Revelation provides the only solid foundation for Christian Apologetics (Practical Implications 4)

What we believe about how God speaks to us will affect how we go about defending our faith against hostile objections and explaining what we believe to genuine enquirers

The  ability to give reasons and defence for our faith is known as Apologetics.  This is a whole subject in itself worthy of a lot more attention (perhaps it will get it in later posts!) However, briefly, we can say the following.

Apologetics is often presented as an exercise where one finds neutral ground to share with your interlocutor. On the basis of reason and empirical observation, a case is set out for the existence of some form of deity and from there, gradually, the enquirer is invited to consider the possibility that this deity is personal and is the God of the Bible.  This is the classic approach to apologetics and is exemplified in the classic work “Natural Theology” by William Palely.[1]  One problem with this approach is that it does not necessarily bring you into land at the right spot.  For example, through such means, the eminent Atheist Anthony Flew changed his mind and accepted that there was a God.  However, as far as we can tell, he failed to make the move from a general belief in deity to specific knowledge of and faith in the one true God revealed in Jesus. [2]

So my preference is for an approach called Presuppositional Apologetics. The basis of this approach is that first of all there is no neutral ground to meet on.  Instead, we must do two things.  First of all, we must step into the other person’s world and understand them.  Secondly, we do not leave our own world and foundations behind; rather, we speak on the basis of God’s revelation.  Thirdly, the nature of presuppositional apologetics is that it uses the truth of revelation to show the failings and inconsistencies in their world view because it is based on false foundations (presuppositions).  Fourthly, it shows that to make sense of life, the world, everything, we need to build our worldview on the solid foundation (presuppositions) of God’s revelation in Scripture.

This raises again the question asked in an earlier post. If God’s revelation is clear and sufficient, then why do so many people not accept it?  We can identify three main categories here.

  1. Why do some people choose not to believe in God (atheism) or at least to reserve judgement (agnosticism)?
  2. Why do some people come to a different conclusion about what God is like, worshipping other gods or other versions of God?
  3. Why do some professing Christians seem to go so badly wrong in their understanding of God’s Word leading to error and false teaching including liberalism? (It is worth referring back to the section on the clarity of Scripture here).

This is something we will need to keep coming back to and will specifically return to when we have had chance to look in more detail at what we believe about Creation and Humanity. At this stage we can say the following.

First, this is one of those points where we may struggle with Scripture and want to disagree with it. However, our required response is to believe what it says in Romans 1 about God’s clear revelation.  This may mean that we haven’t fully understood what Paul says and why he says it, but belief is the starting point.

Secondly, a key point that Paul is making in Romans 1 is that ignorance is not to be confused with innocence and is not a merely passive state. We are ignorant of truth because we choose to supress it. [3] There is also a sense in which people choose the authorities which they go to because they prefer the answers they will give.  I know that there are people who will gravitate to me for advice rather than another church leader because they think my advice will be more to their liking and of course vice-versa (that’s why plural church leadership is so important as church leaders work together to ensure that they are not played off against each other).  That some, indeed many, prefer to listen to Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens does not mean that a discerning mind will not see through the logical inconsistencies in their argument over time.

Thirdly, our ignorance includes an element of judgement. Remember that Paul refers to us as being handed over. Fourthly, ignorance of the truth and acceptance of error tends to be a progressive thing. As people exchange truth for lies and the revelation of God for idolatry, then there is an increased darkening of their minds.

Fifthly, remember the image of the beach ball being submerged under water only to bounce back again. [4] Truth will out.  There will be those nagging thoughts caused by inconsistencies in our world view: “This cannot be right….” “There must be more than this….” “Why are they different…?”

Later, when we look at what we believe about humanity, we will consider in more detail the way in which sin has an impact on our understanding. We will also consider to what extent Paul’s comments refer to us individually and to what extent they refer to us corporately as the whole human race.

[1] William Paley, Natural Theology,

[2] I say “as far as we can tell…” based on the writings we have from him.  It is of course unwise to attempt definitive statements when only God knows what exactly went on in his final days and hours.

[3] Strange, “Perilous Exchange,” 113.

[4] Strange, “Perilous Exchange,” 113.