The Illegitimate Dichotomy of Apologetics and Evangelism
In other words, where is the entry point? If we need God’s word in order to understand reality, and God’s word is part of that reality, then what from reality do we need in order to begin to understand God’s word? What is the necessary antecedent? If we can understand that God’s word is part of reality without calling on God’s word, then it follows that we do not need God’s word to understand reality. At first glance, Howe’s argument almost makes sense. However, the problem rests in our ability to understand and make sense out of anything apart from God’s word. It is only due to common grace that fallen men can reason at all. All unbelieving systems lead to indefensible irrationalism. What is the answer to Howe’s assertion? The answer is the work of the Holy Spirit and the supernatural revelation that is the word of God. Howe makes no mention of the work of the Holy Spirit in the project of helping men arrive at a metaphysic that is in accord with the truth of God’s word. That is more than a little puzzling. To answer Howe as directly as possible: the antecedent to understanding God’s word, which is our metaphysical starting point, is the work of the Holy Spirit. His role is essential to all Christian ministry.
Howe seems to ignore entirely the reformation principle that Scripture interprets Scripture. Howe confuses the universal laws of human communication with some authoritative set of principles that exist outside of Scripture by which we are to interpret Scripture. No such set of authoritative principles exist. Howe is not far from the Roman Magisterium in this specific point. It seems he has no idea that he is so close to Rome that I can almost hear the whisper of Pope Francis from where he stands. For Aristotle, the key to knowledge was asking the right question. It was the question of first principles. For moderns, however, the key is being able to justify one’s beliefs. It is not hard to see Howe’s demands that justification for belief in the self-attesting Scripture is antecedent to accepting it. The discussion at this point concerns the relationship between God and Scripture; understanding Scripture within the context of reality and how Scripture informs our view on that part of reality that is apart from Scripture. Vanhoozer remarks,