Condensed Apologetics

Perhaps the most common apologetics question that I see: where do I start? What’s the introductory book or resource to begin learning apologetics?

Here’s a way to get started. That is, if you don’t want to tackle the massive apologetics track.

This is a condensed apologetics track. It’s complete, covering the whole apologetic approach, yet brief. This track is made up of a short book, several articles, and a film. It’s almost everything I used as curriculum to teach apologetics over a semester’s time.

Now, despite somewhat of a resurgence in apologetic interest, there is still quite a bit of anti-apologetics sentiment. If you first need help dealing with that, then read the series on objections to apologetics.

Book:

Read Expository Apologetics: Answering Objections with the Power of the Word by Voddie Baucham. It’s an excellent introduction to presuppositional, or Van Tilian, apologetics. And because it’s recently written, the application to present issues is very clear. If you want an introduction to whet your appetite for the book, watch him.

You’ll read the creeds in the book, but you should also follow his suggestion about confessions and catechisms. Get the creeds, confessions, and catechisms on mobile in the “Christian Creeds and Reformed Confessions” app for iOs and Android.

Articles:

Secondly, read several articles by Greg Bahnsen. Many of them are included in the book Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith, so you’ll pretty much be reading half of that for free (provided by Covenant Media Foundation). The ones I have selected below are related to what Baucham is saying in his book, providing reinforcement.

You could finish Expository Apologetics, then read all the Bahnsen articles after, if you prefer. But I threaded them together for harmony, to be read simultaneously. Here’s the order to read the Bahnsen articles, with the corresponding Expository Apologetics chapters in parentheses:

  1. Ready to Reason” (then read the introduction and chapter 1)
  2. The Heart of the Matter: Knowing and Believing” (then read chapters 2-4)
  3. Answering Objections” and “The Encounter of Jerusalem with Athens” (then read chapters 5-8). Related to chapter 5: “Why Creeds?” You could also read “Gentleness and Respect” and “Action/Attraction Distinction
  4. Tools of Apologetics” and “Apologetics in Practice” (then read chapter 9 and the Appendix)
  5. Then, my articles “What Hath Apologetics to do with Discipleship?” and “Rules of Engagement
  6. Evidential Apologetics: the Right Way“, “The Impropriety of Evidentially Arguing for the Resurrection“, and “The Problem of Evil” (for further study on the problem of evil, see resources by John Frame).
  7. Lastly, “Presuppositional Reasoning with False Faiths

Film:

Finally, as the sweet finish, watch “How to Answer the Fool: A Presuppositional Defense of the Faith,” featuring Sye Ten Bruggencate. This will tie everything together. You’ll see what this all looks like on the street. As you watch, try to notice similarities with the reading. Recall the principles that are at work in the background. Also, give attention to the manner demonstrated.

And that’s it! Reading and watching. Do all that, and you’ll have an excellent start to vindicating the Christian worldview.

If you want to continue, check out the massive apologetics track.

Share the love

Top 10 Posts of 2016

Here are the 10 most read posts from last year, with the dates (month/day)

  1. What hath Apologetics to do with Discipleship? (2/6)
  2. The Problem of Evil with John Frame (2/17)
  3. Voddie Baucham Lectures on Apologetics at DTS (1/31)
  4. Objections to Apologetics: It’s not nice. (3/30)
  5. Another Cup of Coffee (1/20)
  6. Skills of Apologetics: Listening (4/30)
  7. Understanding Cornelius Van Til (2/13)
  8. The Bible Tells Me So (9/13)
  9. “Papa Jesus” Debate (12/26)
  10. Man Will Necessarily Have a God (5/13)
Share the love

The Whole World is a Unit

introduction-to-systematic-theology-coverThe necessity of holding to the fact that the whole universe is a revelation of God will appear more fully when we come to the question of redemptive revelation. There we shall see that God not only communicated thought information to man, but also revealed himself by way of miracle in order to redeem the whole universe. Throughout Scripture the whole world is regarded as a unit. Together with man it is created for the glory of God. Together with man it is redeemed in principle. Together with man it will one day be fully glorified.

—Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, 2nd edition (edited by William Edgar), pg. 121

Share the love

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:

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-33-01-pm

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.

Share the love

Action/Attraction Distinction

Homosexuality — Bahnsen cover

I used to employ that distinction between “attraction” and action, regarding the sin of homosexuality. I know lots of other believers who do as well. Homosexual acts are condemned, but not the homosexual desires. Sure, the lifestyle is sinful, no doubt. But the attraction?

Then I read (for freeHomosexuality: A Biblical View by Greg Bahnsen. My thinking did not survive the encounter.

Bahnsen goes directly at this view, specifically in chapter 3, “The Act/Orientation Distinction and Causes of Homosexuality

We are told that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality pertains only to outward acts, since it does not isolate and discuss the inward orientation. However, one should draw the opposite conclusion: if Scripture does not distinguish between orientation and act, the distinction is not morally relevant. Under the category of homosexuality, Scripture is to be understood as condemning both orientation and act, for there is no need in ethics to distinguish them.

—Bahnsen, Homosexuality: A Biblical View pg. 64-65

He addresses the question of desire directly, here:

Moreover, the fact is that God’s revealed Word condemns homosexual desire itself, seeing it as sinful as well as homosexual acts.

To maintain that a person is not sinful for having homosexual attractions, feelings, or erotic orientation overlooks the clear biblical teaching that it is not only evil to do immoral acts, it is also evil to desire to do immoral acts: e.g., devising wicked plans or evil against your neighbor, 15 anger leading to violence, 16 malice, 17 envying dishonesty, 18 planning deceit, 19 loving false oaths, 20 coveting. 21 God’s Word forbids sinful activities, but it equally forbids fleshly lusts or evil desires. 22

—Ibid., pg. 67-68

Footnotes:

15. Proverbs 6:16-18; Zech. 7:10; 8:17.

16. Genesis 4:7,8; Matt. 5:21,22.

17. Eph. 4:31.

18. Psalm 37:1,7

19. Amos 8:5.

20. Zech. 8:17.

21. Exodus 20:17.

22. Romans 13:14; Col. 3:5; 1 Peter 2:11.

Bahnsen then cites Jesus saying one who lusts in the heart has already committed adultery, and Paul in Romans 1 not only talking about practices but desires (exactly what is cited in this helpful blog post). Bahnsen then concludes:

Therefore, it is plainly incorrect to hold that Scripture speaks only of homosexual acts and not of the homosexual desire and inclination. In forthright language Paul holds men and women morally responsible and under God’s wrath for burning with homosexual desires, which he ethically describes as vile affections. The act/orientation distinction, then, does nothing to mitigate the Bible’s censure of homosexuality. We cannot agree with those who claim that Scripture knows nothing of sexual inversion, nor with their baseless judgment that a homosexual disposition is morally neutral.

—Ibid., pg. 68-69

As I reflect on this common view/question, I don’t think we distinguish between desire and action with any other sin. Just this one.

Is the desire sinful? Well, is the desire to have your neighbor’s spouse sinful? Is the desire to take your neighbor’s property sinful? Is the desire to murder someone sinful?

And just because it’s so good, I’ll add Bahnsen’s concluding paragraph of chapter 3, where he is quite presuppositional. Notice how it applies to the question at hand.

In summary, scholars with a naturalistic bias are in conflict over the homosexual’s inner abnormality, cause, and cure. In the current discussion, divergent answers are guided by each scholar’s particular presuppositions (e.g., his view of man, his criterion of normality, what he takes as warranting hope). This is true for the Christian as well. He has distinctive presuppositions derived from the revealed Word of God. They are the basis and guide for his view of homosexuality. With respect to the nature of man, the Christian sees him as a creature of God, given his definition and direction by the Creator, and thus always accountable to the Lord for the use of mind and body. With respect to a criterion, the Christian is firmly committed to the ethical standards of God’s Word, and thereby sees homosexual desires and deeds as rebellion against the will of God. With respect to hope, the Christian looks to God’s grace and power as able to change sinners and release homosexuals from the guilt and power of their willful perversion. These presuppositions, over against those fostered outside of commitment to God’s Word, settle the issues pertaining to homosexuality’s abnormality, cause, and cure for the Christian.

—Ibid., pg. 84

Share the love

Connecting Covenant to Education

Foundations of Christian Education coverIf theology drives methodology, and it does, then the particulars of Reformed theology must drive methodology. This is as true in theological method as it is with apologetics.

It must also be true of Christian education. What’s the Reformed foundation for Christian education?

If you are a Christian educator, what foundation do you stand on?

The fact is that in our struggle for Christian schools the doctrine of the covenant was always the great presupposition.

—Louis Berkhof, “Covenant: The Covenant of Grace and its Significance for Christian Education” in Foundations of Christian Education: Addresses to Christian Teachers pg. 66

Louis Berkhof points out that in the battle between the Modernists (theological Liberals) and the Fundamentalists in his day, serious-minded Christians naturally sided with the Fundamentalists since they believed the Bible to be the infallible Word of God. Yet, there was something to be desired. You see, they were Premillennialists (Dispensationalists). They denied that the covenant made with Abraham extends to us and our children, sealed by baptism. As he eloquently puts it, “Experience has already taught us that those who come under the spell of Premillennialism finally lose their covenant conception and turn to the position of the Baptists” (Ibid.).

Lose that, and you lose the “great presupposition” for Christian schools.

Why should Christian parents provide a Christian education for their children?

. . . the children of Christian parents should be religiously educated in view of the fact they they are covenant children, and that, when they were brought to baptism, their parents promised to provide such an education for them.

—pg. 66

Here’s where Reformed theology must be applied consistently. To flux or waiver on the theology will lead to a faulty method. Remove the foundations, and the building will come tumbling down. Theology must always be the basis for whatever you’re doing. And if you are reformed (adhering to covenant theology), then you should know the covenantal basis for Christian education. If your theology is Reformed, then your education should be Christian.

Sounding very much like Cornelius Van Til, Berkhof emphasizes Reformed theology’s relationship to Christian education. Specifically, the covenant of grace.

In what way does the covenant relation involve the duty to give the children of the covenant a truly Christian education? There are especially three lines of thought that suggest themselves here.

—pg. 76

Berkhof’s three lines of thought are “Adoption and the Honor of God”, “The Promises of the Covenant”, and “The Requirements of the Covenant.”

Regarding adoption:

Can we really suggest in all seriousness that in a world such as we are living in Christian education in the home, in the church, and in the Sunday school is quite adequate? . . . Let us ever be mindful of the fact that the King’s children must have a royal education.

—pg. 77

Regarding covenant children as heirs to the covenant promises:

Many children of God are even today living in spiritual poverty, though they are rich in Christ and heirs of the world, because they have not been taught to see the greatness and splendor of their spiritual heritage. . . . we must employ all the means at our command to unfold before their very eyes the treasures of divine grace of which they are heirs in Christ Jesus.

—pg. 79

Then finally,

God requires of covenant children that they believe in Jesus Christ unto salvation and that they turn from sin to holiness, i.e., follow the highway of sanctification through life. It is a very comprehensive requirement, the nature of which ought to be well understood. Hence the need of Christian education. . . .

The life of the covenant child should ever increasingly become a true inflection of the life of Christ that is born within the heart. Nothing short of the perfect life is its grand ideal.

Now surely it needs no argument that children of whom such great, such spiritual, such heavenly things are required must be educated in the fear of the Lord. Christian education is one of the means which God is pleased to use for working faith in the heart of the child, for calling an incipient faith into action, and for guiding the first faltering steps of faith.

—pg. 80-81

The essay is excellent. It’s important that we be aware or conscious of the fact that theology needs to drive the way we do things. There’s a why before a how. We need to be conscious of what that theological foundation is. Theology must determine our approach to education. And our approach to education must be intentionally aligned with our theology.

If you are in any way involved in Christian education (that pretty much includes every believer), then I hope this read helps.

Covenant – The Covenant of Grace and Its Significance for Christian Education Louis Berkhof

Share the love