Our apologetics should not be so complicated that only academics or theology geeks are the only ones familiar with it. We must have a practicality to it so that Ricky the Jiffy Lube guy or Tina the Walgreens associate can learn quickly and utilize apologetics in an effective manner.
Just so I am clear. 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 grows in her faith, certainly she should strengthen her tactical ability with presenting 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, presuppositional practitioners can also needlessly weigh down apologetics with complicated philosophical baggage. If the lingo is flummoxing for the student, so too will it be for the unbeliever.
So, cutting straight to the chase, let me boil down what I have learned from presuppositionalism and present it in a brief outline. What I want to outline are the main theological talking points I believe we need to keep in the forefront of our mind when we engage unbelievers of any stripe. I have personally developed this outline from my own studies. It is not infallible, and I am sure it could be further tweeked.
1) First we need to develop our theology from the exegesis of biblical truth.
Our apologetics must be derived from Scripture, that in turn gives shape to our theology. Developing our theology, however, must build upon the proper exegesis of the relevant texts we may utilize. It is critical that we accurately interpret God’s Word, lest we present an out of context citation.
2) All human beings are governed by presuppositions.
Presuppositions are the unquestioned, fundamental, philosophical axioms every individual will take for granted. Grasping this simple, yet absolutely crucial philosophical truth will help cut through much of the difficulty Christians struggle with when evangelizing 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). My friend, pastor Dan Phillips, elaborates a bit more regarding presuppositions in the introduction of this article. In short he states,
- Those “presuppositions” serve as basic starting points in a person’s thinking.
- A person filters his reasoning through those presuppositions when he 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 provide direction to the person’s worldview.
- 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.
3) The Bible tells us all men every where are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26, 27).
- 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.
This is what I meant in my first article when I stated that men have an immediate, or an intuitive knowledge of God. Man’s knowledge of God is not something he learns as a blank slate over a course of life experiences. Rather, his life is lived as one who knows there is a transcendent Creator who has established the way men are to live in the world. He operates with a sense of absolute morality, justice, and reasonableness that reflects the mind of God as revealed in Scripture.
4) Adam’s sin (Genesis 3) separated all of mankind without exception from fellowship with God.
On account of Adam’s disobedience, men no longer experience the rich fellowship with their Creator.
5) Hence, all men are born “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1ff).
This means three things about men,
- They are 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).
- All mankind, without exception, is under the righteous judgment of God.
6) Man’s spiritual “deadness” manifests itself in a number of ways.
The most specific way his “deadness” is manifested is 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.
7) Total depravity does not mean all men are absolutely the worse sinners they could possibly be.
The doctrine of total depravity 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).
- 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 will live life along a spectrum of varying extremes. He will either live in gross immorality or be a moral philanthropist. Whatever a person’s lifestyle, morally good or bad, he is still a sinner.
- All men everywhere are identified with the old man Adam and his disobedience (Romans 5:12)
8) All men retrain the image of God in spite of their sinful condition.
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) [see point 3]. There are no true “atheists” or non-religious people. They may say they don’t believe in God, but their lives betray their hypocrisy.
- That knowledge of God stirs in men a willingness to live rationally, reasonably, and according to basic laws of morality.
- All men intrinsically understand and do God’s laws. Men act morally (Romans 2:14-16) even though they refuse to acknowledge that God is the justification for their morality.
- Men will always seek to worship. All false religions reflect man’s heart to worship a “god” or something beyond himself. 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.
9) 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 rationally. Yet, the Scriptures declare their minds are darkened and their hearts blinded (Ephesians 4:17-19).
- Man’s intelligence is not necessarily effected. 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, not one lacking education or intelligence.
- In other words, man’s darkened reason drives him to pursue sinful behavior that could possibly bring a person to ruin and despair.
- A person’s folly is demonstrated in the individual decisions he makes, 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 all men intersect their world.
10) Man cannot fix his sinful condition on his own.
Considering all that the Bible says about mankind, men are neither willing, nor able, to fix their relationship with God. Humanity, then, is in desperate need of a deliverer. That deliverer must have the ability to turn away the wrath of a holy God against sinners and restore the fellowship man once had with Him. One who will reorient the image of God in man away from earthly things back to God Himself, so that men desire to seek after God. A deliverer who will free man’s reason from the shackles of sin so he can now be truly wise (Proverbs 1:7).
Those 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.