Question:

I want to ask about a particular apologetics strategy know as Presuppositional Apologetics. What do you think about it?  Do you believe that you presuppose that God exists and that everything the Bible says is true off the bat? Or does it take reasons to reach this conclusion? I recently heard a good explanation of Presuppositional Apologetics from Alvin Plantinga, and what he stated seemed to be what I believed when I first became a Christian. I didn’t get convinced by monumental evidence, but just knew that Christianity was true.

Answer: 

There are a few commonly accepted kinds of Christian apologetics. One of these is presuppositional apologetics. Your description of presuppositional apologetics is not completely accurate. The presuppositional argument goes something like this:

Let us assume, for the moment, that the Bible is inspired by God and that, as it says, Jesus is God and the Christian World View is a is true. If we make this assumption, is reality consistent with this assumption? Can the Christian World View explain the what we know about the physical world, about humanity and about ethical and moral truth?

On the other hand, the presuppositional apologist will ask, what if we take as a presupposition that atheism or postmodernism or deism or Hindu pantheism or dualism or any other world view to be “truth.” Which world view is most consistent with truth as we know it and which world view will make us the best possible persons that we can be?

The Christian persuppositional apologist will argue that the Christian Word View provides by far the best explanation of reality, that it agrees with what we know about human beings and that it makes people better than if they held to another world view.

Although I am not principally a presuppositional apologist, I appreciate this approach and believe that for some people it will be the most effective means to help them to come to the truth about Christianity.

I am copying and pasting a short set of notes on the different kinds of apologetic strategies below. In addition, there is a detailed article at the web site about the Christian World View. I strongly suggest you read this article. They are at http://www.evidenceforchristianity.org/essay-apologetics-and-the-christian-world-view/

Here are the notes:

John Oakes

Apologetic Strategies/Schools/Approaches

Bernard Ramm’s list:

1. Apologists who stress personal experience and grace as the foundation of belief.

(Pascal, Kierkegaard, Rudolph Bultmann, Kark Barth, Paul Tillich)

2. Apologists who stress natural theology as the foundation of belief.

(Thomas Aquinas, Tenant, William Lane Craig)

3. Apologists who stress the inspiration of the Bible as the foundation of belief.

(Augustine, C. S. Lewis, McDowell

A. Classical Apologetics. (William Lane Craig, Thomas Aquinas, Sproul, Norman Geisler, Stephen T. Davis, Richard Swinburne)

Starts by theistic proofs. Logically, we must establish the existence of God. Uses classical Aristotlean arguments. After this we must show that the Christian God is that God. Only much later do we worry about biblical inspiration, etc.

Ontological, cosmological, teleological and other rational arguments for God.

“Miracles cannot prove God. Only God can prove miracles.”

The resurrection makes no sense unless we have already established God.

Q: Who is best helped by this kind of evidence? I do not know. An atheist? A pantheist?

B. Evidential/Cumulative Case. (Gary Habermass, Clark, Pinnock, Strobel, McDowell, CS Lewis) (Justin Martyr, Jerome, )

Cumulative evidence for the inspiration of the Bible. Downplays classical apologetics as of relatively little practical value to the average person. Stresses prophecy, historical evidence, arguments for the miraculous and especially for the resurrection.

1. Evidentialism. The one-step approach. Ex. Miracles can be proof of God, whereas Classical says we must establish God to make miracles possible. Ecclectic.

Mainly historical and inductive arguments (such as prophecies, miracles, logical arguments for the resurrection, etc. Natural theology is only a small part of this method and it is not foundational.

2. Cumulative case. Does not rely on induction, but more on a kind of legal argument. Lee Strobel, for example. The evidence makes it the most reasonable conclusion. Christian theosts are urging that Christianity makes better sense ofall the evidence available than does any other alternative worldview, whether this is some other theistic view or atheism.”

Q: What kind of person will be helped by this kind of argument?

Answer: Someone who already has at least a basis in theism

C. Presuppositional.

Starts by assuming/presupposing the basics of Christian theology as the starting point of apologetics. Other world views are a filter which precludes rational proof of Christian Theism. Seeks to show that this is the only paradigm which is consistent with reality. The only rational system of thought is biblical theism. We should present the biblical God not merely as the conclusion to an argument, but as the one who makes argument possible. World View Apologetics. Even unbelievers make arguments which only make sense without presupposing God. All other world views are inadequate to explain evil, morality, the nature of physical reality, etc….

Revelational Presuppositionalism Belief in triune God, as revealed in the Scriptures is the only way to explain the world. Cornelius Van Til, John Frame.

Rational Presuppositionalism. Uses law of non-contradiction. All other world views are self-contradictory. (Ronald Nash, Gordon Clark)

Systemic Consistincy Presuppositionalism Can explain all facts and meet all needs.

Practical Presuppositionalism. Francis Schaefer Christianity is the only livable system of belief and world view.

Cornelius Van Til Gordon Clark Francis Schaeffer Dr. Bob Kurka.

D. Reformed Epistemological.

Argues largely from experience. The opposite of “evidentialist” apologetics. Challenges the epistemological assumptions of Classical and evidential position. It is “rational” to believe things without evidence.

Calvinists tend to take this view because they believe that faith is purely a gift and choice from God, not motivated from us.

Their main thrust is to defend faith which has already been given to the believer. They would not use evidences in evangelism.

Kelly James Clark, Alvin Plantinga.

Note that Even William Lane Craig and Even Doug Jacoby have listed the legitimacy of Christian experience as “evidence” in recent debates.

Q: Who will be helped by this? My opinion: more than any other. Most believe for subjective, non –rational (not irrational) reasons.

E. Fideism.

Not really an apologetic. The fideist says that to use apologetics is to demean God. Faith which requires evidence is not faith. Faith is surrender and acceptance. Reason in not a supporter of faith but a perverter of faith.

Some say it is similar to Presuppositionalism, but it is not.

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