Q&A: Bible and Apologetics

Bible and Apologetics

Question

Should we really appeal to scripture when we talk to unbelievers? This would seem like an easier thing to do when talking to Jewish people, but what about non Christians? John seems pretty clear that his account of Christ's life actually serves as a solid foundation for forming belief (John 20:30-31). Now, could an unbeliever read the book of John and conclude that Jesus really is who He said He was (and that he should, therefore, submit to Him in faith)?

Answer

Remember that nobody approaches evidence neutrally. In Rom. 1, Paul says that everybody knows God (verse 21) from the creation. They suppress this knowledge, but not entirely, for the knowledge continues to hold them responsible, to leave them without excuse.

So non-Christians have a conflict within them: between the Christian world-view they have received from God's revelation in nature and the non-Christian world-view that results from their suppression and distortion of that revelation. Now they can't live by the non-Christian world view; it leads to irrationality and chaos. So to get along in the world, they must resort (inconsistently) to the Christian world view. Van Til calls this "borrowed capital."

So to what do we appeal as apologists? To the non-Christian world view, the product of non-Christian suppressing the truth? or to the Christian world view, which they know is true, but seek to suppress?

Certainly to the latter. Appealing to the former is self-destructive to the apologist's effort. My illustration is that of dealing with a paranoid who thinks that everyone is out to kill him. Do you start with his view of things and try to deduce from that a non-paranoid view? You can't. So you tell him the truth. That truth can get through, because (1) at some level of his consciousness, he knows what the truth is, and (2) God, at least, is able to penetrate his consciousness to convict him of the truth.

So Paul, in Acts 17 and elsewhere, appeals to the truth the unbeliever knows, but suppresses. And an unbeliever, reading the Gospel of John, can well come to believe in Jesus from the signs, for those signs appeal to the world view he has been suppressing. And of course as he reads, God can get through to his consciousness.

In this regard, by the way, Jews and Gentiles are no different, though, of course, you're right to say that it's easier to use Scripture in speaking to Jews. In them, the biblical world view is more consciously acknowledged, but they are still suppressing it, unwilling to acknowlege the heart of that world view, Jesus Christ.

Answer by Dr. John M. Frame

Dr. John M. Frame is Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL.