Just as I’d planned to offer a series of blog posts arguing for Christianity from sources apart from the Bible three years ago, Cripplegate’s Mike Riccardi had to go and challenge my thinking with his February 8, 2013 blog post, Presuppositional Apologetics: An Evaluation. While I nurture the hope that my more serious readers will click the link and read the entire article for themselves, I’d better confess that I click links in other people’s blogs only about 30% of the time. That character flaw of mine being the case, allow me to quote the portion of Riccardi’s post that upset my apple cart, and then make a few comments on how I have since reassembled my Granny Smiths:
…the presuppositional apologist has the advantage of never having to pretend that reality isn’t the way it is. Notwithstanding the unbeliever’s disagreement, from a purely objective standpoint, God actually does exist. He actually is who He says He is. He actually did create the world in six days. And the Bible actually is His infallible and inerrant Word. It is a good thing, therefore, to reason as if all of those things are actually true and not merely likely or probable.
Both evidentialism and classical apologetics require the apologist to (temporarily, and for the sake of argument) surrender presuppositions about the world that are actually true in order to have their discussions. This is surely an epistemological weakness. But it is also a practical weakness. Surrendering those presuppositions—especially that the Bible, as God’s revelation, is the starting point for knowledge—denies in practice what the apologist is aiming to prove; namely, that God exists and His Word is authoritative. The apologist should not deny by his methodology the very thing he desires to persuade his hearers to believe.
In fact, this is consistent with the way the Bible itself speaks about the existence of God and the integrity of His Word contained therein. Scripture is clear that God has not left these matters open for debate. God never presents Himself in Scripture as a proposition to be coolly evaluated and decided over. Nobody ever gets to tell God, “Wait a second, let me see if You really do exist.” He simply asserts, “I AM WHO I AM.” Trying to evaluate the evidence for God or for the veracity of Scripture apart from Scripture is an endeavor on the order of asking to measure a meter stick. We do not measure the instrument of measurement; it does the measuring.
How ’bout them apples? As I read that passage, my mind went back 41 years to a Bible Study I attended as a new Christian. The teacher, an American Baptist minister with a zeal for teaching the Bible to hippies and teenagers who had come to the Lord through the Jesus Movement of the 1970s, told us, “Just share the Word; God will speak through it.” I held that bold confidence in Scripture for several years, even through the intellectual demands of college, confident in that pastor’s assurance that Scripture is God’s Word, whether or not a non-Christian accepts its authority.
Such an approach seems counter-intuitive, I realize. And, as non-Christians often eagerly charge, it smacks of arrogance. Christians prefer more evidence-based apologetics because they give us a semblance of humility. Yet shouldn’t we be humble enough to risk the ridicule of non-Christians because we believe that the Lord speaks authoritatively through His Word? (See, for example, Hebrews 4:12.)
Riccardi’s post goes on to make the point that the non-Christians who argue that defending our faith by appealing to the Bible is nothing more than circular reasoning (and therefore not credible) fail to take into account that their own reasoning is just as circular.
For example, if I ask a rationalist for evidence for his credence in rationalism as an adequate theory of knowledge, he’s going to give me a reason. Or if I ask a naturalist for evidence for his credence in naturalism as an adequate theory of knowledge, he’s going to give me a summary of observable facts of nature. They’re turning to their “Bible,” if you will. But when they demand evidence of Scripture’s genuineness and we Christians give them a Bible verse, they shout, “Circular reasoning!” But that’s no more circular than what they do. It’s simply remaining consistent with one’s own epistemology.
See, rationalists appeal to reason as the source of knowledge. That’s what makes them rationalists. Naturalists appeal to nature as the source of knowledge. That’s what makes them naturalists. But Christians must appeal to the Scriptures as the source of knowledge. That is what makes us Christians. We should not, therefore, surrender what makes us distinctively Christian in our epistemology. Besides, if I’m trying to help an unbeliever understand that the Word of God is the supreme authority for the lives of all people, what higher authority could I appeal to in order to demonstrate that? There isn’t one!
Why should non-Christians intimidate us into using their presuppositions? Although the evidence for Christianity certainly finds credible support in scholarship beyond the pages of Scripture, that scholarship must remain a secondary validation. Since all Scripture comes from God the Holy Spirit, we Christians don’t need the world’s methods for authenticating it.
Perhaps Riccardi, instead of upending my apple cart, brought me back to the cart that I’d been taught to push as a teenager. How I’ve allowed myself to adopt a lesser apple cart sadly doesn’t perplex me, because I’ve allowed myself to accept the delusion that I need a world that is blind to the things of God to legitimize my faith. Praise God for using Riccardi’s blog post to remind me that I can reason from Scripture with confidence.