Review of Five Views on ApologeticsPosted: September 19, 2008
This is only a review of the section in which I agreed most within the book.
The position I am most comfortable with writing about and defending is the one I agree with the most: the Presuppositional Method. In my opinion, John Frame’s writing on this subject in Five Views on Apologetics is the most logical and is easiest to read. At times it felt that the other writers needed to be more technical in order to grab the reader’s attention and better defend their stances and views on apologetics. Personally, I feel it is clear and unarguable that out of the five views the presuppositional method of apologetics uses the Scriptures the most – staying close to them and dealing with things in a very biblical way. One area of the presuppositional method that is most appealing, as explained through John Frame’s writing, is its emphasis on theology. Frame often correlated the study of theology alongside this branch of apologetics, which is something the other writers tended to keep apart in their articles. Frame’s view of depravity and national revelation is clearly and easily seen through his defense of the presuppositional method. He also not only looks at the end of the argument, but at the whole of one’s argument – both in the beginning and end – as God being the Creator and reason for existence. This is why Frame’s view of national revelation is of most importance, as it allows one to argue and carry discussions with non-believers.
II. Biblical Epistemology
In his sections in Five Views on Apologetics, John Frame’s focus is straightforwardly presented from the beginning as he states the ultimate purpose of apologetics, saying, “the most important thing is to glorify God.” Frame begins by giving a defense and showing how the Bible itself talks about epistemology. Here he explains the importance of recognizing that wisdom, knowledge, and understanding comes with the “fear” of the Lord.
• Ps. 110: 10 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!
• Prov. 1:7 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
• Prov. 9:10 –The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
• Prov. 15:33 – The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.
He expands on this to show the view of biblical knowledge, which is knowledge that comes from a life that allows the Scriptures to speak for themselves and interpret themselves as well. The presuppositionalist is to allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves so that he hears them first, in order that they (the Scriptures) may mold and shape his thinking, rather than being shaped by man’s mind and opinion. From there it is shown how in the presuppositionalist method this “fear” of the Lord in the Christian’s life of faith is for the purpose of reasoning. With this, the believer’s faith is to govern the reasoning in/of their thinking. Frame says that it must be seen where this reasoning, which stems from faith, comes from:
1. The cause of faith – God causes faith by His own free grace.
2. The rational basis of faith – That faith is based on reality, and on truth.
Frame makes the presuppositionalist way of seeing this clear in this sequence:
God’s Rationality → Human Faith → Human Reasoning
The presuppositional method sees faith as being in accordance with God’s rationality. The individual’s whole process in human reasoning is to image God’s own thought so that they are in line with that which God intended.
Lastly, when dealing with epistemology, the presuppositional method sees the content of Scripture and faith in three senses:
1. It cannot be proven by human reason alone.
2. It contains mysteries, and even apparent contradictions, that cannot be fully resolved by human logic.
3. Only the Spirit, not reason alone, can create belief.
III. The Noetic Effects of Sin and Conversion
The presuppositional method gives the reminder that because of the fall and the influence of sin, man’s reasoning will never be completely free from sin’s captivity. Here, the one who agrees with the presuppositional method must first look at how sin has affected mankind. We are shown that people’s minds are molded to sin in their fallen nature, and the wisdom of the world – which is fully man-centered – interrupts and clashes with the purpose for which we were created: to glorify God and focus on Him. The explanation of this process demonstrates how the unbeliever’s reasoning can become irrational to what God had intended.
It is important that the one who holds to the presuppositional method knows that although one may have the Holy Spirit, they still carry the effects that sin has on mankind. However, when the individual becomes a born again believer they are regenerated by the Holy Spirit and, as Frame puts it, are then able to “change in direction.” Frame also makes a good point in that one must realize that this change of the person does not ever make them 100% sinless, but they are in a process of fighting sin until the day of redemption.
IV. The Value of Apologetics
In explaining the value of apologetics, Frame expounds that it is not only meant for spiritual growth, but also for discipleship.
• Matt. 28:19 – Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
• 1 Peter 3:15 – but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.
The individual that wants to get the fullness of the value of apologetics must see that faith is always based upon certain evidence. Where that evidence comes from depends on many things; however, the presuppositional method sees this evidence as coming only from God. Frame here refers to Romans 1:18-32 which illustrates the evidence given to the natural world as man was given the knowledge of God. This value of apologetics comes as one sees correct reasoning. Frame explains the process this way:
God’s rationality → our faith → our reasoning
This reveals that it is not man that can clarify reason nor base reason on his experiences, situations or anything else besides the truth and meaning that God gives in His Scriptures.
Here lies the issue of how one is to deal with the unbeliever. How can a Christian ask a non-Christian to believe and have faith based on Christian presuppositions? Frame gives five answers as a solution of how the believer that agrees with the presuppositional method can address a non-believer and properly engage in presenting their argument. The following things must be referred to and remembered:
1. Faith is a demand of God. All of mankind is supposed to believe in God and repent. This requires the grace of God. Frame also adds to this that the apologist can do nothing more than tell the truth because it is God who plants the faith.
2. The apologist’s argument is based on biblical presuppositions that the individual ought not to be wavered from.
3. The non-believer was made originally with the intent of thinking with a Christian- theistic worldview.
4. The non-believer will hold beliefs that are not in coherence with the Scriptures. Because of this the presuppositionalist may present things that the nonbeliever does not acknowledge.
5. This then is where the presuppositionalist brings the unbeliever to reason on Christian presuppositions.
V. Apologetics Method
Apologetics focuses on the biblical truths that have been given to humanity from God for every area in the life of the believer. It is the individual’s responsibility when presenting and studying apologetics to seek out what God is saying in His Scriptures so that their end reasoning is correct and based solely on God’s truth which He has relayed to all of mankind. Frame gives eight truths and observations that one is to see and do in the apologetic method:
1. The goal of apologetics is to bring about or strengthen the individual’s faith in God.
2. Apologists must resist temptations of contentiousness or arrogance.
3. The method that the apologist uses must present God as He is.
4. The conclusions of arguments must present biblical truth, and not the thoughts and ideas of man.
5. The argument must consist of biblical principles so that it does not risk the chance of becoming man-centered thinking, but is always God-centered.
6. One must not say things to the individual (who may be an unbeliever) that will lead him back to his pretense or neutrality.
7. Apologetics is to look and think about whom one may be speaking with. Everyone is different and everyone must be handled differently. Frame says it best like this:
“We must ask where the inquirer is coming from, his educational level, previous philosophical commitments, interests, seriousness, specific questions, and so on.”
8. The apologist can show the errors that lie in a non-Christian worldview.
These are all part of the Christian view of how one sees the Bible and how one might carry a conversation with an individual who may not be a believer. Going into apologetics with a mindset of these eight areas will allow the believer to give their best effort in living to the glory of God in debating and arguing with those that are not aware of His glory.
VI. Sketch of an Apologetic Method
Lastly, Frame offers an example of an argument following the presuppositional method of apologetics. In this, Frame expresses that the presuppositional method may be addressed or presented in two ways – being either impersonal or personal. When looking at which one to choose, the method must ask which is more fundamental. In our current day and age it can be hard to debate – or even discuss – a number of different issues due to the influences that have been created by postmodernism. This is especially tricky when dealing with someone who may not even have a set of beliefs or a certain truth, but sees truth as an ever-changing thing. With this, it is hard to begin an argument at all with someone who does not see absolute truth. But from here, saying, “there is no objective truth” is not possible. That is why the gospel calls the believer to respond against such individuals and to react and stand for the truth in a postmodern culture. Here the believer sees the presuppositional method of apologetics as the way of dealing with man and, even more importantly, in glorifying God. Standing for truth must be done, and this truth must be spread so that others can then stand ground on biblical truths that God has given His people, for those who are in need of the gospel.