Note: The reader is invited to listen to a podcast on this subject, where various methods of defending the Christian faith are presented at: http://gcrpodcast.wordpress.com/2014/11/07/podcast-ways-to-defend-the-christian-faith/
Defining the term "apologetics"
In the opening text of today's post we see the mandate given by the Apostle Peter to defend the Christian's hope. In fact the word translated "defense" is the Greek word "apologia" (a-po-lo-gee-a), from whence we derive the name of the branch of Christian theology called "apologetics". When a Christian engages in apologetics, they are not saying they are "sorry" for being a Christian, rather they are given reasons to skeptical onlookers as to why they are so full of hope in an otherwise hopeless world. Dr. R.C Sproul in a sermon entitled "apologetics" gives this definition of apologetics: "A well reasoned defense of the truth claims of the Christian faith." Any well rounded Christian should not only know "what they believe" but also "why they believe".
Various methods for doing apologetics
With the mandate to defend the faith being clear from scripture and the meaning of apologetics being briefly defined, the next important area has to do with how to go about doing apologetics. With the upsurge of skepticism and attacks on the Christian faith occuring at a steady pace for the past two and one half centuries, Christian apologists have become more concerned with how one does about articulating and defending Christianity. It is hoped that the reader will at least consider each one and look for ways to defend and communicate God's truth in a lost a dying world. Today we will consider the method for defending the Christian faith: Presuppositional Apologetics.
Classical apologetics states the the proper starting point for defending the Christian faith is reason to scripture. However other apologists believe that the proper starting point for defending the Christian faith is by pre-supposing God Himself. Presuppositional apologists advocate that in order to prove anything, one must presuppose the existence of the Biblical God. Christian scholar Norman Geisler notes: Presuppositional apologetics is the apologetical system that defends Christianity from the departure point of certain basic presuppositions. The apologist presupposes the truth of Christianity and then reasons from that point.1 By presupposing God's existence, the presuppositional apologist aims to prove why Christianity alone is most reasonable and possess the greatest justification for believing. Douglas Powell notes the following about presuppositionalism: "Thus, presuppositionalists are more concerned with what makes evidence evidential and what makes reason reasonable. Because the God of the Bible is the Creator of all things, we know that He is not just the source of all physical things, but all laws whether they be scientific laws, moral laws or logical laws.2
How this apologetic approach can be effective when dealing with AtheismThe presuppositionalist contends that since all human beings have knowledge about God in their hearts, the purpose of apologetics then is to expose the fallacies of their worldview and get them to admit what they have been supressing. A typical presuppositionalist approach would be that without God, we could not use reason in our discussions, since reason itself requires the existence of God to operate.
The existence of objective moral values and the underlying laws of such fields as math and even science require the existence of God. Presuppositionalism can be very effective when dealing with such worldviews as Atheism, since Atheism places a high premium on reason and scientific discovery as the pathway to knowing anything. This apologetic method would press the atheist as to why is reason reasonable and why the scientific method is reliable. One of the techniques employed by the presuppositional apologist would be to show that the Atheist cannot, on the basis of their own worldview, explain why they choose to use reason and science. In short, the fact that we can prove anything presupposes God's existence, a point which the Atheist himself knows deep down inside but insists on suppressing according to Romans 1:18-31. A fine example of a presuppositional apologist is Dr. Greg Bahnsen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HLOFnumxYc&list=PLCVQetM4SqsMyJKznG6afp2PVxV83_b-Q
1. Norman Geisler, General Editor. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker. 1999. Page 606
2. Doug Powell. Holman Quicksource Guide to Christian Apologetics. Holman Publishers. 2006. Page 360.