So here we are, Part 3 and conclusion of the Introduction to the Biblical Apologetics miniseries. I hope you have learned something new thus far through Parts 1 and 2. If not, you are sure to learn something new here. At this point, if you have not yet read Parts 1 and 2, I would implore you to do so. If you deem it unnecessary, let me at least give an overview of what the first two parts covered. Part 1 discussed worldviews. A worldview is a set of beliefs and assumptions we have in order to make sense of the world around us. Everyone has a worldview, yet, not many people have given their worldview a second thought (or third, or fourth). A worldview seeks to answer the tougher questions in life: Where did we come from? Did we evolve or were we created? Are there moral absolutes? Does a god or do gods exist? Part 2 addressed the necessity of apologetic argument and rationale through logic and reasoning, by first establishing the basic foundational beliefs of Christianity. We know that as Christians, we must first ground ourselves in Christ in order to present a reasoned response to anyone who asks about the hope that lies within us (1 Peter 3:15). As such, we are able to do so because Christ Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) [Emphasis added]. Now that the required foundation for us to continue is set, let us venture on to ‘how’ we deploy our apologetic tools.
I am assuming some of you are scratching your head, “Whoa…presuppo-WHAT?” It sounds a bit more complicated and intimidating than it actually is. Let’s break it down. To presuppose something, you assume said thing beforehand at the onset of an argument or course of action.1 For example, if an atheist were to say, “Christianity is nonsense. It’s just a bunch of gobbledygook with sky fairies and unicorns,” he would have made this statement presupposing there is no God (theoretical atheism), or the idea of a deity is most likely not true (practical atheism). So when Christians make a reasoned defense based on recognizing their own presuppositions, they are practicing presuppositional apologetics.2
Biblical presuppositions are traced back to Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image. In the image of God He created them; male and female.” It is reasonable to assume then, since we were created in God’s image, we were afforded some of the characteristics of God. For example, we can assume God is logical, as 1 John 2:21 says, “…and because no lie is of the truth.” In logic, this is an example of the law of non-contradiction (P cannot be both P and not P – I cannot drop an apple and not drop that same apple at the same time). To comprehend the law of non-contradiction, we must first presuppose the laws of logic if we expect to reason our way through them. This is also an example of why God’s Word is without error; it is inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16), and therefore cannot and does not contradict itself. It is infallible, as God is infallible (Matt 5:48, 2 Sam 22:31, Ps 18:30).
Remember (and I cannot stress this enough), in order for anyone to defend God’s Word, he must first be grounded in Christ (1 Peter 3:15). Apart from Christ, one cannot account for his own truth. Can an atheist, humanist, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc., exhibit good morals and be logical? Absolutely! I know a great many atheists, agnostics, and humanists; all exhibiting great intelligence coupled with a great moral compass. They exhibit these characteristics because we were all made in the image of God (Gen 1:27), thus we all have some of His characteristics. The reason these same people believe in false doctrines or no doctrine at all (which is impossible as they would be following their own doctrine or set of rules), is that they choose not to believe. God has revealed His eternal power and divine nature through all things created, thus we are without excuse in knowing who He is. Knowing God but suppressing Him, unbelievers claim to be wise, yet are fools (Rom 1:18-22). They are fools, because only fools suppress the truth. Therefore, since unbelievers were also made in the image of God, they must stand on biblical principles to argue their own worldview.
Preconditions of Intelligibility and the Ultimate Standard
Under the umbrella of presuppositionalism are the preconditions of intelligibility. In order for us to know anything at all, there are certain preconditions we must accept as true before we can even articulate our arguments (or form one, for that matter). There are six common preconditions (in which many of us take for granted because we already assume them to be true): (1) basic reliability of memory and senses, (2) laws of logic, (3) uniformity of nature, (4) morality, (5) personal dignity, and (6) freedom. For the sake of time, I’m not going to address each one in this post. Instead, I’ll use morality as an example. Secular humanists, atheists, relativists, etc., believe that morality is subjective and there is no such thing as a moral absolute. Unfortunately, their assertion is flawed. If, in fact, there is no such thing as a moral absolute, they could never accuse someone else of being right or wrong, ever. Why? Because without an ultimate standard of morality, it becomes the mere opinion of each person who decides what is right and what is wrong. Additionally, right and wrong are biblical concepts. They (unbelievers) cannot account for right/wrong – good/evil; Christians can. When a nonbeliever asserts a type of morality, “it’s wrong for you to push your Christian beliefs onto other people,” he is also pushing his beliefs onto you for telling you it’s wrong. See the issue? This is just one of many!
What’s important is for the defender of hope to explain why his opponent’s view is wrong and ours is right. Not arbitrarily, but tactically (see Prov 26:4-5) and logically. We wouldn’t accept an arbitrary or fallacious answer from our opponent, so we should afford him the same courtesy of staying away from such. How is the Christian able to convey what is right? Simple, we have the authority to do so through our faith in Christ, the ultimate standard! Well, what’s an ultimate standard? An ultimate standard is something that cannot be proven by anything else, thus, it must use itself as the criterion.3 An ultimate standard is also universal, unchanging, and immaterial. Nonbelievers cannot account for this. As Christians, we can: Universal – “God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made Him head over all things for the benefit of the Church” (Eph 1:22); Unchanging – “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8); Immaterial – “For God is Spirit, so those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24) [Emphasis added].
The Bible as a Circular Argument
If you are a follower of Christ and converse with nonbelievers regularly, you have more than likely come across someone well versed and educated in logic and logical fallacies. You may have had a conversation like this:
Unbeliever: “But why do you believe in the Bible?”
Christian: “Because the Bible is infallible”
Unbeliever: “How do you know it’s infallible?”
Christian: “Because it’s the Word of God”
Unbeliever: “But how can you be sure it’s the Word of God?”
Christian: “Because the Bible tells us so”
The unbeliever then circles back to his first question.
Looking at the reasoning of the Christian in this example, we have (and I’m sure an unbeliever has pointed this out to you at one time or another) what is called circular reasoning, which means the reasoner begins with what he is trying to end with; i.e. “the Bible is the Word of God (conclusion) because the Bible says it’s the Word of God (starting point).” This would be an example of a logical fallacy; something fallacious is not considered rational, therefore cannot be trusted. Is apologetics just a bunch of circular arguments and therefore fallacious? Absolutely not! An ultimate standard by definition is able to account for itself (it must be able to pass its own test) or else it wouldn’t be considered an ultimate standard.4 Although some of us (even myself at times) are unable to logically and accurately articulate our points in defense of the faith, it does not make God any less an ultimate standard.
When arguing an ultimate standard, a certain amount of circularity is necessary. Some circularity is not necessarily fallacious. For example, in order for an unbeliever to argue his worldview, he must use aspects from his own worldview to do so. The difference is, when the unbeliever’s worldview is taken down to its core, it fails because there is no accountability for not believing in the biblical God as demonstrated throughout this post. When you chip away at an unbeliever’s worldview by asking him to account for what he believes, you will be met with mostly fallacious, arbitrary, conjectured responses, rendering his argument and worldview irrational; thus, unable to be trusted! Let us not forget that in order for a nonbeliever to even argue his point, he must stand on biblical principles; e.g. the laws of logic.
I do hope you enjoyed this miniseries and I would encourage you to post your thoughts in the comments section. You can post critiques, questions, criticisms (politely!), etc. May God continue to bless you in all that you do!
1 Slick, M. (2016). Presuppositional Apologetics. Retrieved from https://carm.org/presuppositional-apologetics
2 Wright, D. (2007). What is Presuppositional Apologetics? Retrieved from https://answersingenesis.org/presuppositions/what-is-presuppositional-apologetics/
3 & 4 Lisle, J. 2009. The Ultimate Proof of Creation: Resolving the Origins Debate. Master Books: Green Forest, AR.
Author: Brian Kurkjian, Ed.D