Arguing, Quarreling, and Questioning

According to 1 Peter 3 : 15, Christians are commanded to always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in us. But that isn’t all Peter had to write. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle added, “…yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:15b-16, ESV).

This is easier said than done. On the one hand we are commanded to to defend truth against lies, but on the other hand we are also commanded to do this with gentleness and respect. Most people are either combative or cowardly.

The English journalist G.K . Chesterton once remarked, “People generally quarrel because they cannot.” Arguing and quarreling are not the same thing. An argument is an claim supported by reasons. A quarrel is a claim supported by rage and maybe fists. On is rational and persuasive, and the other is emotive and coercive. Quarreling is what happens when we either cannot think of good reasons for our beliefs.

Some people, who mistake arguing for quarreling, avoid confrontation at all costs. Not only does this shirk the biblical command to be ready to give a reason, but this is contrary to the example set by Jesus and the apostles. Jesus constantly confronted the the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Paul engaged with Greek philosophers in Athens. I doubt Christianity would still be around today if the early Christians had remained in the shadows, sheepishly keeping their convictions to themselves.

One of the most effective ways I have found of confronting skeptics without the conversation devolving into a quarrel is to question the questioner.

This was a tactic often used by Jesus. There are a few examples of this in the New Testament, but my personal favorite is the account in Luke 10 of the lawyer who asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered his question with the question “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The lawyer answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus agreed and advised him, “Do this, and you will live.” But the lawyer wanted to look clever, and asked the Lord, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus told him the parable of the Good Samaritan, and in conclusion asked, “Which of these three [the priest and the Levite who left the man for dead, or the Samaritan who helped him], do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

Apologetics is not just giving answers to questions — it is questioning people’s answers, and even questioning their questions. When you question someone’s question, you compel him or her to open up about his or her own assumptions. Our assumptions must be examined.~ Ravi Zacharias

Questioning the questioner also shows that you are open minded, willing to listen to opposing views. It will provide you with a clearer idea of the questioner’s beliefs. The right questions can even direct the questioner to figure the truth out for themselves, without further argument from you.

1 Peter 3 : 15

According to 1 Peter 3 : 15, Christians are commanded to always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in us. The Christian discipline of apologetics is learning to explain and defend why we believe what we believe. God does not need anyone to defend Him, of course. What Christians are called to defend is the hope that is in us. There are good reasons for believing in God, and Christians are commanded to have them at the ready.

All Christians are commanded first of all to proclaim the good news that “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God,” in the glorious words of C.S. Lewis. Sometimes, all unbelievers need to hear is “a simple gospel presentation” to believe. In this increasingly antichristian era unbelievers are skeptical of the gospel and question the truth claims of Christianity. That is why all Christians are also called to defend the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Apologetics is nothing new. On the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit fell on the first Christians, some were amazed to hear God praised miraculously in all the languages of the Roman world. Others mocked, saying the Christians were only drunk. Peter defended the outpouring of the Spirit by quoting the prophet Joel. He pointed out the miracles of Jesus, and boldly testified that he had witnessed the risen Savior. Fulfilled prophecy, miracles, the eyewitness testimony the Apostles, and the resurrection of Jesus remain key points for Christian defenders today. Peter used apologetics, and God used Peter to save about 3,000 people on that day.

Do you want to lead people to Jesus? Ground yourselves in the redemptive message of the Bible first, and learn apologetics second. It’s a wise person that wins souls (Proverbs 11:30).

How Should a Christian React to the CIA Torture Report?


Unless you have been living in a cave with no wi-fi internet, you have probably heard about the recent release of a CIA torture report. There has been a lot of discussion about the motivation of the report, the truthfulness of the claims made by the report, and whether torture is justified in wartime.

Unfortunately, the primary discussion surrounding the report has been political rather than moral. If one is a Democrat, than one is supposed to condemn these acts of torture and call for George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the entire Bush administration to be rounded up and tried for war crimes. If one is a Republican, then one dismisses the report as a smear campaign, and either argues that the interrogation techniques used by the CIA were justified, or that the report is simply false.

Certainly we cannot entirely separate the report from politics. After all, whatever the CIA did, it was acting on behalf of the US government and its elected officials. However, this is primarily a moral rather than a political issue. Rather than taking our cues from political talking points, Christians should start with the transcendent moral law of God, which is written in the Scriptures and upon our hearts (Romans 2 : 6-16). A Christian’s political convictions should be drawn from what the Bible says, not the other way around.

Christians Believe in Objective Morality

Christians believe in and teach that morality is objective and transcendent, handed down to humanity from God. In fact, all human beings are incurably moral creatures. Although we do not know or practice moral duties perfectly, reasonable people agree that theft, dishonesty, unprovoked violence, murder, etc. are immoral. Recent scientific studies suggest that moral intuitions start at a very young age.

Christians believe that this is by divine design. Christian apologists even argue that our sense of morality points beyond itself to God. A transcendent moral law requires a transcendent moral Law Giver. This moral law entails real moral values and duties. If morality were merely a human invention or the result of an unguided evolutionary process, than it would not be real, but only a figment of our imagination. A real moral law would be true whether we believed it or not. For such a law to exist, it would need to come from beyond humanity. The best explanation for the origin of such a law is God, and this law is grounded in His perfect nature.

A moral argument for God’s existence is not my point here. My point is that Christians believe that there is a real right and a real wrong. It is at the heart of Christian doctrine, which teaches that we are all violators of God’s law, and justly subject to God’s wrath. We are saved only by grace received through faith in Jesus Christ. If morality is just a matter of opinion, or the concensus of society, or an evolutionary survival mechanism, then Christ’s death was unnecessary to atone for anyone’s sins, and Christianity is meaningless. Moral relativism is not an option for Christians.

Imago Dei

In addition to objective morality, Christians believe that all human beings have inherent worth because God created them in His own image and likeness.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” – Genesis 1:26, ESV

This Christian idea of human dignity has led Believers to oppose abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, slavery, suicide, and unjust war.

What About Violence and War?

The Scriptures are clear that Christians are to love their neighbors, even their enemies. Since all people are created in God’s image, all people should be treated with respect as intelligent and moral being who reflect the divine (even if they are not redeemed, in a distorted way). They have certain rights as human beings created in the image of God, we have certain responsibilities to treat them humanely, and vice versa.

Some Christians would argue that on this basis Christians should renounce all violent action, especially war. I do not believe this is necessary, and is actually problematic in the face of real evil. If someone breaks into my house to steal my property or attack my family, it is my right to defend my family and property, possibly with lethal force. It is not only my right, but my moral duty. The Bible supports this:

If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him. – Exodus 22:2, ESV

It may appear to be an exception, but I am not certain it is an exception. Here it honors the value of human life by affirming that it is worth defending.

The same kind of thinking could be extended to wars of defense. Dr. Albert Mohler provides a good summary of Christian just war theory in The Briefing 12-17-14.

The conclusion of Christians throughout the ages, the Christian consensus, is that war in the first place must always be the last resort possible. The only conceivable justification for the use of deadly force is that it would stop an even greater injustice or evil. That’s a recognition that in a fallen world sometimes the use of violent force is necessary, even what is rightly described as war.

One of the principles of Just War Theory is that war must always be defensive, never offensive. That is to say, it must be started as the last resort in order to defend oneself or one’s nation against an impending threat or an actual invasion. It must never be about the conquest of territory or the gaining of some kind of political or military advantage. Furthermore (and this is very important), Just War Theory is divided into the grounds by which war will be justified and then the acceptable grounds on which a war can be conducted. And one the most important principles of the Christian biblical thinking in terms of just war theory is the principle of what is called discrimination; which is to say that Christians, based upon the biblical worldview, must specifically discriminate against fellow combatants and civilians and must take every reasonable precaution in order to protect civilians and to direct deadly force only against those who are trying to initiate deadly force. – Dr. Albert Mohler

There were even guidelines for war in the Mosaic Law. In Deuteronomy chapter 20, the children of Israel were commanded to offer their enemies terms of peace before attacking a city. They were commanded to kill male combatants only, sparing the women, children, and livestock. They were even commanded to refrain from destroying any trees unless they could not be used as a food source.

Are the trees in the field human, that they should be besieged by you? – Deuteronomy 20:19, ESV

It is true that the passage sets the land and people of Canaan apart, advising

But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded, that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God. – Deuteronomy 20:16-18, ESV

However, there is a solid biblical case that this was hyperbolic language. For example, Joshua 10:40 records that Joshua “…left none remaining, but devoted to destruction all that breathed…” in the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes.
Later on after Joshua died, “…the men of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites who lived in the hill country, in the Negeb, and in the lowland” (Judges 1:9, ESV). There are several other examples of this in the Bible. In addition to the Biblical evidence, language such as “utterly destroy” and “you shall save alive nothing that breathes” was common in other Ancient Near Eastern texts about warfare. Just as in the Bible, there is utter destruction language used in cases we now know did not involve complete annihilation. Lastly, there is no archeological evidence of civilian populations in the fortified cities such as Jericho and Ai which were overthrown by Israel. The biblical language suggesting nations, including women and children, were completely wiped out is not much different than present day folks saying one sports team “creamed” or “slaughtered” their opponents.

The Torture Report

Now that we have established a consistent Christian moral standard, emphasizing human worth and dignity, we can judge these enhanced interrogation techniques according to Christian standards. Unfortunately, nowadays many Christians make judgements according political party lines before considering what God has revealed on a matter.

What does the CIA report tell us?

Here is a list of some torture techniques employed per the report:

1. The CIA force fed/hydrated subjects through their anus in order to establish total control over the detainee. At least five CIA detainees were subjected to ‘rectal rehydration’ or rectal feeding without documented medical necessity. This technique resulted in symptoms typically associated with violent anal rape.

2. Interrogators threatened to murder or rape family members of prisoners, including children.

3. At least one prisoner died of hypothermia while being interrogated in 2002.

4. Prisoners with injuries such as a broken foot, sprained ankle, or amputated leg were forced to stand on their injuries for extended periods of time.

5. Prisoners received death threats during interrogation, and several prisoners were subjected to mock executions. In at least one instance, a prisoner was threatened with a power drill and a gun. The interrogator played Russian roulette with the prisoner. This agent was subsequently sent home early.

6. During waterboarding, several prisoners became completely unresponsive and nearly died of drowning.

7. Prisoners were forced to remain awake for over one week (180 hours).

8. Prisoners were forced to use buckets for toilets, and were punished at times by having the buckets taken away.

9. One prisoner was placed in a coffin sized box over 11 days and was also placed in a box 21 inches (53 cm) wide, 2.5 feet (76 cm) deep and 2.5 feet (76 cm) high for 29 hours.

10. A report by the Federal Bureau of Prisons noted

The had never been in a facility where individuals were so sensory deprived i.e., constant white noise, no talking, everyone in the dark, with the guards wearing a light on their head when they collected and escorted a detainee to an interrogation cell, detainees constantly being shackled to the wall or floor, and the starkness of each cell (concrete and bars). There is nothing like this in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

11. Enhanced techniques included unauthorized forms of torture such as forcing a prisoner to stand with his hand over his head for 2 1/2 days, putting a pistol next to his head and bathing him with a stiff brush.

12. One prisoner who was later released because the CIA had mistaken his identity was forced to take ice water baths and endured 66 hours of standing sleep deprivation prior to being released.

13. The CIA used torture on suspects prior to evaluating whether they would be willing to cooperate in at least six instances.

14. The torture techniques utilized by the CIA during interrogation resulted in
hallucinations, dementia, paranoia, insomnia, and attempts at self-harm including suicide. In one instance, the prisoner was psychologically traumatized to the point of being “a broken man” but CIA operatives stopped short of completely breaking him.

I found a New York Times article entitled “7 Key Points From the C.I.A. Torture Report” helpful.

Some claim that the enhanced interrogation techniques do not fit the legal definition of torture. For the purposes of this writing, I am much less interested in technical legal definitions than what you or would consider torture if these sort of techniques, such as rectal feeding/hydration, were applied to us or our loved ones.
The report indicated that interrogation techniques have downplayed by defenders of torture as relatively slight. In fact, it revealed that interrogation techniques were actually more severe than previously portrayed. For example, medical officer described waterboarding as a “series of near drownings.” CIA officials Scott Miller and James Pavitt were told that rectal exams of at least two prisoners had been conducted with “excessive force.”

The report also revealed high levels of deceipt surrounding the program. Not only did the CIA downplay the harshness of the techniques, but exaggerated the effectiveness of the techniques in order to gain support. The CIA also lied repeatedly about the number of detainees held.

The report states that the C.I.A. resisted congressional oversight, restricted access to information, declined to answer questions about the program and “impeded oversight” by the agency’s inspector general by providing false information. – from “7 Key Points From the C.I.A. Torture Report”

Thou Shalt not Bear False Witness

Perhaps most damning to the case of torture defenders are instances in which intelligence was obtained without enhanced interrogation techniques, which were later used anyway. Defenders of the CIA’s methods excuse the savage nature of the techniques as necessary to obtain intelligence that could not have been obtained otherwise. Per page 462 of the report CIA records show that Abu Zubaydah was taken into CIA custody in March 2002. He cooperated with the CIA interrogators by providing information on al Qaeda’s activities, tactics, leadership, etc. without being tortured. However, they considered him “uncooperative” because he did not provide any information on the next attack planned on the US, or al Qaeda’s agents in the US. The isolated him for 47 days, followed by waterboarding. They were unable to obtain additional information via torture. As a result of the torture, Zubaydah’s eye was so badly damaged that it was surgically removed. The justification for Zubaydah’s torture was so weak that then CIA Director Michael Hayden felt the need to lie about it in his testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 2007.

The CIA also colluded with American media in a propaganda campaign to sell the effectiveness of torture to the American people. Judging from what I have seen on social media, it was fairly effective. With a wink and a nod from the CIA Director, agents shared classified information with reporters. However, the report notes that the subsequent news reported and books written included inaccurate claims about the effectiveness of CIA interrogations.

If torture really served a practical purpose of obtaining vital security information, it might be argued that the enhanced techniques were justified to save lives. However, as we have seen this is simply not the case. To be frank, I am not convinced that forced rectal hydration or threats to rape or murder the prisoners’ loved ones are morally justifiable, even if such techniques resulted in useful intelligence. Torture was apparently so ineffective that the CIA felt the need to lie to the Senate and create a deceptive media campaign in order to justify it.

Another Horrible Pro-Torture Argument

There is a popular meme circulating on social media of a picture of the man who leaped from the World Trade Center on 9/11 with the caption “This is why I don’t give a #&*! about how we obtained information from terrorists!” We have already thoroughly debunked the myth of “torture saves lives.” The other fallacy of this meme is that the barbaric actions of Islamic extremists justify barbaric torture techniques of the CIA. I might add here that the terror attack on 9/11 does not justify drone attacks on wedding parties and children. The awful truth of the war on terror is that the US government does not occupy the moral high ground. We cannot consistently condemn Islamic acts of terror while promoting democratic acts of terror. It is time for Christians to take a conscientious stand against all terror acts–those committed by Islamic extremists and those committed by our own government.


Christians should make moral decisions based on a biblical standard of morality, confirmed by conscience and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. To many believers make moral judgements of government actions along party lines before considering what the Bible says. The Bible presents a strong, objective sense of morality with an emphasis on the value of human life and the inherent worth of every human being.

It has recently been reported by the Senate Intelligence Committee that the inherent dignity of prisoners was violated by the CIA, when they tortured them under the pretense of gaining useful intelligence. The report may have been politically motivated, but the acts reported were still immoral. Any political backlash against Republicans is bound to backfire anyway, since torture almost certainly continued under the Obama administration. For the most part, President Obama has followed Bush plans and policies regarding the war on terror.

Defenders of torture have argued that torture critics have blown the severity of enhanced torture techniques out of proportion. According to the report, the techniques were actually more brutal than previously reported. The torture resulted in significant psychological damage, and in some cases substantial bodily damage, and even death. Whatever the technical legal definition of torture may be, the average person would recognize the techniques used by CIA interrogators as torture. They would be outraged to discover government agents had done such things to their loved ones. On the basis of a biblical moral standard, Christians should condemn these acts of torture.

Defenders of torture have argued that torture resulted in obtaining information that saved lives, but the evidence does not support this. In fact, the case that life saving information was obtained via torture was so flimsy that the CIA Director felt it was necessary to lie to the Senate Intelligence Committee about its efficacy, and the CIA conducted a propaganda campaign in cooperation with the media to convince the public that torture was necessary.

Defenders of torture have argued that torture is justified because Islamic terrorists are guilty of horrible atrocities, including the attack on 9/11. Acts of torture conducted by the US government are no better than acts of terror by religious zealots. The latter in no way whatsoever justifies the former. In order to be morally consistent, Christians should condemn all immoral actions, whether committed by Islamic extremists or the US government.

Being as Communion


Or do they?

Christians like myself, along with religious believers of all stripes insist this is not the case. Skeptics insist on empirical evidence, which they claim the faithful lack. The majority of humanity hang on tenaciously to their belief that something more than space, time, and matter exists. The question is whether their beliefs have a solid foundation, or are they just persisting in pre – scientific superstitions?

The skeptics’ mantra is: observable, testable, repeatable. They dismiss the philosophical wisdom of the ages as milk and water. They compare faith in deity with belief in the Tooth Fairy or the Boogeyman, if not the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. ~ Carl Sagan

William Dembski offers an alternative explanation. In Being As Communion, he contends that the universe is built from information rather than mere waves and particles.

To exist is to be in communion, and to in communion is to exchange information. According, the fundamental science, indeed, the science that needs to ground all other sciences, is a theory of communication, and not, as is widely supposed, an atomistic, reductionistic, and mechanistic science of particles or other mindless entities, which then need to be built up to ever greater orders of complexity by equally mindless principles of association, known as natural laws or algorithms or emergent properties or principles of self – organization. ~ William Dembski

If Dembski is correct, this has implications for the way we see reality. If the fundamental stuff of the universe is information, then the universe certainly points beyond itself to an intelligent personal Creator. From nothing nothing comes.

Something cannot come from nothing. To claim that something can come into being from nothing is worse than magic, when you think about it. When a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat, at least you’ve got the magician – not to speak of the hat! ~ William Lane Craig

If we should be skeptical of the claim that the matter could not have spontaneously popped into existence, we should certainly be skeptical of information arising without a mind. If it turned out that William Dembski is right, it would be another nail in the coffin a materialist atheism. I intend to examine Dembski’s claims in Being As Communion over the course of a series. I encourage the curious to join me over the next few posts.

How Should I Earnestly Contend for the Faith? Conclusion

Now that we have reviewed the five most common methods, which method of apologetics is the best? I would encourage my readers to do their own research, read Five Views on Apologetics for themselves, and make up their own minds. My personal opinion is that, more than any one method, Five Views… promotes what is gaining popularity as “integrated method.”

Rather than promoting one method above the rest, it shows that these methods have more similarities than differences. In fact, many of the authors admit openly to borrowing from each others’ methods. For example, William Lane Craig tempers his classical method with Reformed epistemology:

We know that our Christian beliefs are true because they are properly basic, warranted beliefs grounded in our vertical experience of the witness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. … We can show that Christian theism is true by presenting arguments for theism and evidences for a specifically Christian theism, which go to show, when coupled with defensive apologetics, that Christian theism is the most plausible worldview a sufficiently informed, normal adult can adopt.

Dr. Craig’s concept of showing Christianity to be true is typical of the classical method, but his ideas on knowing Christianity to be true are derived from the Reformed epistemology of Alvin Plantinga. He has adopted this hybrid method in order to avoid becoming overly rationalistic in his defense of Christianity.

William Lane Craig is not alone mixing and matching methods. John Frame (unlike some other presuppositional apologists) affirms the role of evidence and even classical arguments for God’s existence.

… [O]ur argument should be transcendental. That is, it should present the biblical God, not merely as the conclusion to an argument, but as the one who makes argument possible. …We can reach this transcendental conclusion by many kinds of specific arguments, including many of the traditional ones. The traditional cosmological argument, for example…

Few people would disagree that William Lane Craig is among the best classical apologists, and that John Frame is among the best presuppositionalists. It is encouraging that, despite some disagreement on minor differences between them, they agree on the the most important things. It is also enlightening for the classicalists among us who have engaged the simpleton “presuppositional apologists” who really do insist on arguing in vicious circles, and the presuppers among us who have encountered the uber-rationalist “evidentialists” who are more committed to the latest evidence and arguments than biblical orthodoxy. We should judge the merits of each method on the best apologists, rather than the worst.

Personally, I lean toward the classical method. Like William Lane Craig, I also appreciate the Reformed epistemologists’ objection that belief in God is justified apart from empirical evidence, and I agree that we know God exists better via the inner witness of the Spirit than by arguments. I also love the presuppositional passion for the authority of the Bible and apologetics as evangelism. Finally, I love the imaginative literary nature of cumulative case apologists, who remind us that Christianity is more than a set of syllogisms.

No matter the method, there are some essential elements of quality Christian apologetics. All believers are commanded to always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. No particular method is described. Classical, evidential, cumulative case, presuppositional, or Reformed epistemology apologetics are perfectly fine from a biblical perspective. But we are to be ready with an answer, and we must deliver it with gentleness and respect. Our apologetics must be grounded in the Scriptures. We should always bear in mind the purpose of apologetics as well: to spread the gospel. Whether we use a particular method, or integrate various methods, goal of apologetics is not to show everyone how intelligent Christians can be, but to remove intellectual obstacles to encountering Jesus Christ.

How Should I Earnestly Contend for the Faith? Part 6

The fifth and final method presented in Five Views on Apologetics is Reformed epistemology, as presented by Kelly James Clark. Currently, he serves as Senior Research Fellow at the Kaufman Interfaith Institute at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI. Previously, he was Professor of Philosophy at Gordon College and Calvin College, and has held visiting appointments at Oxford, St. Andrews, and Notre Dame.

Reformed epistemologists are not in favor of fideism, but are skeptical of the power of evidence to persuade unbelievers. Neither are they opposed to evidences for the truth of Christianity, but point out that most Christians did not come to believe through evidential arguments. Reformed epistemology holds that a rational belief in God can be maintained without arguments or evidence. Reformed epistemologists have a strong conviction that God has given all people an awareness of himself.

It is hard to imagine that God would make rational belief as difficult as those who demand evidence contend. I encourage anyone who thinks that evidence is required for rational belief in God to study very carefully the theistic arguments, their refutations and counter-refutations, and their increasing subtlety yet decreasing charm. Adequate assessment of these arguments would require a lengthy and tortuous tour through the history of philosophy and may require the honing of one’s logical and metaphysical skills beyond the capacity of most of us. Why put that sort of barrier between us and God? John Calvin believed that God has provided us with a sense of the divine.
– Kelly James Clark, from Chapter Five: Reformed Epistemology Apologetics, Five Views on Apologetics

How Should I Earnestly Contend for the Faith? Part 5

The fourth method of apologetics presented in Five Views on Apologetics is presuppositional apologetics, defended by Dr. John Frame. Dr. Frame is the J. D. Trimble Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary.

The main idea behind presuppositional apologetics is the Protestant Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura–or Scripture alone. In the previous methods of apologetics presented in this series, the starting point is evidence (philosophical, historical, etc.) which is used to argue for the truth of Christianity. In presuppositional apologetics, the truth of Christianity is presupposed from the start, and God’s revelation–preeminently the Bible–is used as the standard by which all other truth claims are judged. Besides Dr. Frame, presuppositional apologists include Cornelius van Til, Greg Bahnsen, Francis Schaeffer, James White, and Sye Ten Bruggencate.

Scripture actually has a great deal to say about epistemology, or theory of knowledge. It teaches that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 9:10; 15:33) and of knowledge (Prov. 1:7). “Fear” here is that reverent awe that yields obedience. It is based on the conviction that God is Lord, and we are his creatures and servants. He has the right to rule every aspect of our lives. When he speaks, we are to hear with the profoundest respect. What he says is more important than any other words we may hear. Indeed, his words judge all the affairs of human beings (John 12:48). The truth of his words, then, must be our most fundamental conviction, our most basic commitment. We may also describe that commitment as our most ultimate presupposition, for we bring that commitment into all our thought, seeking to bring all our ideas in conformity to it. That presupposition is therefore our ultimate criterion of truth. We measure and evaluate all other sources of knowledge by it. We bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).
– John Frame, from Chapter Four: Presuppositional Apologetics, Five Views on Apologetics

Another important element of presuppositional apologetics is the idea that there is no neutral ground. In evidence based methods of apologetics, the Christian apologist starts on what is considered common ground with the unbeliever–logic, or philosophy, or perhaps history. The presuppositional apologist would argue that there really is no such common ground between Christians and unbelievers, because the way each side interprets the evidence is determined by their presuppositions, which differ between the Christian and the unbeliever. Just as the starting point for the presuppositional apologist is God’s Word, the unbeliever’s starting point may be methodological naturalism, or the Qur’an, etc. Perhaps the unbeliever doesn’t even know what presuppositions are affecting his judgment. The primary goal of presuppositional apologetics is to expose the presuppositions of the unbeliever as inconsistent. After the unbeliever is shown that her worldview doesn’t work after all, the hope of the presuppositional apologist is that she will embrace Christianity as the only worldview consistent with reality.

Presuppositional apologetics is often criticized as circular, since the apologist presupposes from the beginning that Christianity is true. John Frame counters this critique in two ways. First of all, presuppositionalism is linear rather than circular in the sense that there is a logical chain beginning with God’s rationality –> our faith –> our reasoning. Dr. Frame argues that, from this point of view, the argument is linear rather than circular. He also argues that circularity is actually unavoidable in any argument. All arguments presuppose some ultimate standard, and they will inevitably circle back to the standard.

But are we not still forced to say, “God exists (presupposition), therefore God exists (conclusion),” and isn’t that argument clearly circular? Yes, in a way. But that is unavoidable for any system, any worldview. For God is the ultimate standard of meaning, truth, and rationality. For a philosophical rationalist, human reason is the ultimate standard. But how can the rationalist argue that position? He must, in the final analysis, say, “Reason is the ultimate standard because reason says so.” Or if a Muslim believes that Allah is the standard of rationality, he must argue that Allah is the standard because Allah says so. One cannot argue for an ultimate standard by appealing to a different standard. That would be inconsistent.

So there is a kind of circle here. But even this circle, as I indicated earlier, is linear in a sense. For it is a movement from God’s truth, to the gift of faith, to the reflection of God’s truth in human reasoning.
– John Frame, from Chapter Four: Presuppositional Apologetics, Five Views on Apologetics

Dr. Frame differs from some presuppositional apologists in that he is open to defending Christianity via evidence. Many presuppositionalists contend that any attempt to persuade using evidence is a waste of time, since according to the first chapter of Romans, God has plainly revealed Himself to all men, and unbelievers only deny God by suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. Some presuppositionalists who take this stance go as far as to say that any use of evidence puts men in the position of judging God, and is therefore immoral and even idolatrous. Other anti-evidential presuppositionalists only hold that arguments from evidence are ineffective. Dr. Frame is comfortable with evidence, only cautioning that the apologist should argue in a way that is transcendental. By transcendental, John Frame means an argument that presents the God of the Bible as not only the most rational answer, but the only One who makes rational argument possible.

We can reach this transcendental conclusion by many kinds of specific arguments, including many of the traditional ones.
– John Frame, from Chapter Four: Presuppositional Apologetics, Five Views on Apologetics