The Bible Tells Me So

All the Andy Stanley stuff (so far) in one place. This is for me as much as anyone else. Instead of tracking down each resources in this conversation each time I want to review, here they are, easy to find. This conversation isn’t over, so as developments continue, I’ll continue to add them to this post.

Why do I care? Why should you?

Because, this shows how foundational your view of Scripture is. And, how your theology will determine your apologetic. The way Christians treat the Scriptures is no joke. It’s a serious thing.

What is the church? What is apologetics? What’s the relationship between the church and the Bible? An unbiblical theology of the nature of God results in a sub-biblical apologetic, then that decays the highest view of Scripture, as James White says. These things go together.

That’s why this discussion, with the excellent criticism, is so important. James White’s evaluation of this issue on the Dividing Line is the main event, here. As James White points out in the 9/19 episode of the Dividing Line, this Andy Stanley thing provides the opportunity to talk about the intersection of so many things. Non-Reformed theology joins with a man-centered apologetic, together with “mere-Christianity.” It all comes together to form the weird things Stanley says on stage.

When someone with a global platform, talking to 32,000 people, says if the Old Testament vanished it wouldn’t undermine Christianity, there must be a response. “Liberal garbage,” says James White (How Theology Determines Apologetics, and So Much More, 2:01:01). I agree.

I think this post is appropriate first, regarding publicly addressing public error. Fittingly, it’s actually in response to flak the author received about critiquing Andy Stanley!

Read: Matthew 18 and the Universal Church

Andy Stanley has positioned himself to the far left in recent days regarding his approach to Scripture and his position on other key Christian doctrines.

—Josh Buice

Now, a bit of background. This issue isn’t coming out of the blue, just now. It’s merely the latest. Read: Andy Stanley’s Problem with the Bible

Finally, “The Dividing Line” with James White. Regarding the interview of Andy Stanley by Russell Moore at a conference and the sermon of Andy Stanley’s that started this whole thing, James White shows both, and critiques them point by point.

Here are the Dividing Line episodes, in order:

Then, James White actually went through with his idea, and preached “Unashamed of Inerrancy” at his church (Part 1, and Part 2).

Continuing with the Dividing Line:

Read this excellent article by David Prince, written the day after:

Andy Stanley’s Statements about the Bible are not Cutting Edge—They’re Old Liberalism

Now, the last episode of the Dividing Line, where James White examines Andy Stanley’s follow up, clarifying sermon. Also, the contrast of Frank Turek’s and James White’s response to the problem of evil is especially helpful.

“Liberal garbage,” says James White. I agree.

Dr. Frank Turek’s wrote an article in response which came out the same day as the last episode of the Diving Line:

Why Andy Stanley is Right About the Foundation of Christianity and How to Defend It

James White’s short comment about that article, on Facebook:


That’s it, for now.

Update! James White reviews Dr. Turek’s article (above) in his first session of “Apologetics in the Sight of God” cruise:

On board the Celebrity Infinity as James R. White teaches the group.

Posted by Rich Pierce on Monday, September 12, 2016


Update: 9/19

“Finally the fuller portion of Russell Moore’s interview with Andy Stanley where Andy reads a letter from a lady who now considers herself to be “a part of” Stanley’s church. The lady is an atheist.”

Update: 9/20

Michael J. Kruger, President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC, joins the conversation!

To put it differently, a person doesn’t have to believe in the truth of the Bible to be saved, but the Bible has to be true for them to be saved.

Read: Is the Bible Foundational to Christianity? Engaging with Andy Stanley

James White put out another episode of the Dividing Line, and actually mentions Michael Kruger’s article: “We’re saying the same things.” The part related to Andy Stanley begins at 22:55, “back to the Russell Moore/Andy Stanley discussion, once again noting fundamental issues of ecclesiology and Scriptural authority lying at the root of the topic.”

Update: 9/22

Update: 9/26

Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written an essay on this issue:

This is an apologetic disaster and would leave Christians with no authoritative Scripture. Instead, we would be dependent upon historians (among others) to tell us what parts of both testaments we can still believe.

Those parts will inevitably grow fewer and fewer. This is what must happen when the total trustworthiness, sufficiency, and authority of the Bible is subverted.

We are back with Friedrich Schleiermacher, trying to convince the “de-converted” of his day that Christianity can be retained as an intellectually defensible morality and spirituality without its central truth claims and doctrines.

Andy Stanley is no Friedrich Schleiermacher, but the path he charts for the church is a road to abject disaster.

—”For the Bible Tells Me So: Biblical Authority Denied … Again

This essay is also be a reminder of why church history is important. If we are not students of church history, then we’ll be surprised that the church has been down this road before.

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Stop Worshiping

Previously: Keep the Truth, or Keep the Peace? and Unity by Sacrificing Truth

Leaving a church is a big deal. It’s a serious decision, not one to be taken lightly or made hastily. There is a huge, blurry, gray area between the extremes of never leaving a congregation no matter what and being promiscuous with Christian community (neither of which are biblical).

There are many factors at play in this decision. J. C. Ryle helps out with one element: the doctrine preached.

True Doctrine

He who deliberately settles down under any ministry which is unsound, is a very unwise man. . . . But I do believe, if false doctrine is preached in a local church, a Christian who loves his soul is quite right in not going to that local church. To hear unscriptural teaching fifty-two Sundays in every year is a serious thing. It is a continual dropping of slow poison into the mind! I think it almost impossible for a man willfully to submit himself to it, and not be harmed.

—J.C. Ryle, “The Fallibility of Ministers

Since stating the obvious is always helpful, I’ll say this: the local church does not replace your brain. The pastor does not replace your personal judgment. You do not surrender your responsibility to discern. God in his word has made it clear that you are personally responsible to distinguish between truth and error.

Now, the church is supposed to help with that, and actually train the people to do that. But, sinful as we are, sometimes the opposite is done. Sometimes false doctrine is being peddled to the congregation. And you as a student of Christ with the Bible in your hand are responsible to detect when the teaching is contrary to sound doctrine.

Do you think it might be a good idea for you to stop worshiping at that church, then? J. C. Ryle thinks so:

I see in the New Testament we are plainly told to “Test everything” and “Hold on to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). I see in the Book of Proverbs that we are commanded to “Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge” (Proverbs 19:27). If these words do not justify a man in ceasing to worship at a church, if positively false doctrine is preached in it, I do not know what words can.

Does any one mean to tell us, that to attend your local denominational church is absolutely needful to a person’s salvation? If there is such a one, let him speak out, and give us his name.

If false doctrine is being preached, then you are justified in leaving that local church, according to the mandates of Scripture.

Notice that question of Ryle’s regarding a denominational church. He’s pointing out an objection that is still around today. There are believers, who out of loyalty to their denomination (or non-denomination), will never leave their local congregation no matter what. Even if false doctrine is preached, it would be wrong to leave the church, because it’s our denomination! Non-denomination, movement, whatever label you prefer, that tendency is still there. I know first hand. I’ve seen it.

Ryle asks why would you stay even in the face of the preaching of false doctrine? Will leaving the denominational church compromise your salvation? If anyone dares make such a preposterous claim, please, step up to the microphone so everyone can hear you.

Now, if that wasn’t far enough, Ryle points out this ugly fact of life:

There are many churches where the religious teaching is little better than Roman Catholicism. Ought the congregation of such churches to sit still, be content, and take it quietly? They ought not. And why? Because, like Paul, they ought to prefer truth to peace.

Ouch. That hasn’t changed since Ryle’s time, either. I was just reading yesterday this excellent article by K. Scott Oliphint. Evangelical seminary graduates are sliding over to Rome, partly because they already have epistemology and synergism in common. As Oliphint says, “In agreement with Rome, these authors were taught that “God is not a divine rapist” (p. 53); conversion is not a monergistic work of God, but is synergistic.”

Evangelicalism (in the theological sense of the word) is very similar to Roman Catholicism. “By evangelicalism we mean . . . the general non-Reformed Protestantism” (Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, 4th Edition, pg. 308; also Defending the Faith kindle loc. 36). In other words, Arminianism. So there are not only outward similarities in evangelical practice (like moralism, the authority given to pastors), and preaching (Law without Gospel), but also presuppositionally. If you want to look into that, read The Defense of the Faith (4th Edition) by Cornelius Van Til, where he says “evangelicalism has retained something of Roman Catholicism both in its view of man and in its view of God” (pg. 102). Some of the essays in the book were first published as a six-part series which is available for free: Defending the Faith.

The migration of Evangelicals to Rome would not be so easy if evangelical churches weren’t already teaching like Rome. I know of a Roman Catholic who visited a large, popular, local evangelical church. After the service concluded, she commented: “it’s not that different.” That’s the kiss of death, right there.

That’s not even as bad as Christians, who believe in justification through faith alone, choosing to remain in the Roman Catholic church and attend the mass.

J. C. Ryle keeps going:

There are many churches where the religious teaching is little better than morality. The distinctive doctrines of Christianity are never clearly proclaimed. Plato, or Seneca, or Confucius, could have taught almost as much. Ought the congregation in such churches to sit still, be content, and take it quietly? They ought not. And why? Because, like Paul, they ought to prefer truth to peace.

I’ve been there. It was emotionally difficult to come to grips with, and admit it to myself. But I had to conclude at one point that the church I was a part of was not marked by the preaching of the Gospel. The preaching was morality. Some friends and I labeled that “Mosque.” Bryan Chapell says “Synagogue sermons.” The point is, you could take many evangelical sermons and preach them in a synagogue, a mosque, the kingdom hall, or the Mormon church, and walk out of there alive. Why? Because what makes Christianity different from them is entirely lacking in that preaching. It’s just morality. Ryle says we should not sit quietly with that. Make some noise. Because the truth is more important.


But division! That dirty word. Forbear everything, anything, to avoid even being remotely associated with divisiveness. The unforgivable sin, that is. Keep the peace, at all costs!

Yet, Christ said he brought a sword, to divide. Jesus Christ’s coming to earth caused division. Another classic case of “What Would Jesus Do?” that everyone seems to forget. What is worth dividing over? As in, detaching from your congregation? Truth. Remember, truth before peace. As Ryle says, returning to the matter of loyalty to a denomination,

But it is useless to expect attachment to the denomination, when the minister of the denominational church is ignorant of the Gospel, or a lover of the world. In such a case we must never be surprised if men forsake their denomination, and seek truth wherever truth is to be found. If the denominational minister does not preach the Gospel and live the Gospel, the conditions on which he claims the attention of his congregation are virtually violated, and his claim to be heard is at an end. It is absurd to expect the head of a family to endanger the souls of his children, as well as his own—for the sake of “the denomination.” There is no mention of denominations in the Bible, and we have no right to require men to live and die in ignorance, in order that they may be able to say at last, “I always attended my local denominational church.”

And all the non-denominational types said, “Amen!”

But honestly, all are addressed, here. Whether you want to admit to being a denomination or not, whatever label you choose, this is just as likely to happen. If the preacher, in any church, part of any “movement”, does not preach the Gospel and live the Gospel, his claim to be heard is at an end. Seriously, saying at last, “I always attended my local non-denominational church” doesn’t sound any better.

But division is bad!

Is division always bad? Not according to Ryle, based on all the Scriptural reflection up to this point.

False doctrine and heresy are even worse than schism. If people separate themselves from teaching which is positively false and unscriptural, they ought to be praised rather than reproved. In such cases separation is a virtue—and not a sin.

There you have it. Separate. Without fear, but with confidence that the Scripture itself promotes truth before peace. Separating from your congregation is a serious thing. But false doctrine and heresy are also serious. Peace is a good thing and something to pursue, but not at the expense of truth. Disruption needs to happen when the God’s truth is at stake, as Paul did with Peter at Antioch (Galatians 2:11-16).

Just because it is the right thing to do doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly. Just because you should get out, doesn’t mean it’s easy. It may be painful. To have remained silent and still would have been easier. Things would be more peaceful. False teaching is toxic.

To separate from a church that teaches false doctrine is wisdom. To sit still, be content, and take it quietly is harmful and demonstrates that the truth of God’s Word is not valued. Rather, to separate is a virtue, and praiseworthy. Indeed, we should show ourselves as disciples of the one who is Truth (John 14:6).

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Atmosphere of Revelation

According to Scripture, God has created the “universe.” God has created time and space. God has created all the “facts” of science. God has created the human mind. In this human mind God has laid the laws of thought according to which it is to operate. In the facts of science God has laid the laws of being according to which they function. In other words, the impress of God’s plan is upon his whole creation.

We may characterize this whole situation by saying that the creation of God is a revelation of God. God revealed himself in nature and God also revealed himself in the mind of man. Thus it is impossible for the mind of man to function except in an atmosphere of revelation. And every thought of man when it functioned normally in this atmosphere of revelation would express the truth as laid in the creation by God. We may therefore call a Christian epistemology a revelational epistemology.

—Cornelius Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology pg. 11

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Inerrancy and Worldview by Vern Poythress

coverInerrancy and Worldview: Answering Modern Challenges to the Bible by Vern Poythress

Copyright © 2012 by Vern Sheridan Poythress Published by Crossway

This is my new “handout book” to people who have difficulties with the Bible. It is very well rounded, tackling challenges from major disciplines that are under the influence of modern assumptions. Just look at the table of contents: challenges from science and materialism, from history, about language, from sociology and anthropology, and from psychology. Critics of the Bible come from these various angles, and reading this book will certainly help you in being prepared “to answer anyone.”

In my frequent apologetic conversations about the Bible with unbelievers, I have realized more and more that nearly all the difficulties with the Bible arise from the worldview that the individual brings to Scripture. The Bible is not dealt with according to it’s own claims. Rather, it is measured by another criteria, an autonomous criteria. This is rarely recognized on the part of the critic, who either alleges his neutrality explicitly or simply argues like he’s neutral (having never examined his own bias). I find myself, over and over again, having to point out the underlying commitments (about reality, or knowledge, or ethics) being brought to the Bible and questioning their validity. This book does just that, and is therefore an indispensable aid to day-to-day apologetics.

Taking seriously the Bible’s own worldview, and not imposing ideas from modern worldviews, helps to dissolve many of the alleged difficulties. (pg. 209)

This book defends inerrancy, Scripture’s complete truthfulness in what it says, from the angle of worldview. Vern Poythress shows that many of the challenges to Scripture, resulting in moves to throw out or redefine inerrancy, are the result of worldviews in conflict with the worldview of the Bible itself.

We can begin to answer many of our difficulties in a number of areas if we make ourselves aware of the assumptions that we tend to bring along when we study the Bible. (pg. 16)

Poythress also makes the necessary connection between false worldviews and the reality of sin. He addresses the noetic effects of sin, sin’s corruption of the mind, “so that we may appreciate the need for Christ to rescue us from sin, not only in its gross forms, but in the subtle forms that it can take within the mind. By so doing, we can also grow in appreciating the role that the Bible has to play in renewing our minds.” (pg. 187)

. . . mainstream modern thinking collides with the Bible. The collision arises largely from differences in worldview. The differences are all the more important because worldviews have entanglements with our hearts. People with corrupt hearts, in rebellion against God, corrupt their view of the world. They pass corrupt worldviews to their children, who absorb them because they too have corrupt hearts to which corrupt worldviews appeal. It is the ultimate vicious cycle. (pg. 237)

Further, Poythress emphasizes that only by God’s gracious work (regeneration) will we trust Jesus Christ, see Scripture’s claims and believe them. Worldview and ultimate trust are connected, and every human being is blinded by sin, and cannot escape that on their own. Thus, they need the Gospel and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit:

God has made provision for sins, not only through what Christ accomplished on earth, but also through Christ’s life now. He reigns as King in the presence of God the Father (Heb. 6:20; 7:24–25). And he sends the Holy Spirit, who empowers people to understand and receive what he is saying in the Bible. Robust reading of the Bible means reading that is filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit in your heart and mind and life while you are reading. If you do not have the Holy Spirit in your life right now, you can ask Jesus Christ, who is alive in heaven, to send his Spirit to you to enable you to hear and understand the Bible. But, as usual, there is a difficulty: to do that, you have to admit failure—you need supernatural help. You have to admit that you cannot receive adequately what God says unless God enables you. (pg. 186)

I highly recommend this book. It’s a quick read. The chapters are short and the whole book progresses quickly. This work is untechnical and very easy to understand. I think every Christian is able to (and should!) read this book, even if English is a second language. Read this book especially if you are frequently talking with people (even professing believers) who have difficulties with believing the Bible. I suggest even giving this book to them (after you have read it), so they can see how the prevalent modern worldview is probably the reason for the alleged difficulties.

The best option is, of course, to read this book with them.

College students (and future college students) would especially benefit from this book. I heartily agree with Wayne Grudem’s praise: “it is a wide-ranging analysis that exposes the faulty intellectual assumptions that underlie challenges to the Bible from every major academic discipline in the modern university world. I think every Christian student at every secular university should read and absorb the arguments in this book.”

Again, I highly recommend this. It is now my handout book for anyone who has difficulties with the complete truthfulness of the Bible, and for any believer frequently confronted with modern challenges to the Bible.

From the preface:

I agree that our modern world confronts us with some distinctive challenges. But I do not agree with the modern attempts to abandon or redefine inerrancy. To respond to all the modern voices one by one would be tedious, because the voices are diverse and new voices continue to appear. Rather, I want to develop an alternative response in a positive way. . . .

The Bible has much to say about God and about how we can come to know him. What it says is deeply at odds with much of the thinking in the modern world. And this fundamental difference generates differences in many other areas—differences in people’s whole view of the world. Modern worldviews are at odds with the worldview put forward in the Bible. This difference in worldviews creates obstacles when modern people read and study the Bible. People come to the Bible with expectations that do not fit the Bible, and this clash becomes one main reason, though not the only one, why people do not find the Bible’s claims acceptable.

Within the scope of a single book we cannot hope to deal with all the difficulties that people encounter. We will concentrate here on difficulties that have ties with the differences in worldview. (pg. 14)

And yes, Inerrancy and Worldview is in the Apologetics Track.

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Don’t give me philosophy

We Christians shouldn’t trouble ourselves with philosophical matters. We’ve got the Bible. We don’t need philosophy, we just need to know Jesus. Don’t waste time talking about “metaphysics” and “epistemology.” That’s philosophy. We don’t need it. Don’t bother teaching it. Just teach the Bible. “What hath Jerusalem to do with Athens?”

So what’s the story? Should Christians have nothing to do with philosophy? Does philosophy have any place in the church? We are, after all, to be about the Bible. The Bible is our authority, not the academy (where we assume philosophy is in solitary confinement).

We may further observe that in these two divisions of epistemology and metaphysics we deal from a philosophical point of view with that which theology deals with from a theological point of view. The six divisions of systematic theology—theology, anthropology, Christology, soteriology, ecclesiology, and eschatology—are all included in our theory of reality or metaphysics. Philosophy deals with no concepts that theology does not deal with. It is but a matter of terminology. We emphasize this point because a minister of the gospel should not be in jeopardy every hour lest his theological structure crumble to the ground because of advances in the fields of science and philosophy of which he knows nothing or very little. He should rather realize that in his presentation of biblical truth he has dealt with all the concepts that any human being can possibly deal with. Not as though he can pose as a scientist or a philosopher in the technical sense of the term. It is not necessary for him to be able to do so. He has a right to feel confident that there are no unknown trenches from which the enemy may suddenly pounce upon him. Now this is exactly what may be one of the chief benefits of a course in metaphysics for a theological student. In it he ought to learn that his opponents have exhausted themselves in trying to find a solution for the problems with which he is dealing, and have found no such solution. He ought to see the limits of their thought. He ought to examine the tools with which they labor. He ought to survey the field upon which they operate. If he does this thoroughly he will return with confidence to the propagation of his own position, or if he should feel inclined to reject it, he would at least do it intelligently.

—Cornelius Van TilA Survey of Christian Epistemology pg. 10

Too bad. If you are a Christian, you are already doing philosophy. Just like everyone else. As Bahnsen said, everyone “does” philosophy, most just don’t do it in a self-conscious way. Everyone has assumptions about the nature of reality, knowledge, and ethics. The question is, are they aware of their presupposition? Beyond that, are their beliefs true?

For the Christian, this is not an option. How is that? Where exactly is the command in Scripture, “Thous shalt do philosophy”? Every believer is commanded to take every thought captive in obedience to Christ. We are warned to beware of philosophy according to human tradition instead of according to Christ. So our philosophy is to be based on Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. We are set apart by the truth, and God’s Word is truth. We are not to be conformed to the patterns of the world, but are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. It’s intentional, not passive. We won’t think as Christians if we don’t know the Bible.

You see, all this means that we are to be thinking God’s thoughts after him, “our ideas must correspond to God’s ideas” (—Ibid., pg. 13). God as creator defines everything, and if we are set apart by his Word then we are obviously to interpret everything based on what he has said.

Scripture is simply addressing the issues of philosophy from God’s point of view. Which, by the way, is the correct point of view, the only view that does not reduce everything to nonsense.

I don’t need to go in depth to show that Scripture addresses the basic issues of philosophy. The most simple touching of the matter is sufficient.

Does the Bible touch metaphysics, a complete theory of reality?

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

—Genesis 1:1

For everything was created by Him,
in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions
or rulers or authorities—
all things have been created through Him and for Him.
He is before all things,
and by Him all things hold together.

—Colossians 1:16-17

Well, there it is. The Bible goes in to more detail than this, of course, but our purpose here is merely to show that the Bible deals with the fundamental issues of philosophy, and so each Christian is automatically also going to address those issues, just from a theological point of view.

What about epistemology, a theory of knowledge? Truth, how we know what we know, etc.

The fear of the Lord
is the beginning of knowledge

—Proverbs 1:7

 All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him.

—Colossians 2:3

What about ethics? Now, that’s difficult. The Ten Commandments, maybe? If anything is easy to admit (and misapply) it’s that the Bible is ethical and chock full of laws.

Be holy because I, Yahweh your God, am holy.

—Leviticus 19:2

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.

—Matthew 22:37-40

There they are, the three main categories of philosophy, from a theological point of view. There is clearly a basis provided in Scripture for understanding reality, knowledge, and ethics.

So, in the first place, Christians are already mixed up in philosophy because it is unavoidable. Secondly, and more importantly, because we are Christians and are set apart by God’s truth, we are to view everything according to the perspective of Scripture. Which means, our “philosophy” (which we’ve always had) now must be conformed to God’s Word. Our metaphysics should be what God has revealed about reality. Our epistemology is a revelational epistemology. And our ethics are what God has given.

For Christians we must be intentional about these philosophical issues because God’s Word is our ultimate authority, and therefore what we think about reality, knowledge, and ethics must be aligned with the Bible. If they are not, we are not believing what God has said. It’s a moral issue.

Philosophy and theology deal with the same concepts, and everyone has beliefs about those concepts. The question is, are yours based on what God has said?

Philosophy and Theology — Van Til

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Presuppositional Discipleship

Completely Different from the World — Greg Bahnsen

Here’s a thought: Discipleship is presuppositional.

“Oh come on, really? Why does everything have to be presuppositional?”

Perhaps a dead horse is being beaten, somewhere. I can definitely understand the reaction. Especially if you don’t like the word “presuppositional.”

Say it with me: pre-sup-po-si-tio-nal.

Honestly, it’s not just because I’m high on apologetics. I do enjoy the field, much more than I expected. But, that’s not the reason for attempting to justify a close, interdependent relationship between apologetics and discipleship. There actually is a reason.

In addition, everything is presuppositional in the sense that you can’t get any more foundational than presuppositions. Naturally, they are underneath everything else in our thinking.

Back to discipleship, in particular. Just to be clear, here I am using the term “discipleship” to refer to a Christian’s personal discipleship, one’s own following of the Lord Jesus.

How is discipleship “presuppositional”?

If you get that everyone has presuppositions, then it is obvious that any lifestyle is presuppositional in nature. People develop and live out their worldview. Their views on everything are based on their presuppositions. So, is the Christian‘s life, living as a disciple of Christ, just another option? Besides Christianity being true, the believer is self-consciously conforming his worldview to God’s Word. This is in opposition to everyone else living from the foundation of unbelief, whether they are conscious of it or not.

We get that presuppositions are involved in discipleship, because they are involved in everything. What I want to get at is, are we aware of which presuppositions are at work in our personal discipleship and our disciple-making?

Enter: Greg Bahnsen

This article by Greg Bahnsen could easily be in my top five favorite articles by him. Not like I have taken an accounting of that. I should . . .

Anyway, Bahnsen hath written:

Paul commands us to be rooted in Christ and to shun the presuppositions of secularism. In verse 6 of Colossians 2, he explains very simply how we should go about having our lives (including our scholarly endeavors) grounded in Christ and thereby insuring that our reasoning is guided by Christian presuppositions. He says, “As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord so walk in Him”; that is, walk in Christ In the same way that you received him. If you do this, you will be “established in your faith even as you were taught.” How then did you become a Christian? After the same fashion you should grow and mature in your Christian walk. Above, we saw that our walk does not honor the thought patterns of worldly wisdom but submits to the epistemic Lordship of Christ (i.e., his authority in the area of thought and knowledge). In this manner a person comes to faith, and in this manner the believer must continue to live and carry out his calling – even when he is concerned with scholarship, apologetics, or schooling.

Therefore, the new man, the believer with a renewed mind that has been taught by Christ, is no more to walk in the intellectual vanity and darkness which characterizes the unbelieving world (read Eph. 4:17-21). The Christian has new commitments, new presuppositions, a new Lord, a new direction, and goal – he is a new man; and that newness is expressed in his thinking and scholarship, for (as in all other areas) Christ must have the preeminence in the realm of apologetics and evangelism (Col. 1:18b).

—Greg Bahnsen, “Evangelism and Apologetics“, Synapse III (Fall, 1974)

The same shift in ultimate commitment that occurred at regeneration also guides the rest of life. This is a mandate for conversion of worldview following regeneration.

One does not come to faith in Christ via autonomy. That is what we must be saved from. God commands that we submit to Christ as Lord in every respect, and certainly this includes our thinking and knowledge. By God’s grace, we shift from asserting our authority, from elevating ourselves as the ultimate reference point and judge of truth. We shift to submitting to the Word of Christ, Christ as Lord. Our ultimate authority for all of life has changed. Indeed, in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. The fear of the Lord is the beginning (not the conclusion) of knowledge. As a result, we are given the mind of Christ, and our mind begins to be renewed, no longer are we to be conformed to the patterns of this world. It’s part of sanctification.

That submission to Christ’s Lordship doesn’t just stay at conversion. We don’t leave Christ’s epistemic Lordship at the door. It’s also the hallway. It’s the whole house. As Jesus said, the one who hears his words and does them is like the wise man who builds his house on the rock. Discipleship means building on the rock, still. Building on the rock isn’t just for when one initially believes the Gospel. We don’t transfer to beachfront property after becoming a Christian. Sadly, that is often what happens. The conversion of many stops after believing the Gospel, never proceeding to self-consciously reconstruct their worldview according to Christ’s Words.

One does not come to faith in Christ by building on the sand. If the foundation is unsound, the structure is unsound. One does not climb up to Christ from presuppositions that rule out the possibility of the true God in the first place. One does not begin from suppressing the truth in unrighteousness and arrive at God. One does not conduct his investigation based in his own authority and then conclude that Christ is his authority. We should all agree, we do not come to belief by unbelief.

So why would you do that after? Why would we submit to Christ’s Lordship to believe the Gospel, then continue our life based on autonomy, on secular presuppositions that were abandoned? The point is that we did not so learn Christ that way, so our discipleship should not be that way. How we came to Christ should be how we live in Christ.

That submission to Christ’s authority over your thinking that happened when you first believed? Yeah, that’s supposed to continue. Hence, discipleship is presuppositional. The life of a disciple is one of shunning the presuppositions of unbelief, and thinking and living according to Christian presuppositions. Keep building that house on the rock, not on the sand.

Apologetic Approach to Discipleship

As I have said often, this apologetic is more than just an apologetic method. It shows how to live the whole Christian life. The foundation is laid. The apologetic methodology is simply based on and guided by the theology of Scripture. It’s just another application of the same theology that also grounds discipleship. And because the foundational beliefs behind this apologetic are so strongly emphasized, you see the immediate relevance to all of life. The moment it hits you, you see that these biblical convictions change everything, not just apologetic method. I’m not the only one whose whole Christian life has been upended by this apologetic. The presuppositions that determine the apologetic, the theology that drives methodology, also determine all of life. In short, discipleship.

This of course, is what the teaching of Scripture is supposed to do anyway. We’re just hard of hearing.

Understanding and knowledge of the truth are the promised results when man makes God’s word (reflecting God’s primary knowledge) his presuppositional starting point for all thinking.


That’s why I begin discipleship (in the sense of helping others follow Jesus) with apologetics, right up front. Theology, it’s defense, and the importance of presuppositions. What to believe, the implications for all of life, and how to defend that belief. That’s “first things.” No divorce of biblical teaching from what it means for all of life.

Just as important is what I do not mean. I don’t mean this:

Warfield (and the old Princeton tradition) held that apologetics must lay the foundation upon which systematic theology can work. For Warfield, the inspiration of the Scriptures was not the foundational doctrine upon which the Christian scholar should proceed, but the last and crowning conviction to which he comes—based upon the demonstration of Scripture’s general trustworthiness by man’s right reason: “Surely he must first have Scriptures, authenticated to him as such, before he can take his standpoint in them. . . . [Faith has] grounds in right reason.” . . .

Christ is made one’s final authority only after He has been authorized by one’s own reasoning (which is, therefore, the real “final” authority). In principle, each and every teaching or action of Christ could then be required on its own to pass the scrutiny of human reason, lest that particular provide the reason for refusing to have general (implicit) trust in Christ.

—Greg Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis pg. 47-48

What would that be? In the context of teaching disciples, that would be not walking in the same way they received Christ. That’s beach house building, whether talking to believers or unbelievers. We don’t drop autonomy to receive Christ then pick it back up again. So when teaching apologetics as part of discipleship, it is not apologetics independent from Christian presuppositions (theology). It’s Christianity and it’s defense, together. Apologetics does not lay a foundation for theology. It’s merely one application of it. As was the evangelism that started this whole thing. As discipleship begins, learning everything Christ taught, even then will there be an apologetic edge. It really shows in a concrete way how the Word of God is the framework for understanding everything. It takes what begins as a theoretical commitment to Christ, and shows a very concrete manifestation of it.

God’s Word is logically primitive. So presuppositional apologetics isn’t just about the defense of the faith, but about the epistemic Lordship of Christ. It’s about interpreting all of life. Believing in order to understand, as Augustine said. Leaving no area of thought outside Christ’s jurisdiction.

Apologetics is an application of that. The reality is, your whole discipleship, growing into maturity, rides on presuppositions.

To make God’s word your presupposition, your standard, your instructor and guide, however, calls for renouncing intellectual self-sufficiency – the attitude that you are autonomous, able to attain unto genuine knowledge independent of God’s direction and standards. The man who claims (or pursues) neutrality in his thought does not recognize his complete dependence upon the God of all knowledge for whatever he has come to understand about the world.

—Greg Bahnsen, “Evangelism and Apologetics“, Synapse III (Fall, 1974)

Everyone’s discipleship needs to get that down, up front, ASAP. No one comes to Christ from the starting point of intellectual self-sufficiency. No one attains faith independent of God. No one believes in Christ while claiming neutrality. Therefore, no one should follow Jesus in that way, either. And that is why we have apologetics in the beginning of personal discipleship. It just drives home the presuppositions and authority of Christ which are the basis for their whole life, including apologetics.

[W]e must not artificially separate positive statement (theology) from its defense (apologetics) . . .

—Greg Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic pg. 54

Both the beginning and the whole of Christian discipleship is submissive to the Lord Jesus. We do not receive Christ through independent human reason, neither should discipleship be based on independent human reason. Both are founded on Christian presuppositions. Both are under the epistemic Lordship of Christ.

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