I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Monday, May 14, 2012

Three Views on Apologetics

In defending the Christian faith, believers should be aware of the three general approaches to apologetics, and which method is the most consistent with that faith.  The three approaches are the classical, the evidential, and the presuppositional methods.  First, there is the classical method, which operates on a form of rationalism.  Generally speaking, rationalism maintains that, beginning with self-evident truths and applying the laws of logic, the human mind can arrive at epistemic certainty by deduction.  Additionally, the legitimacy of natural theology is assumed; that is, that man can begin with general human experience alone and arrive at an accurate understanding of God, the world, and man’s relation to both.  Moreover, classical apologetics presupposes that the reprobate mind is neutral toward God’s truth, and functions properly independent of God (contra, Jn. 3:19; Rom. 8:7; Eph. 4:17—19).  Classical apologetics, then, appeals to human autonomy as the source of ultimate authority.  Secondly, evidential apologetics, or evidentialism, is similar to the classical view.  However, evidentialism begins with the presupposition of empiricism rather than rationalism.  Empiricism supposes the validity of sense perceptions; and, applying induction and verification, man can arrive at true knowledge.  Similarly too, evidentialism makes its final court of appeal the authority of autonomous human reason.  Lastly, presuppositional apologetics, or presuppositionalism, works on the epistemological presupposition of revelation, that of Christ and the Scriptures.  Because unbelievers suppress the truth of God clearly and authoritatively revealed in the natural world, the Scriptures are required as corrective lenses for reinterpreting natural revelation after God (see Rom. 1:18ff;).  Presuppositionalism does not rely on human wisdom to persuade the unbeliever.  Rather it rests on the foolishness of the cross and the saving, regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, without which no one can believe (1 Cor. 1:18—25; 2:14).  Presuppositionalism makes the self-attesting Word of Christ its final authority, seeking to bring the sinner’s intellect in submission to the Lordship of God in Christ.  Classical and evidential apologetics suggest that human reason is competent to authoritatively judge the veracity of Christ and his Word.  Therefore, of the three approaches to apologetics, presuppositionalism is most consistent with the faith that Christians are defending.    

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