K. Scott Oliphint makes a bold and courageous proposal in his newest book, Covenantal Apologetics. His proposal is to essentially do away with the language of presuppositional apologetics and replace this outdated terminology with “covenantal apologetics.” He makes a good case for the terminological change and takes the best of Van Til’s apologetic and leads readers down a path that is biblically informed, culturally aware, and apologetically sound.
“Christian apologetics” argues Oliphint, “is the application of biblical truth to unbelief.” With a broad definition in mind, the author moves forward by marking out the covenantal approach to apologetics. Each person is either in Adam or in Christ. All those in Adam are opposed to God and rebel against God’s authority as a matter of habit. All those in Christ have been given grace and are pronounced “not guilty” before the heavenly Tribunal, all owing to the person and work of the Lord Jesus. The essence of the covenantal approach is this: “All persons are in a covenant relationship with Christ the Lord. They owe him obedience. The same Christ who rules over you, rules over those who oppose him.”
Since the term presuppositionalism appears to be outdated and rendered obsolete, the author proposes the covenantal model of apologetics. He rightly argues, “Given that all men are in covenant relationship to God, they are bound by that relationship to ‘owe obedience unto Him as their Creator.’ That obligation of obedience comes by virtue of our being created – we were created as covenant beings. We are people who, by nature, have an obligation to worship and serve the Creator.” So sinful people (in covenant relationship with God) have turned their responsibility into an opportunity for disobedience and rebellion.
The author paints a portrait of a biblical apologist who sets Christ apart as Lord (1 Pet. 3:15) and is ready to give a defense of the gospel. The Pauline model is set forth (based on Acts 17) and readers are encouraged to engage unbelief by utilizing the so-called trivium of persuasion, namely, ethos (personal character), pathos (putting the listener in a certain frame of mind), and logos (proof that is set forth propositionally).
Covenantal Apologetics is a fine work, indeed. Many principles are beyond the scope of this review. As such, readers should dive in and approach this work with a sharp mind and a soft heart. The treasure trove in this work is bound to help shape a new generation of evangelists – so the nations will find their joy in Christ!