24. Dealing with false religions: Or Answering the accusation that presuppositional apologetics is too rational
Quite often the method of presuppositional apologetics is accused of being “too rational” for two reasons:
- a) What is meant by rational is often misunderstood.b) Adherents of presuppositional apologetics don’t end every sentence with a Bible reference, even those which are direct quotations from the Bible.
So let us define some terms and state the Biblical foundation for the method. Hopefully as you’ve been reading, you’ve seen that the entire approach is utterly and completely based on the Bible - in fact, the very method requires it. But it might help to focus on the Biblical justification - or even imperative - for presuppositional apologetics.
When we use terms like rational or reasonable, we do not mean anything like humanist or rationalist, and we are not referring to the goddess reason of the French revolution. We are simply stating the Biblical worldview using a non-Biblical term. In the Bible we have a strong foundation for being reasonable, consistent, and not contradicting ourselves. In the Bible God can’t deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13); Christ is not “Yes” and “No” but has always been “Yes” (2 Corinthians 1:19); it’s even impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18, Titus 1:2). He will not go back on a single word (Psalms 89:34). The Bible compares God’s characters to man’s in several ways; one of them is that God doesn’t lie (Numbers 23:19). Thus we have been given a command not to lie or bear false witness (Exodus 20:16, Exodus 23:1, Leviticus 19:11, Deuteronomy 5:20). We are commanded to tell the truth because that is what is right. We must not be deceitful (Proverbs 12:17), and those who lie will not escape (Proverbs 19:5). So when we talk with an unbeliever, we mustn’t contradict ourselves because this is a form of lying; we should aim to reach the truth upholding God as being true and every man a liar (Romans 3:4, Psalms 116:11).
This brings us to the second point, namely the use of Bible verses as proof-texting when we are talking to unbelievers. At this point we need to remember the difference between the aim of apologetics and the aim of evangelism. While evangelism seeks to convey God’s truth to unbelievers in an attempt to turn them to God, apologetics seeks to silence opposition to God’s truth as revealed in the Bible (Romans 3:19, Psalms 107:42, Matthew 22:46, Luke 14:6, Luke 20:40).
These two different aims require different methods. Again, evangelism seeks to make disciples, baptize, teach the word of God. Apologetics seeks to show unbelievers that they have no excuse for not believing by using the two-step method found in Proverbs that we discussed above.
You will recall that this requires us to start by taking the unbeliever’s worldview and showing it for what it is - “pseudo knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20). This step requires the apologist to use the unbeliever’s terminology, whatever that may be. Although apologetics doesn’t require us to be experts in every field and every opposing worldview, it can be helpful to understand the terminology used by unbelievers and even be able to use it in order to ask unbelievers to justify themselves. So this part may seem rational / Islamic / Hindu / Buddhist / or whatever from the outside, because it uses non-Christian terminology as we are illustrating how things look from a non-Christian worldview.
The second step however invites the unbeliever to consider the Christian worldview to show him how it doesn’t end up in absurdity or destroy the possibility of knowledge. So this part uses more Christian terminology than the first.