." All worldviews are ultimately "circular," but only the Biblical worldview is all-encompassing, rational, logically coherent and intelligible. No worldview can excise circularity from its argument and ultimately appeal to something accepted solely "on faith," such as the laws of logic, the scientific method, or mathematics.
F. The transcendental arguments. All naturalist/atheistic worldviews (and non-Pauline theologies) are false because of the "impossibility of the contrary" i.e. what must be false cannot be true. (WMBFCBT). This can be seen when a "transcendental" question is asked (not to be confused with "transcendent"): What is the necessary precondition for knowledge, truth, and the intelligibility of human experience? The question is "transcendental" in the sense that it goes beyond the realm of evidence and demands an accounting for the very existence and intelligibility of a scientific method. The answer to the question is God Himself.
G. Defending the entire biblical/doctrinal framework. Mid-Acts dispensationalism can be demonstrated to be true because of impossibility of the contrary.
1. Only the Pauline framework presents an intelligible and logically consistent theology while maintaining the authority of Scripture. This has been abundantly shown in this present Boot Camp series as well as myriad other studies, coherently unifying the whole of scripture in all areas of eschatology, soteriology, anthropology, government, morality, science, knowledge, existence, and the doctrine of scripture itself.
2. All competing theologies must compromise either logic or the authority of scripture in order to maintain their doctrinal claims. For example:
- a. There must be three distinct households with three distinct hopes, otherwise the Bible is rendered incoherent and is therefore false.
- b. There must be different administrative bodies of law, i.e., standards of righteousness for different groups of God's elect, otherwise the Bible is rendered incoherent and is therefore false.
IV. Examples of presuppositional apologetics in addressing the various kinds of attacks launched against the Biblical Mid-Acts worldview.
A. Review of apologetic method.
1. We approach the rebel as already coming into the discussion with an established worldview comprising presupposed notions about his own existence, right and wrong, and how he knows what he knows. We acknowledge that no one enters the debate without presuppositions. The question is not, "What evidence does he have that supports his worldview," but rather, what justification does he have for the presuppositions he brings to the table? Are his presuppositions intelligible and coherent and can they provide an accounting for those things that are considered fundamental to human experience: Logic, morality and science (in some cases, human dignity can be included as well).
2. We acknowledge that every position has at least an implicit, if not explicit, appeal to one or more authorities. Such authorities can include an ideology, a respected person, an institution, a denominational loyalty, or a methodology (such as evidentialism, which ironically is perhaps the most stubbornly entrenched "authority" one might encounter).
3. We set out to show how the authority to which the opponent appeals functions as an a priori filter that prejudges what will be accepted as proof or evidence. Of course, this is also true for ourselves. But we should be able to demonstrate the coherence and intelligibility of our a priori filter and show that the opponent cannot without begging the question (i.e. assuming one's conclusion as part of one's proof).
4. We self-consciously set our aim toward defending and presenting the Mystery. This task will include:
- a. The positive presentation of the Biblical arguments that show forth the Mid-Acts dispensational theology (Eph 3:9).
- b. Exposing the internal incoherence, self-refuting presuppositions, and indefensible assumptions of the opposing worldview (Prov. 26:5).
- c. Demonstrating the inability of the competing worldview to coherently oppose the dispensation of the Mystery.
- d. Exposing the true authority that underpins the opposing worldview;
- e. Demonstrating the irrational reliance of setting any authority above the revealed truth in God's Word.
5. When is it time to quit? At what point have we done our job as biblical apologists? We may, with a clear conscience, unilaterally end the discussion when the gainsayer:
- a. Either explicitly or implicitly abandons rationality and is no longer making incoherent statements or;
- b. When he his position is shown to be impervious to reason; he becomes unimpressed by sound logic or clear exegesis; he resigns to subjectivism;
- c. He doesn't have to (and probably will not) agree that his worldview has been exposed as being absurd, but it is enough for us to recognize it and move on.
Note: In the following examples, the doctrine of the Seven Ones is either explicitly or implicitly employed versus all opposing views, including the atheists.
B. Answering Covenantalism
1. Authority: Covenantalists claim to be Sola Scriptura, but this claim is undermined by appeals to the so-called "church fathers," creeds, confessions, synods, councils and historical church tradition. This is particularly evident when covenantalists encounter any form of dispensationalism, which they criticize by asking for a "sufficiently historical" witness somewhere in the annals of christendom.
2. Identify false presuppositions. Dualistic hermeneutic. The covenantalist cannot consistently interpret passages to support their theological framework. They must arbitrarily decide whether a passage is to be understood as literal, historical or allegorical, etc. On the subject of soteriology, covenantalists will interpret passages as historical or literal. Regarding eschatological matters, they will interpret passages as spiritual, allegorical, a fulfillment/cessation matter, and appeal to such specious arguments as the "Apostles's hermeneutic" or the "analogy of faith."
3. Reductio ad absurdum. We ask the covenantalist the question: By what criteria do you decide when a passage is to be understood as soteriological or eschatological (and therefore literal vs. allegorical)? Loraine Boettner in his book, The Millennium, writes:
It is admittedly difficult in many instances to determine whether statements in Scripture should be taken literally or figuratively. As regards prophecy, that often cannot be determined until after the fulfillment. Most of the Bible, however, particularly the historical and the more didactic portions, clearly is to be understood literally, although some figurative expressions are found in these. But that many other portions must be understood figuratively is also clearly evident. ... Since the Bible gives no hard and fast rule for determining what is literal what is figurative we must study the nature of the material, the historical setting and style and purpose of the writer, and then fall back on what for lack of a better name we may call "sanctified common sense." Naturally, the conclusions will vary somewhat from individual to individual, for we do not all think nor see alike." 
4. Positive argument: Since most covenantalists are also Calvinists, present the logical equivalence of Calvinism and Mid-Acts dispensationalism.
5. Summary: In short, the covenantal worldview is scripturally hypocritical, soteriologically inane, eschatologically bankrupt, and hermeneutically self-refuting.
C. Answering Scofieldian Dispensationalism
1. Authority. Although this theology appears to adhere strictly to a Sola Scriptura approach to their arguments, grave error is nonetheless at the root of their doctrine. This is not a result of citing extrabiblical authority as in the case of the covenantalist, but rather a result of extrabiblical concepts being foisted upon the text.
2. Identify false presuppositions. False view of the inauguration of the Body of Christ at Pentecost: There seems to be little dispute on this point among dispensationalists, however this position is void of biblical warrant, and is based on a erroneous extrabiblical concepts and poor exegesis. This is solidly refuted by the Pauline framework.
3. Reductio ad absurdum. Require the opponent to account for the continuation of Jewish practices by those present at Pentecost in light of Paul's prohibitions in his epistles.
4. Positive argument: Since most dispensationalists recognize the distinction between Israel and the Body of Christ, we present the logical equivalence of the Israel-Body distinction and the Mid-Acts dispensationalism.
5. Summary: The battle with dispensationalists will be primarily drawn along interpretational and exegetical lines. Their false presuppositions can be exposed by scripturally rebutting imported concepts and correcting errors of the Acts 2 framework
D. Answering evangelical Arminianism (i.e. modern non- or modified Calvinistic systems of theology) The "Arminian" label may be objected by many, but the ramification of rejecting any one point of Calvinism is a total collapse into unintelligible Arminian doctrine. Views range from a sole denial of particular atonement (in favor of a general atonement) to unabashed rejection of the exhaustive omniscience of God.
1. Arminian authority/source of doctrine. While claiming to have scripture as the basis for doctrine, Arminianism (non- or modified Calvinism) places human reason and sensibility above the words of scripture. This is evident in the illogical interpretation of the teachings scriptures that declare God to be sovereign over His creation. Such objections as "God cannot be both absolutely sovereign and hold man accountable for His sin;" or "If God is absolutely sovereign, that makes God responsible for sin."
2. Identify false presuppositions. E.g., man is autonomous in salvation. The Arminian view is that although mankind was affected by the Fall of Adam, man is not left helpless. God, by His grace, enables every sinner to repent and believe, but this can be resisted for God will not interfere with or override with man's freedom to choose.
3. Reductio ad absurdum. Ask the Arminian to account for the total agreement within the Godhead (Eph 1:11), God giving to Jesus a select number of "sheep," and their notion that Jesus died for all without exception. This reduces God to having split and incongruous purposes within the Godhead. Further require the Arminian to account for Ro 8:7 and other passages related to the total inability of man to yield to God on his own.
4. Positive argument. Demonstrate the logical coherence within the Godhead, the particularity of salvation of the members of the Body of Christ in the scriptures and the total inability of man to become a member of the Body of Christ on his own.
5. Summary. Evangelical Arminianism is hermeneutically bankrupt, soteriologically inane, and fundamentally incoherent. Typically, those who fall under this description are not much concerned with doctrine and theology, but are rather focused upon the feel-good aspects of christendom.
E. Answering Roman Catholicism.
1. Authority: Roman Catholic is inconsistent in its doctrine of scripture. It is admittedly not sola scriptura. Scripture is not independently authoritative but receives its authority only through authority of RC church (magisterium). Tradition is thus similarly authoritative.
2. Identify false presuppositions. Rome claims to be authoritative, but it will not identify a fixed truth. The Roman magisterium claims to be the channel through which God protects the truth and "unity" of the "church," but this is self-refuting.
3. Reductio ad absurdum. Demonstrate self-refuting claims of the magisterium. The Roman church has divergent views on interpretations of the Bible, plus they don't claim to have interpretations for all of Scripture. This is inconsistent with its claim that they have guarded the truth. Roman epistemology is ultimately relativist and subjective because the magisterium is relative and subjective. A typical claim of Catholics that "protestantism" is ridiculously divided and relativist actually backfires and is self-refuting in the strongest manner. The magisterium states of itself, we never err, yet they do.
4. Positive argument. Demonstrate the true doctrine of scripture and canonicity. Explain the true traditions of which Paul wrote, particularly regarding the Mystery. Present the ceremony-less Body of Christ in light of the Romish priesthood and sacramental theology.
5. Summary. Roman Catholicism is soteriologically corrupt, eschatologically bankrupt, and hermeneutically self-refuting.
F. Answering Judaism
1. Jewish authority is tradition.
2. Identify false presuppositions. Scripture speaks authoritatively, but only through tradition (Talmudism).
3. Reductio ad absurdum. Based on their alleged submission to tradition, we argue using their own traditions that show the ancient Rabbi's were trinitarian (See S. Rodabaugh's "Doctrine of the Trinity in the Hebrew Scriptures and Ancient Rabbis," 1 Dec. 1989) and believed in the suffering Messiah. (See A. Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Appendix IX).
- a. Point: Which traditions do they accept and reject? By what objective standard do they accept tradition A over tradition B? The school of Hillel versus the school of Shammai? They have no objective standard.
- b. We may also apply Christ's use of ad hominem arguments against the reprobate rulers of Israel in the four gospel accounts.
4. Positive argument. Demonstrate how the Mid-Acts dispensation effectively defends the true Hope of Israel, contra the many Christian doctrines that attempt to steal or nullify the Jewish Hope.
G. Refutation of Islam.
1. Authorities. Koran, tradition (Hadith), the Law of Moses (i.e. the Pentateuch), the Zabur (i.e. Psalms of David), the Injil, (i.e. the gospel of Jesus). Note immediately, all of Paul is rejected! Islam also claims there are errors in all of the books which they accept, the errors were introduced by Jews and Christians.
2. Identify false presuppositions. Koran claims it came through angel Gabriel. We know from the scriptures that the angelic ministry is in obeisance during this Body dispensation (See our Seven Ones study for details regarding this, particularly the section regarding the One Spirit.)
3. Reductio ad absurdum. Internal critique shows incoherence and absurdity of Islam 2.
- a. Doctrine of Tanzih: Allah is so transcendent that there is no characteristic of Allah that even hints at impermanence, change, reaction, imperfection.
- b. Doctrine of Mukhalafa: The first of these is Allah's attribute of mukhalafa li al-hawadith or "not resembling created things in any way", as Allah says in surat al-Shura, "There is nothing whatsoever like unto Him" (Qur'an 42:11). Can't properly use any categories of human experience to describe Allah. Question: Why do they refer to Allah as a "He?" Allah is so absolutely "other" that not only can he not describe himself in the Koran, he can't even reveal himself in the Koran, i.e. the existence of the Koran as a revelation of Allah is impossible. Allah is an "it;" an absolute unity (plurality is unequivocally denied), nothing can be said about "it." Furthermore, "it" that cannot reveal itself.
- c. These two doctrines make it impossible for Allah to even have communicated the Koran.
4. Positive argument. Present the scriptures and the true personal God, in particular, the Body of Christ's special relationship to Christ as Head. Explain the role of Paul as a true prophet, superior to Mohammed, and how Christ spoke directly to him without the agency of angels. Show the administrative superiority of the Body of Christ over angels.
5. Summary: Not only is Islam soteriologically inane and hermeneutically self-refuting, it is also metaphysically and epistemologically bankrupt. There may come a point in a discussion with a muslim where the opponent is not offering rational discussion, but rather empty tautologous "reasons", for example, just pray and Allah will reveal the truth. At that point the apologetic endeavor is completed. The opponent has ceased giving objections and is relying on irrational fideism.
H. Refutation of atheism
1. Authority(ies). The atheist's professed authorities are impersonal universal and eternal principles such as the "Scientific" method, "Neutral" investigation (various shades of empiricism), deduction/logic (various shades of rationalism), induction and mathematics
2. Identify false presuppositions. Atheist appeals to principles for which he can give no intelligible argument regarding their existence. For the atheist, these principles are merely assumed to exist in a vacuum and are not attributable to any God or supreme being. E.g. the atheist cannot account for:
- a. Eternal universal invariant immaterial laws (logic, etc.; some may even deny their universality, etc.) or
- b. Consciousness
- c. Abstract concepts (mathematics) or
- d. Absolute objective ethics.
- e. The scientific method.
3. Reductio ad absurdum. Challenge the atheist to account for how things became their contradictions. That is, how did non-living matter become living beings? How did acausal chance become causal laws? How did unconscious material become conscious? How did order arise out of chaos?
4. Positive argument. Present the all-encompassing Biblical worldview, God's nature and character as the only precondition for the intelligibility of human experience, how the Mid-Acts application of the scriptures account for every aspect of human experience in this dispensation (This may include an answer to complaints about angels and miracles, for which Pauline doctrine alone cogently accounts).
5. Summary. Atheism (materialism, naturalism) is bankrupt in all three philosophical areas (metaphysics, epistemology, ethics).
V. Conclusion: As members of the Body of Christ we are called give a defense of the Faith. We will inevitably faced with opportunities to defend the One Faith as we strive to live according to Paul's gospel. Paul wrote to Timothy, 1Ti 6:11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.
In this dispensation, we are not called to defend a general faith, but rather the One Faith that fulfills Pauline Law. All forms of anti-Pauline theology and philosophy are what Paul refers to in Col. 2 as "deceitful and empty philosophy." Regardless of the angle of attack from competing philosophies and theologies, our method of defense ought to be one that is specific, coherent and most of all, Biblical. We are not to base our arguments upon what is persuasive. We are not to base our discussion upon what is most "probably" true or "reasonable to assume," but rather on the revealed Word of God. For what better guide should we expect to find for defending the Faith than the Bible itself?
1 I have seen or heard several debates by such well-known evidentialist apologists as William Lane Craig and others who frequently say in their debates: "... there are good reasons to believe that Christianity is true ..." or "... there are good reasons to believe Jesus Christ actually rose from the dead ..."
2 The following information was culled from the internet site http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~rs143/Resources/ajwiba.html. From CLEAR ANSWERS to Religious Questions according to the Authorities of the Shafi'ite Rite, by Mubammad b. 'Abdallah al-Jurdani, represents the old standard orthodoxy of the Shafi'ite rite, little affected by modem ideas. The edition from which the translation has been made is that edited and published by the Cairo bookseller Abmad al-Maliji, bearing the imprint: "Fifth edition. Cairo, 1328 A.H." (1910 A.D.). Q.: What are those attributes? A.: They are: existence, primordialness , everlastingness, non-phenomenality , self-subsistence , oneness, power, will, knowledge, life, sensibility , speech, and it is not possible that there be attributed to Him the opposites of these. Q.: What are those opposites? A.: They are-non-existence, recentness, ephemeralness, phenomenality  need of anything , plurality, inability, unwillingness, ignorance, death, insensibility , speechlessness.
_______ . qadim, which means "ancient", i.e. He is eternal in the sense that there never was a time when He was not. The word for "everlastingness" is baqa', which means "abiding", i.e. He is everlasting in the sense that there never will be a time when He will not be. See p. 348. . mukhalafa li'l-hawadith means "differing from things which are phenomena". . qiyam bi nafsihi means "standing up by Himself", i.e. for His subsistence He needs the help of no other. . Lit. "hearing and seeing", i.e. He is able to sense what is going on. . Lit. "likeness to things which are phenomena". . Lit. "need of place and causer".  Lit. "deafness and blindness".
VII. Selected Bibliography on Presuppositional Apologetics
Bahnsen, Greg L. Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith. American Vision and Covenant Media Foundation, 1996.
______ Van Til's Apologetic: Readings & Analysis. P&R Publishing, 1998.
Frame, John M. Apologetics to the Glory of God: An Introduction. P&R Publishing, 1994.
______ Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought. P&R Publishing, 1995.
Pratt, Richard L., Jr. Every Thought Captive: A Study Manual for the Defense of Christian Truth. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1979.
Van Til, Cornelius. The Defense of the Faith. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1955.