Saturday, September 13, 2014
The Nature of Christian Apologetics in Relationship to Biblical Theology
Christian apologetics purports to defend the very specific claims of Christian theism as a system. This is why it is never a good idea to separate Christian apologetics from Christian philosophy, theology, or evangelism. They are interdependent disciplines with one common, ultimate source of absolute truth: YAHWEH.
It is therefore critical that anyone desiring to be a good apologist must at a minimum be a good Biblicist. It is never a good idea to attempt to articulate and defend something that you do not understand. And the only way to truly understand Christian theism is to be one born into Christ by the Holy Spirit and who also understands what Christian theism actually teaches. Christian theism makes very specific claims about the kind of God that exists, the nature of reality, the nature of man and sin, and the person and work of Jesus Christ. These claims are not broad claims in any sense of the imagination. The claims are very specific and must be presented and defended with the specificity they deserve and demand.
Cornelius Van Til writes, “The question of starting-point then is largely determined by one’s theology.” [CVT, The Defense of the Faith] If you begin your defense of Christian theism with a defective view of the nature of the being of God, your apologetic method is immediately at risk of being incoherent, and not congruent with the system of truth you seek to defend. The mistake that so many apologists make is that they attempt to defend Christian theism piecemeal. This approach leads to various missteps and worse, an unorganized and sloppy approach that is easily recognizable by the mentally sharper opponents of Christianity. But that is not the reason one should avoid such an approach. God is a rational being par excellence! Hence, we should strive to reflect that excellence in all that we do and this includes our presentation and defense of the system of Christian truth.
Christian apologists may take care in how they understand and articulate the nature of God. The God of Christian theism is entirely independent. Van Til writes, “God is in no sense correlative to or dependent upon anything beside his own being. God is the source of his own being, or rather the term source cannot be applied to God. God is absolute. He is sufficient unto himself.” This is the God Christian theism must defend because it is the God that is. God is not dependent on man for anything. He is the source of all that is. Every fact is a fact as it relates to God making it what it is. This means our starting point for argumentation is God, not the particulars of the universe as supposed understood by autonomous human reason. Those particulars cannot be understand rightly apart from their relationship with the God that made them. And if you compromise with the unbeliever and assume that they can, we have no placed the unbeliever in the position of authority. They will now be the judge and jury of all that we say and worse, of all God reveals about everything to include Himself.
God is immutable. He is not subject to nor does He change. There is nothing on which the eternal being of God depends. This view is compromised by many non-reformed systems of theology on a number of levels. When it is so compromised, it is indefensible if attacked in apologetic exchange with unbelievers. God is infinite. He is not limited by space and time. He is all- powerful, carrying out His plans as He pleases, is everywhere present always, and possesses all knowledge. God is unity. He is numerically one God as well as simple in terms of aspects. The attributes of God are not different parts making up the one God. They are the eternal simplistic all encompassing nature of the one eternal unchanging independent God that is.
As should be seen immediately, this Christian doctrine has serious implications for the philosophical problem of the one and the many. The one triune God that exists created all things that have been created giving them meaning in terms of how they relate to Him and then to one another. This makes reality knowable and understandable by finite human beings. This makes human experience intelligible.
Van Til continues, “The Christian doctrine of God implies a definite conception of the relation of God to the created universe. So also the Christian doctrine of God implies a definite conception of everything in the created universe.” If it is true that God created all things from nothing, then it only follows that human beings must be dependent on God for all knowledge. That is, apart from God we would not understand anything about ourselves or about any other particulars we experience in reality.
We can only understand particulars in terms of their relationship to everything else in the universe. However, it must be pointed out that any study of the particular presupposes certain things about the general. We say that we want to paint the big picture so that we can make human experience intelligible. The problem we are faced with is that we cannot study the particulars as "stand-alones" without some reference to the other particulars and the system as a whole. But we cannot understand that system as a whole unless we understand the particulars. It is a serious dilemma.
Christian theism affirms that the particulars can only be known in terms of their relationship to the person of God and within the context of His divine plan. God created all that is for His glory and for our good. Every fact of the universe is what it is because God made it to be what it is. In this grand design we can see the problem of the one and the many, the particular and the universal, melt away as the light of God’s revelation shines upon it. This is basically where we begin our conversation in Christian apologetics. At a minimum, it is the controlling feature of everything else we should be saying about the system of Christian truth to those who reject and oppose it at every turn.