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One of my pet peeves is people of various persuasions perpetually complaining, or seeking to demonstrate, that all of their critics have misunderstood them. I have been in various controversies or discussions where this seems to be a default position, with the charge that even the best critics have missed the boat.

But, sometimes there is genuine and sustained misunderstanding, which is a good opportunity for clarification and dialogue.

Here is a good discussion underway regarding covenantal apologetics (the Approach Formerly Known as Presuppositionalism).

See also James Anderson’s response to Copan’s claim that presuppositionalists are involved with begging the question (and consequently would get an F in an intro to logic class!).

If I can add a personal note, as one who has switched from a more classical approach to a covenantal one, I can say that the Lord has used this to give me much greater confidence in him and in the veracity of his comprehensive word.


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11 thoughts on “Dialoging about Covenantal Apologetics”

  1. Oshea Davis says:

    I could not agree with your last statement more. Of course there are different branches within presuppositionalism apologetics, but this type of apologetics, if it is a good branch, should lead a person to be dependent on the Bible to defend the faith, rather than a thousand things other than the bible, as in classical apologetics, not that the classical approach has not have a place, for the scripture equates itself as God as in Romans 9, and so surely God is able to defend Himself. In order to show the other worldview is presupposing all intelligence and propositions from the Bible, well, you must know where in the Bible they are presupposing it, that is you must know the bible! But who today actually knows the bible! And so by making the “logical” connection that they are presupposing the bible, it creates a type of logical exclusion that they have to do so. I love this approach for it causes me to know more about the bible, even be more confident in the bible, rest in it more as God’s infallible word, that does indeed give all things that relate to Godliness and life. It has also shown me that as I erred in using things outside of bible to prove the bible, which was a mistake, it exposed how I might as easily be standing on extra-bible ideas about the gospel as well. And thus, this approach has helped me be more careful to make sure that what I stand upon is truly every word the proceeds from the mouth of God, having it unmixed from the world’s.

    I also have a book about this called: The Undefeatable Worldview.
    Sincerely: Oshea Davis

  2. taco says:

    If I can add a personal note, as one who has switched from a more classical approach to a covenantal one, I can say that the Lord has used this to give me much greater confidence in him and in the veracity of his comprehensive word.

    I will attest to that in my own life as well.

  3. I didn’t get the memo on the name change. :-)
    Covenantal Apologetics would seem to imply a tie to covenant theology (I’m happy with that) which the main advocates adhere to. What I also like about it is this view gets to the heart of presuppositions, examining them by Scripture instead of us standing above Scripture.

  4. David Smart says:

    Of all the things that can be said about covenantal apologetics (presuppositionalism), one of the surest is that the person who wishes to engage in this sort of apologetics must have a firm grasp on biblical theology and know the Bible well. But maybe that should go without saying, for it would be meaningless to say that you presuppose the truth of scriptures without really knowing scriptures. The deeper I studied God’s word, the more covenantal apologetics commended itself to me.

    1. J.R. says:

      One of my qualms with the approach is that presuppositionalism doesn’t account for interpretive imbalances or hermeneutic issues. For instance, what if my hermeneutic causes me to be a theonomist who wants to bring back slavery and then my subsequent apologetic drives people AWAY from the faith and away from God, instead of standing for Truth. The reason why I lean on classical apologetics is that it accounts for an objective and absolute Truth that is outside of our interpretive approaches and hermeneutic preferences. Granted, without the work of the Holy Spirit, no one can come to Christ. But unbelievers CAN discover and possess truth. I use that as common ground and build from there. Presuppositionalism denies that common ground exists. So, even though I use it and appreciate aspects of it, I find that is doesn’t give me all the tools I need.

  5. Matt Foreman says:

    Thanks, Justin, and thanks to TGC for this discussion. If I could throw a wrinkle into the debate, I think sometimes people get confused between Van Til’s epistemology and Van Til’s apologetics. (I am a thorough-going VanTilian.) It may help people to try to distinguish and understand first what Van Til says concerning a Christian theory of knowledge. Only then will the question of his apologetics make more sense. I would argue that covenantal apologetics can embrace theistic proofs and many different methods of apologetics for evangelism (multi-perspectivalism is Van Tilian) – but only by first and consistently committing to a covenantal epistemology.

  6. Dan Erickson says:

    “Both/And: A Balanced Apologetic,” written back in 1984 by Ronald Mayers, presents a strong case that evidentialism and presuppositionalism (classical and covenantal apologetics)can be complementary approaches for presenting and defending the truth. I think that is even more true 25+ years later in the post-modern fog which has descended upon our culture.

  7. Jason D. says:

    And don’t miss James White and Choosing Hats (guys who use Presuppositional Apologetics) responses:

    http://jxd1689.tumblr.com/post/19320459360/answering-the-gospel-coalitions-questioning

  8. J. K. Jones says:

    I so appreciate the post. I appreciate TGC for hosting the discussion. I have a few concerns for the covenental approach.

    I have found TAG both interesting and useful, but I believe it is a form of the argument from design. The world can be understood because it was designed to be understood and we were designed to understand it. How does a presup./covenental apologist avoid the charge that he is arguing from rational common ground with this argument?

    I have found through experience that TAG commends theism, but how does it lead to Christian Theism?

    I am honestly looking for a way to argue from a covenental approach. I understand that we are all biased in our thinking. We all prefer one answer to another. But I have trouble putting covenental apologetics into practice.

    Can someone help me here?

    1. taco says:

      I am honestly looking for a way to argue from a covenental approach.

      It is going to take some study. Mostly of theology and then learning how to apply that knowledge to the Apologetics task.

      http://www.choosinghats.com/reading-plan/

      There isn’t a quick fix. As with all things there is some sweat involved.

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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