Responses to ‘Unbelievable’ show on Apologetic Methodology

I’m not sure if Justin (Brierly) is aware of at least two responses to his programme with Scott Oliphint & Kurt Jaros. But apart from the Reformed Forum there has been another response from James White on The Dividing Line. I must admit to being completely unaware of this ‘show’ so thanks to my friend Jim over at The Domain for Truth for linking to The Dividing Line.

James White is a bit bolder than I have been but Justin as we know is committed to another apologetic method. So even if I email him it’s unclear whether he will listen these two programmes – but I’ll let him know anyway.

Links to James White’s two broadcasts ‘A Special Apologetics Methodology Dividing Line – Parts 1 & 2 Below.

The Dividing Line – Part 1

The Dividing Line – Part 2 (From about 15 minutes in on part 2 for the ‘Unbelievable’ discussion)

James White has been on ‘Unbelievable’ a couple of times so maybe Justin will have him on to discuss Apologetic Methodology?

K Scott Oliphint on ‘Unbelievable’

Rev. Dr. K. Scott OliphintJustin Brierly, host of ‘Unbelievable‘ had on his program yesterday K Scott Oliphint Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary.

Normally Justin tries to have an Atheist or Skeptic on debating with a Christian. But yesterday as he does occasionally had two Christians discussing different apologetic methodologies. Representing Evidentialism was Kurt Jaros of Real Clear Apologetics. Let’s hope his apologetic will soon be a lot clearer.

Many thanks to Justin for getting Scott Oliphint on and righting a wrong as it were in terms of Apologetic representation.

I didn’t know Scott had a new book coming out on PA (Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith) so maybe Justin could have him back on with an atheist to discuss it. My only slight criticism of an otherwise excellent program was that Scott wasn’t always given the time to finish his points – the draw back of a radio schedule I guess – but I thought Scott was still able to put across the Covenantal (Presuppositional) approach and begin to show how it’s very misunderstood.

Presuppositional or Covenantal Aplogetics is the only method that is able to present the Christian faith as anything other than a probability. Sadly, it seems to me that so many Christians hand the Christian faith over as nothing more than a probability.

The program is well worth a listen and could be a good place to start if PA is new to you as the questions put to Scott are ones that many opposed to, or misunderstand this method are probably asking.

Follow link for Unbelievable and download the broadcast. Or download via iTunes player

Van Til Lecture – Audio Available

The Audio for the Van Til Lecture by Geoff Thomas is now available for download.

Right Click HERE ans Save As… to download.

The Church where the lecture was held described it as: Cornelius Van Til: His life, contemporaries, and the bedrock of his theology – the things men know but will not admit.

I thought that was a good summary.

Van Til Lecture

Cornelius Van Til

We were treated last evening to a lecture on ‘Cornelius Van Til’ given by Geoff Thomas (Aberystwyth) in his own inimitable way. The lecture wasn’t the cerebral exercise many were expecting but was a warm lecture full of personal anecdotes and challenge by a man who knew personally Dr Van Til and Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones (You’ll get the connection when you listen to the lecture).

We were warned about the scientific method and evidentialism that hands authority over to man. It’s not for man to decide, it’s for man to repent and believe the Gospel. Preachers (and a lot were at the lecture) were encouraged to preach warmly to the conscience of man knowing there is a God and to not preach a Gospel of probability (my take) but of certainly.

Geoff said after that he should have mentioned ‘Paul at Athens’ and ‘Why I Believe in God’, two booklets by Van Til that are more accessible and available for free. Geoff wished Van Til had written more in this style.

Again as Geoff said afterwards, ‘there’s just so much to say and it’s a massive subject’. But everyone I spoke to and all the conversations I overheard were positive and appreciative of the lecture. He recommended the biography, Cornelius Van Til: Reformed Apologist and Churchman by John R. Muether and a newly released book of 9 sermons by Lloyd Jones, ‘Setting Our Affections upon Glory’.

The best recommendation of the lecture I heard came from a lady sitting in front of me when she said, ‘now I understand Van Til’.

For Van Til resources follow link to a previous post.

I’ll post links to the audio as soon as it becomes available.

Van Til Lecture

Some of us have really been looking forward to this final lecture for 2013. So pray for Geoff that he will be enabled to give true credit and explain an apologetic methodology that is as misunderstood as it is caricatured. If you can make it to the lecture be assured of a warm welcome and a cup of tea and a biscuit afterwards. Lecture is at Bulkington Congregational Church. Audio of all three lectures to follow.

April 2013 Church History Lecture

7:30pm Monday 8th April 2013

Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987)
The 20th Century’s Supreme Defender of the Faith

Speaker: Geoff Thomas

The Bible – Our Presupposition

Oil painting of a young John Calvin.
Oil painting of a young John Calvin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The following was partly quoted and referenced from John Calvin – full reference below quote. Note: There is no talk of probabilities here. And neither should we.

From John Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion

5. Let it therefore be held as fixed, that those who are inwardly taught by the Holy Spirit acquiesce implicitly in Scripture; that Scripture, carrying its own evidence along with it, deigns not to submit to proofs and arguments, but owes the full conviction with which we ought to receive it to the testimony of the Spirit.73 Enlightened by him, we no longer believe, either on our own Judgment or that of others, that the Scriptures are from God; but, in a way superior to human Judgment, feel perfectly assured—as much so as if we beheld the divine image visibly impressed on it—that it came to us, by the instrumentality of men, from the very mouth of God. We ask not for proofs or probabilities on which to rest our Judgment, but we subject our intellect and Judgment to it as too transcendent for us to estimate. This, however, we do, not in the manner in which some are wont to fasten on an unknown object, which, as soon as known, displeases, but because we have a thorough conviction that, in holding it, we hold unassailable truth; not like miserable men, whose minds are enslaved by superstition, but because we feel a divine energy living and breathing in it—an energy by which we are drawn and animated to obey it, willingly indeed, and knowingly, but more vividly and effectually than could be done by human will or knowledge. Hence, God most justly exclaims by the mouth of Isaiah, “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen, that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he,” (Isa. 43:10).

Such, then, is a conviction which asks not for reasons; such, a knowledge which accords with the highest reason, namely knowledge in which the mind rests more firmly and securely than in any reasons; such in fine, the conviction which revelation from heaven alone can produce. I say nothing more than every believer experiences in himself, though my words fall far short of the reality. I do not dwell on this subject at present, because we will return to it again: only let us now understand that the only true faith is that which the Spirit of God seals on our hearts. Nay, the modest and teachable reader will find a sufficient reason in the promise contained in Isaiah, that all the children of the renovated Church “shall be taught of the Lord,” (Isaiah 54:13). This singular privilege God bestows on his elect only, whom he separates from the rest of mankind. For what is the beginning of true doctrine but prompt alacrity to hear the Word of God? And God, by the mouth of Moses, thus demands to be heard: “It is not in heavens that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart,” (Deut. 30:12, 14). God having been pleased to reserve the treasure of intelligence for his children, no wonder that so much ignorance and stupidity is seen in the generality of mankind. In the generality, I include even those specially chosen, until they are ingrafted into the body of the Church. Isaiah, moreover, while reminding us that the prophetical doctrine would prove incredible not only to strangers, but also to the Jews, who were desirous to be thought of the household of God, subjoins the reason, when he asks, “To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1). If at any time, then we are troubled at the small number of those who believe, let us, on the other hand, call to mind, that none comprehend the mysteries of God save those to whom it is given.

John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion, I. VII. 5.

Referenced in a Kindle sample of Greg Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended. Part One: Presuppositional Apologetics Positively Stated, Chapter 1, God in the Dock, Section: By What Standard.

Well worth reading the sample, and it’s free!

Church History Lectures 2013

Bulkington Congregational Church

I’m delighted to bring to your attention the Church History Lectures for next year – 2013. It’s a real privilege and pleasure to be involved in arranging these and I’m especially grateful to David Hodges and Pastor Peter Mackenzie of Bulkington Congregational Church for their support in this. Their aim, as is mine, that God’s people are blessed, encouraged, informed, educated and strengthened in their most holy faith in these days. How we need to learn that the God of these men is our God too.

Let’s pray that the Triune God will grant perseverance, faith and faithfulness to our generation and that the Gospel of the Grace of God will be powerfully proclaimed to a dying generation. I’m very excited about these lectures and so I commend them to you. If you are in the area please come and join with us. And if you are unable to attend, please pray they will be used for the Glory of God worldwide.

As usual the audio will be available soon after the lectures and I’ll post about this next year. I’ll also post reminders. They will of course also appear with many other lectures on my website. Please link to these if you are able. And so here are the lectures for 2013:


Octavius Winslow

February 2013 Church History Lecture

7:30pm Monday 11th February 2013

Octavius Winslow (1808-1878).

Speaker: Richard Brooks


March 2013 Church History Lecture

7:30pm Monday 4th March 2013

“A Gentleman in Rags”

Speaker: Dafydd Morris


Cornelius Van Til

April 2013 Church History Lecture

7:30pm Monday 8th April 2013

Cornelius Van Til: 20th Century’s Supreme Defender of the Faith

Speaker: Geoff Thomas

A point to note here. Geoff was at Westminster in the 1960’s when Van Til was teaching. So his lecture will not be from hear-say or second hand.

Reformation 21 – Answers from Dr Oliphint

Last month I think it was, when Reformation 21 invited readers to submit their Apologetic questions to Dr Scott Oliphint. He has now started to answer them. I did send off an email so I’ll have to wait and see if he was able to find a slot to answer mine.

Go HERE for the first couple of answers.

An Introduction to Presuppositional Apologetics

Cornelius Van Til
Cornelius Van Til (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Geoff Thomas kindly forwarded ‘An Introduction to Presuppositional Apologetics’ by Ian Clary. It doesn’t go into an enormous amount of detail but is well worth a read to get a taste for the Presuppositional method.

After a brief introduction Clary outlines The Task of Apologetics as fourfold going on to briefly summarise the three schools of thought, Evidential, Classical and Presuppositional. On the apologetic task Clary writes:

John M. Frame explains that there are three aspects to apologetics. First, apologetics is proof; it presents a rational basis for the Christian faith and proves it be true (cf.  John 14:11). Second, apologetics is defense; it answers the challenges of unbelief (cf. Phil. 1:7). Third, apologetics is offense; it attacks the foolishness of unbelief (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-2:16). In addition to this tripartite understanding of apologetics William Edgar adds that commending the faith is just as important as defending it. Therefore the command to evangelize is integral to apologetics. “Evangelism and apologetics are seamlessly linked and together function under the rubric of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).”

The bulk of the article considers Some Basic Tenets. There are four of these and I’ll briefly try to summarise them, using Clary’s order. It’s in the introduction to this section where we find ‘This list is not exhaustive, but will hopefully give an adequate basis for understanding what one writer has called “kung-fu” apologetics.”

Not only can ‘Kung Fu’ be dangerous for an opponent but a little knowledge can be dangerous for the practitioner. So we need to be careful that we do not use this method inappropriately, or think we are some kind of Apologetics ‘Martial Artist’ only to get battered in our first encounter. The need for humility and graciousness is paramount.


This section is concerned with two diametrically opposed views. Here’s a section from the article that puts it well:

The notion of antithesis is reflected in Scripture, as seen in the 1 Corinthians 2:14 passage noted above. Paul could ask in 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 what relation does righteousness have with lawlessness, or light with darkness? Here, Paul likely builds on the teaching of Jesus in Mark 9:40 who said, “For the one who is not against us is for us.” And of course, the antithesis can be traced all the way back to the garden of Eden after the fall where God said to Satan in Genesis 3:15 that he would put enmity between he and the woman, between his offspring and hers.

Point of Contact

I have heard people misrepresent PA by saying there is no point in evangelising and there is nothing in common with the unbeliever. On the contrary there are two very powerful points of contact. This is not talking about a common interest like DIY or stamp collecting but a theological ‘common ground’ a point of contact. These are two-fold and extremely powerful. Everyone lives in God’s world and the evidence for this confronts the unbeliever every moment of every day wherever they are. The Bible tells us quite explicitly that God has made it plain, His eternal power and divine nature are ‘clearly seen’ because God has made it so. Clary puts it this way,

Experientially, the non-Christian lives in God’s world and is confronted daily with general revelation. God’s revelation is clear whether an unbeliever observes creation from the farthest galaxy to the smallest cell. The apostle Paul makes this point in Romans 1:20 when he says that God’s invisible attributes—his eternal power and divine nature—are “clearly seen” in the created order.

The second point of contact is internal to each and every person as we are all made in the image of God. We have a conscience and there is a knowledge of God though suppressed in unrighteousness. Clary again,

Alongside revelation in the external world, the unbeliever internally has an experience of God: in conscience. Immediate knowledge of God, since conception, renders the unbeliever without excuse. This knowledge is a result of the unbeliever bearing the image of God and the implanted sensus deitatis. Paul says in Romans 1:21 that unbelievers “know God” but do not glorify him. Therefore every apologetic appeal is to something already known by the unbeliever. If by God’s grace that knowledge is brought to remembrance, then conversion occurs. However, if the unbeliever continues in hardness of heart, the apologist has still accomplished his or her task of showing the unbeliever that deep down inside, they truly know God. This only furthers unbelievers’ responsibility to believe.

Ultimate Commitment

This point is to do not just with authority, but with final authority. Once all the layers have been peeled away what is it we are standing on. One of the criticisms of PA and Van Til according to Clary is that of ‘circular reasoning’. We answer this by saying, doesn’t every one do that. I have posted on this before but this to me is the very power of the method. I must assume my conclusion because it’s my Ultimate Commitment or Final Authority – if I didn’t it wouldn’t be my final authority it would be something else. As a Christian surely my final authority, my ultimate commitment must be to Christ and His Word. Here’s a passage from Clary’s article,

The real issue comes down to justifying one’s starting point. Can the non-Christian substantiate their autonomous reason as a legitimate and rational epistemic foundation? To do so, he or she must first assume reason before it can be proven to be a justifiable authority. This is what Van Til called a “vicious circle.” He could also say, “To admit one’s own presuppositions and to point out the presuppositions of others is therefore to maintain that all reasoning is, in the nature of the case, circular reasoning. The starting-point, method, and the conclusion are always involved in one another.”

Transcendental Argument (TAG)

This is the one that is the most difficult to get my head around. I can see it, but have difficulty explaining it. So I obviously haven’t got a clear grasp of it – yet. So I’m not going to attempt an explanation at this point but to merely give some tasters from Clary and tempt you to check out the full article. And if you have a simple way of explaining this then I would love to hear it. Here’s a tempter from Clary,

Van Til once wrote, “At the outset it ought to be clearly observed that very system of thought necessarily has a certain method of its own.” For Van Til, the only cogent method of apologetics, from the Christian perspective, is the transcendental method. The most significant contribution that Van Til made to apologetics, what has been called a contribution of Copernican dimensions, is the “transcendental argument” for the existence of God.

Hope that helps someone that’s as new to this as I am. Come back to see if I am making progress.

You can find the full article at Apologetics Journal. There are a bunch of footnotes I have left out that you will be able to check out in the full article.

Rally for Reason

Cover of "Faith and Reason"
Cover of Faith and Reason

Taking a look at the Atheist Rally for Reason website makes one wonder if they really know what they are doing. The reason (there’s that word) I say this is because there are so many Christian books that encourage or use reason, so many in fact, that it might be profitable to list them here. Why Atheists think they have the monopoly on reason is a mystery – apart from them seeking to occupy that ground with the hope that ‘Joe Public’ will be fooled into thinking Christians don’t think. The reality is however, Christians lament that thinking in general about anything at all goes on far less today. The Rally for Reason is a good example.

Here’s a few Book Titles (in no particular order):

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Scepticism by Tim Keller

Reasonable Faith by William Lame Craig

Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics edited by Paul Copan & William Lane Craig

Reason to Believe: A Response to Common Objections to Christianity by R C Sproul


Faith and Reason: Searching for a Rational Faith by Ronald H. Nash

The point is not necessarily to recommend the above list but merely to note that Christians do not have an aversion to reason. The above titles are only those that have the word reason in them. There are many many more books that employ the God-given gift of reason but do not have the word in the title. Whatever flag (these particular) atheists are rallying around can’t exclusively be around the flag pf reason. Their Rally for Reason is therefore to my mind completely unreasonable.

God Himself exhorts sinners, inviting them to think and to apply reason – not only in dealing with God but with each other:

Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Lev 19:17  “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.

Dan 4:34  At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;

Dan 4:36  At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me.

Act 17:2  And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,

Act 18:19  They came to Ephesus, and he left them there. Now he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.

Jas 3:17  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

1Pe 3:15  but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being 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,