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Apologetic Methods

January 27, 2011

There is no consensus among Christian apologists as to a particular system. Some (Sproul, Habermas, etc.) are classical, or evidentialist. Others (Van Til, Frame, etc) are presuppositional, and others have embraced a relatively new idea called “Reformed Epistemology.” This is actually the view that I favor (though I add my own modifications – see my book, Encountering God). Evidentialism says that we can “prove” the existence of God [through arguments from design or universal morality, or by using historical proof such as the Resurrection (a la Habermas)]. Presuppositionalism says that the unregenerate is unable to receive such proofs because their mind is clouded with sin, and so we must start with the presupposition that there is a God and that the Bible is His Word. Reformed Epistemology asserts that belief in God is a “properly basic” belief that is nascent in everyone. This harkens back to Calvin’s notion of the sensus divinitatus (sense of the divine) that is “standard equipment” for us as a remnant of the Imago Dei (image of God). Consequently, we (as apologists) do not have to “prove” God (Evidentialism) or ask our listener to “presuppose” God (Presuppositionalism). We merely present the truths of God and defer to the Holy Spirit to “awaken” that innate awareness of God in our listener, according to His will and His time. Further, Reformed Epistemology acknowledges that this “awakening” can be brought about through any number of impetuses: an experience, a testimony, a theistic argument (teleological, etc), or even simply a fresh consideration of natural phenomena that point to a Creator. The appeal of Reformed Epistemology is that rather than imposing belief in God (or trying to, at any rate) from the outside in (often like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole), this system presents a number of stimuli in the hope that what is already inside (the awareness of God) will rise to the fore and cause the person to respond. Further, this system is significant because it puts the Holy Spirit at the center of the apologetic process and lays all credit for conversion squarely at His feet and not ours. I think that is best. Thoughts?

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From → Apologetics, Theology

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