John Calvin wrote, “Contentious disputes arise from the fact that many think less honorably than they ought of the greatness of divine wisdom, and are carried away by profane audacity.” These words were written in his commentary on 1 Peter 3:15, a verse long taken as the charter of Christian apologetics. It commissions and defines how a Christian should defend the faith: “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to set forth a defense to everyone who asks you for a reasoned account concerning the hope in you, yet with gentleness and respect.” A truly Christian defense of the faith must never fail to exalt Christ as Lord over all, including argumentation and reasoning. An apologetic that builds on any other rock than Christ does not honor the greatness of divine wisdom; it is foolishly and audaciously erected on the ruinous sands of human authority.

The task of apologetics must be exercised upon the infallible and presupposed authority of the Word of Christ in Scripture. Apologetics does not first do obeisance to human philosophy and science and then proceed to encompass God in its sphere of reverence. The Christian cannot, indeed must not take an unattached or neutral stance with respect to his faith in order to win the unbeliever over to Christ’s authority. A Christian apologetic grows out of, and is shaped according to, a total dedication to the wisdom of the Logos as expressed in His inscripturated Word – not self-sufficient human “wisdom.” “Let us hold fast the profession of our hope without wavering, for the one who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23). Since God is faithful to us, our apologetic must not be faithless to Him; in setting forth our defense we must not set aside or waiver with respect to the profession of our faith. Christian apologetics must begin and end with Him who is the alpha and the omega, the one who only and always reigns as Lord.

The purpose of this treatise is to exhibit presuppositional apologetics as the only faithful and sound method of contending for the Christian hope and biblical message. Resting upon the authority of the living God rather than that of independent human reasoning, the apologist must presuppose the truth of Scripture and lay siege to all apostate presuppositions. This must be his method because the Word of God in the Bible has a unique epistemological status for the Christian: it requires no corroboration and carries its own evidence inherently or self-attestingly. As God makes a total demand upon the lives of His covenant people they recognize that the words of Scripture are logically primitive, the most ultimate authority. So if our apologetic is to be a Christian apologetic it must be presuppositional in character and method. – Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics – Stated and Defended, pp. 3,4 [emphasis his].

It should be clear by this time that a self-styled autonomous thinker becomes an authority unto himself. Since the question of justifying conditions for a belief cannot be argued, the personal view of the autonomous man must simply be posited as the standard. Instead of advancing a good rational, scientific case for his position, the autonomous thinker must simply assume his own authority and assert his position. His mind is taken as the arbitrator and final point of reference; the justification-criteria, relevance-criteria, truth criteria, and verification-criteria are what they are simply because the autonomous man says so. An argument must begin somewhere, and so the autonomous man begins it with himself. The interesting thing here is that it is just such a dogmatic appeal to authority that often leads unbelievers to reject revelational-epistemology and its insistence on beginning with the Word of an absolute and authoritative God. Not tolerating an appeal to sheer authority, the autonomous thinker turns out also to make final appeal to sheer authority – his own! When the Christian claims to justify his beliefs by reference to God’s authoritative revelation the autonomous man demands proof of God’s Word, in essence demanding that God’s authority be subjected to the authority of the rational man. Obviously if the Christian’s appeal to authority was illegitimate, so also is the autonomous man’s appeal to authority. He falls beneath his own criticism.

Summing up the preceding considerations we note that the self-proclaimed autonomous thinker must make some claim to knowledge; yet he cannot specify what the nature and possibility of knowledge are. He fails to settle the issues of truth, verification, relevance, and justification. The pitfalls of relativism and skepticism and the requirement of omniscience are all too much for him. And finally, his only alternative, an appeal to authority, is illegitimate according to his own groundrules. We need hardly go beyond this point, for the farce of autonomy is apparent. The knower who claims to be epistemologically independent of God must lay claim to that-which-he-knows-not-what; he must be sure of having something he is not sure of. In the long run the autonomous thinker must pit his own epistemological credentials against, and covet, those of God. – Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics – Stated and Defended, pp. 101,102 [emphasis his].

…by attempting to reason with the non-Christian by means of commonly interpreted “facts” and “logic” that are divorced from Christian commitment the apologist would be bowing to the unbeliever’s sinful demands on God. Who has the right to demand proof of God? Can the clay bring the potter into judgment? The non-Christian continually asserts his arrogant independence and personal authority by requiring any gods that be to verify themselves to him by adducing evidence and argumentation that he will certify as admissible. Yet the unregenerate rebel is in no position to exact justification from God. The Christian apologist must not give in to the unbeliever’s sinful arrogance by attempting to reason with him impartially and by giving him what he demands in the way of self-certified proof built up from unbiased premises, interpretation and method. A presuppositional apologetic makes argumentation possible without accepting the apostate’s demands upon God (who, in reality, is the One that makes an absolute demand upon the rebel). – Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics – Stated and Defended, pp. 125,126.

We conclude, then, that it is possible for a man to meet the conditions of knowledge and yet refuse to admit it. A man can be mistaken about his beliefs. He can have justifying reasons for a belief to which he will not submit. Hence he could be in error as to the extent of his knowledge; he can be ignorant of his knowledge. An application of this principal would be the case where someone who denies God’s existence behaves (epistemologically or ethically) as though there were a God and who would suffer loss of pride or self-esteem if he “opened his eyes” to the clear evidence of God’s existence around him; such a person would be denying what he “knows” to be true (i.e., that God exists). This theological illustration is particularly fitting since belief in God has a negative and positive side for the individual who believes; it requires humility (negatively) while (positively) guaranteeing the possibility of knowledge and grounding human values.

Thus we can see how a man would behave as though he believed God existed (e.g. maintaining that he can “know” objective truth, depending on the uniformity of nature, applying moral norms, fearing death, etc.) while not wanting to acknowledge it (i.e., because of his guilt before the Creator-Judge). He can have justification for believing that God exists (i.e., Scripture says that revelational evidence is clear and inescapable, the impress of God’s plan being found in the facts of science and the laws of thought; God’s existence and character are made known to every man in the creation around him and in his own constitution; and the nonexistence of God is epistemologically impossible) while refusing to admit it (because of the emotional factor involved).

A non-Christian can claim that God does not exist then, and nevertheless be said to know that God indeed does exist. Because this is the case one can employ an effective apologetical argument. Yet the apologist need not fall back upon false and impossible claims to neutrality nor utilize the hostile presuppositions of the unbeliever in order to do so. Rather he drives home the Word of God, forcing the rebel to see that he is living “on borrowed capital” (i.e., Christian presuppositions), and calling him back to a “remembrance” of his God. – Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics – Stated and Defended, pp. 96,97 [emphasis his].

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