Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief (Revised and Expanded) by John Frame
Many people are tempted to picture a discussion in apologetics as a religiously neutral search for truth. Everyone supposedly starts off uncommitted and is trying to find out whether God exists, and which of the world religions might be true. According to this way of thinking, it is most important that everyone should be “unbiased.” But the Bible indicates that this picture is completely unrealistic. It contradicts the actual situation in which we live. The actual situation is that some people have been saved by the grace of God in Christ, while others are still lost. Not all ways lead to God. Christ is the only way to God: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6) And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
The Old Testament radically rejects the worship of false gods, such as was common in the nations around Israel. Likewise, the New Testament rejects other proposals for how to be saved. This rejection is not religiously neutral. But it is the truth. Christian believers have come to know the truth, and they cannot pretend to be “unbiased” in the way that a non-Christian expects them to be. Sue is already a disciple; she is already committed. And that commitment is deep. To a non-Christian, this looks “biased.” Moreover, the Bible indicates that non-Christians already know God, the true God who made the whole world: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Rom. 1:19–21)
The worship of idols is not an innocent practice, but a reaction in which a non Christian uses idols to replace the worship of God, who is already known: Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Rom. 1:22–23) In short, non-Christians are biased by a commitment against God. So what picture of apologetics is right? Are some people wandering around among religious possibilities in a neutral way? Or is everyone already “biased”? And if everyone is already biased, are all biases created equal? Or is there a pronounced difference between knowing the truth in Christ and not knowing it? Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. (Matt. 12:30)
Here is one area where loyalty to Christ matters. If we are loyal to him with our minds, we must think through apologetics in a way that rejects the idea of neutrality and accepts the Bible’s own description of the nature of the situation. Such renewed thinking is what John Frame undertakes in his book. Such an approach has been called presuppositional apologetics. Why? Because we who are believers in Christ are already presupposing our loyalty to Christ and the truth about Christ presented in the Bible. The involvement of presuppositions is not an intellectual game. It is not just an exercise in logic, in which someone proposes, “Let us explore in a disinterested way where various presuppositions lead.”
It is a requirement for Christian discipleship. A disciple, as we have observed, is committed. John Frame prefers the label basic commitments to presuppositions for this reason. The whole person is involved. No one is religiously neutral. And not just any presuppositions will do. It matters in a crucial way whether we are following Christ or Buddha or Joseph Smith or Immanuel Kant. Knowing the truth in Christ leads to growing knowledge of the truth. Substituting a counterfeit for the truth leads to confusion (Prov. 4:18–19). One of the common objections to presuppositional apologetics is that it represents an argument in a circle. “And so,” the objector says, “it has no real power to persuade anyone who is not already persuaded.” Frame handles this objection at greater length in his book.
But I may say a brief word here: this picture of the “circle” of presuppositional apologetics is a misunderstanding. On the one hand, every person has a kind of circle, in that no one is religiously neutral.
If our loyalty to Christ leads us to submitting to his teaching in the Bible, we move in a kind of circle in which the teaching of the Bible functions as our standard for sifting claims. The teaching in the Bible profoundly influences our beliefs. Among those beliefs is belief in Christ, which the Bible confirms. Analogously, people with other basic commitments—to reason or to pleasure—have their beliefs influenced by their commitments. We ought to acknowledge the existence of these circles, rather than try to ignore them. Given that the circles exist, we can still present evidence and arguments, just as the apostles did in their sermons in Acts, and just as the Old Testament prophets did when they called on people to turn back from idols to the living God. In fact, the whole world offers evidence for God, as Romans 1:18–23 indicates. God is continually presenting people with the truth about himself, both through general revelation in nature and through special revelation in Scripture. Scripture in particular is designed to present the gospel, and the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). The gospel leads to people’s salvation. It does persuade people (Acts 17:4, 12; 28:24). Through the gospel, the Holy Spirit changes people and brings them to faith.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, people have their spiritual eyes opened and come to acknowledge the evidence. In the process, God makes himself known as One who is distinct from all the false gods. Jesus makes himself known as One who is the way and the truth (John 14:6), distinct from all other false ways and counterfeit truths. Not all religious commitments are “equal.” Each one of us who has become a believer has made a transition from darkness to light. Each of us has changed the circle of belief. Somehow, through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we woke up to what was true all along, namely, that God the Father of Jesus Christ is the true God and there is no other. We rejected former religious commitments—commitment to a traditional form of false religion, or commitment to atheism or agnosticism, or commitment to the worship of money or pleasure, or some other modern form of ultimate allegiance.
When we rejected former religious commitments, we did not become neutral in religion. We came to Christ. Without Christ and the working of his truth and his power, we never would have made the transition. Religious neutrality is a mirage. It is a mirage that never existed in our life. And so why should we pretend in apologetics that it is an ideal that an unbeliever should emulate, or that we ourselves should temporarily emulate for the sake of dialogue? It is disloyalty to Christ to pretend that the desire for neutrality is a good thing. Once again, “whoever is not with me is against me” (Matt. 12:30).
A Biblical Case for Church Membership
This morning, I had the privilege, once again, of guest hosting Dr. James White's Dividing Line broadcast and taught for an hour on "A Biblical Case for Church Membership" walking through numerous New Testament texts which only make sense in the light of formal Church membership. - John Samson
Clash of the Worldviews
In light of the Supreme Court ruling this week, which re-defined marriage for all 50 states in the Union, here is a clarion call to Biblical faithfulness, knowing we pay a very high price for doing so.
Objections to Sovereign Election
Chris Arnzen's recent interview with me on Iron Sharpens Iron focused on handling objections to Sovereign Election and is now posted online at this link. - JS
The Gospel Is For Christians Too
Text: Galatians 1:1-10
Are you constantly hounded by a troubled conscience, even as a Christian? Is it hard to remember the last time you had a full night of sleep? Even since your conversion, do the things you have done continue to bother you? The remedy for this is a thorough understanding of the one true and radical, biblical gospel. Jesus work did not merely make you savable or release you from jail but put you on probation. Christian, hear the good news of Jesus Christ!
Walking with Jesus Through his Word by Dennis E. Johnson
When we turn the page from the four Gospels to the book of Acts, suddenly we hear Peter and other apostles confidently connecting Old Testament Scriptures to the sufferings of Christ and his resultant resurrection glory. For forty days after his resurrection, Jesus had appeared to his apostles to give them intensive instruction about God’s kingdom (Acts 1:2–5). Then he ascended to heaven. As a result of Jesus’ teaching, in the ten-day interim between Jesus’ ascent to heaven and the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49), Peter addressed those gathered to await the Spirit’s arrival, speaking with the authority of one who had learned to read the Bible as it is meant to be read:
“Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas” (Acts 1:16).
He went on to quote statements from the Psalms (Ps. 69:25; 109:8) that described the punishment that would befall a close confidante who presumed to betray God’s Anointed King.The traitor’s disloyalty “had” to happen—it was “necessary” (Luke 24:26)—because it was purposed by God, who had revealed this part of his divine plan by foreshadowing it in ancient psalms. In the Scriptures that Simon Peter had heard in synagogues for years, at last he was beginning to see the shape of a greater plan, the pattern into which God had woven even the sobering.
Beginning the Journey 8 reality that his beloved Messiah would be mistreated not only by open enemies but even by one near and dear to him. A few days later, when God’s Spirit came down in revitalizing presence and power, Peter again proclaimed the fulfillment of centuries-old prophetic promises in Jesus the Christ. God had promised through the prophet Joel that in the last days the Spirit would come on men and women, opening their mouths to speak God’s Word. Those last days had now arrived, as Jesus poured out the Spirit from his throne at God’s right hand in heaven and his people proclaimed God’s mighty deeds (Acts 2:16–21, 33, quoting and interpreting Joel 2:28–32). Jesus is the Holy One whose deliverance from the grave David foresaw and foretold (Acts 2:24–33, quoting and explaining Ps. 16:8–11). Jesus is the Lord and Christ to whom the Lord has said, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool” (Acts 2:33–36, quoting and interpreting Ps. 110:1).
We could go almost chapter by chapter through Acts and the same portrait would emerge in the sermons of Peter and John, in Stephen’s speech in Acts 7, and finally in the most unlikely gospel preacher, the persecutor turned propagator of Christian faith, Saul/ Paul of Tarsus. The Difference between the Apostles’ “Before” and Their “After” What transformed Jesus’ followers from confused, cowering, intimidated, hopes-dashed, defeatist doubters into confident, joyful, hopeful, bold heralds? Certainly the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was one decisive factor. At the end of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus predicted that the Father’s promise—that is, the life-renewing Spirit of God—would soon engulf his followers in unparalleled power (Luke 24:49). The same promise reappears as we open Luke’s “volume 2,” the Acts of the Apostles:
“wait for the promise of the Father . . . . You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:4, 8). We can never overestimate the unleashing of new-creation power that Jesus brought about when he took his seat at the right hand of God the Father and then celebrated his enthronement by lavishing the great gift, the Holy Spirit of God, on the small and fragile gathering of his friends in Jerusalem. Notice, however, that in Acts 1:15–22, before the Holy Spirit is poured out on the church, Peter’s remarks to the waiting congregation exhibit a new confidence and hope, a new perspective on Jesus’ sufferings.
That Sets Hearts Afire insight into the ancient Scriptures that Peter and his fellow Jews had heard, no doubt, many times before. Peter now echoed Jesus’ assertion that “it was necessary” for the Scripture to be fulfilled, even those troubling texts that portrayed the suffering of God’s faithful Servant. Judas’s treachery and Jesus’ death were necessary because they were intrinsic to God’s plan to rescue his people and his universe. Peter now knew that these events were key elements in that plan because God had announced them—sometimes overtly and sometimes subtly—in the Old Testament Scriptures. What made the difference in the apostles’ “before” and “after,” then, was not only the bestowal of God’s Spirit but also a new way of reading the Bible. Who taught Peter to read the Bible this way? Luke has shown us the answer in the last chapter of his Gospel: Jesus himself! Bible Studies with the Risen Lord Jesus We return now to the road leading from Jerusalem to the small town of Emmaus, to eavesdrop on the first of two Bible studies that, as Luke recounts, Jesus conducted on the very day that he rose from the dead.
Remember the background:
It was the third day after Jesus’ brutal, bloody execution by crucifixion. Some women came to the tomb in which his body had been placed in haste before the Sabbath fell at sundown two days earlier, hoping to express their love and grief by preparing his body for burial more adequately. At the tomb, now empty, they saw angels, who announced that Jesus was risen, as he had foretold. Immediately the women carried the word to the apostles and others (Luke 24:1–12). Hearing the women’s report but not believing it, Cleopas and a colleague set off for Emmaus. They were discussing the heartbreaking events of the past week—Jesus had received a royal welcome as he entered David’s city just a week earlier, but had been repudiated by his people and their leaders and executed by the Roman authorities.
A stranger joined them on the road—a stranger to them, not to us the readers, for Luke identifies him as Jesus but observes that “their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (Luke 24:16). When he asked what they had been discussing, they poured out their disillusionment and confusion. Then the stranger, who seemed so ignorant of recent events, replied:
“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (vv. 25–26).
We might expect that such an abrupt rebuke from a stranger would halt the conversation, but the mysterious stranger kept right on talking: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Jesus traced both their dismay over their Master’s suffering and their doubt about his resurrection to unbelief, a foolish and sluggish reluctance to trust what God had spoken through Israel’s ancient prophets. The ancient Scriptures given through Moses and the Prophets—our Old Testament—showed that God had planned all along for the Messiah to suffer a humiliating and violent death, but then to “enter into his glory”—a reversal that would be explained more fully in Luke’s narrative of a second Bible study later that evening. The unrecognized traveler’s explanation of Scripture set their hearts afire with hope and joy; so when they reached Emmaus, Cleopas and his companion prevailed on him to join them for supper. As he took the role of the dinner host, breaking the bread (as he had done just a few evenings before, instituting the Lord’s Supper), suddenly they recognized Jesus. Then he vanished. They immediately returned to Jerusalem, where they found that the risen Lord Jesus had appeared to Simon Peter, as he had to them.
Then, in the midst of this larger group of disciples, Jesus appeared again, demonstrated the physical reality of his risen body, and gave an even fuller exposition both of the breadth of Old Testament books that announce his saving work and of the specifics of his mission revealed in those ancient Scriptures. He said: “Everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus is it written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44–49) What do these almost back-to-back accounts of the risen Lord’s exposition of the Scriptures teach us about the Old Testament and how to interpret it? As we reflect on the conversations recorded in Luke 24, several truths emerge
Eldership: Plural and Male
As Lord of the Church, Christ the Good Shepherd commissions elders as under-shepherds to lead, feed, and guide the people of God. The New Testament teaches a plurality of male elders to govern each local church.
My Journey Out Of The Word Of Faith
The audio from the program is now available here for listening and download.
Chris Arnzen writes:
June 4, 2015: TODAY's GUEST on "IRON SHARPENS IRON" Radio, heard 4-5pmEDT at www.IronSharpensIronRadio.com, is PASTOR JOHN SAMSON of King's Church in Peoria, AZ (see www.KingsChurchAZ.com & www.EffectualGrace.com) to discuss his JOURNEY OUT OF THE WORD OF FAITH MOVEMENT INTO REFORMED THEOLOGY. John was not only once a "Word of Faith" preacher but also a TALK HOST on the "Word of Faith" movement's TV oasis, the Trinity Broadcasting Network, before realizing, abandoning & repenting of his heretical ways.
John has filled-in as guest host for Dr. James R. White of Alpha and Omega Ministries on a number of occasions on his "Dividing Line" broadcast, and is the author of "Twelve What Abouts: Answering Common Objections Concerning God's Sovereignty in Election".
Back in September 2014, I hosted Dr. James White's "Dividing Line" Broadcast and discussed something of my journey out of the word of faith movement.
Tell Me About Your Conversion
Some people have been poorly birthed into the Kingdom. Paul encountered such in Ephesus and led them to repentance, faith in Christ, water baptism, and the filling of the Holy Spirit. Paul's instructions give us a blueprint to enable others to get a sure foundation for their Christian lives.