Monday, May 04, 2009

Book Review: "Always Ready" by Greg Bansen part 1

To many Christians, “apologetic methodology” is something that merely strengthens or weakens someone’s arguments. Thus, when speaking of “Presuppositional” apologetics, most will gaze with a blank stare. And if one were to get a response, it might be from an unbeliever who will argue, “Oh, so you’re trying to prove the Bible by using the Bible,” and then make the accusation of circular reasoning.

However, apologetics isn’t so much based on how well we can argue or how smart we are as it is about doing that which glorifies God. “As long as we are bringing the lost to Christ, it doesn’t matter how we do it, right?” This is how many approach their encounters with unbelievers, not being aware of how God works in the mind and heart of the unbeliever. In other words, if man is “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1) as the Bible teaches, then what good will our arguments do? And if God is the one who changes the heart and does the work of regeneration, then shouldn’t our method reflect that?

In light of the many challenges that believers face in this day and age of “enlightenment,” Greg Bahnsen, in his book “Always Ready,” offers a fresh (though not original) look at the issues and how we can approach apologetics in a God-glorifying manner. What exactly does this look like? Well, one thing is for certain; Dr. Bahnsen’s approach is certainly one that is derived from Scripture. This is quite the contrary from how many of us have traditionally understood apologetics in the past. Let me explain what I mean.

When I used to approach unbelievers, I always wanted to seek neutral ground with the unbeliever. And what I learned from Dr. Bahnsen is that this approach is not biblical, regardless of how “effective” one might make it out to be. Allow me to provide an illustration through an imaginary conversation:

Mr. Unbeliever: I see no reason to believe that God exists. In order for me to believe, you are going to have to convince me with proof.

Mr. Believer: Certainly! Wouldn’t you agree that life is extremely complex? How would you account for this?

Mr. Unbeliever: I would agree, and while science hasn’t provided all the answers for the complexity of life, this doesn’t mean that we won’t in the future.

Mr. Believer: And how do you know if science will ever come up with an answer?

Mr. Unbeliever: They may, or may not. But one thing is for certain: science doesn’t work by invoking “god” to explain the unexplainable. If that were so, then science could never make progress!

Mr. Believer: Well, we aren’t basing an “intelligent designer” on what we can’t explain, but on what we can explain. In other words, since we know that life, as we know it, is too complex to have come about through evolutionary means, then “intelligent design” makes perfect sense!

Mr. Unbeliever: But you are still invoking “god” to explain the unexplainable. I’m aware of the probability arguments used to “prove” that life couldn’t have evolved, but all this means is that life “probably” didn’t arise via naturalistic processes. But this is not how science works. We don’t say, “the theory of gravity is most probably true, and thus the best explanation for why objects fall to the ground.” Instead, we argue, “through millions and millions of testing and experiment, we have found that gravity is the only proven explanation for why objects fall, and there has never been anything proven to the contrary.” Thus, in order to “prove” God, you’d have to do so through the same tests.

The conversation could continue and go in many directions. And I’m not suggesting that intelligent design advocates couldn’t argue their points in a much better manner than the above. But what I wanted to demonstrate is the traditional manner in arguing apologetics. That is, we start with “neutrality” and use the unbeliever’s line of thinking and try to prove our point.

The question is, is this the most biblically consistent way to do apologetics? Is this how Paul engaged the unbelievers of his day? Greg Bahnsen would disagree. He argues that the most biblically appropriate manner to engage the unbeliever is to use the Bible! And it is very unfortunate that so many choose to “leave the Bible out of it” in order to argue from a “neutral” standpoint. But Greg Bahnsen argues that this is impossible to do. And rather than appeal to a “neutral” standpoint (which is actually impossible!), why not appeal to your own presuppositions and convictions? What do I mean by this? Well, as believers, we believe that the Bible is the word of God. It is the center of our thinking. Thus, wouldn’t it make more sense to engage apologetics as if this were so? The unbeliever is defending his beliefs in light of his beliefs that there is no God and the material world is all there is. So if he can do it, then why can’t we?

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