The Heartbeat of Presuppositionalism
When considering how to engage the unbeliever in conversations regarding apologetics, we have to ask ourselves what is the ultimate foundation which drives our approach? The Christian is to be unapologetic about their allegiance to Jesus Christ as Lord. This fact includes not only the heart and soul but also the mind. Christ commanded His followers not just to love God with heart and soul but even with all of their minds (Matthew 22:37). In the presuppositional approach to apologetics, this commitment is the foundation for engaging the unbeliever. Dr. Greg Bahnsen says, “Humble submission to God’s Word must precede man’s every intellectual pursuit.”1 A Christian must not go into any area of life seeking to do any less than to bring the most glory to God through humble obedience to His Word.
When coming to an unbeliever in conversation, we have to recognize we have two competing authorities. As a Christian, I hold firmly to the special revelation of God found in the Scripture. The unbeliever ultimately rejects the Bible and has set himself up as his own authority. This truth means there is an antithesis between the two viewpoints. We are adamantly opposed to each other’s worldview, and the unbeliever is not neutral towards Christianity but is ready to launch his attacks upon it. The Christian bows to the Lordship of Christ in every area of life, and the unbeliever rejects the Lordship of Christ in every area of life. The question then becomes, is there any point of contact or way for the unbeliever and believer to communicate given these drastic differences?
The Point of Contact
In the end, this is God’s world, and the revelation of God is inescapably clear. Men and women know that they owe God honor and worship, yet they suppress this truth. The Scripture says this clearly:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. -Romans 1:18-19
The task of the Christian apologist is to point out that even though the unbeliever rejects God’s truth, they actually borrow from the Christian worldview. When talking about how a believer and unbeliever can communicate about this subject, the point of contact is found in the truth that the unbeliever knows God does exist. Dr. Cornelius Van Til has said this:
The point of contact for the gospel, then, must be sought within the natural man. Deep down in his mind every man knows that he is the creature of God and responsible to God. Every man, at bottom, knows that he is a covenant breaker.2
Many Christians today undertake their apologetics and evangelism as though the unbeliever actually does not believe God exists. Scripture gives clear testimony to the truth that everyone has general revelation from God in nature and that the Bible itself is also clear, specific revelation from the Lord. How then should we engage the unbeliever?
The Method For Engagement
The objective of the Christian is to show the unbeliever their worldview is not logical and to assert the truth of biblical Christianity. I want to demonstrate to the unbeliever how they are borrowing from the biblical worldview and call them to come to Christ in repentance and faith, submitting to Him as Lord. Let me give you an example of this in real action.
Let’s say I run across an individual who is an atheist, which of course, means they profess to reject belief in any divine being whatsoever. Now, at this point, because I have read my Bible, I understand this person knows God exists and is suppressing the truth. So, I want to begin challenging his assertion by showing him that he says God does not exist while living as though God exists. In his worldview, the atheist cannot provide a foundation for absolute morality, yet they will undoubtedly make moral judgments. The atheist cannot ground moral truth in society, for that is everchanging. Nor, can they attempt to find the foundation for absolute morality in the most dominant opinion, for that too will change. They will surely make judgments regarding things like rape and murder being wrong. If they do not make such a judgment, simply swipe the keys to their car, and you will find them becoming quite morally indignant in a hurry! (I’m joking, don’t do this in real life)
My point here is to show that the atheist believes in morality of some kind while professing to reject God and His Word, thereby rejecting the only standard for morality. By showing them they actually live as though morality exists while having a worldview that cannot provide a moral standard, I am disproving their worldview because it cannot account for reality. In contrast, the biblical worldview can provide morality because it is grounded in God and revealed in the Bible. This point is not the only way I could press an atheist in their belief system. We could talk about absolute truth, the laws of logic, or even the beauty of a rose, and their worldview could not account for any of these things. The atheist recognizes the laws of logic exist, but they cannot provide a foundation for them in their belief system. Consequently, the main thrust of the presuppositional approach is to honor Christ as Lord by submitting to His Word in everything, including intellectual endeavors. When engaging the unbeliever, we attempt to show the folly of their worldview and then assert the truthfulness of biblical Christianity. This action is all taken with a spirit of humble boldness seeking to bring the believer to Christ savingly through the power of the Holy Spirit. More articles to come on this subject in the future, shoot me some questions in the comments!
1 Greg Bahnsen, Always Ready, p. 20.
2 Cornelius Van Til, Christian Apologetics, p. 119.