Pre-suppositional apologetics appears to be on the rise. We can thank Francis Schaeffer for popularizing the presuppositional approach. Of course Cornelius Van Til, John Frame, and Richard Pratt have played a huge part. But I have been recently encouraged by K. Scott Oliphint as he wields a sharp presuppositional apologetic sword. His work, Covenantal Apologetics is a fine introduction to the discipline. His work, The Battle Belongs to the Lord demonstrates the power of Scripture for defending the faith. But most recently, Oliphint presents Should You Believe in God? a booklet written to equip people in the discipline of apologetics – with a presuppositional approach.
Should You Believe in God? is a a fictional dialogue between a Christian and a skeptic who actually embraces the notion of truth. As such, Oliphint begins this two-way dialogue by pouring the unshakable epistemological “cement.” He admits his Christian presupposition up front and argues that this, indeed, is the only proper starting point: “Unless you submit yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ, and stand on his Word, you will never find a real place to stand, or a real place to rest, and your curious search will never end.”
Next, the Christian directs the skeptic to think through the implications of a world which is created, sovereignly controlled, and sustained by the living God. The only difference between a sovereign God who ordains all things and a skeptic who believes that all things are “accidentally conditioned” is that the pagan view has “no reference point.” Whereas the Christian view has an integration point that finds rest in God alone.
He proceeds to describe how the Christian faith holds to two kinds of necessity, namely – “the necessity that belongs to God alone,” and “the kind of necessity that is what it is because God created it that way” (such as the laws of logic).
He continues to demonstrate the futility of unbelief by assuming a position of neutrality. This view holds that one can hold a position (philosophical, scientifically, or otherwise) that is “neutral” and excludes God from the discussion. The point is that unbelievers begin autonomously – that is, they begin with themselves. Oliphint explains, “To assume neutrality at the outset is to assume that God has not spoken clearly through the things he has made.” They effectively and tragically cut themselves off from the very source of knowledge (found in Christ) when they make this fatal move.
Oliphint rightly argues that seekers of truth should begin with God instead of themselves as the proper starting point: “We ought to begin our searching, our research, our reasoning, and our demonstration with the fact of who he is and what he has done …Only by assuming, and affirming at the outset, the Christian God who has spoken can we escape this morass of meaninglessness and despair” (what Schaeffer referred to as the “line of despair.”)
The skeptic, in the final analysis, is urged to turn from unbelief and erroneous autonomous assumptions – which only lead to hopelessness and futility. The skeptic is challenged to turn to his Creator and bank all his hope and future on the living God: “If you will forsake your idols of independence and place yourself in his hands, this much is certain – he will redeem you.”
Should You Believe in God? is a powerful little tool that should receive a wide readership. It is a brilliant retooling of Van Till’s apologetic method put in a contemporary setting. Highly recommended!