Apologetics Is Parasitic to Christian Proclamation

The following article is a piece by my good friend Jeremy Spainhour, a former M.A. Biblical Studies student at Asbury Seminary . He is a committed believer, a relationally involved youth pastor, and a solid thinker whom I respect immensely. As someone who does apologetics in some shape and form, I found this article extremely thought provoking and in need of some internal evaluation. My own views of apologetics, ever since starting Ratio Christi, have shifted drastically and have become much more nuanced than they were early on. Much of this has to do with what Spainhour calls “the perceived answers” and the fact that apologetics, often, has an ability to distance one from the faith rather than bring them towards it. I am not in agreement with all that is said (see my article Incarnational Apologetics), but I can say up front that I think he is largely correct in his general thesis (though, perhaps overstating it with the term ‘parasitic’). I will follow up in a week or so with a rejoinder, pointing out areas of agreement and disagreement. Nonetheless, what are your thoughts. Share them below!

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with persuasive speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” apologetics

Christians and nonchristians alike have sought to discover or verify the truth of the Christian faith by way of interrogation at least since Pilate’s question—What is truth?—to which Jesus responded with definitive silence. From the theological questions of Nicea to the existential questions of Heidelberg to the philosophical questions of Westminster to the ecclesiological questions of the Vatican to the cosmological and moral and historical questions of modern apologetics, the people of the world have sat with Pilate on the judgment seat to demand a word of truth from God in response to their questions. From its inception the perceived responses have formed and reformed the Church in a never ending dialectic–something like Hegel’s history–sometimes for good, sometimes for ill, sometimes inspired, sometimes not.

The problem is not the questions or the answers, per se; the problem is that the Church’s understanding of proclamation often finds its grounding in the perceived answers. This is never-ending dialectic may be necessary for Christian theology, but it is a never-ending threat to Christian proclamation,  because Christian theology is always tempted to shove aside the Christian kerygma, such that the only time we hear the its words–Christ crucified; Christ is risen; Jesus is Lord–are in the context of a description rather than address. We might speak about the death and resurrection of Christ to the arbiter of midair or the microphone of a public forum in such a way that anyone so persuaded might reach up and claim these words for themselves, but they will claim them as the people’s word about God, not God’s Word to the people. The effect is that our descriptions, whether creeds, catechisms or cosmology, replace our prophetic role to bring “You!” and “God!” into the same space. We may come to believe in David’s God, but we will not hear David’s God say to us what he said to David, “You are the man!”  (2 Sam. 12:7). 

My concern is not with apologetics as a specialized field, but with the fact that apologetics is no longer a specialized field, that it is becoming the normative form of our talk about God. The foreign language of the academy is becoming the colloquial language of the laity. That the truths of the historic Christian faith are under attack in our culture is as obvious as is unobvious our willingness to allow those truths to set us apart from the culture attacking them. The threat of this attack has sent our people into frenzy with Church’s running apologetics workshops and authors pumping out apologetics-for-dummies books and study Bibles to make sure everyone is armed and ready to defend their Gospel, which is apparently under great threat (e.g., Apologetics Study Bible; The Truth Project; Case for Faith for Kids; Fact or Fantasy: A Study in Christian Apologetics for Children; Evidence for Faith 101: Understanding Apologetics in Plain Language). The Church sees itself in valor trying to guard its treasured faith. The world sees the Church in panic trying to hide its anxious doubt.

Apologetics, for good or for ill, finds itself in an awkward situation, seeking to be both set apart and welcomed in. It needs to be distinct in conclusion but indistinct in method, to score a touchdown by rounding the bases. It seeks to become the beloved black sheep of the scholar’s pasture. And perhaps such a sheep needs to be sent to such a pasture to explain its odd color in a foreign language, but what is not needed the entire flock frantically attempting or pathetically pretending to understand the language by memorizing a few truncated syllogisms immune to anything but scrutiny. The rest of the black sheep who insist on speaking this foreign language, despite their glaring incompetence, only reveal their desire to be white sheep. They appear to be more loyal to the methods of the whites than the conclusion of the blacks, such that they speak of their conclusion as though it hangs in the contingency of these methods. Whatever trajectory the question of the skeptic points, the apologists can show that all questions point to God, thereby validating not only their own conclusions of truth but also, inadvertently or not, the skeptic’s path to truth. But the end of the skeptic’s path will either lead you to a very small god or to insanity. To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, the witness only tries to get his head in heavens for a glimpse of the truth, but the skeptic tries to get the heavens into his head to understand the whole truth, and when he does, his head splits. Indeed, Christ has called us his witnesses, not his defenders.

The language of apologetics has to begin on the defensive. It only speaks when spoken to. It exists under the lordship of culture, never having the freedom to proclaim, “Jesus is Lord!” to all and sundry, only the provision to make a case for faith to those who ask. This is why Christian apologetics can never be Christian proclamation. Proclamation is address and can only be spoken by the mouths of witnesses. There may be proofs for the existence of God, but, as Abraham Heschel has remarked,  “There are no proofs for the existence of the God of Abraham. There are only witnesses.” Anyone can make an argument for God, but only those who have heard the Word of God—Jesus Christ—from the Word of God–from Jesus Christ–can say, “Thus saith the Lord!”  Witnesses must speak of God as though he has spoken to them. “Christ crucified,” for example, Paul’s distilled words of foolishness to the sophisticated people of Corinth, are couched in proofs of the historical Jesus in the wise words of apologists. So with much effort in the quests for and the seminars of the historical Jesus, most now agree that a man named so named walked the streets in the first century Palestine and ended up on a cross outside Jerusalem. Apologists seek to get scholars to go just one more step. So the historical arguments for the resurrection begin. Something has to account for the rapid expansion of the Christian religion despite the unlikely circumstances of this otherwise failed messiah. How else could one explain the empty tomb, the women as first eyewitnesses, the disciples’ newfound courage, the crowds who witnessed his appearing? And so the arguments go, being held up like links that only need to be yoked together on the causal chain of history. The goal is to make the resurrection of Jesus the best explanation of the phenomena. Whether or not the goal is reached, the result is always the same—the truth of God is moved obediently along the chain, in the way men have always moved their subjects along their chains, so that God and God’s ways become necessary, expected, and somewhat prosaic. They speak as though via negativa had to lead to Via Dolorosa, no matter the god, no matter the universe.

So the resurrection is proven with historical proofs and thereby buried in a tomb of history. People come to believe in the persuasive words of eloquent speech and frankly need not encounter the Spirit’s power. The proclamation of the Church moves out of the category of witness and into the category of argument. We need not rely on the Spirit to convict as long as we have the ability to persuade. All the world will believe in the necessity of God, even the Christian God revealed in salvation history, and as such everyone will forget how unnecessary were his saving acts. We will forget the foolishness that is the Gospel—that the Lord of Life, in infinite freedom, became smaller than all, slave of all, to subject himself to the great contradiction of a Creator’s defeat, the death of Eternal Life. There may be something rational about God creating life, but there surely is nothing rational about life uncreating God. This can never be viewed as the expected wisdom of God, as though that is just what a god should do. It should always maintain a firm grasp on foolishness. It must not first be expected, explained, or argued, but only beheld, treasured, and humbly proclaimed as something too high for us, something that, if true, has a claim on all those who speak of it and those who hear it. That claim cannot be received in the form of an answer to a question or a response to an argument, but only an address, as proclamation. In Karl Barth’s words, “The Gospel is not a truth among other truths. Rather, it sets a question-mark against all truths…It does not require representatives with a sense of responsibility, for it is as responsible for those who proclaim it as it is for those to whom it is proclaimed. It is the advocate of both…God does not need us. Indeed, if He were not God, He would be ashamed of us. We, at any rate, cannot be ashamed of Him.” The Gospel will offend or enrapture. It is the supreme work of art that only requires all of our love or all of our hatred. It is the image of God in all his beauty and the image of Man in all his gore brought into focus at one three-day intersection of history with one multidimensional declaration that defines all history, all truth, all goodness, all beauty—Christ crucified, risen Lord.

The elemental kerygma for Paul had at its nucleus one event that, in its most distilled form, can be stated as three historic facts (two past, one future) which verified one universal fact: (1) Christ was crucified; (2) God raised him from the dead; (3) Christ will return in judgment; thus, Jesus is Lord. These statements were the starting point for Paul’s proclamation. Even when he was saying something else he was doing so because of and in light Christ’s lordship as suchPaul proclaimed these facts as though they were as concrete and intrusive and unacommodating as Mount Everest, as though the indicatives of lordship carried with them the imperatives of the Lord, so that believing what Paul said was as stark and life altering as discovering Nepal on the way to China by arriving at the base of the biggest mountain in the world. Apologetics, on the other hand, seeks to make a model of the mountain so that it not seem so intrusive to the human will, not so massive and objective–so other–that it is unable to accomodate for the size of the human brain. No one walks away from an apologetics conference saying, “Here am I!”, at least not in the way Isaiah said it, because apologetics can only speak of the historic facts of the faith, not the universal facts. Not a skeptic on this earth has asked, “Who is my Lord and when is he coming again?” So Christian apologetics must remain mute of Christian imperatives. Besides, the only evidence of Christ’s lordship [and thus his return] is the goodness of the Church, a proof that cannot fit into a prideful mouth.

The elephant in the room of every Christian-nonchristian debate is that Christians have not only been asked to affirm an apparent contradiction, but we have been asked to base the universe on that contradiction. God was not oblivious to this design. He set it up so that the contradiction would have to run its course before it can do the work of drawing people back in. We must first look away only to realize we cannot look away. We must be repulsed by his death only to be seduced by it. We must see who God is in Christ, so that we can see decisively who God is not in us. We must first see the infinitive qualitative distinction of Christ crucified in order to see the infinite qualitative beauty of Christ crucified. We must behold the One lifted up as we behold the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, as an unattainable spectacle of impossible grandeur, as something that is kept from our reach but given to our eyes, as something so absolutely alien but somehow so absolutely at home. We must learn not only to handle the truth of God, to follow the goodness of God, but, perhaps at the very center of it all, to behold the beauty of God. But we cannot run to the academy for proofs of God’s beauty, because, in Von Balthasar’s words, “Beauty is the last thing which the thinking intellect dares to approach, since only it dances as uncontained splendor around the double constellation of the true and the good and their inseparable relation to one another.”

If the Church’s concern is not only to proclaim the Gospel to the world, but that the world embrace its Gospel, we must avail ourselves of more than a defense of scientific/historic truths and philosophical and even lived goodness. We must point away from ourselves into the infinite and declare a deep mystery. We must build into our understanding of proclamation a gap, so that we never assume a direct correlation between what we say and how people respond, so that we never assume that our words are enough. Let the reader reflect on his or her own coming to faith. Was it a judgment of what is true? Was a judgment of what is good? Or was it something beautiful beyond words? Is it easy to describe why you believe, like it is easy to describe a mathematic formula? Or do you, if you are honest, find yourself at a loss for words, as though someone had asked you to explain why you stop to look out to the horizon at sunset or up to the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel? How could you explain that? “Well, it’s the lines and the colors and the shades and…I don’t know! It’s just beautiful! Can’t you see?” The irony of true Christian proclamation is that for all our accurate, objective descriptions of God, unless there is a subjective encounter with his Spirit, faith fails to transcend the human ego. God-as-conclusion-to-argument needs no referent outside human thought. The words of the Church never become the living Word of God until they are heard as an address from God himself.

Apologetics can stick around for Christians who are curious to know if the foolishness of God has some points of contact with the wisdom of men. And perhaps for the nonchristian the apologist can show that there are links that point to heaven, even some that reach much higher than the nonchristian ever imagined. But he must never do so without pointing to the gap. He must always concede that his highest link on the chain of reason is like the distance between the highest title wave and the moon. But then, for all lack of appearances, and in an act of self-humiliation, he must proclaim that there was a day that the moon came down and drown itself in the sea, only to return three days hence to rule the night sky. He should not expect that he can prove this actually happened. He should not pretend it is not a foolish story. More foolish still, he must concede that he was not even there when it happened, and yet proclaim it as though he witnessed it himself, because he did witness it himself. It is such an absurd story indeed that when one does believe it, it will be nothing short of a miracle, and his faith will not rest in the wisdom of men but this miracle of God (cf. 1 Cor. 1-2). He will only believe it because he cannot get the vision of it out of his head, because it is in his head in a way unlike any other fleeting idea or fact or truth is in his head. It is in his head not like people are in an airport but like busyness is in an airport. He will only believe because he cannot help but believe it, because it has taken up residence in his mind, wrapped its roots around his heart, and sprouted hope in his eyes. It will change the way he sees everything, and this new vision will seem so necessary, so beautiful, that he will want others to see as he sees, not because it makes him feel so large and in control, but precisely because it makes him feel so small and out of control; precisely because it has restored for him a vision of the wonder and mystery that he had as a child tromping around in an infinitely large and wonderful world; precisely because he has again become a child. So he will tell others, not as a man with a unified theory of the universe, but as a child pointing aimlessly into the night sky. He will begin by conceding the great gap between the end of his finger and the beginning of the moon, and continue by declaring what he saw, all the while praying a naïve prayer, as naïve as a child’s birthday wish, that the moon would once again descend from the heavens and land in the abyss of another’s heart.

The gap of Christian proclamation is the ether through which God travels in an atmosphere of otherwise eclipsed and clouded by godless, human wisdom. It is the only place where a person will see the “demonstration of the Spirit’s power,” so attending to the gap is the only way the Church’s words will ever become God’s Word. Truth and goodness are two of the pillars holding up a triune proclamation, a proclamation that falls into description if it tries to stand on two legs. If we lose the beauty of the gap, we lose the vision of the God who arrests our affections, awakens our adoration, and fills in the dark, static, corners of our faith with the living, warming radiance of his glory, which is the aspect of God we understand the least but compels us the most. It is the aspect of God that the Church has largely exchanged for Enlightenment.

The following excerpt is from a letter that Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote to Natalia Fonvizina, who had given him a copy of the New Testament before he would spend four years in chains. In it is perhaps the truest expression of what faith in the gap looks like. My hope and prayer for the Church of Jesus Christ today is that no matter how well we are able to articulate the Christian faith to the satisfaction of our own skepticism and that of others, we will at the end of the day, as we watch the sun set, be more readily able to confess that the gap between our articulation and the beginning of God is an infinitely beautiful gap, a gap that only God can cross, and that crossed he has, cross he does, and cross he will again. Indeed: Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!

 “I shall tell you that at such a time one thirsts for faith as ‘the withered grass’ thirsts for water, and one actually finds it, because in misfortune the truth shines through. I can tell you about myself that I am a child of this century, a child of doubt and disbelief, I have always been and shall ever be (that I know), until they close the lid of my coffin. What terrible torment this thirst to believe has cost me and is still costing me, and the stronger it becomes in my soul, the stronger are the arguments against it. And, despite all this, God sends me moments of great tranquility, moments during which I love and find I am loved by others; and it was during such a moment that I formed within myself a symbol of faith in which all is clear and sacred for me. This symbol is very simple, and here is what it is: to believe that there is nothing more beautiful, more profound, more sympathetic, more reasonable, more courageous, and more perfect than Christ, and not only is there not, but I tell myself with jealous love that there cannot be. Even if someone were to prove to me that the truth lay outside Christ, I should choose to remain with Christ than with the truth.”

22 thoughts on “Apologetics Is Parasitic to Christian Proclamation

  1. Your friend Randy said to post this on your site. Hopefully, this will foster helpful dialogue?

    I’m sorry Randy Hardman but I have hard time digesting this piece. It relies on a strawman definition of apologetics and manages to argue that we should be satisfied not arguing!

    If the Spirit can move us to conviction of the “truth” then your friend should be praying that the Spirit do that to those of us in apologetics instead of writing arguments and reason to convince us that his definitions are right.

    I actually hate using the term apologetics because it is so misused. I prefer the term Christian worldview because it relays more what we should be understanding the faith to be: an accurate understanding of how the world works. It has the best explanatory scope of how the world works and therefore how we should live.

    In that framework, we don’t do apologetics for the sake of comforting our doubts or preening our intellectual egos. Rather, as Peter say, we do it to provide good reasons for the hope we have. We do it so we can explain to a hurting world that we can still have hope.

    I actually come to apologetics not from seminary or an apologetics program but after a dozen years in pro-life apologetics. I’ve seen every day as I talk to people on the streets or participate in formal debates in universities how our culture needs to learn that there is truly reason to hope.

    What apologetics does is go to these places and translate words long deconstructed by our culture like “truth” and “god” and “bible” and help others find the right definitions of those words. We’re like translators attempting to communicate to a foreign culture.

    Your friend assumes that our culture doesn’t need that translation; that the only reason why we share reasons is to meet an intellectual goal not a heart one. And that is unreasonable. As Greg Koukl says, the heart cannot embrace for long what the head rejects.

    But it does. And this is where is his most glaring error lies: that does not mean we believe apologetics will save anyone! I’ve never met an apologist who believes that. But just because the right answers can’t save you, that does not mean you can be saved without the right answers!

    Too long Christian evangelism has focused on reaching people using felt needs and have never dealt with their intellectual barriers. But as Jesus said, harvesting is a process. Some plant, some water some sow. Apologetics is akin to tilling the soil. We get rid of the rocks and weeds of intellectual arrogance or confusion or doubt that prevent people’s hearts from being soft to the seeds of good news.

    We cannot save them. Our arguments cannot save them. But God uses this work to save them.

    Does that take away mystery? Does that make God someone who simply is a formula? Absolutely not. But again to borrow Koukl, there’s plenty of people who know about God but don’t know Him. But there’s no one who knows God who doesn’t know a lot about Him. In other words, knowing God requires us to know about Him.

    The more I know about God and learn about His character, the more I know Him! Apologist readily admit that we will never know all facts about God this side of heaven. But we also agree with Paul when he says “everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Phil 3:8.

    And with all due respect to Dostoevsky, I’ll all stick to what Paul says, “and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” 1 Corinthians 15:17.

    Perhaps your friend should too.

  2. Hi Jojo,

    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I just have a few points of clarification and one constructive statement that may give you a more concise view of how I approach proclamation and understand our role in giving verifying it.

    (1) “Apologetics”–for lack of a better word, indeed. I’m not creating a straw man, since I am critiquing something that would self-identify as apologetics, but it is true that apologetics is more than that. However, it is not the more-than-that that I am critiquing. It is description that was laid about in my article (apologetics as basically proofs/defense of deism, creationism, resurrection and certain moral arguments for God). But as I stated at the beginning, I’m not concerned with apologetics as a specialized field but with the fact that it is becoming, for many, the normative form of Christian proclamation.

    (2) I did not suggest that we should not argue, though I do think debate is the more appropriate word. I just don’t think debating the mode of Christian proclamation. Debating, indeed vigorous debating, is absolutely necessary and an appropriate mode for Christian theology, Christian talk about God. But Christian specific biblical theology is precisely that, Christian specific and biblical. And because that is an in house discussion and because we have a common source–Scripture–we can and must debate issues of sacraments, election, eschatology, pneumatology, etc., etc., etc., and we have the freedom to do so, because we have a common faith but seek a common understanding. Apologetics does not begin there. It’s tries to get there, but on common ground with unbelievers (at least popular contemporary apologetics) and according to common conventions of unbelievers. And that is why it must be specialized and not normative, why it must understand that it is the normative mode for neither proclamation nor theology.

    You wrote, “I actually hate using the term apologetics because it is so misused. I prefer the term Christian worldview because it relays more what we should be understanding the faith to be: an accurate understanding of how the world works. It has the best explanatory scope of how the world works and therefore how we should live.”

    I may misunderstand you here, but if not, this is precisely an example of the problem I see happening. You are suggesting (are you not?) that an accurate understanding of how the world works is necessary for understanding how we, as Christians, should live. But Christians who begin with faith and trust the Bible as the rule of faith need only to know what their Lord says to understand how to live. Would you not agree? This comes from the basic imperatives of Scripture (especially of course the Sermon on the Mount) and then more broadly from biblical theology. If that is what you mean by worldview, then I agree. But it doesn’t sound like that is what you mean by worldview. If it is, I would implore you simply to call it Christian theology, because that is what it is. So, I’m with you, the more I learn about God’s character, the more I know him, the more I find myself drawn deeper into faith in him, the more I find myself desiring even to become like him. But I may not be with you in where I learn more about God’s character. It is in the Bible and Christian theology. And if that is where you learn more about God’s character, then, again, we are in agreement.

    (3) The way I understand it, we are called to proclaim the lordship of Christ to world (the Truth), alongside what I understand (both biblically and experientially) the most convincing and compelling proof of Christian witness, love (the Good), because (1) it best reflects the Christ we proclaim; (2) it demonstrates the sincerity of our faith in Christ’s lordship (i.e., we make it clear that we love in obedience to his command to love); and (3) Christ himself suggested it would be our most compelling evidence (e.g., Mt. 5:16, which is the last thing he says before his “ethical” discourse in the Sermon on the Mount, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”) As for the Beauty, we just have to pray that the Spirit will reveal the glory of the Lord as we point away and say Jesus!

    P.S. Dostoevsky wasn’t calling into question the importance of the resurrection; he was calling into question the capacity of human understanding about God.

  3. Randy Hardman told me about this post. From what I see, the problem is it buys into a presuppositional approach as if the other arguments just don’t work. The idea seems to be that unless we have absolutely certainty, we just don’t know.

    The problem is first, that this is not the way anyone lives in any other area of life. None of us make choices on only 100% absolute certainty be it marriage, jobs, college, having children, etc.

    Second, this is rooted in a coherence approach of truth more than anything else. Even if the Christian story is entirely coherent, it does not follow that it is true. Coherence is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition.

    Third, it claims to be biblical, but this is rooted in the Cartesian idea of absolute certainty again. It means that if there is any possible doubt, then it is a probable doubt. Is it possible we’re all in the Matrix? Possible, but I see no means to see it as probable. It is hypothetically possible we’re all being deluded by a demon. I just see no reason to think that. It’s possible during the night that an alien captured my wife while I was asleep and sent a replacement down here that looks and sounds like her with her thoughts and memories and is secretly planning my demise. I just don’t treat that as probable.

    Fourth, the constant cry of this approach is the impossibility of the contrary. This is highly fallacious as one must disprove every contrary. This is not the same with contradictory ideas. If you prove someone is not innocent, they are guilty. If you prove they are innocent, they are not guilty. If you prove that it is not raining, then you know it is raining. If you disprove atheism, you know some form of theism is true. However, if you prove one option among many is true, then you ipso facto prove any disagreeing ideas false.

    Finally, this kind of approach spends more time defending itself than it does the gospel. It goes after other apologetic approaches more than it goes after unbelievers. I’ve unfortunately seen that lead to great doubt with presuppers as they are unprepared to handle any doubt to their worldview without begging the question.

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters

    • 1. “It buys into a presuppositional approach, as if the other arguments just don’t work.”

      First, I do not find that Spainhour’s article “buys into a presuppositional approach” so much as it represents a fideistic approach (cf. Søren Kierkegaard). As Richard Amesbury notes in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, fideism appears to hold that “reason is unnecessary and inappropriate for the exercise and justification of religious belief” and is thus to be understood “as denoting a particular philosophical account of faith’s appropriate jurisdiction vis-a-vis that of reason,” a position which stands “in contrast to the more rationalistic tradition of natural theology, with its arguments for the existence of God.” [1] While fideism and presuppositionalism share certain values and commitments in common, they are not similar enough to warrant conflating them—presuppositionalism does not denigrate reason, for example—just as fideism also shares certain features in common with skepticism but cannot be conflated with it. Consider the following statement from Spainhour which seems to represent a fideistic approach: “[The proclamation of the church] should always maintain a firm grasp on foolishness. It must not first be expected, explained, or argued, but only beheld, treasured, and humbly proclaimed as something too high for us, something that, if true, has a claim on all those who speak of it and those who hear it.” [2]

      Second, presuppositionalism is never concerned with what does or does not work; it does not approach things with pragmatic concerns.

      2. “This is rooted in a coherence approach of truth more than anything else.”

      I am not sure whether you are speaking of Spainhour’s approach or that of presuppositionalism, but neither at any rate seems rooted in a form of coherentism. Where do you see this? Spainhour seems to think that the Christian story comes to us as theopneustos revelation and thus already true, which you and I would certainly agree with—right?

      3. “It claims to be biblical, but this is rooted in the Cartesian idea of absolute certainty again.”

      Once more I am unsure whether you are speaking of Spainhour’s approach or that of presuppositionalism, but neither seem rooted in a Cartesian idea of absolute certainty. I will let Spainhour speak for himself and his fideism, but with respect to presuppositionalism Cartesian notions are utterly defied and repudiated insofar as basic certainty is centered on God, not man, whereby we argue from certainty of God to certainty of the self (in defiance and repudiation of the Cartesian approach of reasoning from certainty of the self to certainty of God). [3] As such it repudiates any notions of (or arguments for) God’s existence being the more probable state of affairs—such as what William Lane Craig and his ilk argue—for that which is only probably true is thereby possibly false. And the triune God of Scripture being possibly false is either an incoherent self-contradiction or a question-begging fallacy, and thus either unsound or invalid.

      The truth of God and his word is a presupposition we reason from, not a conclusion we reason to. God is a necessary a priori presupposition in all human reasoning, not a contingent a posteriori conclusion by human reasoning. “The apologist can argue transcendentally that human logic and science have no adequate foundation apart from the Word of the true and living God,” writes pastor Grover Gunn, but what he cannot do is “make human logic and science his self-authenticating authorities and then use these to prove God. Logic and science derive their authenticity and authority from God, not vice versa.” [4]

      4. “The constant cry of this approach is the impossibility of the contrary. This is highly fallacious as one must disprove every contrary.”

      This is actually false; it implies a multiplicity of contraries but there is in fact only one contrary. Given A, all else is ~A. It is true that there exists a vast host of alternatives—B, C, D, E and so on—but at the end of the day they are all singularly ~A. Greg Bahnsen consistently pointed out that this criticism misses the thrust of the presuppositional approach, which argues for the impossibility of the contrary and not the impossibility of an infinite number of possible worldviews. The presuppositional approach does not seek to “establish the necessity of Christianity by inductively refuting each and every possible non-Christian worldview,” but rather it contends very simply that any view which denies biblical Christianity—the contrary—is shown to be impossible, such that if the negation of Christianity is false then Christianity is proved true. [5]

      This criticism seems to think the argument is (1) Either A or B. (2) ~B. (3) Therefore A. Consequently it must therefore go through C and D and E and F and so on through an array of possible contraries, forever seeking to avoid the false dilemma fallacy (for there are more possibilities than just A and B). But that is not the argument, which is actually (1) Either A or ~A. (2) Not ~A. (3) Therefore A (and thus no false dilemma because A and ~A exhaust all possibilites; see the law of excluded middle).

      5. “This kind of approach spends more time defending itself than it does the gospel.”

      One the one hand it must defend itself, for as you helpfully demonstrate here it is subject to objections and criticisms. On the other hand, I would contest your claim that this approach spends “more” time defending itself than defending the gospel; the theological and evangelical pursuits of such men as Kuyper and Van Til and Bahnsen and Frame and White and so on defy such a claim, men whose ministerial work have spent vastly more time defending the triune God of Scripture and the gospel of Christ than the approach they argue from.

      In Christ our peace,

      David Smart

      ————————————————–
      [1] Richard Amesbury, “Fideism,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [web] (May 6, 2005; revised September 26, 2012), http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/fideism (accessed March 2, 2013).

      [2] Spainhour, “Apologetics is parasitic to Christian proclamation,” The Bara Initiative [blog], posted March 1, 2013 (accessed March 2, 2013), par. 7. See also the following statements: “Christians and nonchristians alike have sought to discover or verify the truth of the Christian faith by way of interrogation at least since Pilate’s question” (par. 2); “The problem is not the questions or the answers, per se; the problem is that the Church’s understanding of proclamation often finds its grounding in the perceived answers” (par. 3); “Christian theology is always tempted to shove aside the Christian kerygma” (par. 3); “My concern is . . . with the fact that apologetics . . . is becoming the normative form of our talk about God” (par. 4); “the entire flock frantically attempting or pathetically pretending to understand the language by memorizing a few truncated syllogisms immune to anything but scrutiny” (par. 5); “The proclamation of the Church moves out of the category of witness and into the category of argument. We need not rely on the Spirit to convict as long as we have the ability to persuade” (par. 7); “apologetics can only speak of the historic facts of the faith, not the universal facts” (par. 8); “Christians have not only been asked to affirm an apparent contradiction, but we have been asked to base the universe on that contradiction . . . [W]e cannot run to the academy for proofs of God’s beauty, because . . . [it] is the last thing which the thinking intellect dares to approach” (par. 9); “We must point away from ourselves into the infinite and declare a deep mystery” (par. 10).

      [3] Joe Boot, “Broader cultural and philosophical challenges,” Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend, ed. Ravi Zacharias (Thomas Nelson, 2007), 156.

      [4] Grover Gunn, “A short explanation and defense of presuppositional apologetics” (Southern Presbyterian Press), http://web.archive.org/web/20111222171850/http://www.grovergunn.net/andrew/apolo00.htm (accessed March 2, 2013).

      [5] Michael R. Butler, “The transcendental argument for God’s existence,” http://aristophrenium.com/butler_tag.html (accessed March 2, 2013).

      • David: First, I do not find that Spainhour’s article “buys into a presuppositional approach” so much as it represents a fideistic approach (cf. Søren Kierkegaard). As Richard Amesbury notes in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, fideism appears to hold that “reason is unnecessary and inappropriate for the exercise and justification of religious belief” and is thus to be understood “as denoting a particular philosophical account of faith’s appropriate jurisdiction vis-a-vis that of reason,” a position which stands “in contrast to the more rationalistic tradition of natural theology, with its arguments for the existence of God.” [1] While fideism and presuppositionalism share certain values and commitments in common, they are not similar enough to warrant conflating them—presuppositionalism does not denigrate reason, for example—just as fideism also shares certain features in common with skepticism but cannot be conflated with it. Consider the following statement from Spainhour which seems to represent a fideistic approach: “[The proclamation of the church] should always maintain a firm grasp on foolishness. It must not first be expected, explained, or argued, but only beheld, treasured, and humbly proclaimed as something too high for us, something that, if true, has a claim on all those who speak of it and those who hear it.” [2]

        Second, presuppositionalism is never concerned with what does or does not work; it does not approach things with pragmatic concerns.

        Reply: It could be his approach is fideistic instead of presuppositionalistic. I honestly saw the latter, but perhaps he can clarify for us exactly. If fideistic, it is all the worse. At any rate, I definitely see this approach that he is using right now as a train wreck regardless.

        David: I am not sure whether you are speaking of Spainhour’s approach or that of presuppositionalism, but neither at any rate seems rooted in a form of coherentism. Where do you see this? Spainhour seems to think that the Christian story comes to us as theopneustos revelation and thus already true, which you and I would certainly agree with—right?

        Reply: I would agree, but I see it more in the latter of the cases you described having read through Bahnsen’s massive tome on Van Til’s approach. The reliance is on an “impossibility of the contrary” that by its nature is question begging. The only idea is that the Christian experience is the only one that makes sense and who cares if it’s question-begging? Even Sye TenBruggencate on Unbelievable? when told he was question-begging said “What’s wrong with that?”

        David: Once more I am unsure whether you are speaking of Spainhour’s approach or that of presuppositionalism, but neither seem rooted in a Cartesian idea of absolute certainty. I will let Spainhour speak for himself and his fideism, but with respect to presuppositionalism Cartesian notions are utterly defied and repudiated insofar as basic certainty is centered on God, not man, whereby we argue from certainty of God to certainty of the self (in defiance and repudiation of the Cartesian approach of reasoning from certainty of the self to certainty of God). [3] As such it repudiates any notions of (or arguments for) God’s existence being the more probable state of affairs—such as what William Lane Craig and his ilk argue—for that which is only probably true is thereby possibly false. And the triune God of Scripture being possibly false is either an incoherent self-contradiction or a question-begging fallacy, and thus either unsound or invalid.

        Reply: Actually, I don’t like Craig’s arguments because they’re inductive. With a sound metaphysic, one can get deductive arguments. The idea of absolute certainty can be problematic as I think it gets us closer to Evangelical Jenga. I think someone can be certain by reason alone that God exists, but not by reason alone that the Trinity is true. Also, I have no problem with arguments of probability. We all live by what is probable every day.

        David: The truth of God and his word is a presupposition we reason from, not a conclusion we reason to. God is a necessary a priori presupposition in all human reasoning, not a contingent a posteriori conclusion by human reasoning. “The apologist can argue transcendentally that human logic and science have no adequate foundation apart from the Word of the true and living God,” writes pastor Grover Gunn, but what he cannot do is “make human logic and science his self-authenticating authorities and then use these to prove God. Logic and science derive their authenticity and authority from God, not vice versa.” [4]

        Reply: And I just see all of this as question-begging. Which God? Who is He? How do I know that He is this way? I find it is better to start where everyone starts with reason and go from there. Question-begging is fallacious regardless of the conclusion.

        David: This is actually false; it implies a multiplicity of contraries but there is in fact only one contrary. Given A, all else is ~A. It is true that there exists a vast host of alternatives—B, C, D, E and so on—but at the end of the day they are all singularly ~A. Greg Bahnsen consistently pointed out that this criticism misses the thrust of the presuppositional approach, which argues for the impossibility of the contrary and not the impossibility of an infinite number of possible worldviews. The presuppositional approach does not seek to “establish the necessity of Christianity by inductively refuting each and every possible non-Christian worldview,” but rather it contends very simply that any view which denies biblical Christianity—the contrary—is shown to be impossible, such that if the negation of Christianity is false then Christianity is proved true. [5]

        Reply: BUt this is only if biblical Christianity is true, and if it is shown by the impossibility of the contrary, then one must eliminate every contrary. If the contraries are shown to be false because Christianity is true, well everyone would agree with that. If A is true, non-A is false, but one does not establish A by disproving every non-A.

        David: This criticism seems to think the argument is (1) Either A or B. (2) ~B. (3) Therefore A. Consequently it must therefore go through C and D and E and F and so on through an array of possible contraries, forever seeking to avoid the false dilemma fallacy (for there are more possibilities than just A and B). But that is not the argument, which is actually (1) Either A or ~A. (2) Not ~A. (3) Therefore A (and thus no false dilemma because A and ~A exhaust all possibilites; see the law of excluded middle).

        Reply; Agreed, but how do we establish A?

        David: One the one hand it must defend itself, for as you helpfully demonstrate here it is subject to objections and criticisms. On the other hand, I would contest your claim that this approach spends “more” time defending itself than defending the gospel; the theological and evangelical pursuits of such men as Kuyper and Van Til and Bahnsen and Frame and White and so on defy such a claim, men whose ministerial work have spent vastly more time defending the triune God of Scripture and the gospel of Christ than the approach they argue from.

        Reply: I do not deny that they do apologetics work, but I find a large amount of time is spent defending the methodology and listening to someone like James White debate is frankly embarrassing. He’s a leading example of the kind of fundamentalism I think is damaging the church today, such as his idea that he can’t make heads or tails of suggesting that someone become a Christian who does not believe in inerrancy.

        Personally, whenever he’s on Unbelievable?, I put a clothespin on my nose and listen.

        • The reliance is on an “impossibility of the contrary” that by its nature is question-begging.

          I have to wonder what you mean here by question-begging. “I just see all of this as question-begging,” you said, followed by a series of questions: “Which God? Who is he? How do I know that he is this way?” It would seem that by question-begging you mean to say that it raises questions—like the ones you listed. If that is what you mean, then I would have to agree with Sye TenBruggencate: What’s wrong with that? Nothing. It should be good that it raises more questions, which are opportunities to delve into the gospel. “Which God? Well, I’m glad you asked. Let’s talk about that.”

          But if you mean the logically fallacious sense of assuming the very thing to be proved, then I would have to point out for those who are reading that you are mistaken. The presuppositional approach does not involve assuming the very thing to be proved. What it assumes is the truth of God and his word, whereas the thing to be proved is the impossibility of the contrary. The argument is not:

          (1) Either A or ~A. (2) A. (3) Therefore, A.

          That sort of argument indeed assumes the very thing to be proved; namely, the conclusion is found in one of the premises. But that is not the argument. Rather, we argue this way:

          (1) Either A or ~A. (2) Not ~A. (3) Therefore A.

          And the second premise is established by demonstrating the impossibility of the contrary (i.e., showing that the contrary, ~A, is impossible). Given the law of excluded middle, ~A being impossible means A must obtain. The first premise, “Either A or ~A,” exhausts all possibilities.

          I find it is better to start where everyone starts—with reason—and go from there.

          Nobody starts with reason, Nick, because reason is not self-authenticating. For one thing, reason is unintelligible apart from fundamental presuppositions (such as the existence and nature of God, of man, of truth and so forth). Whatever those presuppositions turn out to be, that is what people are starting with; and once in place, then they engage in reason.

          By starting with reason without addressing the presuppositions that it stands on, you immediately concede the debate to the non-Christian before anything is even argued; you have already agreed with him that man can reason autonomously, which means God is neither sovereign nor necessary! In other words, if God is essentially sovereign and necessary, then man cannot reason autonomously; our autonomy and God’s sovereignty are mutually exclusive, inasmuch as an immovable object and an irresistible force are.

          “Human reason must itself be taken in the sense in which Scripture takes it,” Cornelius Van Til said, “namely, as created by God and therefore as properly subject to the authority of God.” [1]

          I have no problem with arguments of probability.

          You should, because that which is only probably true is thereby possibly false. Consider the following quote from, once again, pastor Grover Gunn:

          “One should not set aside the authoritative claims of God, Christ and Scripture in a quest for common ground with the skeptic. Nor should one grant the hypothetical possibility of a world independent of God that can successfully function and be successfully understood in terms of the axioms of logic and science. If the Christian apologist begins his argumentation with the assumption that man can successfully use logic and science to analyze and judge reality irrespective of the truth of Christianity, then the apologist has from the beginning abandoned the Christ ‘in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 2:3) and who gives epistemological ‘light to every man who comes into the world’ (John 1:9). To say that logic and science are God-neutral common ground is to deny the existence of the sovereign God of Scripture for whom and through whom and to whom are all things (Romans 11:36). To say that the impersonal axioms of logic and science are the most basic principles of reality is to deny the Christ who is before all things, and in whom all things consist (Colossians 1:17). The Christ of Scripture is the Christ apart from whom man can do nothing (John 15:5). To seek to build one’s philosophical and scientific house apart from the God of Scripture is to labor in vain (Psalm 127:1). In its quest for common ground with the skeptic, evidentialism makes concessions that compromise the very essence of biblical Christianity. Not only does evidentialism concede too much, it seeks to prove too little. The most evidentialism claims to be able to do is to prove the probable truth of Christianity. But if Christianity is only probably true, then Christianity is also possibly false.” [2]

          If it is shown by the impossibility of the contrary, then one must eliminate every contrary.

          Every contrary? How many are there? The contrary of A is ~A, Nick—and that’s it. There is only one contrary. Whatever B, C, D, E and so forth you want to stick in there is irrelevant; everything that is not A is thus ~A. Those two options (A or ~A) exhaust all possibilities; there is no third alternative (q.v. law of excluded middle). If ~A is false, then A necessarily obtains.

          “But if the contrary is shown to be false, leaving Christianity alone as true,” you might say, “well then everyone would agree with that.” Only if they are regenerated and enlightened by the Spirit, without which and apart from whom they will cling to their idolatrous delusions. Their intellectual objections are just disingenuous facades behind which they hide their obdurate rebellion, a fact made plainly evident by their clutching to their world view even after they have been stripped of every Christ-denying pretension.

          One does not establish A by disproving every ~A. So how do we establish A?

          One establishes A by disproving ~A itself (regardless of what populates it). The law of excluded middle, Nick; just as it is impossible for A and ~A to both be true, so too it is impossible for them to both be false. Whichever one is false, the other has to be true.

          ————————————————–
          [1] As quoted in Gary DeMar, ed., Pushing the Antithesis: The Apologetic Methodology of Greg L. Bahnsen (American Vision, 2008), 37.

          [2] Grover Gunn, “A short explanation and defense of presuppositional apologetics” (Southern Presbyterian Press), http://web.archive.org/web/20111222171850/http://www.grovergunn.net/andrew/apolo00.htm (accessed March 2, 2013).

          • David. I’ll answer here, but I think this might be best done at the CAA so we can have our fellow apologists critique. I leave that to you.

            David: I have to wonder what you mean here by question-begging. “I just see all of this as question-begging,” you said, followed by a series of questions: “Which God? Who is he? How do I know that he is this way?” It would seem that by question-begging you mean to say that it raises questions—like the ones you listed. If that is what you mean, then I would have to agree with Sye TenBruggencate: What’s wrong with that? Nothing. It should be good that it raises more questions, which are opportunities to delve into the gospel. “Which God? Well, I’m glad you asked. Let’s talk about that.”

            Reply: No. Begging questions means assuming that which is to be proven. THat is the only sense I meant. To say that it raises questions is a wrong usage of “begging the question”

            David: But if you mean the logically fallacious sense of assuming the very thing to be proved, then I would have to point out for those who are reading that you are mistaken. The presuppositional approach does not involve assuming the very thing to be proved. What it assumes is the truth of God and his word, whereas the thing to be proved is the impossibility of the contrary.

            Reply: If we are trying to establish that Christianity is true then yes, there is a problem with assuming that it is true. One could do the same with the Koran or just the Torah.

            David: The argument is not:

            (1) Either A or ~A. (2) A. (3) Therefore, A.

            That sort of argument indeed assumes the very thing to be proved; namely, the conclusion is found in one of the premises. But that is not the argument. Rather, we argue this way:

            (1) Either A or ~A. (2) Not ~A. (3) Therefore A.

            And the second premise is established by demonstrating the impossibility of the contrary (i.e., showing that the contrary, ~A, is impossible). Given the law of excluded middle, ~A being impossible means A must obtain. The first premise, “Either A or ~A,” exhausts all possibilities.

            Reply: The problem is that there are a potentially infinite number of non-As out there. Hinduism is non-A. So is Buddhism, Mormonism, atheism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, Eckankar, Judaism, agnosticism, etc. Now if you go with my approach and prove A, then anything that contradicts it at one point is false. Why not just demonstrate one instead of showing every other system has to be false? Furthemore, you could show other systems are false, but that would not establish Christianity is true. It would more likely be seen as just one of those false systems? If I examine 999 worldviews and none of them explain reality, I have precedent for skepticism at number 1,000.

            David: Nobody starts with reason, Nick, because reason is not self-authenticating. For one thing, reason is unintelligible apart from fundamental presuppositions (such as the existence and nature of God, of man, of truth and so forth). Whatever those presuppositions turn out to be, that is what people are starting with; and once in place, then they engage in reason.

            Reply: But did you come to that conclusion reasonably or non-reasonably? You had to use reason to reach the point that says “Reason needs a foundation.” I’m fine with that, but you still reached that point via reason. If you’re going to have a worldview and say “At the start, I will not think reason is trustworthy”, well you’ve already destroyed any position you could take. At this point, why not just go out for a pizza?

            David: By starting with reason without addressing the presuppositions that it stands on, you immediately concede the debate to the non-Christian before anything is even argued; you have already agreed with him that man can reason autonomously, which means God is neither sovereign nor necessary!

            Reply: No. I don’t. If reason can reach some truth of God, then I have no problem. I also don’t think it hurts the sovereignty of God if some people are capable of thinking. Furthermore, to see what reason stands on, I need to use reason. It’s the starting place to begin any dialogue.

            David: In other words, if God is essentially sovereign and necessary, then man cannot reason autonomously; our autonomy and God’s sovereignty are mutually exclusive, inasmuch as an immovable object and an irresistible force are.

            Reply: I see no reason to think that God being sovereign means that man must be incapable of reason. No one can reason apart from God of course, just as no one can exist, but that does not mean that God controls their reason any more than He does their existence.

            David: “Human reason must itself be taken in the sense in which Scripture takes it,” Cornelius Van Til said, “namely, as created by God and therefore as properly subject to the authority of God.” [1]

            Reply: What is this about “human reason”? There is reasoning. This kind of thinking will end in agnosticism as God is totally different from us so that there is no commonality whatsoever. I know 2 + 2 = 4. I happen to think God does too.

            David:You should, because that which is only probably true is thereby possibly false. Consider the following quote from, once again, pastor Grover Gunn:

            “One should not set aside the authoritative claims of God, Christ and Scripture in a quest for common ground with the skeptic. Nor should one grant the hypothetical possibility of a world independent of God that can successfully function and be successfully understood in terms of the axioms of logic and science. If the Christian apologist begins his argumentation with the assumption that man can successfully use logic and science to analyze and judge reality irrespective of the truth of Christianity, then the apologist has from the beginning abandoned the Christ ‘in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 2:3) and who gives epistemological ‘light to every man who comes into the world’ (John 1:9). To say that logic and science are God-neutral common ground is to deny the existence of the sovereign God of Scripture for whom and through whom and to whom are all things (Romans 11:36). To say that the impersonal axioms of logic and science are the most basic principles of reality is to deny the Christ who is before all things, and in whom all things consist (Colossians 1:17). The Christ of Scripture is the Christ apart from whom man can do nothing (John 15:5). To seek to build one’s philosophical and scientific house apart from the God of Scripture is to labor in vain (Psalm 127:1). In its quest for common ground with the skeptic, evidentialism makes concessions that compromise the very essence of biblical Christianity. Not only does evidentialism concede too much, it seeks to prove too little. The most evidentialism claims to be able to do is to prove the probable truth of Christianity. But if Christianity is only probably true, then Christianity is also possibly false.” [2]

            Reply: Yet more reasons why I can’t take this approach seriously at all. Why assume that because I think reason and science can tell us truth that means they are independent? Everything depends on God for its being. I agree the world does not make sense without God, but that is something I reason to. I don’t assume it. Are you saying that you don’t think you could start with reason and demonstrate the truths of Christianity? Sounds like a weak system. When I see the apostles going out, they are telling people to examine eyewitness testimony and believe based on miracles. There is no presuppositional approach. Even John Frame points to the historical case for the resurrection in “Five Views on Apologetics.”

            David: Every contrary? How many are there? The contrary of A is ~A, Nick—and that’s it.

            Reply: No. You’re confusing a contrary with a contradictory. In a murder case, if you have two possible candidates who did the crime and one is disproven, then you have a strong case for the other. What happens if you have 100 suspects? In fact, at the start, the number is potentially infinite. It could be anyone. Then you have to break it down by various criteria. Logic knows a difference between contrary and contradictory.

            David: There is only one contrary. Whatever B, C, D, E and so forth you want to stick in there is irrelevant; everything that is not A is thus ~A. Those two options (A or ~A) exhaust all possibilities; there is no third alternative (q.v. law of excluded middle). If ~A is false, then A necessarily obtains.

            Reply: Submit Christianity for A. Islam is non-Christian. If I prove Islam is false, does that demonstrate Hinduism is false? If I demonstrate both of those are false, does that demonstrate Mormonism is false? Now go to the other way. If I show Christianity is true, does that show Islam is false? Yep. As well as all other non-Christian systems.

            David: “But if the contrary is shown to be false, leaving Christianity alone as true,” you might say, “well then everyone would agree with that.” Only if they are regenerated and enlightened by the Spirit, without which and apart from whom they will cling to their idolatrous delusions. Their intellectual objections are just disingenuous facades behind which they hide their obdurate rebellion, a fact made plainly evident by their clutching to their world view even after they have been stripped of every Christ-denying pretension.

            Reply: Yes. I realize that. I’m speaking it as solely logical. I know that non-Christians do this. I’ve seen it enough times. Still, I don’t accept Calvinism so why should I accept a system rooted in Calvinism?

            David: One establishes A by disproving ~A itself (regardless of what populates it). The law of excluded middle, Nick; just as it is impossible for A and ~A to both be true, so too it is impossible for them to both be false. Whichever one is false, the other has to be true.

            Reply: This still confuses contraries and contradictories. I establish A by making a case for A. It works quite well.

  4. Hi Nick,

    To your first three points, it’s not that I’m unsatisfied with Christian apologetics because is cannot prove God. I’m unsatisfied with it because it should not be the normative form of Christian proclamation, and my fear is that it is becoming the normative form of Christian proclamation. I work with youth and I’m constantly confronted with them wanting me to equip them with better arguments to help them convert their friends. I simply don’t think it is going to help to convert their friends. I don’t think the Bible suggests arguments will, nor does my own experience and observations suggest that they will. I think our greatness witness to our proclamation is a lived witness. Yes, we can explain why we think our faith is reasonable, provided we concede that it is even more a mystery and that our talk about it depends on revelation.

    We both agree about your fourth point, except you seem to assume (I stand to be corrected here): (1) that you can disprove atheism; (2) that you should attempt to disprove atheism in order to witness to atheists; and (3) that convincing someone to believe in some form of theism is inherently a good thing. I disagree with those three assumptions.

    To your last rather ironic point, you are absolutely right, I did not try to defend the Gospel! That you noticed that assures me both that you read my article, which is an article about the fallacy of assuming all Christians are called to defend the Gospel. I think some are and, like I said, I have no problem with apologetics as a specialized field. My problem is that it is becoming a nonspecialized field, that it is becoming normative talk about God. In my observation, the Church is becoming more interested in arguments of proofs of God’s existence and Jesus’ resurrection than it is about biblical and systematic theology, which is faith seeking understanding, not understanding seeking faith. And the fact that you said that the article “goes after other apologetic approaches more than it goes after unbelievers” really ties my hands to say much of anything? Must every word I write be directed to unbelievers? May I not approach my Christian brothers and sisters and offer a criticism based on my understanding? May I not write about my enjoyment of nature and coffee roasting and beer and hookahs? That just seems like an odd statement. Of course I was defending my position, but I was defending a position on the normative shape of Christian proclamation based on Scripture. This is an in-house discussion to be had among believers. And it must be had!

    I would love to continue the discussion, if you are willing, along those lines. What is the biblical precedent for Christian apologetics (as it is currently represented in its popular form) as the normative mode of Christian proclamation?

    Regards,
    Jeremy

    • Jeremy: To your first three points, it’s not that I’m unsatisfied with Christian apologetics because is cannot prove God. I’m unsatisfied with it because it should not be the normative form of Christian proclamation, and my fear is that it is becoming the normative form of Christian proclamation.

      Reply: Unfortunately, there’s no basis for this. Proclaiming the gospel is not just saying “Forgiveness is here!” or “You can have eternal life!” It’s saying “Jesus is king!” That is presenting a challenge to whatever Caesar is out there and you need to be ready to say why Caesar is not king and Jesus is. If you just say it, it’s simply fideism.

      Jeremy: I work with youth and I’m constantly confronted with them wanting me to equip them with better arguments to help them convert their friends. I simply don’t think it is going to help to convert their friends.

      Reply: Let’s suppose it doesn’t. So what? You know what it will do. It will encourage them to think more about the faith, it will help them with their own doubt, and they will still have given a witness even if it went unheeded. Personally, apologetics has deeply increased my Christian walk by giving me more knowledge of the one I serve.

      Jeremy: I don’t think the Bible suggests arguments will, nor does my own experience and observations suggest that they will. I think our greatness witness to our proclamation is a lived witness. Yes, we can explain why we think our faith is reasonable, provided we concede that it is even more a mystery and that our talk about it depends on revelation.

      Reply: Wow. You know what? The Mormons say the exact same thing to me! When the apostles pointed to their lives, it was not for the truth of their message but the honor of their message, something of massive importance in the ancient Mediterranean society. The mystery answer will never cut it and it is one that I would never ever give.

      Jeremy: We both agree about your fourth point, except you seem to assume (I stand to be corrected here): (1) that you can disprove atheism;

      Reply: No. You assume that I assume. I make actual arguments for my position. I use the five ways of Aquinas and the resurrection of Jesus. If one of the ways is demonstrated, God exists. If God exists, atheism is false. If Jesus is risen, I argue that means God exists and that atheism is false.

      Jeremy: (2) that you should attempt to disprove atheism in order to witness to atheists;

      Reply: Atheists would be more likely to convert if they knew atheism was false. Even if I don’t convince them, there are still watching audiences that need to see theism defended.

      Jeremy: and (3) that convincing someone to believe in some form of theism is inherently a good thing. I disagree with those three assumptions.

      Reply: No. Theism by itself is a necessary but not a sufficient condition. People need to be atheists, but they need to hold to true views.

      Jeremy: To your last rather ironic point, you are absolutely right, I did not try to defend the Gospel!

      Reply: That’s a shame. Paul did. In Philippians 1, he said he was in prison for the defense of the gospel. I think I’ll take my cues from him, thanks!

      Jeremy: That you noticed that assures me both that you read my article, which is an article about the fallacy of assuming all Christians are called to defend the Gospel.

      Reply: They are. The Bible says to contend for the faith. It doesn’t limit that to people who are “called.” Giving is not limited to those who are called. Holiness is not limited to those who are called. Prayer is not limited to those who are called. Bible study is not limited to those who are called. All are meant to evangelize and defend. Not all will to the same ability or level, but all are to do something.

      Jeremy: I think some are and, like I said, I have no problem with apologetics as a specialized field. My problem is that it is becoming a nonspecialized field, that it is becoming normative talk about God.

      Reply: If only it were. If only people were talking intelligently about God. We need to be encouraging this all the more. If we don’t talk intelligently, we will either talk stupidly or talk with just our feelings. Neither option is good.

      Jeremy: In my observation, the Church is becoming more interested in arguments of proofs of God’s existence and Jesus’ resurrection than it is about biblical and systematic theology, which is faith seeking understanding, not understanding seeking faith.

      Reply: It looks like you have an unbiblical view of what faith is. Hint: It is not belief. Also, you’re making this an either/or thing. A good systematic theology will have an apologetic to it and a good apologetic will deepen your theology.

      Jeremy: And the fact that you said that the article “goes after other apologetic approaches more than it goes after unbelievers” really ties my hands to say much of anything? Must every word I write be directed to unbelievers?

      Reply: This is amusing. You admit you can do both in this part but in your argument, it looks like you’re saying both can’t be done. Why the switch?

      Jeremy: May I not approach my Christian brothers and sisters and offer a criticism based on my understanding?

      Reply: Yes. I may do the same. Yet your writing on apologetics reminded me of what I see with this approach. it goes after other approaches more than unbelievers. I’ve seen nothing to convince me otherwise.

      Jeremy: May I not write about my enjoyment of nature and coffee roasting and beer and hookahs? That just seems like an odd statement. Of course I was defending my position, but I was defending a position on the normative shape of Christian proclamation based on Scripture. This is an in-house discussion to be had among believers. And it must be had!

      Reply: Yes, and your technique is what I have seen from this kind of approach regularly which I find ironic. The sad reality is I don’t see this approach as normative at all. I see instead pointing to evidence as abundantly the normative approach. I contend my technique is what the apostles used. Paul went in the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. He reasoned on Mars Hill. He reasoned in his epistles, especially in 1 Cor. 15:3-7.

      Jeremy: I would love to continue the discussion, if you are willing, along those lines. What is the biblical precedent for Christian apologetics (as it is currently represented in its popular form) as the normative mode of Christian proclamation?

      Regards,
      Jeremy

      Reply: Oh I would be glad to, though depending on when you answer, I won’t post tomorrow. I don’t debate on Sunday.

      • Hi Nick,

        I want to respond to two of your replies, the second of which will lead to the main portion of this response, where we will visit the texts you brought up to see what they actually tell us about what an apologia/apologemai or marturia/martyreo/kataggelo (since in certain of the passages you mentioned Paul is not giving a defense but specifically proclaiming/testifying to the risen Christ). I’m really looking forward to hearing how you deal with these texts, because what I find is something much different than anything close to contemporary apologetics.

        By the way, I heard you were “sharpening your sword” for this debate. That’s adorable :)

        Nick: Unfortunately, there’s no basis for this. Proclaiming the gospel is not just saying “Forgiveness is here!” or “You can have eternal life!” It’s saying “Jesus is king!” That is presenting a challenge to whatever Caesar is out there and you need to be ready to say why Caesar is not king and Jesus is. If you just say it, it’s simply fideism.

        Reply: Apparently you missed my paragraph on the kerygma, where I explained the basic content of Christian proclamation: “three historic facts (two past, one future) which verify one universal fact: (1) Christ was crucified; (2) God raised him from the dead; (3) Christ will return in judgment; thus, Jesus is Lord.” As something of a side not, let me just help you understand why you should need to maintain Jesus’ lordship in your proclamation, not just his kingship. The basic kerygmatic universal statement (you did not mention the historic statements) is not merely that Jesus is king (basileus), but that Jesus is Lord (kyrios). It could be said that Jesus is king (cf. Acts 17, though by opponents, not proponents in this case), but it does not say enough, and the highest Lord implies kingship anyway, since lord was a term of hierarchy in the first century (a slave called his master kyrios, but Caesar called no one curious, and Paul says that every tongue, Caesar’s included, will one day confess that Jesus Christ is kyrios!). Lord/Kyrios carried both imperial and divine connotations (as kyrios was the Greek word used to translate YHWH in the LXX, and it was the premier title for the Caesars, who were themselves human-divine figures since Augustus through the first century). As you may know, “Caesar is Lord” was an inscription on certain of the coins in the first century (hence Jesus’ words, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar and to God’s what is God’s” Mt. 22; cf. Mk. 12; Lk. 20), and it is well known that in localized areas Christians were required to offer incense and confess that Caesar is Lord/Kyrios on pain of death. So, to suggest that the basic kerygma was merely that “Jesus is King,” loses both the divine and totalizing subversive content of the early Church’s proclamation. And it simply does not attend to a plain reading of the Greek.

        Second of all, I find it ironic that the only statement of the four-part kerygma that you [mis]pointed out was one of the two that apologetics can really say nothing about. Even if you were able to prove that Jesus was crucified according to the biblical account and that God raised him from the dead, you cannot prove that he is Lord. There is no evidence for that (except the kind Jesus suggested we focus on–our “good works,” surprisingly not our “good arguments”. But it is our good works which “people will see and glorify our father who is in heaven,” Mt. 5:16) unless of course you argue that his resurrection validates his claims of lordship. But there are no direct proofs of his lordship and so cannot be the topic of contemporary models of apologetics (though, I would argue, if the models were biblical, it should indeed include claims to his lordship!). I’d be interested in you informing me of any apologist who sets out proofs that Jesus is Lord. I don’t think there any other persuasive arguments for the lordship of Christ, only the good works of love from the Christian community which show (1) that they take his lordship seriously and (2) how attractive/compelling a community based on his lordship is.

        Nick: “That’s a shame. Paul did [defend the Gospel]. In Philippians 1, he said he was in prison for the defense of the gospel. I think I’ll take my cues from him, thanks!” And, “[Christians] are [all called to defend the Gospel]. The Bible says to contend for the faith. It doesn’t limit that to people who are “called.” Giving is not limited to those who are called. Holiness is not limited to those who are called. Prayer is not limited to those who are called. Bible study is not limited to those who are called. All are meant to evangelize and defend. Not all will to the same ability or level, but all are to do something.” And “It looks like you have an unbiblical view of what faith is. Hint: It is not belief. Also, you’re making this an either/or thing. A good systematic theology will have an apologetic to it and a good apologetic will deepen your theology.” And “Yes, and your technique is what I have seen from this kind of approach regularly which I find ironic. The sad reality is I don’t see this approach as normative at all. I see instead pointing to evidence as abundantly the normative approach. I contend my technique is what the apostles used. Paul went in the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. He reasoned on Mars Hill. He reasoned in his epistles, especially in 1 Cor. 15:3-7.”

        Reply: I’m curious to know if you understand the concept of an etymological fallacy. It is the assumption that the present use of a word has/should have an inherently same or similar meaning to its historical meaning, the assumption that words define context rather than context defining words. The problem is, words do not inherently posses within them their referent (the signifier and signified are not intrinsically related). As such, we can both agree that it is necessary to give a defense/apologia, since it is absolutely biblical. But what must be argued for what a defense/apologia actually is. I mean, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses call Jesus Lord and even Son of God. But what must be argued is what those titles actually signify.

        You brought up three passages that either mention or demonstrate apologia in the New Testament: Philippian 1; 1 Cor. 15:3-7; and Mars Hill (Acts 17). And we will also need to look at Acts 25-27, for reasons detailed below.

        I will now take each passage, in turn, as we shall examine that actual shape of “apologetics” in the first century to see what precedent we have and how should understand what it means to give a defense in our context, that is, what apologetics should look like today.

        Philippians 1:7 Paul says that he holds the Philippian congregation are partakers with him of grace, “ἔν τε τοῖς δεσμοῖς μου καὶ ἐν τῇ ἀπολογίᾳ καὶ βεβαιώσει τοῦ εὐαγγελίου” (in both my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel). And in 1:16 that he was “εἰς ἀπολογίαν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου κεῖμαι” (for the defense of the Gospel I was placed/appointed).[1] Unfortunately, these passages do not indicate the content of that apologia. However, apologia was typically used (though not exclusively) in the context of a court defense,[2] and it is clear that Paul’s use here is implies the imperial context of his apologia, which is what landed him in prison. Fortunately, we do have an account of Paul giving an apologia in some court settings, so it will behoove us to examine those passages.

        Acts 22: Paul convinces the Roman Tribune to let him give them an apologia. The content of that apologia is nothing more than his personal testimony—read it for yourself. And it was a testimony that got him in even more trouble. If that were meant by the word “apologetics” today, I would never have written my article in the first place. But, to be fair, we have another imperial example where Paul uses the word.

        Acts 24-25: Paul is now before Felix, the Roman procurator, and getting the nod Paul says that he will now “cheerfully make [his] apologia” (24:10). He proceeds to give personal testimony combined together with motive for why he did what he did, in a quite obviously self-defense (not a Gospel defense) in this case, as he says, “…they did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd…Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me” (24:12-13). He then goes on to proclaim indeed proclaim the resurrection in his apologia(!), so it should be instructive for apologists to heed his argument: “I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the prophets,”—Paul here sounding a bit like a presuppositionalist—“having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:14-15). At this point, there is no explanatory power for the resurrection, no rational argument trying to prove the fact of the resurrection, just a testimony about his belief in it, and a suggestion that it is in accordance with the Law and the Prophets. Then, in Acts 25:8 (now before Festus), Paul argues in defense (here the verbal form is used: apologeomai) and again in 25:16, but in both cases it is a self-defense for the charges brought against him, not a defense of the Gospel.

        Acts 26: In Acts 26, before King Agrippa, Paul again makes his defense (apologeomai), which begins with a self-defense of character and then by suggesting continuity between the OT Scriptures and the resurrection (Acts 26:4-8), and then continues with yet another personal testimony/witness of his encounter with Jesus. He then says to Agrippa that he, in obedience to his heavenly vision, “proclaimed(!)” (apangello) “first those in Damascus…then in Jerusalem…and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles” (a category which Agrippa would be included!) “that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance” (26:19-20). The “therefore” of his proclaiming their need to repent obviously connects the content of the proclamation to repent to the content of his testimony. Besides, he goes on into the kerygma directly thereafter, “To this day I have had the help that comes from God(!), and so I stand here testifying/witnessing (μαρτυρόμενος—the verbal form of witness, cf. 1:8, “…you will be my witness/ μάρτυρες) both to small and great” (yes, you, Agrippa!), “saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:21-23). Even if this still part of Paul’s defense, there are two issues: (1) Paul identifies what he was doing with the keryegmatic content as witnessing (μαρτυρόμενος –participle from marturomai); (2) even if you include this as his apologetics (and indeed you should), it bears no semblance to the shape of contemporary apologetics. Paul doesn’t begin with metaphysics or historical proofs to prove anything. The closest he gets to that a deductive apologetic is Jewish specific—he begins with the Law and the Prophets and suggests that Jesus was indeed the one prophesied/prefigured (cf. Acts 17:2; 18:4, in the synagogue, where the premise is the agreed upon Old Testament Scriptures).

        Thus far, apologia has either taken the shape of (1) a self-defense of the apostle’s right to proclaim the Gospel and against false accusations; (2) personal testimony of the risen Christ who had encountered him on the Damascus road, and (3) a theological argument that Christ is indeed the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures. If this is what apologetics looks like for you, more power to you! Preach on!

        1 Cor. 15:3-7: The word apologia is not used in this text, so I’m not sure why you brought it up. In fact, the word Paul used to describe the content of his proclamation was gospel (εὐαγγέλιον), the gospel he had proclaimed (εὐηγγελισάμην), the gospel which they had already received (1 Cor. 15:1), which came in the form of his witness/testimony (2:1— καταγγέλλων), which they had believed not because of “persuasive words of wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that [their] faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (2:1-5). Indeed, he had emphasized something so shameful and offensive—Jesus Christ and him crucified (2:2)—that the fact of their believing it was apparently proof of the Spirit’s power to convict them to believe it (cf. John 16:7ff, where the Holy Spirit, called in this passage “the Spirit of truth,” would, when he was sent, “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…” Indeed, it would be the Spirit of truth [who would] guide you into all truth…[who would] glorify me (on the Spirit of truth glorifying Christ, cf. Keener: “This passage indicates that as Jesus passed on the Father’s message, so the Spirit would continue to mediate Jesus’ message;”[3] and again Ridderbos: “The issue here is the continuity of the Spirit’s word in relation to that of Jesus as revelation that goes back toe the Father…The Spirit will not bring new illumination, or disclose new mysteries; on the contrary, in the proclamation effected by him, the word that Jesus spoke continues to be efficacious.”[4] ). So 1 Corinthians 15 is inappropriate when seeking to discover the biblical content of apologia, but it does give us quite concisely, in Paul’s understanding, a the content of Gospel proclamation (see text in footnote below for review, if needed).[5] This I particularly germane to our discussion, however, because he does bring up the importance of witnesses to the resurrection, first Cephas and the twelve, then more than five hundred, most still living, then to James and all the apostles, then to him.

        Of course, there is one glaring problem with the way this passage has been used by apologists: it was written to people who already believed in Jesus’ resurrection. It is widely accepted that 1 Cor. 15:1-11 is the narratio of Paul’s argument, which consists of a pre-Pauline tradition that “provides the statement of the case, and is the common ground between Paul and the Corinthians. This accords, in rhetorical terms, with Cicero’s definition of ‘the statement’ as an explanation of facts ‘as…a base and foundation for the establishment of belief.’”[6] In other words, the content of 15:1-11 was not a matter of contention. The reason Paul appeals to this tradition is because he knows that is his common ground with those to whom his following argument will be directed. This allows him to work from an agreed upon premise, namely, that Christ has been raised from the dead. What follows will constitute what Paul deduces from this premise. The fact that the deniers of the resurrection of the dead still believed that Christ had been raised is supported by the protasis of 15:12: “if it is proclaimed that Christ has been raised from the dead.” Paul assumes general acceptance of this proclamation, otherwise he could not possibly use it as the basis for his appeal. As such, to paraphrase the protasis of 15:12, Paul is essentially saying, “Since we all agree that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” The Corinthian problem, which again is widely accepted, was not their belief about Christ’s resurrection but their disbelief about the future resurrection of the Church, the body of Christ. They believed, in some sense, that Christ’s resurrection was unique, rather than part the general resurrection of the dead. We can therefore anticipate, in light the entire discussion above, that Paul will argue for the logical necessity of the resurrection of the dead, insofar as “the dead,” in this case, are the body of Christ. This ties in all Paul’s language in 1 Corinthians of the Church as the body of Christ in whom the Holy Spirit dwells (cf. 1 Cor. 10:16; 12:27), which makes clear why Paul is arguing the way he is in the following material, where his point will be to argue for Christ’s unique resurrection as actually being the firstfruits of the general resurrection: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” His point is to show Christ’s representative status over his Body, which is why of course he follows by speaking of him as the “last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:22, 45), so that his resurrection guarantees theirs. He will then go to great lengths to describe the glorified body in 1 Cor. 15:35ff, indicating the resurrected body will be an imperishable body. All of this addresses what appears to be an overrealized eschatology, where the Corinthians assumed that the resurrection had already begun (and hence why they were so ecstatic with their use of the so called “spiritual gifts”) or, as some have suggested, that they simply did not believe in a bodily resurrection of believers, as they had in Christ.

        Thus Paul uses the witnesses of the bodily resurrected Christ in the narratio not as a proof of his resurrection, which they already believed because of the demonstration of the Spirit’s power (cf. 1 Cor. 2:4), but as a premise from which to deduce their future resurrection. This was an in-house theological argument whose premise, not conclusion, is the kerygma.

        Acts 17—Mars Hill: In response to this article I’ve heard two extremes of the Mars Hill example: (1) a perhaps fair statement, it represents a definite point of contact; or (2) a perhaps naïve statement, Paul reasons from their agreed upon premise to arrive at his kerygmatic conclusion. I will respond to both assumptions in turn. I will speak of “points of contact” in general and then challenge the assumption that we can describe Acts 17 as an example of Paul reasoning from an agreed upon premise to his kerygmatic conclusion.

        (1) Point of contact—of course. Language is itself a point of contact. God’s self-revelation uses preexistent language for description. God’s self-revelation in the world is not ex nihilo–indeed, it is ex deo–but the way we talk about it is ex materia…kind of. We use preexistent (though finite) words on the assumption that God’s preexistent (and infinite) Word will speak through them. Our proclamation is based on the givenness of our command to proclaim, but it is inefficacious unless Himself speaks. We are only prescribed to proclaim/announce the Gospel and leave it up to him to effect salvation through it. And in that proclamation, God does whatever God wants to do. Neither our proclamation nor our apologetics can build so adequate an analogy using the ‘materia’ of language that belief in that analogy is counted as faith. Faith is a person’s response to God himself, for which our language is merely descriptive, not causative. Unless the self-determining Word reveals himself ex deo per materia our analogies become idols. Believing in God on our own terms is not faith. Faith happens when God acts to encounter a person by his Spirit, which effect faith in the One the Spirit glorifies, Jesus Christ. So Paul indeed found a point of contact, pointing out their alter of ignorance and quoting one of their hometown philosophers, Epimenides, but it was a point(s), not a premise.

        (2) Mars Hill—from premise to conclusion? I’m sorry, but if Paul were to take his argument into an apologetics conference and suggest that he were arguing from premise to conclusion, he would be laughed out of their, dripping with tomato juice. I guess my problem is that I’ve read Epimenides, Parmenides, Heraclitus and the like. I’ve read these pre-Socratic philosphers, as well as Plato, Epicurus, Aristotle, etc., as I hope readers who use this argument have. And one thing is clear: Paul’s argument (as an argument) would not have stood up to any of theirs! It simply has no explanatory force, which is why some mocked him (Acts. 17:32). Paul simply points to those points of contact and then jumps way off—into the gap!—and spells out salvation history and declares a coming judgment! And indeed, he does not pretend to be giving an apologia here. He calls it proclamation (ὃ οὖν ἀγνοοῦντες εὐσεβεῖτε, τοῦτο ἐγὼ καταγγέλλω ὑμῖν. ὁ θεὸς ὁ ποιήσας τὸν κόσμον καὶ πάντα τὰ ἐν αὐτῷ, 17:23-24). I’d be interested for anyone to explain how one could deduce that (B) “God made the world and everything in it” from the premise that (A) these men of Athens had an alter to an unknown God and were worshiping in ignorance. I would love for someone to show me how the jump from A to B is best described in terms of a necessary link, rather than an massive gap. He goes on, uses categories familiar with them, of course, but he does not try to build an irrefutable or even a sound argument. It is simply proclamation, which is intended to use their language to say that they have worshiped a God who cannot be known, but the only creator God is actually “not far from each one of us” (17:27, and then quotes Epimenides to that end!). He then proclaimed that the times of ignorance were up and God was commanding “all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (17:30-31). The effect was that some mocked because of the resurrection of the dead (for which Paul gave no proofs)—there was not attempt to argue his point, because he didn’t state it as an argument to be rebutted. He proclaimed as the truth, and an unfounded truth at that. There is no clear links from premise to conclusion. There are leaps from one point to the next. He was telling the main crux of the story, not presenting an argument. Others were curious, and wanted to hear more, but some joined him and believed. These believed and followed, indeed, in response to Paul’s proclamation (not apologia) of the Gospel, despite the fact that it was foolish. Indeed, in light of the book of Acts, the Spirit effect that response, not Paul’s persuasion.

        If you are going to use the Mars Hill account as a model for contemporary apologetics, here’s what you need to do: find one of the few things modern science/philosophy concedes ignorance about (say, e.g., a unified theory of the universe) and then say, “I see you are all very curious about the origins and ends and entirety of the universe. Therefore what you think about ignorantly, this I proclaim(!) to you: God made the universe…” But don’t stop there—Paul didn’t. Spell out salvation history in all its unapologetic particularity and with all its gaps in human reasoning, and continue right on to God raising a man from the dead who is returning for judgment. When was the last time you heard someone proclaim the coming judgment in an apologetics debate? Good on them if they did! If you use this model, the result may very well be the same: some will mock, since it’s not a good argument. Some, perhaps the less critical, will question. But some perhaps will follow and believe in a new way, which I question (just a question here) how often that happens in an argument-based presentation of the Gospel. This was a foolish argument in its own right. And yet, people believed. It leads you to think that there was not a direct correlation between Paul’s words and the people’s response, as though there were some invisible, active, variable, working in and through Paul’s faithful words to proclaim the whole Gospel, including the coming judgment.

        So, frankly, I’m still waiting for you to give me a clear biblical precedent for apologetics, as that word is colloquially understood today, as normative for Christian proclamation. When I review the passages you gave me, I am left not with a burden to learn all the arguments to engage in debate. I am left with the confidence that all I need to do is be faithful to share my personal testimony and tell the whole Gospel in its biblical context, to both skeptics and inquisitors alike, but it is up to the Spirit to convict the heart, and it is to the Spirit that the people must respond, indeed.

        Respond at your discretion.

        Regards,

        Jeremy

        1. There are a number of options for understanding eis with the accusative, e.g., purpose, result, reference, so it is unclear if Paul saying that he is in prison because of his defense or for the purpose of defending or, more generically, with reference to his defense of the Gospel (cf. Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics, 369).
        2. BDAG, 117.
        3. Keener, The Gospel of John, 1041.
        4. Ridderbos, The Gospel of John, 535-536; cf. Bultmann, 1971, 575.
        5. 1 Cor. 15:3-11: “3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”
        6. Thiselton, 1 Corinthians, 1177.

        • P.S. I would love for you to post this response on the Apologetics Alliance FB Page and let me know what kind of responses it gets, or invite them to come over here on the blog to respond. I realize it’s a lot of content, so you may need some assistance from your friends. I find it ironic that they have not accepted my request to join, if only so that I can defend myself, since there have been some pretty harsh (albeit platitudinal) comments with reference to my article. In the spirit of the apologetics enterprise, aren’t you guys supposed to welcome debates people of opposing positions? An apologetics page that doesn’t allow naysayers seems like something of an anomaly!

        • Let’s see what Jeremy has to say:

          “I want to respond to two of your replies, the second of which will lead to the main portion of this response, where we will visit the texts you brought up to see what they actually tell us about what an apologia/apologemai or marturia/martyreo/kataggelo (since in certain of the passages you mentioned Paul is not giving a defense but specifically proclaiming/testifying to the risen Christ). I’m really looking forward to hearing how you deal with these texts, because what I find is something much different than anything close to contemporary apologetics.”

          Reply: Let’s see then.

          Jeremy: By the way, I heard you were “sharpening your sword” for this debate. That’s adorable :)

          Reply: I have a reputation. Someone made a statement and I found it time for something humorous.

          David: Apparently you missed my paragraph on the kerygma, where I explained the basic content of Christian proclamation: “three historic facts (two past, one future) which verify one universal fact: (1) Christ was crucified; (2) God raised him from the dead; (3) Christ will return in judgment; thus, Jesus is Lord.” As something of a side not, let me just help you understand why you should need to maintain Jesus’ lordship in your proclamation, not just his kingship. The basic kerygmatic universal statement (you did not mention the historic statements) is not merely that Jesus is king (basileus), but that Jesus is Lord (kyrios). It could be said that Jesus is king (cf. Acts 17, though by opponents, not proponents in this case), but it does not say enough, and the highest Lord implies kingship anyway, since lord was a term of hierarchy in the first century (a slave called his master kyrios, but Caesar called no one curious, and Paul says that every tongue, Caesar’s included, will one day confess that Jesus Christ is kyrios!). Lord/Kyrios carried both imperial and divine connotations (as kyrios was the Greek word used to translate YHWH in the LXX, and it was the premier title for the Caesars, who were themselves human-divine figures since Augustus through the first century). As you may know, “Caesar is Lord” was an inscription on certain of the coins in the first century (hence Jesus’ words, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar and to God’s what is God’s” Mt. 22; cf. Mk. 12; Lk. 20), and it is well known that in localized areas Christians were required to offer incense and confess that Caesar is Lord/Kyrios on pain of death. So, to suggest that the basic kerygma was merely that “Jesus is King,” loses both the divine and totalizing subversive content of the early Church’s proclamation. And it simply does not attend to a plain reading of the Greek.

          Reply; And here I find much ado about nothing. This seems to have the idea that if I say Jesus is king, I mean that He is not the sovereign Lord of the universe. I say King because we speak about the Kingdom of God and too often, Lord today has purely religious connotations. People don’t understand Lord. They understand King.

          Jeremy: Second of all, I find it ironic that the only statement of the four-part kerygma that you [mis]pointed out was one of the two that apologetics can really say nothing about. Even if you were able to prove that Jesus was crucified according to the biblical account and that God raised him from the dead, you cannot prove that he is Lord. There is no evidence for that (except the kind Jesus suggested we focus on–our “good works,” surprisingly not our “good arguments”. But it is our good works which “people will see and glorify our father who is in heaven,” Mt. 5:16) unless of course you argue that his resurrection validates his claims of lordship. But there are no direct proofs of his lordship and so cannot be the topic of contemporary models of apologetics (though, I would argue, if the models were biblical, it should indeed include claims to his lordship!). I’d be interested in you informing me of any apologist who sets out proofs that Jesus is Lord. I don’t think there any other persuasive arguments for the lordship of Christ, only the good works of love from the Christian community which show (1) that they take his lordship seriously and (2) how attractive/compelling a community based on his lordship is.

          Reply: Sorry, but you can. It depends on the context in which Jesus was crucified. If the thief on the cross had been risen from the dead, no one would say “The Messiah is here!” Jesus’s resurrection is a direct vindication of his claim to be King. I would agree too many apologetics works don’t explain that enough. That is not because there is too much apologetics. It is because there is too little.

          Jeremy: I’m curious to know if you understand the concept of an etymological fallacy. It is the assumption that the present use of a word has/should have an inherently same or similar meaning to its historical meaning, the assumption that words define context rather than context defining words. The problem is, words do not inherently posses within them their referent (the signifier and signified are not intrinsically related). As such, we can both agree that it is necessary to give a defense/apologia, since it is absolutely biblical. But what must be argued for what a defense/apologia actually is. I mean, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses call Jesus Lord and even Son of God. But what must be argued is what those titles actually signify.

          REply: Correct. This is also why I think a passage like 1 Peter 3:15 has zip to do with apologetics today. It’s discussing something entirely different.

          Jeremy: You brought up three passages that either mention or demonstrate apologia in the New Testament: Philippian 1; 1 Cor. 15:3-7; and Mars Hill (Acts 17). And we will also need to look at Acts 25-27, for reasons detailed below.

          Reply: Very well.

          Jeremy: Philippians 1:7 Paul says that he holds the Philippian congregation are partakers with him of grace, “ἔν τε τοῖς δεσμοῖς μου καὶ ἐν τῇ ἀπολογίᾳ καὶ βεβαιώσει τοῦ εὐαγγελίου” (in both my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel). And in 1:16 that he was “εἰς ἀπολογίαν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου κεῖμαι” (for the defense of the Gospel I was placed/appointed).[1] Unfortunately, these passages do not indicate the content of that apologia. However, apologia was typically used (though not exclusively) in the context of a court defense,[2] and it is clear that Paul’s use here is implies the imperial context of his apologia, which is what landed him in prison. Fortunately, we do have an account of Paul giving an apologia in some court settings, so it will behoove us to examine those passages.

          Reply: Correct. Paul was on trial most often because he was a Christian

          Jeremy: Acts 22: Paul convinces the Roman Tribune to let him give them an apologia. The content of that apologia is nothing more than his personal testimony—read it for yourself. And it was a testimony that got him in even more trouble. If that were meant by the word “apologetics” today, I would never have written my article in the first place. But, to be fair, we have another imperial example where Paul uses the word.

          Reply: Now we have the problem with etymology. This is not a personal testimony like we have today. A testimony of “I have seen Jesus alive” is far different from “Here’s what Jesus Christ has done in my life.” In fact, there’s really only one place a testimony like that is given in the Bible, and that’s Philippians 3, and there Paul gives a negative testimony where he shows his life before Christ was not exactly wicked.

          Jeremy: Paul is now before Felix, the Roman procurator, and getting the nod Paul says that he will now “cheerfully make [his] apologia” (24:10). He proceeds to give personal testimony combined together with motive for why he did what he did, in a quite obviously self-defense (not a Gospel defense) in this case, as he says, “…they did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd…Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me” (24:12-13). He then goes on to proclaim indeed proclaim the resurrection in his apologia(!), so it should be instructive for apologists to heed his argument: “I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the prophets,”—Paul here sounding a bit like a presuppositionalist—“having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:14-15). At this point, there is no explanatory power for the resurrection, no rational argument trying to prove the fact of the resurrection, just a testimony about his belief in it, and a suggestion that it is in accordance with the Law and the Prophets. Then, in Acts 25:8 (now before Festus), Paul argues in defense (here the verbal form is used: apologeomai) and again in 25:16, but in both cases it is a self-defense for the charges brought against him, not a defense of the Gospel.

          Reply: Paul gives a historical testimony instead. Again, this is not like our testimonies today. He also does what he always does. He starts with where his opponents are. Note also that this is a brief synopsis. Luke was most likely presenting Paul as not a threat to the community. His testimony of seeing the risen Christ is enough to have a basis for Christ being risen. We can expect that those who claim Jesus is risen today have a quite different situation from those who were direct eyewitnesses.

          Jeremy: Acts 26: In Acts 26, before King Agrippa, Paul again makes his defense (apologeomai), which begins with a self-defense of character and then by suggesting continuity between the OT Scriptures and the resurrection (Acts 26:4-8), and then continues with yet another personal testimony/witness of his encounter with Jesus. He then says to Agrippa that he, in obedience to his heavenly vision, “proclaimed(!)” (apangello) “first those in Damascus…then in Jerusalem…and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles” (a category which Agrippa would be included!) “that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance” (26:19-20). The “therefore” of his proclaiming their need to repent obviously connects the content of the proclamation to repent to the content of his testimony. Besides, he goes on into the kerygma directly thereafter, “To this day I have had the help that comes from God(!), and so I stand here testifying/witnessing (μαρτυρόμενος—the verbal form of witness, cf. 1:8, “…you will be my witness/ μάρτυρες) both to small and great” (yes, you, Agrippa!), “saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:21-23). Even if this still part of Paul’s defense, there are two issues: (1) Paul identifies what he was doing with the keryegmatic content as witnessing (μαρτυρόμενος –participle from marturomai); (2) even if you include this as his apologetics (and indeed you should), it bears no semblance to the shape of contemporary apologetics. Paul doesn’t begin with metaphysics or historical proofs to prove anything. The closest he gets to that a deductive apologetic is Jewish specific—he begins with the Law and the Prophets and suggests that Jesus was indeed the one prophesied/prefigured (cf. Acts 17:2; 18:4, in the synagogue, where the premise is the agreed upon Old Testament Scriptures).

          Reply: There’s a reason he doesn’t go historical or metaphysical. He’s talking to someone familiar with Judaism. It’s like if you and I are discussing differing views, I don’t have to start by giving my defense for the existence of God. You accept that already. I don’t have to do that with JWs either. They accept that there’s a God. They even accept the Bible as the Word of God. Why should I make an argument for what my opponent already agrees to?

          Jeremy: Thus far, apologia has either taken the shape of (1) a self-defense of the apostle’s right to proclaim the Gospel and against false accusations; (2) personal testimony of the risen Christ who had encountered him on the Damascus road, and (3) a theological argument that Christ is indeed the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures. If this is what apologetics looks like for you, more power to you! Preach on!

          Reply: Little question. How many of us have a personal testimony of the risen Christ appearing to us? Last I checked, none. In fact, if you claim to have seen Christ risen, I’ll be skeptical. I don’t really think He’s granting personal appearances any more.

          Jeremy: 1 Cor. 15:3-7: The word apologia is not used in this text, so I’m not sure why you brought it up. In fact, the word Paul used to describe the content of his proclamation was gospel (εὐαγγέλιον), the gospel he had proclaimed (εὐηγγελισάμην), the gospel which they had already received (1 Cor. 15:1), which came in the form of his witness/testimony (2:1— καταγγέλλων), which they had believed not because of “persuasive words of wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that [their] faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (2:1-5). Indeed, he had emphasized something so shameful and offensive—Jesus Christ and him crucified (2:2)—that the fact of their believing it was apparently proof of the Spirit’s power to convict them to believe it (cf. John 16:7ff, where the Holy Spirit, called in this passage “the Spirit of truth,” would, when he was sent, “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…” Indeed, it would be the Spirit of truth [who would] guide you into all truth…[who would] glorify me (on the Spirit of truth glorifying Christ, cf. Keener: “This passage indicates that as Jesus passed on the Father’s message, so the Spirit would continue to mediate Jesus’ message;”[3] and again Ridderbos: “The issue here is the continuity of the Spirit’s word in relation to that of Jesus as revelation that goes back toe the Father…The Spirit will not bring new illumination, or disclose new mysteries; on the contrary, in the proclamation effected by him, the word that Jesus spoke continues to be efficacious.”[4] ). So 1 Corinthians 15 is inappropriate when seeking to discover the biblical content of apologia, but it does give us quite concisely, in Paul’s understanding, a the content of Gospel proclamation (see text in footnote below for review, if needed).[5] This I particularly germane to our discussion, however, because he does bring up the importance of witnesses to the resurrection, first Cephas and the twelve, then more than five hundred, most still living, then to James and all the apostles, then to him.

          Reply: A passage doesn’t need to use the word to be about apologetics any more than the use of the word apologia means it is about apologetics. Paul is making a statement about the risen Christ and saying “Here’s how you know He was risen! We have the eyewitness testimony of the apostles and the 500 and my own eyewitness testimony!” That was something that everyone could point to when doing their own evangelism. After all, the super-apostles were doing signs as well.

          Jeremy: Of course, there is one glaring problem with the way this passage has been used by apologists: it was written to people who already believed in Jesus’ resurrection. It is widely accepted that 1 Cor. 15:1-11 is the narratio of Paul’s argument, which consists of a pre-Pauline tradition that “provides the statement of the case, and is the common ground between Paul and the Corinthians. This accords, in rhetorical terms, with Cicero’s definition of ‘the statement’ as an explanation of facts ‘as…a base and foundation for the establishment of belief.’”[6] In other words, the content of 15:1-11 was not a matter of contention. The reason Paul appeals to this tradition is because he knows that is his common ground with those to whom his following argument will be directed. This allows him to work from an agreed upon premise, namely, that Christ has been raised from the dead. What follows will constitute what Paul deduces from this premise. The fact that the deniers of the resurrection of the dead still believed that Christ had been raised is supported by the protasis of 15:12: “if it is proclaimed that Christ has been raised from the dead.” Paul assumes general acceptance of this proclamation, otherwise he could not possibly use it as the basis for his appeal. As such, to paraphrase the protasis of 15:12, Paul is essentially saying, “Since we all agree that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” The Corinthian problem, which again is widely accepted, was not their belief about Christ’s resurrection but their disbelief about the future resurrection of the Church, the body of Christ. They believed, in some sense, that Christ’s resurrection was unique, rather than part the general resurrection of the dead. We can therefore anticipate, in light the entire discussion above, that Paul will argue for the logical necessity of the resurrection of the dead, insofar as “the dead,” in this case, are the body of Christ. This ties in all Paul’s language in 1 Corinthians of the Church as the body of Christ in whom the Holy Spirit dwells (cf. 1 Cor. 10:16; 12:27), which makes clear why Paul is arguing the way he is in the following material, where his point will be to argue for Christ’s unique resurrection as actually being the firstfruits of the general resurrection: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” His point is to show Christ’s representative status over his Body, which is why of course he follows by speaking of him as the “last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:22, 45), so that his resurrection guarantees theirs. He will then go to great lengths to describe the glorified body in 1 Cor. 15:35ff, indicating the resurrected body will be an imperishable body. All of this addresses what appears to be an overrealized eschatology, where the Corinthians assumed that the resurrection had already begun (and hence why they were so ecstatic with their use of the so called “spiritual gifts”) or, as some have suggested, that they simply did not believe in a bodily resurrection of believers, as they had in Christ.

          Reply: Yes. This is a great part of Greco-Roman Rhetoric and that was the way it was done. It is helpful for us to lay out what is agreed on and why it was agreed on. There is no fallacy in using this as it does indicate an early Christian creed of belief and that that belief was based on the fact that people had seen the risen Christ.

          Jeremy: Thus Paul uses the witnesses of the bodily resurrected Christ in the narratio not as a proof of his resurrection, which they already believed because of the demonstration of the Spirit’s power (cf. 1 Cor. 2:4), but as a premise from which to deduce their future resurrection. This was an in-house theological argument whose premise, not conclusion, is the kerygma.

          Reply: True, and also irrelevant. They did believe that and Paul reminds them of what they all agree on and why.

          Jeremy: (1) Point of contact—of course. Language is itself a point of contact. God’s self-revelation uses preexistent language for description. God’s self-revelation in the world is not ex nihilo–indeed, it is ex deo–but the way we talk about it is ex materia…kind of. We use preexistent (though finite) words on the assumption that God’s preexistent (and infinite) Word will speak through them. Our proclamation is based on the givenness of our command to proclaim, but it is inefficacious unless Himself speaks. We are only prescribed to proclaim/announce the Gospel and leave it up to him to effect salvation through it. And in that proclamation, God does whatever God wants to do. Neither our proclamation nor our apologetics can build so adequate an analogy using the ‘materia’ of language that belief in that analogy is counted as faith. Faith is a person’s response to God himself, for which our language is merely descriptive, not causative. Unless the self-determining Word reveals himself ex deo per materia our analogies become idols. Believing in God on our own terms is not faith. Faith happens when God acts to encounter a person by his Spirit, which effect faith in the One the Spirit glorifies, Jesus Christ. So Paul indeed found a point of contact, pointing out their alter of ignorance and quoting one of their hometown philosophers, Epimenides, but it was a point(s), not a premise.

          Reply: I sometimes get the impression that some people want to act so holy in what they say but still end up saying nothing. All this is to me is saying “God needs to be behind what we do.” I don’t know any apologist who disagrees with this.

          Jeremy: (2) Mars Hill—from premise to conclusion? I’m sorry, but if Paul were to take his argument into an apologetics conference and suggest that he were arguing from premise to conclusion, he would be laughed out of their, dripping with tomato juice. I guess my problem is that I’ve read Epimenides, Parmenides, Heraclitus and the like. I’ve read these pre-Socratic philosphers, as well as Plato, Epicurus, Aristotle, etc., as I hope readers who use this argument have. And one thing is clear: Paul’s argument (as an argument) would not have stood up to any of theirs! It simply has no explanatory force, which is why some mocked him (Acts. 17:32). Paul simply points to those points of contact and then jumps way off—into the gap!—and spells out salvation history and declares a coming judgment! And indeed, he does not pretend to be giving an apologia here. He calls it proclamation (ὃ οὖν ἀγνοοῦντες εὐσεβεῖτε, τοῦτο ἐγὼ καταγγέλλω ὑμῖν. ὁ θεὸς ὁ ποιήσας τὸν κόσμον καὶ πάντα τὰ ἐν αὐτῷ, 17:23-24). I’d be interested for anyone to explain how one could deduce that (B) “God made the world and everything in it” from the premise that (A) these men of Athens had an alter to an unknown God and were worshiping in ignorance. I would love for someone to show me how the jump from A to B is best described in terms of a necessary link, rather than an massive gap. He goes on, uses categories familiar with them, of course, but he does not try to build an irrefutable or even a sound argument. It is simply proclamation, which is intended to use their language to say that they have worshiped a God who cannot be known, but the only creator God is actually “not far from each one of us” (17:27, and then quotes Epimenides to that end!). He then proclaimed that the times of ignorance were up and God was commanding “all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (17:30-31). The effect was that some mocked because of the resurrection of the dead (for which Paul gave no proofs)—there was not attempt to argue his point, because he didn’t state it as an argument to be rebutted. He proclaimed as the truth, and an unfounded truth at that. There is no clear links from premise to conclusion. There are leaps from one point to the next. He was telling the main crux of the story, not presenting an argument. Others were curious, and wanted to hear more, but some joined him and believed. These believed and followed, indeed, in response to Paul’s proclamation (not apologia) of the Gospel, despite the fact that it was foolish. Indeed, in light of the book of Acts, the Spirit effect that response, not Paul’s persuasion.

          Reply: You really think Paul’s whole speech is there in Acts 17? Of course not. We don’t know the entirety of what was said. It’s a synopsis. I’ve read the great philosophers as well and I’m quite sure Paul built a much more conclusive case. Idiots did not get invited to Mars Hill. The reason they scoffed was because the Greeks were universal on resurrections.

          Jeremy: If you are going to use the Mars Hill account as a model for contemporary apologetics, here’s what you need to do: find one of the few things modern science/philosophy concedes ignorance about (say, e.g., a unified theory of the universe) and then say, “I see you are all very curious about the origins and ends and entirety of the universe. Therefore what you think about ignorantly, this I proclaim(!) to you: God made the universe…” But don’t stop there—Paul didn’t. Spell out salvation history in all its unapologetic particularity and with all its gaps in human reasoning, and continue right on to God raising a man from the dead who is returning for judgment. When was the last time you heard someone proclaim the coming judgment in an apologetics debate? Good on them if they did! If you use this model, the result may very well be the same: some will mock, since it’s not a good argument. Some, perhaps the less critical, will question. But some perhaps will follow and believe in a new way, which I question (just a question here) how often that happens in an argument-based presentation of the Gospel. This was a foolish argument in its own right. And yet, people believed. It leads you to think that there was not a direct correlation between Paul’s words and the people’s response, as though there were some invisible, active, variable, working in and through Paul’s faithful words to proclaim the whole Gospel, including the coming judgment.

          Reply: I find it interesting when someone seems to be wanting to advocate a foolish argument. This is not the whole of the argument and Paul said what he did to counter their own ideas of deity as well. The common point is still starting where someone is. Seems like a reasonable thing to do. When Paul went to the synagogues where the Jewish Scriptures were accepted, he started from there. Where they were not accepted, he started with reason.

          Jeremy: So, frankly, I’m still waiting for you to give me a clear biblical precedent for apologetics, as that word is colloquially understood today, as normative for Christian proclamation. When I review the passages you gave me, I am left not with a burden to learn all the arguments to engage in debate. I am left with the confidence that all I need to do is be faithful to share my personal testimony and tell the whole Gospel in its biblical context, to both skeptics and inquisitors alike, but it is up to the Spirit to convict the heart, and it is to the Spirit that the people must respond, indeed.

          Respond at your discretion.

          Regards,

          Jeremy

          Reply: I have no power over if this is discussed more at the CAA, but I can start a thread for you on TheologyWeb.com. For your final point, I’d like to see this personal testimony approach, unless you yourself have seen the risen Christ and can claim to be an apostle. If you come to TheologyWeb, I have my own section called Deeper Waters. I’ll be glad to start a thread to discuss this.

          • (1) You’re right. His testimonies included the basic kerygma. He saw himself within God’s story of salvation history. I would love to see apologists adopting that model–just tell the story and how they encountered by the One the story is about!

            (2) Help me understand an apparent contradiction. You said, (1) Paul had seen the risen Lord and that somehow made his story more credible, but (2) if someone were to claim to you that they had seen the risen Lord, you’d “be skeptical.” I’m with you. Option 2 would be met in my mind with much skepticism. In fact, that seemed not even to be a reliant variable in the accounts above. Did the Roman Tribune believe? Did Felix? Did Agrippa? And yet, Paul was faithful to give his personal testimony, which was faithful to the original call of the Church from Acts 1:8–to be his witnesses (which, by the way, was concomitant to the Spirit’s being poured out and imbuing them with power, the purpose of which needs to be understood in light of the John 16 passage). So which is it? Is the fantastic story that defies reason the more or less believable?

            (3) Nick: “Reply: You really think Paul’s whole speech is there in Acts 17? Of course not. We don’t know the entirety of what was said. It’s a synopsis. I’ve read the great philosophers as well and I’m quite sure Paul built a much more conclusive case. Idiots did not get invited to Mars Hill. The reason they scoffed was because the Greeks were universal on resurrections.”

            Reply: Argument from silence. The text gives us what it does. You can build an argument, much less a model, from the dark matter.

            (4) Nick: “Now we have the problem with etymology. This is not a personal testimony like we have today. A testimony of “I have seen Jesus alive” is far different from “Here’s what Jesus Christ has done in my life.” In fact, there’s really only one place a testimony like that is given in the Bible, and that’s Philippians 3, and there Paul gives a negative testimony where he shows his life before Christ was not exactly wicked.”

            Reply: It is one thing for you to continue to speak as though the shape of contemporary apologetics has biblical precedent (I’m still waiting to hear a positive argument to that end), but it is quite another for you to denigrate what is so obviously the normative mode, both biblically and experientially. My case is from Scripture, that we have people who have encountered the living Christ and go to tell about that encounter. And, no, we do not encounter him in the same way, but we do encounter him by his Spirit. And we are called to witness to that encounter and give the appropriate description of the One we encountered which is given to us in Scripture. This is not only biblically normal, but it is the model accessible to all people, not to the elite. Experientially, which may be the least quantifiable but I’m convinced just as instructive, most people that I know came to faith through simple testimonies and the simple Gospel story. It has the effect of compelling because in it the love of God is revealed…not in abstraction, but the love of God “for me.” Now that is simply not a response I have ever observed by way of argument, which typically has the effect of people digging in their heals, making people more defensive.

            I’m sure you will continue unscathed by this conversation, but please do not look down on the majority of Christians who are bearing witness to the God (perhaps not as “intelligently” as you can) who has convicted them of sin, revealed his love in the cross of Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:8), and called them to tell their story.

          • Jeremy: (1) You’re right. His testimonies included the basic kerygma. He saw himself within God’s story of salvation history. I would love to see apologists adopting that model–just tell the story and how they encountered by the One the story is about!

            Reply: Except we can’t do that. Why? We haven’t seen the risen Christ. Why would Paul need to before an audience talk about what someone else saw when he could talk about what he himself had seen that was directly relevant? If I want to know about World War 2 for instance, I can get something totally unique by going to my aunt and uncle next door who were alive at the time, and my uncle even served in the war, and hear their accounts. Today, unless you’ve seen the risen Christ, you can’t speak like Paul did.

            Jeremy: (2) Help me understand an apparent contradiction. You said, (1) Paul had seen the risen Lord and that somehow made his story more credible, but (2) if someone were to claim to you that they had seen the risen Lord, you’d “be skeptical.” I’m with you. Option 2 would be met in my mind with much skepticism. In fact, that seemed not even to be a reliant variable in the accounts above. Did the Roman Tribune believe? Did Felix? Did Agrippa? And yet, Paul was faithful to give his personal testimony, which was faithful to the original call of the Church from Acts 1:8–to be his witnesses (which, by the way, was concomitant to the Spirit’s being poured out and imbuing them with power, the purpose of which needs to be understood in light of the John 16 passage). So which is it? Is the fantastic story that defies reason the more or less believable?

            Reply: No. There’s not a contradiction. I am skeptical today because I do not have reason to think Christ is making cameo appearances nor do I have reason to think he’s calling apostles any more. Since he is not and the canon is closed, I require extra information. I trust Paul’s testimony since I hold Scripture to be reliable and I see he had nothing to gain from it. Today, someone would have everything to gain from it. Look at Joseph Smith for example.

            Paul was able to have firsthand testimony of a claimed event that happened within his lifetime. We today are not. There’s also still this shtick about personal testimony. It’s not the same today as it was then. In fact, our modern personal testimonies would have been seen as absurd back then in a culture where personality was static and the culture was non-individualistic.

            Jeremy: Reply: Argument from silence. The text gives us what it does. You can build an argument, much less a model, from the dark matter.

            Reply: No. Not an argument from silence. You made the statement about how bad the argument is all the while ignoring that no ancient person would think that was the whole argument. The Sermon on the Mount can be read in about 15 minutes. Peter’s sermon that converted 3,000 could be read in about 2 minutes if that much. For your position to hold, you need it to be that that was the whole of what Paul said. Luke just gives the gist of the message. He does not give the whole.

            Jeremy: It is one thing for you to continue to speak as though the shape of contemporary apologetics has biblical precedent (I’m still waiting to hear a positive argument to that end), but it is quite another for you to denigrate what is so obviously the normative mode, both biblically and experientially. My case is from Scripture, that we have people who have encountered the living Christ and go to tell about that encounter. And, no, we do not encounter him in the same way, but we do encounter him by his Spirit. And we are called to witness to that encounter and give the appropriate description of the One we encountered which is given to us in Scripture. This is not only biblically normal, but it is the model accessible to all people, not to the elite. Experientially, which may be the least quantifiable but I’m convinced just as instructive, most people that I know came to faith through simple testimonies and the simple Gospel story. It has the effect of compelling because in it the love of God is revealed…not in abstraction, but the love of God “for me.” Now that is simply not a response I have ever observed by way of argument, which typically has the effect of people digging in their heals, making people more defensive.

            Reply: How interesting. The Mormons give me a personal testimony quite often! Why should I not accept it? Oh wait. We have to have something beyond the biblical testimony that is for the elite. Sorry, but you’re simply wrong. The Bible was written in an agonistic society. People did not spend much time “getting to know their neighbors.” A woman could work for 3 hours just to make one loaf of bread to feed her family for the day. Personality was static. To talk about your life being changed would have been seen as nonsense. This is also why in the ancient biographies one’s childhood was only talked about when it reflected what happened later in life because a basic personality did not change.

            You’re reading the text like a modern instead of an ancient Mediterranean.

            Jeremy: I’m sure you will continue unscathed by this conversation, but please do not look down on the majority of Christians who are bearing witness to the God (perhaps not as “intelligently” as you can) who has convicted them of sin, revealed his love in the cross of Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:8), and called them to tell their story.

            REply: I certainly love the “holier-than-thou” attitude with some passive-aggressiveness thrown in! Works great! btw, the CAA is for discussing apologetics issues and not for discussing if we’re doing what we should be doing. If you want that kind of discussion, TheologyWeb is still open.

  5. Random Thoughts and random question:
    Jeremy: how do you define “the Gospel”?

    Also, did the first century Church, and in particular the Christians we read of in the New Testament accept the message without understanding it to be true in an actual historical sense? I have more respect for human sensibility than to be believe that the original believers than to think they accepted the crucified and resurrected Christ in a form other than actual an actual event.

    Question 2: At what point, in your view, do you feel apologetic work is appropriate then? I get the feeling you’re not against it in general.

    Question 3:
    I attend a university where almost all discussions about Jesus Christ requires, almost naturally, some sort of discussion that leans on skills gained through apologetic studies. In this environment, The New Testament is just a fairy tale- no different than Buddhism and the god’s Hindu- of the god’s of the Romans, Greeks, Mayans, Incas, and any other of the the worlds mighty civilizations from History. If I can’t show a reasonableness of what I believe, message I have to share will be dead before I even begin to speak.To say “I”m a Christian” is all I have to do to get an argument going- which I detest, but sadly happens.
    At what place does apologetics play into sharing the Gospel in this context, in your opinion?

    Well I’ll stop there.
    I’m sure you’ll find your post will bring much dialog for you- although, probably more than you bargained for lol :)

    -Joe McCall

  6. Nick, very thoughtful response. Thank you for that. I will have to come back on Monday to respond. I’ve got to keep prepping for tomorrow’s sermon and, I’m with you, my Sundays are my days to unplug! I am curious how you inferred that I think preaching the Gospel is nothing more than saying “forgiveness is here;” “you can have eternal life.” Did you not read my paragraph on the kerygma? Anyway, I’ll respond Monday. (My brief response to Joseph may also apply to certain points you made, Nick.)

    Joseph, in all the forums I’ve continued this discussion, this response is the fairest I have received. I appreciate your willingness to avoid caricatures and to hear my actual argument. I will just say this for now, apologetics serves faith seeking understanding and it serves the Christian’s conversation with skeptics. In its isolated forms, I am against virtually no instance of the use of apologetics. It is a movement or tendency I’m concerned with. This has been my contention all along.

    And it would indeed be a great fallacy to overlook the significance of the actual historical sense of the resurrection. We do not have a disembodied Lord! But the lengths that the early Church went, that Scripture goes, to indicate the physicality of the risen Christ serves to give us the content of our proclamation. Indeed, the Word was made flesh, not text. The basis of the Gospel is as concrete as a sidewalk and as historical as a Roman aqueduct. And it took the witnesses who saw the risen Lord to confirm that. And in understanding his resurrection we understand our own. I just don’t think proofs of historical data will convict the heart. Again, this is not to suggest that apologetics is useless therefore, only it is not normative for Christian proclamation, and that we should avoid the temptation of feeling or suggesting that we need to be well-versed in the arguments. I will spell this out more fully on Monday. I’m starting to get carried away now! Thanks again.

    Jeremy

  7. The author of this post has made numerous claims diminishing the role of apologetics in the church. He is mistaken on a number of points.

    Consider his false dichotomy between providing a witness and providing a defense. What the author has failed to consider is that witnesses give defenses (especially in a court of law).
    Consider this sarcastic statement, “So the resurrection is proven with historical proofs and thereby buried in a tomb of history. People come to believe in the persuasive words of eloquent speech and frankly need not encounter the Spirit’s power.” The author, who presumably believes that the Spirit works in non-identifiable ways, has failed to consider that perhaps the Spirit works through historical proofs.
    Consider his belief that “the only evidence of Christ’s lordship [and thus his return] is the goodness of the Church.” This is simply foolish thinking. The Apostles would have had none of this poor thinking. They would have said there is plenty of evidence (which one can read about in more detail in the book of Acts): the empty tomb, miraculous healings, OT prophecy fulfillment, etc.
    It is nice to see that the author is concerned with genuine faith for people, but he has badly missed the importance and biblical support for the use of apologetics.

  8. This will be my last post (besides on addendum), lest we continue in the never-ending spiral of showing how our (ideally) self-consistent arguments are more biblically faithful. So far as I can tell, we are working from different premises that can only be validated by the way they show the most congruence with the biblical text. I’m convinced that I have allowed Scripture to speak on its on terms to instruct me as to both the content and manner of proclamation, and I assume that those who disagree do so for the same reason—at least I hope that is the case. I’ve put a lengthy argument out there (re: reply to Nick) dealing with specific biblical texts. I only received heretofore arguments against my interpretation, albeit unconvincingly, and have not yet seen a positively constructed argument from Scripture. I’ll let the reader if my whose handling of the biblical texts seems most convincing.

    To Nick (you can have the last word):

    Nick: “No. Not an argument from silence. You made the statement about how bad the argument is all the while ignoring that no ancient person would think that was the whole argument.”

    Reply: You can’t say it is not an argument from silence simply by saying that other people were silent (have you read any of Plato’s dialogues?!?!?). Your argument could not be more clearly defined as an argument from silence. Paul may very well have reasoned with them with such persuasion that he needed no help from the Spirit, but as is clear (and you did not deny) either (1) he did not and some still believed (<–because the Spirit was working concomitantly in Paul's proclamation–my claim); or (2) the text doesn't give us the whole argument (<–your claim). If you (a) try to use the Mars Hill text as a basis for a model of apologetics, (b) concede that the text doesn't give us the model we use, (c) argue that the only reason it doesn't is because it was not the whole argument, (d) proceed to deviate in form from what is given to you in the text, and (e) then attempt to justify your model simply on the basis that the text did not give you the whole argument (implying that if it did it would justify your model/form) and act like it serves as a biblical precedent…based on the fact that it is silent of its true form…have you not argued from silence?

    Nick: “Paul was able to have firsthand testimony of a claimed event that happened within his lifetime. We today are not. There’s also still this shtick about personal testimony. It’s not the same today as it was then. In fact, our modern personal testimonies would have been seen as absurd back then in a culture where personality was static and the culture was non-individualistic.”

    Reply: (1) I understand the caution with individualism. But we cannot react against something and be dismissive of the contrary. The fact is, individuals are still a legitimate category in the first century. Judas betrayed Jesus and was not restored. The deserted but were. Jesus gives a parable where he shows concern for the one against the ninety-nine. Paul got kicked off his donkey, not all zealots. I do understand your concern, but the fact is, there are individuals who have faith and individuals who do not, so decrying individualism doesn't say anything on its own. It needs an appropriate critique.

    (2) You have still not given a good reason why you think Paul’s personal testimony is inherently more believable. There is absolutely nothing inherently convincing about a Jewish zealot in the first century claiming to have seen a person who had been subject to the lowest and most shameful form of death. The importance of Paul’s testimony is the content—seeing the risen Christ—but that content is certainly no more believable than someone claiming to have had a spiritual encounter. Why should anyone believe Paul? You trust Paul “because Scripture [is] reliable…” Are a presuppositionalist as well? Do you think anyone who came to faith in the 1st century because they believed Paul witness because they trusted Scripture [obviously not…]. So why would they have believed Paul? Was it not the work of the Spirit?

    So far as I can tell, our fundamental disagreement has to do with the role of the Holy Spirit in bringing people to faith and the way Scripture and reason relate to the Spirit's role. In my honest reading of Scripture, the Church's role as Christ's witnesses, as it relates to evangelism, is to announce/proclaim the Gospel (1. Christ fulfilling the OT Scriptures has died; 2. God raised him from the dead; 3. He is returning; 4. Jesus is Lord). We are to do it with humility and with a commitment to loving one another, so that people will "see [our] good works and glorify out Father in heaven" (Mt. 5:16), and in our obedience in word and deed, the Spirit will convict hearts and effect salvation (Jn. 16). Without the Spirit’s (1) conviction and (2) role of leading people into all truth, is, in my understanding, the only contingency between a person’s coming to faith or not (perhaps their will to comply or resist). The witnesses job is to focus on simply proclaiming a message that will be heard as “foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved [will be heard as] the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). It matters not only what the content of our proclamation is but also our manner of proclaiming–we proclaim the kerygma and do it humbly and lovingly, and Christ by the Spirit gives himself to that witness, because it is most descriptive of who he is in his most specific self-revelation (the kerygma) and not entangled in arguments that can often be complicated and, as is typical in the context of a debate, presented pridefully (though not always, e.g, I find W.L. Craig to be a model for doing apologetics humbly). The content and manner proclamation is critical, because it is descriptive of the One whom we expect our hearers encounter. We are giving a name to their experience. As far as I can tell, you think that no encounter with the living Christ by the Spirit is necessary. I think that is where we fundamentally disagree. If we do disagree on that point, I can understand your burden to try to argue people into believing. If we do not disagree on that point, then I am at a loss.

    Bottom line, I think our words can only be descriptive, not causative, which means that we do not need to argue, only proclaim with simplicity the truth of the Gospel. It is up to the Spirit to make those words heard and effect salvation.

    2 Cor. 2:4-6: "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

    • Jeremy: Reply: You can’t say it is not an argument from silence simply by saying that other people were silent (have you read any of Plato’s dialogues?!?!?).

      Reply: *Groan* I haven’t said it’s an argument from silence. I’ve said long speeches were abbreviated. This is not opinion. THis is fact. This is how ancient histories were written. One usually just gave the gist of what a person said. This has nothing to do with whether other people spoke or not. They likely did. How you got that out of what I said, I have no idea, and yes, I have read ALL of Plato’s dialogues.

      Jeremy: Your argument could not be more clearly defined as an argument from silence. Paul may very well have reasoned with them with such persuasion that he needed no help from the Spirit, but as is clear (and you did not deny) either (1) he did not and some still believed (<–because the Spirit was working concomitantly in Paul's proclamation–my claim);

      Reply: You seem to have this bizarre dichotomy that all one needs it the Holy Spirit and that is enough. No apologist has denied the need for the work of the Spirit. We just don't control that aspect. I don't care if you're a Calvinist or not. It's also not a matter of what the Spirit can use but what He does use. Sure, you can just give the gospel, but unless you want people to believe without reasons, it works better to give an argument. After all, the Mormons just "give the gospel", although in fact they actually point to the testimony of the Holy Spirit. Why don't I believe them? Evidence.

      Jeremy: or (2) the text doesn't give us the whole argument (<–your claim). If you (a) try to use the Mars Hill text as a basis for a model of apologetics, (b) concede that the text doesn't give us the model we use, (c) argue that the only reason it doesn't is because it was not the whole argument, (d) proceed to deviate in form from what is given to you in the text, and (e) then attempt to justify your model simply on the basis that the text did not give you the whole argument (implying that if it did it would justify your model/form) and act like it serves as a biblical precedent…based on the fact that it is silent of its true form…have you not argued from silence?

      Reply: No. Not a bit. The argument is written to just give us the gist. I have argued on the evidence that we have. The evidence is that Paul when speaking to people who accepted reason as an authority used reason. When he went to the Jewish synagogues, he used the Jewish Scriptures.

      Jeremy: Reply: (1) I understand the caution with individualism. But we cannot react against something and be dismissive of the contrary. The fact is, individuals are still a legitimate category in the first century. Judas betrayed Jesus and was not restored. The deserted but were. Jesus gives a parable where he shows concern for the one against the ninety-nine. Paul got kicked off his donkey, not all zealots. I do understand your concern, but the fact is, there are individuals who have faith and individuals who do not, so decrying individualism doesn't say anything on its own. It needs an appropriate critique.

      Reply: Spoken like someone who has read little on the social sciences. Of course individuals always existed. Individualism is something about where people get their worth from and how they treat one another. In an individualistic society, how you feel as an individual or personal change in your life is not anything persuasive.

      Jeremy: (2) You have still not given a good reason why you think Paul’s personal testimony is inherently more believable. There is absolutely nothing inherently convincing about a Jewish zealot in the first century claiming to have seen a person who had been subject to the lowest and most shameful form of death. The importance of Paul’s testimony is the content—seeing the risen Christ—but that content is certainly no more believable than someone claiming to have had a spiritual encounter. Why should anyone believe Paul? You trust Paul “because Scripture [is] reliable…” Are a presuppositionalist as well? Do you think anyone who came to faith in the 1st century because they believed Paul witness because they trusted Scripture [obviously not…]. So why would they have believed Paul? Was it not the work of the Spirit?

      Reply: No. I'm not a presupper. I trust the Bible because I have found it to be accurate. I trust him because I see in Galatians and other texts he was given the right hand of fellowship, as well as in 2 Peter, and I see he had nothing to gain from saying he had seen the risen Christ and in fact everything to lose. I have no other way to explain why he chose the pathway that he did. The only explanation is that he saw the risen Christ. Since I don't think Jesus is calling apostles today, I do not trust modern claims to have seen the risen Christ.

      Jeremy: So far as I can tell, our fundamental disagreement has to do with the role of the Holy Spirit in bringing people to faith and the way Scripture and reason relate to the Spirit's role. In my honest reading of Scripture, the Church's role as Christ's witnesses, as it relates to evangelism, is to announce/proclaim the Gospel (1. Christ fulfilling the OT Scriptures has died; 2. God raised him from the dead; 3. He is returning; 4. Jesus is Lord). We are to do it with humility and with a commitment to loving one another, so that people will "see [our] good works and glorify out Father in heaven" (Mt. 5:16), and in our obedience in word and deed, the Spirit will convict hearts and effect salvation (Jn. 16). Without the Spirit’s (1) conviction and (2) role of leading people into all truth, is, in my understanding, the only contingency between a person’s coming to faith or not (perhaps their will to comply or resist). The witnesses job is to focus on simply proclaiming a message that will be heard as “foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved [will be heard as] the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). It matters not only what the content of our proclamation is but also our manner of proclaiming–we proclaim the kerygma and do it humbly and lovingly, and Christ by the Spirit gives himself to that witness, because it is most descriptive of who he is in his most specific self-revelation (the kerygma) and not entangled in arguments that can often be complicated and, as is typical in the context of a debate, presented pridefully (though not always, e.g, I find W.L. Craig to be a model for doing apologetics humbly). The content and manner proclamation is critical, because it is descriptive of the One whom we expect our hearers encounter. We are giving a name to their experience. As far as I can tell, you think that no encounter with the living Christ by the Spirit is necessary. I think that is where we fundamentally disagree. If we do disagree on that point, I can understand your burden to try to argue people into believing. If we do not disagree on that point, then I am at a loss.

      REply: Your concept of "An encounter with the living Christ by the Spirit" is highly ambiguous. Do you think I mean that they are to see Christ the way Paul did? Not at all. That's certainly not normative. Nor do I think the ancients would focus on an experience. That's what happens in individualistic societies. You also still have this dichotomy between "Giving the gospel" and "Giving a reason for why the gospel is true." Why think my work is done after I've done the former? If someone asks me why it's true, do I just need to say "It just is. I guess you haven't had an encounter yet." Why not be able to give a reason? Why not be informed on what I want people to believe? It might sound strange to use, but the Holy Spirit is quite capable of using a good argument. I know you think you sound holy, but actually, this position comes off as extremely arrogant and prideful. You are the one who seems to think you know better than what the church was doing from the very beginning. Personally, your pride leaps off the page consistently. It's also a form of bibliolatry that has done incredible harm to the church today. Yes. I believe in being biblical. I also believe in being rational and I think it's biblical to use reason to defend what I believe.

      Jeremy: Bottom line, I think our words can only be descriptive, not causative, which means that we do not need to argue, only proclaim with simplicity the truth of the Gospel. It is up to the Spirit to make those words heard and effect salvation.

      Reply: But yet you argue with Christians to tell them that you don't need to argue. Apparently, it's not enough to have the Holy Spirit when dealing with a Christian. Arguing for Christ is a virtue to practice. It is showing Jesus beats all competitors in the marketplace of ideas. If you're so concerned about a spiritual encounter, I suggest you look at the once Reformed defender and speaker Michael Sudduth who once had a great spiritual encounter. What's he doing now? He's proclaiming His Lord. He's just doing it differently. Now he says "Lord Krishna."

      I suspect that your youth are going to be falling away left and right when they encounter real challenges to their faith. When people with your approach take the day, it will be another reason why I think the church in America doesn't have fifty years left in it. Piety is no replacement for truth.

      Jeremy: 2 Cor. 2:4-6: "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

      Reply: Like I said, piety is no replacement for truth. I know you think quoting a passage of Scripture makes you come off as holy. It only makes you come off as more prideful by wanting to point out how holy you're being.

      It's approaches like this that will kill the church in America within 50 years.

  9. Addendum: This was posted above, but I will leave it as my last positively argued statement for the way I understand the Word of God and the words of men/women working together in proclamation. This is a cumulative argument based largely my reading primarily of Acts, John (esp. ch. 16), 1-2 Corinthians, and the pastoral epistles. I would love to hear not only a critique of the following, but positively argued alternative for the way the Word of God [by the Spirit of God] works in the words of men/women in proclamation. Particularly, I would like to hear where you all distinguish between language as descriptive and causative.

    Language is a point of contact. God’s self-revelation uses preexistent language for description. God’s self-revelation in the world is not ex nihilo–indeed, it is ex deo–but the way we talk about it is ex materia. We use preexistent (though finite) words on the assumption that God’s preexistent (and infinite) Word will speak through them. Our proclamation is based on the givenness of our command to proclaim, but it is inefficacious unless God himself speaks. We are only prescribed to proclaim/announce the Gospel and leave it up to the Spirit to effect salvation through it (cf. Jn. 16, where the “Spirit of truth” will be sent to guide into all truth and convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Isn’t sin, righteousness and judgment all the categories for understanding the the kerygma? Human sinfulness (past problem); righteousness=salvation (present offering); coming judgment=eschatology (future consequence to how one responds)). Neither our proclamation nor our apologetics can build so adequate an analogy using the ‘materia’ of language that simply affirming that analogy is counted as faith. Faith is a person’s response to God himself, for which our language is merely descriptive, not causative. Would you disagree? As I see it, unless the self-determining Word reveals himself ex deo per materia our analogies can become idolatry. Formulas do not effect salvation. They describe it. Believing in God on our own terms is not faith. Faith happens when God acts to encounter a person by his Spirit in the proclamation of the Word he gives himself to, Jesus Christ, which effects faith in the Him who the Spirit of truth glorifies (cf. Jn. 16:14).

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