Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Turning Away from ??? [Apologetics in the Hotseat]

I recently received a comment on the blog from a professing Christian who basically said that presupposing the truth of Scripture, in apologetics, is really just begging the question. In other words, it is poor apologetic method to begin your answer for the reason of the hope that is in you with Scripture. Now, the first question we must ask concerns what Peter would have expected from his audience. After all, Peter is the one who penned what has become the "apologetic imperative." Immediately, Peter turns to God's sovereign control over all things, to include the prospects of suffering for the gospel. He actually says it is better to suffer for doing what is right than for doing what is wrong. Here we have no reference to Plato, Aristotle, or Socretes. Rather, reference is made to God's divine control over all things. Peter then retreats to the cross of Christ. He references the glorious truth of redemption in Christ and instructs the believers to arm themselves, or prepare for similar suffering. Again, no appeal to the reasoning of these opponents comes into view. Peter says their opponents are surprised that the believer does not accompany their opponent in sensuality, lust, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties, and idolatry. He then encourages these believers to be of sound judgment and sober for the purpose of prayer, keeping fervent in love for one another.

Nowhere does Peter call on autonomous human reason to aid in providing this answer to the demand for a reason of the hope that is in the believer. Yet, in modern apologetics, even in evangelicalism, this is not only seen as useful, it is viewed as the superior approach to providing the answer. I could not disagree with this position more.  Scott Oliphint points out that the unbeliever is"day and night suppressing the constant and persistent truth that bombards him from God whom he knows. Then he asks, "How reasonable is it to approach such a one and ask for an honest inquiry? How ratonal can it be to ask someone to make a moral judgment who, by virtue of his very nature, has an ax to grind against God?" There is a reason Peter does not fall into the trap that many in modern Christianity do: his theology was the foundation of his apologetic and philosophy. Peter understood the nature of God, he refers to God's sovereignty. He understood the nature of man, he refers to the cross. Somehow, modern apologists seem to have skipped those pesky theology classes and jumped right into that philosophy of religion class. And that has far reaching consequences as we can see.

The second question we have to ask is, "if not Scripture, then what is it that we must presuppose in order to defend the Christian worldview?" It is as if there are brute facts and that all men are neutral. This is categorically false! The facts of creation exists as facts created and interpreted by God prior to His creating them to be what they are. This is what the Christian worlview believes and teaches and has from the beginning. If God created everything, why would we grant the possibility that perhaps He did not do so, only to play the actor in apologetic dialogue? This is a fool's game in my opinion. Oliphint comments, "Because reason and philosophy are thought to be of ministerial use in theological argumentation, theology is the higher truth in relation to philosophy. As a higher truth, theology is not to fall lock-step behind philosophy's pronouncements, especially its pronouncements with regard to the things of the Christian faith." [Reasons for Faith, 88]

Not only are there no brute facts, neutrality is a myth. I am going back and forth on Twitter with a man who seems to believe in naturalism while at the same time denying the existence of presuppositions. He apparently wants to indict my approach of presupposing the falsification of naturalism all the while presupposing it to be true himself. It is a perfect example of the myth of neutrality. The man who commented that assuming the authority of Scripture merely begs the question is guilty of the same error. He presupposes that all men reason the same way, that they are neutral and that the evidence will lead them to the truth of Christian theism. One is left to wonder, if this is true, why these apologists continue to have such trouble convincing atheists to adopt Christianity. The theist and atheist can examine the very same evidence and arrive at violently contradictory conclusions about it. They may have even grown up on the same street and graduated from the same university with degrees in the same field. Turretin comments, "Men are not only destitute of righteousness, but also full of unrighteousness; incapable of good, but also inclined to evil; turned away from God, as the immutable and eternal good, but also turned toward the creature and inclined to every vice." [Turretin. Institutes of Elenctic Theology. I. ix. xi. x. 637] A loss of faith in sacred scripture is a loss of faith in God. A rejection of Scripture is a rejection of God.

When we adopt any method that calls into question the nature of God's word, we are calling into question God Himself. We see this in apologetics at multiple points. When scientific method is elevated above Scripture, we abandon a literal interpretation of Gen. 1-11. When human reason is elevated above Scripture, it displaces Scripture as the source of reliable truth and places the nature and content of Scripture in the dock. Unregenerate men set up standards by which Scripture is judged. If Scripture fails to meet the rational challenges of the unbeliever, it is dismissed as false. This makes man the measure of all things. However, it is no better if Scripture passes man's test and man decides to accept it. In that scenario, man is still the measure of all things. Scripture has been judged by man to be worthy. This is not the biblical order. Scripture is authoritative, not because it passes man's tests of reason, science and history. It is authoritative because of what it is: the very Word of God. We must begin with Scripture if we are to preserve it's place. It is authoritative, not because we say it is. Scripture is not self-attesting because that is the status we give it. Scripture is self-attesting because that is what it claims for itself. All reason, all science, all history, all philosophy must humbly submit to the authority of Scripture in every way. They are servants of theology, not magistrates over it.

Francis Turretin, in his 8th question in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology, asks:
"Is human reason the principle and rule by which the doctrines of the Christian religion and theology (which are the objects of faith) ought to be measured? We deny against the Socinians.
"Rather the question is whether it is the first principle from which the doctrines of faith are proved; or the foundation upon which they are built, so that we must hold to be false in things of faith what the natural light of human reason cannot comprehend." [Turretin, Francis. Institutes of Elenctic Theology, I.25] Yet, we have turned away from our faith in the self-attesting nature of Scripture and exchanged it for human reason or, in other cases, scientific method. This entire turning betrays a compromise in the orthodox teachings on the nature and attributes of God, as well as the noetic effects of sin on the human intellect. You see, if you had not skipped those theology classes, perhaps you would have been armed with Scripture to refute those views the minute you heard them and subjected them to the critical process as you should have. As you can see, we are not suggesting that reason should be abandoned. Rather, I am suggesting that it be born again. For unless you are born again, not only can you NOT enter the Kingdom of God, you also cannot reason rightly.

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