Monday, June 23, 2008

Presuppositional Apologetics

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
(1 Cor. 2:14)

I am so thankful for my church, my pastor, and the blessing of good teaching. Last week, I finished Dr. Jay Wile’s book “Reasonable Faith: The Scientific Case for Christianity.” Below is a very generalized, chapter-by-chapter synopsis of the book:

  1. Presents both arguments of how the world was created: Intelligent Design and Evolution/Natural Selection.
  2. Examines the fundamental building blocks of the universe, atoms, and calculates the probability of them occurring in their complexity on their own. Concludes that the phenomenon we call life is clearly beyond the reach of “chance.”
  3. Examines earth’s ability to support life and calculates the probability that all these ingredients necessary for life could occur by “chance.” Concludes that the life-supporting earth could not exist as a result of blind chance.
  4. Examines life itself from a single cell and points out that evolution by natural selection assumes we are dealing with a living system. Therefore, it cannot explain the first living cell.
  5. Examines the elegance and beauty in nature. Highlights specific examples of chemical weapon system of the bombardier beetle, feeding habits of sharks, the complexity of the human eye, and the symbiotic relationship between the Oriental sweetlips and the blue-streak wrasse. Concludes there must be an intelligent designer.
  6. Now that we know there must have been an intelligent designer, who is he? At this point, the book shifts its focus. Dr. Wile admits that science is incapable of telling us much about who this Creator is. However, we do have much literature that has been written that claims to know the mind of God. So how do we know WHICH literature is valid? To narrow the field, he starts by looking at those works which ”stand out” from the rest. He then presents evidence of the uniqueness of the Bible in its composition, popularity, survivability, influence, and its central character. Given this uniqueness, we should at least examine this important source of information.
  7. In this chapter, Wile examines the criteria archaeologists and historians use to determine the validity of an ancient document. What we find is the Bible passes all of these tests better than any other document in human history. Clearly, therefore, we can assume the Bible is an historically valid document.
  8. So what do we do about all the miraculous accounts in the Bible? Wile asserts that a scientist should never dismiss any claim because it seems miraculous. If we did, then most of the theories of physics used today would have never been formulated. Also, since the Creator is, by definition, supernatural, we should expect any book that claims to have insight into His nature and character to have some supernatural qualities.
  9. Wile then examines what he calls “knowledge from on high.” The Bible writers clearly demonstrate medical knowledge centuries before scientists discovered the reasons for it. How did they have this insight? Were they just “lucky”? Clearly not.
  10. Wile then goes on to discuss the prophetic aspect of the Bible. The Bible contains hundreds of prophecies about future events, most of which have already come to pass. It is astounding how accurate the Biblical prophecies are. No other prophetic work can claim this.
  11. With all of the evidence presented, clearly the Biblical accounts can be believed. He ends by urging the reader to examine the facts for himself and read the Bible.

The effect this book had on me is to overwhelm me with thankfulness for God’s intricate design of our world, by the perfection of His Word and by His preservation of His Word throughout history. He is truly amazing.

Then I went to church on Sunday and was reminded about the danger of using this type of argument with unbelievers. Let me explain… Apologetics means providing a defense of the truthfulness of the Christian faith for the purpose of convincing unbelievers. Dr. Wile’s book falls in the category of teleological apologetics. Teleological comes from the Greek term telos, meaning purpose or end. Teleological apologetics reasons that there must be an intelligent designer and uses that as a springboard into discussing WHO that designer is (the God of the Bible).

The problem with this approach is that once you establish an intelligent designer, you can’t “prove” that this designer is the God of the Bible. In the end, it’s a question of faith. The problem, in essence, is that the natural man cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14). No matter how convincing the evidence or good the logic, an unbeliever cannot come to the faith because his fallen nature will distort how he perceives the truth. The only thing that can ultimately change him is regeneration.

So instead of the teleological approach, we should use the presuppositional approach. A presupposition is an assumption that is taken for granted. A Christian presuppositionalist takes God's existence for granted and argues from that perspective to show the validity of the Christian faith. This position also presupposes [takes for granted] the truth of the Bible and relies on the validity and power of the gospel to change lives (Rom. 1:16). To this end, a pure presuppositionalist tackles the worldview of a person and seeks to change the very foundation of how a person perceives facts.

So in the end, I still really enjoyed Dr. Wile’s book and I think it’s good for us to know the facts and arguments he presents in his book. If for no other reason, it’s good for us to glory again in the wonder of the intricacies of God’s creation. However, I am also very thankful for a faithful pastor to remind me that this is not necessarily the way we should approach an unbeliever when discussing this topic. And most of all, I'm thankful to God for giving me eyes to see.

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