Apologetics for the Average Christian: Asking Good Questions, Part 2

by Mark Farnham

The kind of apologetics that challenges the objections raised against the Christian faith is often called presuppositionalism (although some prefer other names, such as the transcendental approach or covenantal apologetics). Rather than accepting the unbeliever’s challenge immediately, this approach first tests the challenge to see if it is a legitimate challenge. The Christian faith can satisfy any legitimate challenge posed against it, such as the test of historicity, the demands of logic, or the law of non-contradiction. Believers often find themselves frustrated when trying to give an answer, however, because they don’t recognize the challenge posed by the unbeliever as illegitimate.

For example, an unbeliever might pose a challenge concerning the reliability of the gospels that looks like this:

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Unbeliever: How can you trust the Gospel accounts of Jesus when they were written by people who believed in him and were trying to advance his cause? That is not unbiased history; it is ideology. And besides, they were written decades after Jesus died. We know our memories are faulty, stories get exaggerated over time, and details are forgotten. You have to admit that the truth about Jesus is not really known any more, and cannot be known.

Believer: It wasn’t biased history and they didn’t forget what they saw. I believe it anyways.

In this example, the Christian has to concede a number of points. The Gospels were written to advance the cause of Jesus. They were written decades after Jesus died. Memories are faulty, stories do get exaggerated over time, and details are forgotten. What can he say to these charges?

The presuppositional method of apologetics always challenges the challenger before it presents the evidence. That is, presuppositionalism plays defense by dismantling the unbeliever’s challenge before going on the offense by showing the evidence for the Christian faith. This is likened to pulling the rug out from under the opponent or disarming the unbeliever before the intellectual battle.

What would that look like? Something like this…

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