In his review of my discussion with Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, James White argues for Presuppositionalism. Before I begin my disagreements/clarifications with White, I want to say that I wholeheartedly agree with him that how one views the sovereignty of God and the nature of man determines other beliefs in theology and specifically, one’s apologetic approach. Yet, I get the impression that this is not what White thinks I think. Much of this post won’t necessarily be in addressing presuppositionalism, inasmuch as it will be addressing the false statements made by White regarding myself. Now, if White wants to argue that I am being inconsistent with my own views, that’s something I would welcome.
Most of his show is devoted to taking down the practical argument for doing apologetics the non-presuppositionalist way. It is quite possible that the fact that I am only 25 and haven’t a PhD (yet) has made it harder to pinpoint my views, but the reason why I do hold to my views is not solely because of practical reasons, but because of my interpretation of the Bible. (And, of course, whether my interpretation of relevant passages is correct is a good discussion I look forward to having someday!)
So, to my three objections against White:
1. He argues that I, as a non-presuppositionalist, use my apologetic method to inform my theology. And Oliphint, who is a Presup … his theology informs his apologetic method.
This is the sort of rhetoric that I try and fight against. It is the same rhetoric that Calvinists often employ: that their view is the biblical one and others are not. I think it is one thing to say that you think your view is the correct one. That’s fine; everybody believes they have the right view. But it is another thing to be aware that there are other, alternative ways of thinking that are logically consistent with the biblical text. So describing your view as “the” biblical one (contra “a” biblical one) simply irritates your Christian opponent. And in all likelihood, it won’t win them over.
White thinks my apologetic method informs my theology because I declined to go into a discussion of theological issues. But, this is not close to the reason why I declined to go into theological issues. I declined to go further into the theological issues because I thought that it might seemingly get off-topic into looking at certain biblical passages or speaking of issues that some people are too unfamiliar with. Ultimately, I agree with White that theology informs the apologetic method. And my theology is certainly distinct from his: I don’t hold to Inability. I believe that man is able to do something toward his salvation (though that is distinct from thinking that he can completely earn his salvation on his own).
Besides, one need not agree with me on my disagreement with Inability (like Arminians) to see how White’s point here is simply rhetorical: the Bible is rife with examples of non-presuppositional apologetic methods. Not only do these examples provide a defense for one’s theology informing an apologetic method, but they serve as counter-examples to the narrative of Presuppositionalism. Normal Geisler writes,
But apologetics is used in the Bible. Even those familiar with it don’t recognize it, since they don’t realize that what they are looking at is really apologetics. Moses did apologetics. The first chapter of Genesis clearly confronts the mythical accounts of creation known in his day. His miracles in Egypt were an apologetic that God was speaking through him (Exodus 4:1-9). Elijah did apologetics on Mount Carmel when he proved miraculously that Yahweh, not Baal, is the true God (1 Kings 18). Jesus constantly engaged in apologetics, proving by signs and wonders that he was the Son of God (John 3:2; Acts 2:22). The apostle Paul did apologetics at Lystra when he gave evidence from nature that the supreme God of the universe existed and that idolatry was wrong (Acts 14:6-20).
In addition to the examples above, the Gospel writers consistency cite OT prophecy and tell us that the reason for their writing is so that we an have a reliable source. Also, Jesus puts forth evidence in a non-presuppositional fashion in Matthew 12:38-45, Luke 7:22, John 10:38, and John 14:11. Paul writes in a non-presuppositionalist way when he wrote “we try to persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11). Other verses pertaining to persuading people are: Acts 2:22-36, 9:22, 29, Acts 18:4, 28, 19:8, 2 Cor. 10:5, Philippians 1:7, 16, et al. Some of these verses do not guarantee that the persuading was of non-presuppositional fashion, but because some verses do appear to set themselves up against it, it is reasonable to believe that the biblical characters themselves did not hold exclusively to the Presuppositionalism approach. In fact, it appears from the text, they did believe they could convince people.
2. White says that he doesn’t understand how I could agree with him that we shouldn’t base our apologetic method on the numbers successful “converts.” Again, this is more rhetoric; and it is simply dishonest. Of course I agree with White that we need to do apologetics with the spirit of Christ, to the glorification of God, etc. and that doing something purely based on gaining more numbers is improper thinking. The reason why I support the non-presuppositional methods is because a) I believe they actually work and b) I don’t think full-bore presuppositionalism is true.
Side note: White presents the analogy of worship here. I agree with him on this point, too. I support a traditional style of worship to the contemporary style. And for those unfamiliar with this discussion, many advocates of traditional style of worship believe that one of the negatives to contemporary worship is that it changes and waters-down certain aspects to worship so as to get more people in the door.
3. White draws a petty point with my explaining of how some historians become a Christian. Of course I agree with him that a person becomes a Christian by repenting and bowing their knee before Christ. But he seems to have missed my point: prior to the individual deciding to repent and bow their knee before Christ, they encounter this historical account of Jesus of Nazareth. In applying the same historical methods to other individuals, they come to believe that this is a reliable testimony and thus, they are persuaded to become a Christian.
In clarifying my position, pointing out where White spoke on issues he was ignorant of, and showing how White built up some straw men, I hope to illustrate, in agreement with White, that the disagreement between Presups and non-Presups boils down to one’s view of God’s sovereignty and the nature of man (which is contingent upon one’s view of the Biblical text).