A Case For Presuppositional Apologetics
Faith in God. You’ve got it, and the world needs it. When it comes to sharing our faith, our first order of business is to remember the most basic principle of human wisdom: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). This statement has enormous significance. The fear of God is our first step in the school of knowledge. If we don’t begin with God and a heart of reverence, we lose the ability to gain any true knowledge at all. Here is the unbeliever’s real problem: Absent the fear of God, he can’t know what he won’t know! As I said last week in the email, if we are to reach Him, we need a stronger instrument than human reason. We need the revelation of God. The wonderful thing however, is that this revelation is everywhere, it’s so pervasive that we live our lives immersed in a world flooded with divine light. Truth comes at us from all sides. We cannot open our eyes without seeing glimmers of His glory in all directions flooding in through the cracks of our broken world.
First, God speaks to us all in creation.
The heavens declare the glory of God (Ps. 19:1). The Puritan Stephen Charnock reminds us, “Every plant, every atom, as well as every star, at the first meeting, whispers this in our ears, ‘I have a Creator; I am a witness to a Deity.’ “This information does not come as something that we figure out for ourselves. It comes directly from God; He makes this knowledge known to us in our hearts (Rom. 1:19). And, what is more, He does so clearly (Rom. 1:20). We do not need some special gifting or intellectual ability to grasp this reality. It is evident to every human being on the planet. Though men deny this, such ignorance is deliberate and damnable.The very presence of life in the universe bears witness to the Creator’s handiwork. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (Jn. 1:4). Do you see what John is saying here? Christ is the Life behind all life. He is the fountainhead of life. The presence of life in the universe points back to Him. From where else could it have come? It takes life to beget life. This is a real problem for the atheist: How can non-life beget life? Does he have any idea, much less any evidence, to explain how such a thing might take place? In devastatingly simple logic, John offers a better solution: the Word was the Life behind all life, and the fact that life exists in the first place, shines like a beacon pointing man back to God.
Second, God has also spoken to us in our consciences.
As C.S. Lewis once remarked, “Human beings all across this world are united by the conviction that we ought to behave a certain way.” This sense of moral oughtness arises from the law of God written upon our hearts (Rom. 2:14-15). Even when the atheist tries to deny God, he unwittingly affirms this very principle. Take, for example, the existence of evil as a common objection to the existence of God. Even when he asks how a good God can allow evil, the skeptic affirms his own belief that he expects the universe to be just. From where does this expectation arise? We come from the womb demanding justice. Very often, “That’s not fair!” is a child’s first complaint. Dr. Sproul writes:“Why should we care at all about the plight of insignificant grown-up germs? What difference does it make if the white germs subjugate the black germs and make them sit at the back of the bus? Who cares if meaningless blobs of protoplasm are exploited in a steel mill or robbed in the halls of justice? Oh, you say, the black germs care and the little blobs of protoplasm cry out. Again I say, “So what?” A creature with no ultimate value, one who is ultimately insignificant, is not worth any sacrifice. Tell it to the idiot, as he alone can live with empty sound and fury. If man is valueless then we can sleep in tomorrow morning.”
Third, God has also spoken to us in Scripture.
At this point, the atheist will cry out, “But I don’t believe the Bible is the revelation of God. I don’t even believe in this idea of revelation!” But here is where this apologetic method reveals its true power. The God whom the unbeliever meets in the Bible isn’t some new God. He is the God in whose Image he was created, the God he already knows, the God who has been reaching out to him in clear and perceptible ways from his first conscious moments of life. As such, this Word comes at him with self-authenticating authority. It is God’s Word, and because it is God’s Word, it needs no higher authority to authenticate it. As Calvin once noted,
“Scripture exhibits fully as clear evidence of its own truth as white and black things do of their color, or sweet and bitter things do of their taste” .
There are some things that human beings just know, and the voice of their Creator is one of them. And it is in this divinely inspired Bible that we meet the Lord Christ, a unique and unparalleled Colossus among the history of human heroes. As the living Word of God (John 1:1), His Glory is as self-authenticating His Word.
Modern scholars tell us that the Christ of historic Christian belief is a creation of the faith of the early Christian community. Now, I wouldn’t claim to have read even a “small” sample of the world’s greatest literature . But I’ve read quite a bit. It seems to me that there is something in the Bible that belongs to a different category altogether.
Dr. Lawson writes, “There is no record in the whole of literary history of a community creating a figure comparable to Christ: such grandeur, such compassion, such magnificent teaching, such magnificent ways of teaching, such marvelous relationships with men, with women, with children! So good, and yet so credible; so divine, and yet so human; so real that the narrative totally convinces us that if we came to Him, we’d find rest for our souls. As far as I am concerned, I am a Christian because of what the Christ of the Bible does to me, and I come at the Book through Him. I accept it as God’s Word, because it has this incomparable excellence, Christ Himself. Even as a concept, He is unsurpassable. There is no way in which I would want Him improved or want Him altered. When I find Him, I find the Absolute and I find the Ultimate. My spiritual quest is over.”
What makes this line of argumentation so potent is that imago Dei humans are designed to receive information from God and about God, and to recognize it when they do. When I, for example, buy a new iPhone, take it home from the store, open the box and turn it on, it immediately begins to look for a cell signal. It is just like that with human beings. We are designed by God to know Him. Calvin called this instinct the sensus divinitatis, and it becomes active with our first conscious thought. Even the most hardened atheist, has this voice inside his head. God has spoken, and this unbeliever cannot unhear His Creator.
To my mind, the most effective strategy in evangelism is to relentlessly remind unbelievers of what God says they already know. Don’t allow them to shift the focus of the conversation to scientific evidence. Although there is a proper place to discuss the various evidences for the Christian faith, as we wrote in our first article, this can easily become a distraction. Remember, the presence or lack of evidence is never the real issue with unbelief. Of course, our non-Christian friends will try to ignore and suppress this knowledge and will probably deny that they have it. But deep down, God knows that they know better, and they do as well. Remind them of the reality of Divine creation. They are guests in Somebody Else’s universe and stewards of His resources. Remind them of their dignity as divine image-bearers, man may suppress truth and believe atheistic evolution, but they know they are more than an ape. Use the Ten Commandments to remind them of the God-given sense of righteousness deep within their soul. Remind them of the debt they owe God: Man’s great sin is that he fails to give God glory and thanks for who He is and for what He has given (Rom. 1:21). God is angered by such monstrous ingratitude, and rightly so. Offer them the Savior, the whole Savior, One who is a Prophet who teaches them about God, a Priest who leads them to God, and a King who subdues them for God. Truly, as the prophet of old declared,
“The Word of God is like a hammer which smashes the rock (of unbelief) in pieces” (Jer. 23:29). In the Scriptures alone do we find the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). Without them, we do not have less power; we have none at all.