A Charge to Contemporary Apologists | Dewey Dovel

by | Feb 21, 2023 | Apologetics

*This installment is the fourth in a series from Dewey Dovel called “Reforming Old Princeton: Understanding How Theology Proper Should Govern Apologetics.”

For part 1 of this series, you can click here: https://cbtseminary.org/reforming-old-princeton-understanding-how-theology-proper-should-govern-apologetics-dewey-dovel/

For part 2 of this series, you can click here: https://cbtseminary.org/understanding-old-princetons-doctrine-of-god-approach-to-apologetics-dewey-dovel/

For part 3 of this series, you click here: https://cbtseminary.org/van-tillian-presuppositionalism-the-consistent-application-of-divine-aseity-dewey-dovel/

A Charge to Contemporary Apologists

This series has observed the rich history of Old Princeton in supplementation to one of the key areas wherein the seminary needed improvement: the discipline of apologetics. Multiple writing samples were provided by prominent faculty members in order to illustrate how the Reformed theology proper that was championed by Old Princeton was undermined through their embracing of a Classical apologetic methodology. After analyzing the faulty apologetic heritage of Old Princeton, the Presuppositionalism of Cornelius Van Til was introduced as a more consistent application of the Reformed doctrine of God to the task of defending the Christian faith. More specifically, when considered through the lens of divine aseity, an analysis of Van Til’s apologetic revealed that if the God of Christianity isn’t real and if His own self-revelation in Scripture isn’t true, then it would be impossible for anybody to have an objective basis for knowing anything at all in reality.[1] Thus, an apologetic that does not seek to prove the existence of the one, true, living, a se God—at every point in argumentation—is altogether futile and irresponsible. Such an apologetic fails to provide the unbeliever with an accurate representation of reality by virtue of failing to point them—from start to finish—to the God who created, sustains, and upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:2-3). As stressed throughout this series, the created order and all truth contained therein depends entirely upon the God who does not depend on anything outside of Himself.[2] This truth alone should drastically impact the Christian’s theoretical and practical convictions about apologetic methodology. 

By way of conclusion, it is appropriate to offer the reader with a pastoral exhortation. When contemplating the stewardship of apologetics—regardless of the historical setting or the geographical location—Christians have not been called to proclaim the probable existence of a bare, generic, philosophical conception of a god. Rather, followers of Jesus Christ have been called to make disciples of the one, true, living God throughout every corner of the earth (Matt. 28:19-20). As such, Believers must be unwavering in their resolve to accurately witness on behalf of the God who is, so that perishing sinners might be reconciled to Him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Generic, philosophical theism cannot save sinners from divine judgment for their sins, and the Word of God is clear that the eternal, self-existent Creator has unmistakably revealed Himself to His creatures (Ps. 19:1-14). While there will always be temptations to be intellectually or culturally relevant, the calling for Believers is to simply be faithful in accurately sharing the truths of Scripture with others (2 Tim. 2:15).

Christians should take immense comfort in presupposing the trustworthiness of God, simply because “the Bible tells us so.” This mentality will always be foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1:18). Nevertheless, in God’s infinite wisdom, He is well pleased to save sinners through the foolishness of this world: the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:21). May this reality guide the church in boldly and graciously heralding the truths declared in Scripture by the a se Lord of lords; to whom are laid bare all things and before whom each of us will have to give an account (Heb. 4:13). 

Soli Deo Gloria

[1]           Encapsulated in this statement is one of the most important dimensions of the Presuppositional apologetic methodology: the argument from the impossibility of the contrary. When surveying this aspect of Presuppositionalism, the apologist strives to make clear to the non-Christian that at every point in a human being’s life, they are showcasing how they presuppose the existence of the triune God of the Bible. That is to say, they live in such a way that illustrates how they presuppose some of the most foundational tenets of Christianity to be true, even though they do not profess with their lips to believe it. Here are just a few examples of the components of reality that all human beings, Christian and non-Christian alike, presuppose to be true based on the way that they live on a daily basis: the laws of logic; the uniformity of nature; the reliability of human sensory experience; the embracing of moral absolutes. Presuppositionalists note that the Bible provides a universal, unchanging, and objective basis for the existence of the laws of logic (Col. 2:3; 2 Tim. 2:13). The Bible teaches that God upholds and sustains all things in His created order by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3), thereby enabling His creatures to trust that nature will remain uniform. Moreover, the Noahic Covenant described in Scripture offers mankind an unbreakable promise that God will sustain His creation until the Last Day (Gen. 9:1-17). The Bible describes the creation of humanity in the image of a God who is all-knowing and all-powerful (Prov. 20:12). Scripture also states that all of mankind will someday be held accountable for the deeds they do in their bodies (1 Cor. 3:12-15). As such, the Christian worldview provides the basis for trusting in the reliability of human sensory experience. Furthermore, the Bible provides God’s standard for morality in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17) and teaches that the moral law of God has been written on the heart of every human being (Rom. 2:14-16). The reason why people feel guilty for doing something they instinctively know to be wrong (such as murder, rape, theft, or adultery) is because as God’s image bearers, they have been wired with a sense of what is objectively right and what is objectively wrong. Each of these basic biblical teachings should be used by the Presuppositionalist to emphasize how it is fundamentally impossible for the (Reformed) Christian faith to be false. If it were to be false, then there would be no ability for anybody to have an objective, philosophical basis for knowing anything to be true in reality, nor would there be any way of understanding why anything is true in the first place. When used properly, the argument from the impossibility to the contrary stands as one of the most powerful features of Presuppositionalism. Greg Bahnsen provides ample insight on the Christian’s argument from the impossibility of the contrary in Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith, 74-75; 121-122).

[2]           James E. Dolezal, All That Is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism, 135-137.

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