Essential Truths: Reformed Apologetics
Essential Truths: Reformed Apologetics
Introduction: We have been studying Apologetics, which means making a defense of the faith, or, as I have also called it, witnessing better. Our key verse has been 1Peter 3:15“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
We have looked at classical apologetics that uses rational proofs such as the cosmological and ontological arguments and the moral argument. We have looked at the teleological argument and the evidentialist approach. With the evidentialist approach we looked closely at the biblical prophecies about Christ and the miracle stories, especially the resurrection. Now tonight we examine the Reformed Method of Apologetics called by the fancy name Presuppositionalism. Now that was a mouthful but let me tell you that this form of apologetics is where probably most of you in this room are most comfortable.
What I have been doing is building one step at a time, beginning with the least used form, adding to it the next strongest form, and now adding what may be the most used form of apologetics except for the last one that we will study next. In other words, I don’t think many of you will remember let alone use the ontological argument; some of you may use the evidence for the resurrection, but tonight’s form I really think you will appreciate. That said, there are still some difficult ideas here that will require some serious thought. The bottom line with the Reformed Method is that there are only two foundations for all the various philosophies out there: Man is the center of the universe and the ultimate measure or the God of the Bible is the center of the universe and he is the ultimate measuring rod. The Reformed method focuses on Revelation, God has revealed himself to us in Scripture and with his Son and we must conform our thoughts to his thoughts. **Isaiah55:6-12**The Reformed method of apologetics is very authoritarian as well as being authoritative: We believe there is a God because the Bible tells me so, just like the song, Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Now do you see where I am going with this?
I. The Other Approaches Are Good but Not Enough!
Many of the reformed apologists (reformed means Calvinistic) do not like the other approaches at all, but I think that is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Augustine used some of the rationalistic approaches and Calvin himself used the teleological approach to an extent. Frankly I think a lot of professors get territorial over their pet theories. The Classical and Evidentialist positions have their uses, especially when we are answering the questions of those who ask us about our hope as our key verse states.
But tonight we will focus on another key verse: 1Cor.2:14 “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
What this verse means for apologetics is that you cannot argue a person into the kingdom of God because he is not going to understand spiritual truth. You can present to him the logic of the cosmological argument, that simply says there has to be an infinite cause for our finite universe, but he will not trust in God based on that alone. You can use the watchmaker argument but it will not convince him. Why? Romans 3:11 “there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God…v.18 There is no fear of God before their eyes…23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…Eph.2:1″you were dead in your transgressions and sins…**4:17ff**.
The natural man is fallen and this means that even our minds are affected by sin so that even if we are confronted with all the arguments for the existence of God and the truthfulness of scripture and the resurrection of Christ, we will not believe on our own. Sin has so corrupted us that we will disbelieve all the huge amount of evidence. We are so morally fallen that we do not want to believe the arguments and the evidence.
This is why Jesus, in John 3** stresses our need for being born from above. We cannot birth ourselves and unless we are born of the Spirit we will never see the Kingdom of God. We will remain foreigners to God until He sends his Holy Spirit to regenerate our hearts. Like Ezek.37 we are just a valley of dry bones. Spiritually dead men are absolutely incapable of deciding to accept the evidence on their own apart from the influence of the Holy Spirit.
Now let me tell you that this strong view of the fallenness of man, this idea of original sin is the minority view in evangelical circles today. The old fashioned name for this is Total Depravity and is one of the key doctrines of Calvinism.
Much of the church views man as being the final authority, saying that man can respond to the gospel if we argue strong enough or entertain him enough or tell enough tear jerking stories and give a compelling psychologically based invitation. Now all of these things are good in themselves if we don’t trust in our techniques alone. But sadly many, even in the churches, have a worldly mindset that makes man the measure of all things.
II. The Reformed Apologetic
Reformed Apologetics is to present biblical truth, biblical Christianity and show or refute the false positions of the worldviews that are not biblical. The beginning point is our faith in Christ and we reason from that perspective. The lost person begins with reason or experience, both of which are grounded in self and sin. The reformed apologist boldly claims that the Christian worldview is the only reasonable and livable worldview that is consistent. Thus, Christianity is true and all other opposing systems are false.
Look at 2Cor.10:5**. Reformed apologetics takes an aggressive approach to our fallen culture and actively seeks to take over every area for the glory of Christ. We try to show that unbelieving thought is, at the very foundation, irrational. I saw a bumper sticker once that makes the point: Hell is forever- it’s insane to sin.
Reformed apologists insist on the necessity of presupposing the divine inspiration of scripture and its inerrancy.
II. Practical Application
When lost people ask the question about why bad things happen to good people, we Christians can respond by saying that we know that God is control, he is all wise and that he has a purpose for everything. Romans8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” To the lost man, things happen by chance but we know that God loves us and is working to include us in his plans for his glory and for our benefit. We can find purpose even in suffering due to evil that has unjustly been done to us or in those accidental things like a car wreck or illness. To the lost man, things just happen, life is ultimately pointless.
The lost person will sometimes respond with “How can you believe in a God who would let evil happen? Either God is not all powerful or he is not all loving if he continues to allow evil to exist. Therefore, there is no God because evil does exist.”
We can respond with the Reformed apologetic to this criticism in several ways. 1) If you want God to stamp out all evil right now, what about the evil that is in you? Or is it just other people’s evil you want God to stamp out. Rom.3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
2) God is going to take care of the problem of evil at the last judgment but he has also allowed his own Son, Jesus, to be a victim of evil, in that Jesus was betrayed for money by a close friend, his trial was an unjust sham, even the Roman governor declared Jesus to be innocent, Jesus suffered and died as an innocent, even sinless man. But the scriptures claim that it is by Jesus’ death that we have salvation. 1Peter3:18 “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” God took what is evil from our viewpoint and turned it into good.
3) By using the term “evil” the lost man actually proves that there is a God, for evil is either something personal and subjective, that is, what I dislike, or it is an objective fact that lies outside of us. If we are merely animals that evolved and there is no God then there can be no such thing as true evil. For evil to exist there must be an objective standard of right and wrong that is above and beyond us. We believe that God determines what is right and good from what is wrong and bad. Relativism makes man the final decision maker in what is right and wrong and that if everyone votes to kill all the Jews in Germany then that is right for them. If there is no God, then everything is permitted wrote Dostoevsky.
Conclusion: The Reformed method of Apologetics emphasizes the use of scripture as the final authority. When we witness or answer the questions of the lost people we should always!! Refer to the Scriptures! The Holy Spirit is the one in charge of saving people, not you. The Holy Spirit uses scripture to bring conviction upon the lost.
The other arguments for the existence of God are useful, and should not be thrown out, but they are in a supporting role for the main thing which is the Word of God.
Next week we will look at the role of your personal experience and testimony in apologetics and witnessing as our final method.