We may or may not have met before, but as a budding presuppositionalist I share your passion for presuppositionalism as I too believe this apologetic approach is most biblical and most glorifying to our great God and Savior. I also believe it is our duty to declare what God has revealed in Scripture – whether about Himself or about people – and not make apology or excuses about His revelation. Neither should we attempt to prove God or His revelation through evidences, rather we must believe and assert the Scriptures which testify to every man’s knowledge of the existence of God (Romans 1:18).
But, I have also observed some things among fellow presuppositionalists that concern me, and I hope you might hear what I have to say so to exhort you to walk humbly with our God and in a manner pleasing and honoring to Jesus Christ.
Perhaps similar to what is referred to as “cage stage Calvinism“, I wonder if there is an element of “cage stage” that some Christians experience when they are first exposed and embrace the presuppositional apologetic. For some, it seems there may be a tendency to beat one’s opponent to death with their newly found weapon of choice, dismantling their opponents worldview with crushing blows but never leaving them anywhere to land (on the Gospel). Thus, the end goal is simply winning a debate or argument, for perhaps self-satisfaction or grandiosity.
For others, while possibly not engaged in many formal or informal debates with Atheists, they rally around the wagon of their favorite presuppositionalist when debates do ensue. At the first smell of blood or challenge, they root for their favorite MMA fighter presuppositionalist hero to destroy the one who would dare challenge the presuppositionalist and his Christian worldview.
Now, I do think there is value in these kinds of debates so long as there is humility and graciousness extending from the Christian. I’ve learned much from my friend Sye Ten Bruggencate, for instance, and am better equipped to minister to Atheists for it. I even think Sye will appreciate and agree with this letter of admonishment should he read it (turns out he did in draft form, and he “FULLY” endorses it – emphasis Sye’s). But when the reaction from the cage stage presuppositionalist is basically, “you’re gonna destroy that Atheist” or “that Atheist doesn’t have a chance” or “bring it on, Atheist Bad Guy” – I think you’ve missed the point if this refers to you.
Presuppositionalism is a powerful tool and glorifying to God if used rightly. But it can be abused just as one can hijack the beautiful truths of the towering doctrines of grace for their own promotion and belittling of others. The doctrine of election should be the most humbling truth of Scripture to any of us, but the cage stage Calvinist can abuse its wonder and majesty and harm those who have not come to the same right conclusion as he. Likewise, understanding presuppositionalism should give us greater understanding of the depravity of man and sovereignty of God, but we need to be careful not to abuse its power. It should humble us, not instigate fleshly pride.
If you find yourself rooting for the shaming of your opponent or your hero’s opponent, consider your need for repentance in this area. God has called us to treat all outsiders (unbelievers) with humility and respect. Paul writes Timothy thusly:
The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. – 2 Timothy 2:24-26
You are not being patient or gentle when you seek the defeat of the Atheist for winning-a-debate’s sake. You certainly do not come off as desiring their God-granted repentance through the ultimate power of God in the Gospel (Romans 1:16). Consider where you once were and how gracious God has been to you to not only reveal Himself savingly to you, but also in revealing His manifest wisdom and glory as you grow in the knowledge of His wisdom and grace.
Never forget the Atheist truly is dead in his sins (Eph. 2:1); he truly is blinded by the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4); he truly does walk according to the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2); his mind truly is futile and darkened (Eph. 4:17-18); he truly cannot discern spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14) – just like you were and couldn’t. No matter how foolish the Atheist is in his worldly wisdom, no matter how much he ridicules and mocks, have compassion on him (Ken Ham did this well in his debate with Bill Nye). Remember he truly needs God to shine His light through his heart so he can see the glory of Christ and repent and believe (2 Cor. 4:6).
By all means, study and use the presuppositional apologetic to the glory of Christ and for the sake of your unbelieving opponent, but do not bring reproach on the name of Christ by abusing its intended purposes and power.
Your presuppositionalist friend,