© 1994-2005 THE KING'S Community Church
Caution - Depraved Minds at Work - 1
Part 1 of a 2 part series by Don Craig
Some time ago, I was talking with a fellow pilot while sitting in the cockpit awaiting our departure. I had been explaining the Biblical doctrine of God's sovereign control over all reality and the fact that nothing happens outside of His plan or purpose for the world. The other pilot disagreed and responded with an example: "A dog goes too close to a camp fire, burns it's nose, and runs off. As a result, the dog never goes close to a fire again." This, he suggested, has nothing to do with God's control over reality but is merely a predictable natural event.
I responded by telling him that if God didn't have ultimate control over events, then the only alternative is that events happen entirely at random and chance rules the universe. If this were the case, it would be impossible to draw any conclusions from the dog's experience. In a random universe, the dog would never meet up with a campfire again. If it did, its instinct would operate randomly and it might put its nose in the fire again. (But that's okay, because in a random universe, fire would never be hot twice!) In a random universe, there are no cause and effect relationships. Reason and science cannot exist; conclusions are impossible and absurd.
The strategy of the enemy has always been to conquer the minds of men, and sinful thinking is taking a fearful toll on our society. Witness some of the incredible positions being espoused by many of our leaders. As these ideas are implemented we see a decline in every area of life - from economics to criminal justice. This is not a cause for despair, however; it is a warning that the church needs to wake up and bring more salt and light to our culture. As Christians, we can do more than just oppose these ideas. The Scriptures tell us that our weapons have divine power to demolish strongholds. We are to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we are to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor 10:4,5).
One of the weapons God has given us is the discipline of "apologetics."
We are commanded to be ready always to give an answer (apologia, a defense) to every man who asks us for a reason for the hope that is in us (1Pet 3:15). As we shall see, this is not to be some cleverly concocted argument of human ingenuity based on empirical (observable) data. Rather, it is to be an answer that brings men to a confrontation, face to face with the living Christ. Since our entire lifestyle is to be submitted to Christ, there ought to be many points at which unbelievers will request a "reason" for our behaviour or opinions. As we respond to these opportunities apologetically, God will bring conviction of sin and a knowledge of the truth of the gospel to the hearts of men.
The word apology in Biblical terms does not mean the same as the word we use in contemporary language, i.e. to apologize or be sorry for something. It comes from the Greek words "apologia" and "apologeomai" which are translated into the word "defense" in our English Bibles (Phil 1:7, 1:17; Acts 19:33, 22:1). In each case where this word was used, the truth of the gospel was being defended. To give a Biblical apology is to make a legal defense of the Christian position wherever controversies and challenges arise, in such a way as to vindicate the Christian philosophy of life against all non-Christian views.
Theology deals with the application of the Word of God to our lives. Since the Bible speaks to all of life, either directly or indirectly, there is no part of our lives which is not affected by theology. Like theology, apologetics also applies to every aspect of our living. The difference between the two is in terms of emphasis. Whereas theology focuses on the application of Scripture to our lives, apologetics focuses on defending what we believe and practice.
There is also a difference between apologetics and evangelism. Evangelism is concerned primarily with the proclamation of the gospel. Apologetics supports and undergirds evangelism by justifying its claims. I have had conversations with atheists where it would have been impossible to intelligently press the claims of Christianity without at least a basic understanding of apologetics.
As we examine the subject of apologetics, we find that two distinct forms of it are in use. One form is called presuppositional apologetics, and the other, evidential apologetics. The following is a brief description of these two positions.
Presuppositions are basic beliefs concerning the nature of reality which we take for granted. Everyone has presuppositions which guide their behaviour. (Not all presuppositions, however, are true). We each require these basic beliefs in order to interpret and live in the world around us. As a pilot, presuppositions relating to the laws of flight have critical importance to me as I fly an airplane. Holding to an incorrect presupposition, or disregarding a true presupposition, would lead inevitably to disaster.
In the same way, Biblical presuppositions are vital to the study and use of apologetics. They lay the ground rules for how our defense will be constructed. Apologetics which is based on Biblical presuppositions will be effective because it relates correctly to the real world which God created. For example, we presuppose: (1) that the Bible is the Word of God and as such, is its own authority, (2) that the Triune God is the only God that exists, (3) that the counsel of God regulates all things in the universe, and (4) the corruption of man's entire nature.
A presuppositional apologetic then, is one in which Scripture alone interprets all of life. Our defense is built entirely within this framework. Evidence from the creation is also used, carefully presented with its Scriptural interpretation. As such, it becomes an expression of Scriptural truth. When we defend the Christian position in this way, our bias towards Biblical authority is clearly and unashamedly brought into view. Why not? After all, it is the unbeliever's presuppositions which are wrong!
On the other hand, evidential apologists seek to win the unbeliever to Christianity by using equally independent sources of information such as history, archeology, science, logic, and the Bible. They argue that Christianity is a "reasonable" faith and that after having examined the facts, a "reasonable" person will conclude that Christianity is true. They believe that the "facts" speak for themselves, and that our understanding of them does not rely on any prior theological commitments (presuppositions).
The "facts" are simply presented to the unbeliever to be examined and judged by "neutral", independent, human reason.
An example of this would be the use of an argument for overwhelming probability to prove the existence of God:
"Pierre Simon de La Place, one of the greatest of our astronomers, said that the proof in favour of an intelligent God as the author of creation stood as infinity to unity against any other hypothesis of ultimate causation; that it was infinitely more probable that a set of writing implements thrown promiscuously against parchment would produce Homer's Iliad, than that creation was originated by any other cause than God. The evidence for God as opposed to the evidence against him as the Creator of this universe was as infinity to one. It could not even be measured." (D. James Kennedy, Why I Believe (Waco, Tx.: Word Books, 1980, p. 40)
Other arguments using various types of evidence as an independent authority have attempted to prove the Deity of Christ, the authority and authenticity of Scripture, and other major tenets of the Christian faith.
The major weakness of evidential apologetics is man's thoroughly fallen nature and his inability to properly interpret evidence. In a subsequent article we will take a closer look at the nature of fallen man, how he views "evidence", and why the presuppositional approach to apologetics is the only Biblical and effective one.