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The God of Reason

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We noted last week that many presuppositional thinkers will appeal to Proverbs 26: 4-5 as a scriptural model of how to “give an answer to everyone who asks for the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Pet. 3:15). It must also be pointed out however, that this model is by no means independent of other methods and techniques. When internal debates arise over apologetic methods, they are usually meant to elevate one over another. While this is all done with good intentions, we must be quick to realize that no one apologetic can ever be “all things to all men.” Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli are correct when they say:

[N]owadays second-order questions of method often distract attention from first-order questions of truth...Even national, political, racial and sexual [gender] factors influence the apologetic situation. One should not use the same arguments in discussion with a Muslim woman from Tehran that one would use with an African American teenager from Los Angeles.[1]

While we can agree with Kreeft and Tacelli in this instance, we must certainly part ways when, later in the same book, they write:

Most fundamentalists, as well as many who call themselves not fundamentalists but evangelicals, will do apologetics only from the starting point of the authority of Scripture. We think this is a tactical error...[D]own through the centuries many people have in fact been led to belief—at least belief in a Creator God and in the possibility of salvation—through rational arguments not based on Scripture.[2]

We must ask what value there is in convincing a non-believer of a “creator” and the “possibility of salvation?” Salvation from what? The Christian apologist is not defending the idea of some god, but the one true God of the Old and New Testaments. Our apologetic task is not to make a case for religion in general, but for Christianity in particular, and we find the definition of Christianity in the Bible itself, not rationalistic argumentation. Two pages later, when confronting modernists and religious liberals, Kreeft and Tacelli admit this very thing: “But will Scripture allow Christianity to be redefined? See Galatians 1:8 for an answer.”[3] Galatians 1:8 reads: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” And where is it that we learn of the gospel that Paul was preaching? In the Bible. The presuppositional approach is completely unavoidable.

But to return to the initial quote from Kreeft and Tacelli about answering different people in different ways, we must recognize what this means in terms of a presuppositional apologetic. It is not that in some instances with certain individuals that we would answer with a different substance to our apologetic, but with a different train of thought. We have already admitted that all arguments are circular, so it matters little at what station you get on the “train;” all true apologetic arguments will lead to the same place. What we must determine with each of our hearers is where their particular rebellion against the authority of God resides, and reveal it as the foolishness that it is. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Col. 4: 5-6). Although every apologetic begins and ends with Christ, this is not to say that evidence, reason, and rational discourse are not used. In fact, they are integral components of the apologetic. The problem arises when they become means to an end, instead of symbiotic parts of the greater whole. “Christ must be presented both as the way and as the destination. If Christ is only presented as the destination and reason is put forward as the way, we will end up arriving at an entirely different destination. Christ is not merely a conclusion at the end of an argument. He is the argument and the conclusion.”[4]

Footnotes:
[1]
Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 10-11.
[2]
Kreeft and Tacelli, Pocket Handbook, 80.
[3]
Kreeft and Tacelli, Pocket Handbook, 82.
[4]
Joe Boot, “Broader Cultural and Philosophical Challenges,” in Ravi Zacharias (Ed.), Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 176. (Bold emphasis mine).

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