How to Answer a Fool

Guest Post by Jeff Mindler

Proverbs 26:4-5 reads, “4Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.”

This, in its simplest form, is the two step procedure of the apologetic task. While engaging in dialogue with someone and defending the faith, it is always helpful to have this verse in mind and to carry out this procedure with the unbeliever. To help us understand what this means and what it looks like, Greg Bahnsen states,

“Here he [Solomon] is instructing you to temporarily stand on the presuppositions of the unbeliever, not as a matter of neutrality and compromise, not as endorsing his worldview procedures. Rather, he does so in order for you to show the unbeliever the vanity of attempting to explain the world and life from his own perspective. You must let him know that you are taking his position only momentarily, just “for the sake of argument.”

This is a critical element to remember at this point, we are not surrendering our ultimate authority of Scripture in this step, but merely answering the unbeliever according to their own worldview temporarily. We do not assume neutrality at this point but we do want to show the unbeliever where his own worldview leads according to its own tenets. Bahnsen continues,

“In this step you will be showing the unbeliever that on his own autonomous presuppositions he cannot justify reality, knowledge, logic, morality, value, meaning, purpose – or anything. You want to show him the outcome of his worldview when his principles are fully followed out. Thus, Solomon allows that you may, “answer a fool according to his folly” – so that the fool will see the error of his being “wise in his own eyes” (Prov 26:5b). If you adopt the unbelievers procedures as your actual apologetic, he will suppose himself to have the correct position. Whereas, if you only theoretically adopt his presuppositions in order to demonstrate his error, then you are being faithful to the biblical model of apologetics.” [1]

Thus, this is our apologetic task and our procedure in answering objections to the christian faith and we do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). If we keep this two step procedure in mind while engaging with unbelievers, we will be well on our way in giving a defense for the hope that is within us and by so doing, God will be glorified, and this after all, is our goal in faithful apologetics. Soli Deo Gloria!

[1] Bahnsen, Greg. Pushing the Antithesis. 163

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Asking Worldview Questions

Guest post by Jeff Mindler

 

 

 

 

 

Worldviews are everywhere; we simply cannot avoid them. James Anderson states this regarding worldviews, “Your worldview represents your most fundamental beliefs and assumptions about the universe you inhabit. It reflects how you would answer all the “big questions” of human existence, the fundamental questions we ask about life, the universe, and everything.” When one considers what a worldview is, the importance of knowing and identifying them in the apologetic encounter becomes clear, but the question arises: how do we identify a worldview?

James Anderson provides an excellent resource on just this very issue, knowing what questions to ask in order to discover a person’s worldview, in his work What’s Your Worldview? What is unique about this work is that it follows a type of “choose your own adventure” format wherein the reader is provided with several questions and based upon how they answer are prompted to advance to a certain page until they reach a conclusion, that being a particular worldview. The worldview they reach is the logical conclusion to how they have answered various questions about knowledge, reality, truth, goodness, religion, and God. By asking these types of questions we can quickly uncover what a particular person believes about the world and thus what they believe about God, the Bible, Jesus Christ, and the gospel and can thus focus on specific areas where the gospel and the claims of Christ need to be brought to bear.

Anderson also provides a brief analysis of each worldview and then proceeds to critique and expose the weakness’ of any worldview opposed to Christianity. For example, if a person reaches the relativistic worldview they will be met with a brief overview of what the worldview is and then challenged to reconsider a few things in light of its flaws, namely that relativism is self-defeating. It is impossible to be a consistent relativist, just consider the statement, “There is no objective truth.” Is that claim itself objectively true? If so, one can see how the position collapses upon itself based upon the contradiction of saying there is no objective truth but stating it as if it was an objective statement of truth. I believe Anderson’s work provides a helpful tool and resource for any level of apologist as a means to think about careful questions to ask unbelievers and to get them to reconsider what they believe and why they believe it.

A Complexity is Not a Contradiction: Jonah and the Whale as an Example

“When dealing with skeptics’ claim of Bible contradictions it seems one can never be reminded enough of what exactly is a contradiction.  A contradiction occurs when two or more claims conflict with one another so that they cannot simultaneously be true in the same sense and at the same time.  To put it another way, a Bible contradiction exists when there are claims within the Bible that are mutually exclusive in the same sense and at the same time.”

Read the full article here: Bible Contradiction Resolved: Who Cast Jonah Into the Sea?.

Not All Atheists Were Hurt; Most Are Simply Suppressing the Truth in Rebellion

skeptic

A common response among Christians who encounter atheists or skeptics is to ask, “I wonder who hurt them that they would reject God?” This thought reveals a basic assumption that only trauma could possibly be the cause of unbelief. And certainly, some people who have experienced trauma have forsaken belief in God because they felt abandoned by God, or could not reconcile their suffering with an all-powerful, all-loving God.

The root cause of atheism and skepticism, however, is rebellion, not hurt. Romans 1:18 reminds us that the unbeliever knows God’s holiness and his own guilt, and in response chooses to suppress the truth of God he knows. Trauma may play a part in rejection of God, but it also drives many people to God, not away.

Many people, having encountered signifiant trauma, have sought explanations for what they have experienced. They try to make sense of the evil or pain they have experienced, and find in Jesus Christ one who was innocent, yet voluntarily suffered the greatest evil and suffered the righteous wrath of God against sin on our behalf. They find in Christ one who can comfort them in their suffering, and who gives them hope of restoration of all that has been broken.

Those who turn to God in suffering often intuitively know that if God does not exist there can be no meaning in their suffering, there will be no justice brought to evildoers, and sorting out their lives in light of the suffering is entirely up to them. What a hopeless state!

When encountering skeptics and atheists, therefore, ask questions to discover how she is suppressing truth, not why. The why has been explained for us in Scripture as rebellion–not wanting God to be real, Christianity to be true, their sin to render them guilty, Christ to be the only way, and future judgment just around the corner. The how happens in a thousand ways and is the key to challenging them with the truths of the gospel.

The Bias of Skeptics

Black-Swan-900

Most skeptics I talk to think they operate completely without bias in their skepticism and agnosticism. They often demonstrate a startling lack of self-awareness of their assumptions. One hundred years ago, the British essayist G. K. Chesterton noted the frustrating contradiction of the skeptics arguments:

“I remember once arguing with an honest young atheist, who was very much shocked at my disputing some of the assumptions which were absolute sanctities to him (such as the quite unproved proposition of the independence of matter and the quite improbable proposition of its power to originate mind), and he at length fell back upon this question, which he delivered with an honourable heat of defiance and indignation: “Well, can you tell me any man of intellect, great in science or philosophy, who accepted the miraculous?” I said, “With pleasure. Descartes, Dr. Johnson, Newton, Faraday, Newman, Gladstone, Pasteur, Browning, Brunetiere—as many more as you please.” To which that quite admirable and idealistic young man made this astonishing reply—’Oh, but of course they had to say that; they were Christians.’

“First he challenged me to find a black swan, and then he ruled out all my swans because they were black. The fact that all these great intellects had come to the Christian view was somehow or other a proof either that they were not great intellects or that they had not really come to that view. The argument thus stood in a charmingly convenient form: ‘All men that count have come to my conclusion; for if they come to your conclusion they do not count.’

Is the Best Defense a Good Offense in Apologetic Encounters?

Offense_DefenseGuest Post by Jeff Mindler

[Jeff graduated from Lancaster Bible College in 2014 with a B.A. in Biblical Studies, as well as an M.A. in Counseling. He currently works as the Event Coordinator for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals in Lancaster, PA. His wife, Joe’l, and he worship at Grace Baptist Church of Millersville in Millersville, PA where they both serve as members. He enjoys studying several different disciplines including Biblical Studies, Systematic Theology, Apologetics, Church History, and Practical Theology, while having a keen and passionate love for Apologetics and Systematic Theology in particular.]

Biblical apologetics is at its most basic level a defense of the Christian faith, giving a reason for the hope that is within us, just as Peter instructed in 1 Peter 3:15. While knowing what we believe and why we believe it and being able to defend it is critical to our apologetic, it is also important to go on the offensive while engaging in apologetics, challenging the unbeliever to explain what he believes and why. We don’t often think of apologetics as an offensive enterprise, mainly due to the very meaning of the word apologetics, to give a defense but going on the offensive is simply the flip side of the coin of apologetic defense. This does not mean we attack the person we are dialoguing with directly, rather it is challenging them to make sense of the world around us according to their own worldview. We must press the unbeliever to rationally account for things such as logic, morality, and the scientific principle according to what their own worldview says about reality and help them to see how their own worldview and any worldview aside from the Christian worldview cannot account for such things. Jeffrey Johnson helpfully explains this further when he writes,

“Because the Christian worldview is the only system of thought that is cohesively consistent with itself, all other possible worldviews are inherently incoherent. It is not sufficient for an atheist or any other skeptic to simply attack the walls of the Christian worldview. They must also defend their own ground. They must protect their own presuppositions and belief systems.”[1]

One of the best ways to go on the offensive is to ask questions of the unbeliever. By listening carefully and asking good questions to the unbeliever our goal is to help them see that their own worldview cannot give them the very things they want in a worldview. Ask them to show you where human dignity arises from their worldview and press them to be consistent with their own presuppositions and you will quickly find that apart from the God of the Bible, they will not be able to account for such things and will actually borrow from the Christian worldview in order to hold theirs up. For example, when talking with someone who holds to a naturalistic worldview, that all that exists is matter in motion, ask them on their own worldview how things like the immaterial laws of logic can exist. I personally have heard all sorts of answers to this question but at bottom they cannot account for laws of logic in their worldview. Only the Christian worldview can account for these.

This is where the apologetic task becomes so critical, once we have pressed the unbeliever to account for these things and have shown that they cannot in their own worldview, we must not leave them there. How cruel it would be of us if we simply tore down the unbeliever’s worldview and then left them in their despair! We must never leave them in that state but must always give them the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Apologetics and evangelism go hand in hand and must never be separated. We must call the unbeliever to repentance and faith in Christ as that is the only hope for their salvation as well as accounting for logic, morality, and science in this life.

By defending our own position and going on the offensive with the unbeliever, showing them how their own worldview leads to futility, we call people to turn from their sin and trust in Christ as their only means of salvation, trusting that God will call His people to Himself and use His people along the way. May God be glorified in our apologetic!

 

[1] Johnson, Jeffrey, The Absurdity of Unbelief, 11.

Atheism Cannot Logically Argue for Morality

Image result for good samaritan

Atheists insist that they can have morality without God. The standard for right and wrong, they tell us, is human flourishing, or empathy, or usefulness, or some other such vague idea. But then they are faced with the problem of defining those concepts, and applying them to real, difficult, sticky human situations. People judge ideas and actions quite differently, so expecting consensus about much is unrealistic. Argument then turns to force, for someone must enforce this morality. Political power is needed to enforce the judgments of some people over others for the good of all. So, might makes right, and we are right back where we started.

C. S. Lewis opined on something similar 65 years ago:

If we ask: “Why ought I to be unselfish?” and you reply “Because it is good for society,” we may then ask, “Why should I care what’s good for society except when it happens to pay me personally?” and then you will have to say, “Because you ought to be unselfish”–which simply brings us back to where we started.

I am not saying that atheists are not or cannot be moral. There is just no compelling reason to be moral rather than immoral.

Is there value in apologetics if it does not lead to evangelism?

I wonder if “apologetics” which does not lead people to Christ as Savior, and then on to their living under the Lordship of Christ in the whole of life, really is Christian apologetics. There certainly is a place for an academic study of a subject called “apologetics,” as the defense and the credibility of Christianity, but if it does not lead the students to use that material to lead people to Christ as Savior, one can ask its value.

Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There (The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer; Crossway, 1982), 1:186-7.

Worldview Flows from Heart and Mind

heart-mind

Philosopher James Sire defines worldview as “a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) that we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.”[1]

Notice some of the components of this definition:

  1. A worldview is a commitment of the heart

Sire notes that a worldview goes beyond the intellect to the heart. It is a spiritual orientation that involves the soul. A worldview springs from a person’s inner being and reflects what she loves and values as much as what she has come to believe intellectually. In this sense, a worldview is a commitment. A person tends to interpret everything she experiences through this grid, even if it does not provide satisfactory answers for every question. Only when another worldview proves itself to have much better answers to many questions will a person abandon her original worldview for the new one.

When Sire speaks of the heart, he is referring to more than what many in the modern Western world think of the heart. His definition bears much more similarity to the biblical concept of heart than anything else, which is “the central defining element of the human person.”[2] While a person’s worldview involves emotion, it also involves wisdom, desire and will, intellect, and spirituality.

  1. A worldview involves presuppositions

A presupposition is a belief that serves as a foundation for all other beliefs. A worldview is not the same as a presupposition, but a worldview is developed from presuppositions. Since presuppositions are often held unconsciously, the foundations of a person’s worldview are often unexamined. Their worldview is usually consciously considered, but the presuppositions behind it are not always so.

When speaking with an unbeliever, we want to ask questions that reveal his presuppositions, such as, “Why do you believe that?” and “What do you base that on?” Once we discover on what he bases his beliefs, his worldview begins to become apparent. For example, if all his beliefs are based on his own rationality, then it becomes clear that he has either a rationalist or existentialist worldview. Worldviews tend to have clear implications for many of the areas of concern, so if you identify a person’s worldview, you can discover quickly what they will most likely believe about significant philosophical questions, such as the origin, purpose, identity, and destiny of the human race.

  1. A worldview has to do with what we think the world is

One of the most important aspects of a worldview is its view on metaphysics, that is the nature of the world. Metaphysics is the study of the nature of reality. It asks and answers questions such as, “What does it mean to exist? What is the nature of the divine? What is man? Why is there something rather than nothing? Why are things the way they are?” All these questions have a bearing on the rest of a person’s beliefs. For example, if someone believes that all of life is an illusion, then there is no logical reason to help anyone or do good, because the other person and “good” would also be an illusion.

On the contrary, if we believe that this world is created by God and man is unique in all of creation because he is made in the image of God, then we will value human life and seek to treat others with the dignity inherent in the image of God.

  1. A worldview determines how we live

What I think of the world will have a direct impact on how I live every day. If I believe that life is pointless, meaningless, and absurd, I may lead a life of responsibility and compassion for others, trying to make the world a better place, but there would be no logical reason for me to do so. If life is absurd, and I truly believe that, then most likely I will not seek out anything that normally provides people a sense of purpose.

As Christians our belief that there is a holy God to whom we are accountable, and in whose grace we stand, should motivate us to live pure, humble, thankful lives. Not all Christians do live this way, but they should.

The discrepancy between a person’s worldview and his daily life is best explained by the difference between profession and possession. I may claim to have a Christian worldview, but if my life is marked by squandering my resources, practicing immorality, being cruel to others, and living for myself, then I am merely professing Christianity. The Apostle John compares those who merely profess the right beliefs without truly being possessed by them. Those who truly possesses saving faith in Christ will live a life marked by light (truth, purity, and obedience—1 John 1:6-7), admit that they have sinned (1 John 1:8), confess their sins (1 John 1:9-10), live in obedience (1 John 2:4-5), and love other believers (1 John 2:9-10).

Discerning a person’s worldview is key to being able to challenge her unbelief or answer her challenges to the Christian faith. Having a well-developed Christian worldview helps us hold our faith consistently and confidently, and consequently engage unbelievers effectively.

[1] James Sire, The Universe Next Door, 5th ed. (InterVarsity, 2009), 20.

[2] David Naugle, Worldview: The History of a Concept (Eerdmans, 2002), 267-74.

Understanding the concept of “Worldview”

world_view-eyesWorldview is a concept that has become more common over the last few decades. One of the reasons for the growth of its use in intellectual and religious conversations is that it allows us to understand why people believe the things they do. Understanding a person’s worldview allows you to trace the logical outcome of their heart commitments, and to discern inconsistencies and contradictions when people don’t remain coherent in their beliefs.

Coherence is a significant part of thinking rationally, and the nature of worldviews allows us to test the rationality of a belief system. This is essentially what you are doing when you are asking the type of questions we discussed in earlier chapters. Coherence means internal consistency, and a coherent position is one in which all the beliefs fit together. If, for example, I believe that man is nothing more than an animal, and with no more significance or value than an animal, it would be inconsistent for me to argue that humans have dignity or rights that animals don’t have. If I believe that this world came about by chance and mindless forces, it would be incoherent to talk about meaning in life.

Surprisingly, then, many worldviews contain internally incoherent elements. One way to become a better apologist is to familiarize yourself with various worldviews and learn to identify the logical implications for them. When you are able to do this, you will find that your ability to tear down strongholds and undermine the unbelief of the non-Christian grows significantly.

Definition and Explanation of a Worldview

Worldview is a complex concept that encompasses a person’s intellectual, emotional, religious, and psychological beliefs. Philosopher James Sire captures the heart of the concept in his definition. He writes that a worldview is “a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) that we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.”[1]

Sire’s definition helps us see the personal nature of worldviews. They go beyond the head to the heart. The depth at which a person holds his worldview helps us see how radical it is for someone to change his worldview. This is why salvation must be a work of the Holy Spirit to internally regenerate a person so he can, in one moment, jettison his unbelieving worldview and embrace the gospel. Evangelism and apologetics, then, must happen prayerfully in the power of the Spirit for genuine conversion to happen.

In the next post we will look at the component parts of Sire’s definition.

[1] James Sire, The Universe Next Door, 5th ed. (InterVarsity, 2009), 20.