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JohnFrame:ApologeticsandtheDoctrineoftheKnowledgeofGod

1Peter3:15andaDefinitionofApologetics
Itisimportanttotalkaboutknowledgebecauseapologeticsisaboutimpartingtheknowledgeof
Godtopeople.ApologeticsaddressesunbeliefseekingtobringthemtoaknowledgeofGodandof
Christ.Soepistemologyisveryimportant.
Framesdefinitionofapologeticsisbasedon1Peter3:15.Somebodyasksyouwhyyouarea
Christianandyougivethemareply.FramedefinestheologyastheapplicationofScripturetolife
andapologeticsastheapplicationofScripturetounbelief,notonlytotheunbelieverbutalso
addressingunbeliefinthebeliever.1Peter3:15involvespresuppositionalism.Thatis,apologetics
presupposesacommitmenttoJesusasLord.Norisapologeticsmerelyamatterofcommunicating
contentbutalsothelifetheLordhasputintous,asexpressedinourbehaviouralresponseof
gentlenessandrespect.
Apologistsoftentendtobeabrasive,withsomeChristiansgoingintoapologeticsbecausetheylove
toargueanddebateandtheycanenteraroomwherepeopleareinteractingpeaceablyandget
themarguing.Wegetharshagainstheresy,butJesusdidnttalkthatwaytothewomanatthewell
orthemanbornblindinJohn9.JesuswasverygentlewiththeSamaritanwoman.Similarly,note
PaulsgraciousnessonMarsHill.Partofapologeticsislearningthislifestyle.

BiblicalWorldview
ItiscommonforustospeakofabiblicaloraChristianworldview.Butitcannotbestressed
adequatelythatpeopleareexposedtolotsofdifferentwaysoflookingattheworldandthatour
Christianworldviewisdistinctitisbiblical.TheBiblepresentsaveryuniquewayoflookingatthe
world.
Aworldviewattemptstoexplainthebasicstructureofreality,roughlyequivalenttophilosophy.
Philosophyisadetailedarticulationofsomeonesworldview,containing(1)metaphysics;(2)
epistemology;and(3)ethicsorvaluetheory.
Metaphysicshastodowithbeing,whatsortofthingsthereareintheworldthebasicstructureof
reality.Epistemologyconcernshowweknowwhatis.Valuetheoryinvolveseconomics,aesthetics,
butparticularlyethics.
Whereshouldwestart?Themostintuitivethingistostartwithknowingwhatthingsthereareinthe
world,sun,rocks,etc.Butyoucantdoagoodjobofthisifyoudontknowsomethingabout
knowing.Butyoucantunderstandhumanknowingifyouhaventknownanything.Onemustfirst
havearudimentarymetaphysicsbeforeonecandoepistemology.ButImustalsohavesomethingsI
value,becauseImustalsodecidewhatIoughttoknow.Thereareallsortsofintellectualvirtuesthat
gointotheworkofknowing.AsChristianswewanttobringalloflifeunderthegloryofGodand
learningisoneofthoseactivitieswhichneedstobedonethewayGodwantsittobeknown.Thatis

MichaelK.Wilson

www.facetofaceintercultural.com.au

May2011

therearenormsforknowledge.Thisisthematterofwisdom.Therearerightandwrongwaysof
tryingtoknowtheworld.
Consequently,thethreefieldsareinterdependentandinterpenetrate.Youcantdoonewithoutthe
others.Thereisreciprocity,mutuality.Theologiansoftenlikelinearprogressions.Butmanytimes
whenwearedealingwithdifferentelementsintheologyandphilosophyitisnotpossibletoput
theminadefinitiveorderastowhichisfirst,second,etc.TheBiblepresentsallsortsofvarying
approaches,e.g.theFourGospelsandPaulandJamesdifferentwaysoflookingatjustification.
Thatis,wehaveatriperspectivalapproachtoapologetics,witheachofthesefieldsrepresentinga
particularperspective.Eachisnotasegmentofknowledge,buteachlooksatthewholebodyof
knowledgefromaparticularpointofviewandwhichevercorneronestartsfromwillneedtobringin
theotherperspectivesaswell.Theyarenotrelatedasdistinctthingsbutasvaryingperspectives.

GodandtheWorld

Figure1:VanTil'sStockDiagram

Godisabletocomeintothecreationandbecomeinvolvedwithus,butheiscompletelydistinct
fromit.

Thealternativeistohaveonecircle,that
VanTilfoundcharacterisedallnon
Christianphilosophiesandworldviews.

TheCreatorcreaturedistinctionmeanswearenotGod.TheBiblerepudiatespantheism.Themost
recentexpressionsareNewAgemonism,whichisakintoancientGnosticismaccordingtoPeter
Jones,whichhadtheideaweareallsomehowdivineandwillbereabsorbedintothedivine.Against
this,wedontneedtobedeifiedbuttobereconciledassinners.Ourproblemisethicalnot
metaphysical.Godisnotoneofthemetaphysicalforces.Rather,heistranscendentandworthyof
beinghonouredinallthatwedo.

MichaelK.Wilson

www.facetofaceintercultural.com.au

May2011

TheideaofafiniteGodisalsoobjectionableandagainputsGodintotheonecircle.OpenTheism
doesthis,withitsnotionsofGodnotknowingthefutureandcapableofmakingmistakes.
GodisinvolvedwithusasLord,amajoremphasisintheBible,withthenameLordoccurringover
7,000timesintheBible,oftenreferringtoGodandJesus.In1John4:8wearetoldGodisloveand
weneedtoremindourselvesofthis.ButheisalsoSpirit,Light,Holy,Jealous,etc.Therearealotof
namesGodgivestohimselfbutthenameLordisthemostpervasive,withGodcallinghimselfthis
overandoveragain,beginningwithhisselfrevelationasYahwehatExodus3:14thefundamental
confession,theShema(Deuteronomy6),aspertheNewTestament,Romans10:910the
confessionofJesusasLord.
Framesstudiesindivinelordship,withrespecttoallthewordsforlordleadstotheconclusion
thattherearethreemainideasinvolved:(1)control;(2)authority;(3)presenceinblessingand
judgment.Goddoeswhathepleases(might);hespeakswithsupremeauthorityandhastherightto
beobeyed;butwearenotleftwithmerelyasternconceptionofGod(thoughhedoesjudgeand
disciplinehispeople),sincehecommitshimselftohiscreationespeciallythroughhischosenpeople,
beingGodwithus,withJesushimselftabernaclingamongusandtheHolySpiritindwellingusas
temples.
Thisleadstoaviewoftranscendenceandimmanence.Thereisabiblicalwayofspeakingofthese
andalsoanonbiblicalway.TranscendenceconjuresupideasofGodbeinghighupandexaltedand
mightleadustothinkGodiswayoutthereandwearehere,thatis,thatGodisremote.Rather,
suchpassagesaresayingGodiskingonthethrone.Thatis,hehascontrolandauthorityandthisis
entirelyconsistentwithhisimmanence,hecomestobepresentwithhispeople,beingagoodking.
OntheothersidethereisatendencyonthenonChristiansidetoseeGodasliterallysofaraway
thatwecantknowhim,withhumanlanguagebeinginadequatetodescribehimanditbeing
inconceivabletoreallyhaveapersonalrelationshipwithhim.Formanytranscendenceconnotes
withdrawal,removaladeisticnotion,contradictingthebiblicalnotionofGodbeingpresent.Anon
ChristianviewofimmanenceisthatwhenGodcomesintotheworldhecantbeseenorknown,so
whenhecomesintotheworldhebecomesfiniteandwecantdiscriminatebetweenrevelationof
Godandrevelationofanythingelse.

AbsolutePersonality
AnimportantwayofthinkingabouttheChristianworldviewistoseeitasstressingthattheabsolute
realityintheuniverseisaperson.Greekdeitiesarenotabsolute,justlargerthanusbutwiththe
sameweaknesses.Otherreligionshaveabsolutebeings,e.g.BrahmainHinduism.Brahmaisnota
person,butratheranimpersonalforceasperAristotlesPrimeMoverorHegelsAbsolute.Onlyin
biblicalreligionisthehighestrealityapersonwhospeaksandthinksandplansandlovesandenters
intoarelationshipwithhispeople.Islamisanoffshoot,reallyaChristianheresy,withMuhammad
understandingChristianitysecondhandorthirdhand.ThereareotherdeviationsfromChristianity
thatcarrythissameemphasisontheabsolutebeingaperson.

MichaelK.Wilson

www.facetofaceintercultural.com.au

May2011

Biblically,theimpersonalforcesaredesignedbyapersonthepersonisultimate,butonanon
biblicalviewpersonsaretheresultofimpersonalforcesandobjectssothatpersonsarereducedto
matter,motion,timeandchance.
Realityiscomposedofthepersonalandtheimpersonal.TheBibleteachesthattheimpersonalare
theproductsofapersonsothatthepersonalismorefundamental.Outsideabiblicalframeworkthe
impersonalbecomesmorefundamental.Soinseekingacompleteexplanationofeverythingthen
theattemptismadetoreduceallthingsdowntomatterandmotionandimpersonalforces.The
decisionsofthewillcanonlybecompletelyexplainedbyexplainingtheoperationofmoleculesin
thebrainandsocialconditioning,thatis,reducingthingsdowntotheimpersonal.Whenweseekto
explainthingswithreferencetoGodthenwemeetwithobjectionsattheideaofexplainingthings
withreferencetoaperson.Butifthepersonalisultimatethenlove,covenant,righteousnessand
peacebecomeimportant.Butifimpersonalisultimatethenallsuchthingsareephemeraland
indeedwillbewipedoutwhentheuniverseiseventuallydestroyed,thatis,byoverwhelming
impersonalforces.Thisisagloomyworldview,characterisedbyresignation.
Therearethenanumberofwaystodistinguishbetweenabiblicalandanonbiblicalworldview:two
circlesv.one;differentviewsoftranscendenceandimmanence;Godasabsolutepersonalityversus
arejectionofthis;thepriorityofpersonalityversusthepriorityofimpersonality.
Godistheobjectofknowledge.IsitpossibletoknowGodatall?Inapologeticswewantto
communicateknowledge.Yes,biblicallyGodisincomprehensiblebutnotinsuchawaythatwecant
knowanythingabouthim.InRomans11Paulendsbyshowingheisnotanagnosticwhenhespeaks
ofGodsincomprehensibility.Weknowheissovereign;thatheissupremelyknowable.Thereisno
apologyfordaringtosaythingsaboutGodintheBiblewecansaythingswithcertainty.Indeed,as
Romans1:21showsheisknowablebyunbelieversaswell,thoughthereisamuchhigherformof
knowledgeavailableonlytobelievers(Jn17:3).Certainqualificationshavetobemadewedont
knowhimexhaustively;therearemanythingswedontknow.Quantitatively,wedontknow
everythingthereistoknowaboutGod.AlsowedontknowGodasGodknowshimself.
Godisincomprehensibleyetknowable.Heisincomprehensible,exceptwhenherevealshimself.
Thisislegitimate.Thethingshehasntrevealedwedontknow.Hedoesntwaitpassivelyforpeople
todiscoverhimasthoughheislikeanundiscoveredplaceintheuniverse.Ifweknowhimitis
becausehehasreachedouttous.Yetthereisasenseinwhichevenhisrevelationis
incomprehensibletous.AftershowingushowmuchheknowsPauldoesntsaynowitsallclear;
itsQED,ratherheexpresseshiswonderandamazement.Thereissomuchhestilldoesnt
understand.HowcanweknowwhatGodwasthinking,whatwasgoingthroughhismind?
NormanShepherdwoulddrawacircleandspeakofhowthecircleenclosingourknowledgeofGod
expandswhilethatwhichisoutsidethecircleneverdecreases.Themoreweknowthemoreweare
impressedwithwhatwedontknow.WeknowGodbutareignorantofmanythings.Yetonthebasis
ofhisrevelationweknowhimtruly.
Inthe1940sto1950sVanTilandGordonClarkdebatedwhethertherecouldbeathoughtinGods
mindthatisidenticaltoathoughtinmymind,e.g.Godthinkingandmythinkingthereisabookon
thetable.AmIbelievingthesamepropositionasGodbelieves?OrwhenGodsaysJesusisrisenfrom
thedeadandIdotooarewebelievingthesameproposition?ContrarytoClark,VanTilsaidNo

MichaelK.Wilson

www.facetofaceintercultural.com.au

May2011

becauseofthedistancebetweenCreatorandcreature.Framethinksthisargumentisatempestina
teapot.InbothcasesChristiansdobelievethesamepropositionsasGod,yetverydifferently.Godis
theoriginalandIamthederivative.
HowdoweknowGod?AsthecovenantLordintermsofhiscontrol,authorityandpresence.With
referencetotheExodus,GodsaysthatwhenhebringshispeopleoutofEgypttheEgyptianswill
knowheisLord.Thatis,theywillknowabouthislordship,hiscontrolthatheisonthethronenot
Pharaohornature.Heistheonewhodemandsobedienceandbringsblessingorjudgmenton
people.ThepregnantmeaningofknowledgereferredtoinJohn17:3isthatwhichissubjecttohis
lordship,withGodtakingtheinitiative.Itmustbeaservantknowledge,doingallthingstohisglory.
Thisincludesknowingitself.Itmustbeaknowledgeinobedience,withacloseinterrelationship
betweenthetwo,andrecognisingthearrowgoesbothways:knowledgeleadstoobedienceandvice
versa.
Obedienceisknowledge.Sometimesthereisalmostanidentificationbetweenthetwo.InJeremiah
22:16wereadofShallumsonofJosiah,whodidntfollowinJosiahsfootsteps,forJosiahdefended
thecauseofthepoorandneedywhich,Yahwehsays,istoknowhim.
Obedienceisthecriterionofknowledgeandknowledgemustbesoughtinanobedientway.Itisnot
foundinanautonomousway,subjecttoonesownauthority.Christianknowledgeissubjectto
GodsauthorityandnonChristianknowledgetotheirownauthority.Christianknowledgeissubject
toGodsWordandispresuppositionalinnature.Toknowanythingrightlyasweshouldknowitthen
wehavetobealreadycommitted.Itismustbeknowingaccordingtonormsandstandardsandwe
havetoalreadyknowsomething,namelythatourknowledgeissubjecttoGodsrevelation.We
knowGodbefore(nottemporally)anythingelse.Thepreinpresuppositionmeansourknowledge
ofGodispreeminent,dictatinghowwevknowanythingelsenottemporalacknowledginghis
authorityevenoverourthinking.SoChristianknowledgeisbasedongodlypresuppositions,e.g.that
Godexistsandhasrevealedhimself,especiallyintheBible.
Trueknowledgeisaknowledgeinlove(1Cor8).Knowledgeandlovegotogether;ifitisknowledge
accordingtoGodsrevelationitwillnotbeofthekindwebeatpeopleovertheheadwithortoshow
howsmartweareandhowstupidothersare;itwillbeexpressedinagodlyway.HencePauls
confrontationoftheCorinthianChristiansaspronetodivision,etc.
Wecandiscriminatebetweenknowledgeofpropositions,skillsandpersons.Thefirstincludes
knowingthingsorfacts,e.g.thebookisonthetable,GeorgeWashingtonwasthefirstAmerican
President,thatis,knowingTHAT,knowingthatthisistrue.ThenthereisknowingHOW,i.e.askill,
howtoplaythepiano,knowinghowtoteach.ThenthereisknowingHIM/HER,knowingpersons,
whichincludesknowingfactsabouttheperson.ImayknowalotofthingsaboutGeorgeBush
withoutknowinghimpersonally,despiteextensiveresearchonhim,whilehisgardenerwhoknows
littlebywayoffactsmayfeelhehasafriendshiprelationship.OurknowledgeofGodisapersonal
knowledge,evenafriendshipforbelievers.Butitisaknowledgeofenmityandhatredfor
unbelievers,whoexchangethetruthofGodforalie.

MichaelK.Wilson

www.facetofaceintercultural.com.au

May2011

TheUnbelieversKnowledgeofGod
Romans1isfoundationalhere.InRomans13allareaccusedofsin.Alotofapologeticsbooksgive
theimpressionthatwecantseeGodandsohavetouseacomplicatedargumenttodemonstrate
GodexistsandthatpeoplearesomehowjustifiedinnotknowingGod.ButRomans1saysGodisso
clearyoujustcantmisshim.Thereasonwhyheseemsobscureisinus.Eventhoughhehasbeen
clearlyperceivedwehavesuppressedthetruth.TheknowledgeofwhichRomans1:18ffspeaksisa
personalknowledge(negative),evenifitincludesfacts.Godgivespeopleuptoignoranceandmoral
depravity,indicatingknowledgeandmoralitygotogether.Verse32givesusanotherelementofthe
knowledgepeoplehave,thatisnotonlyaknowledgeofGodsnaturebutalsoofhisrequirements.
Peoplealsohaveethicalknowledgeconcerningwhattheyoughttodo.Buttheydontdoit.They
hatedoingitandapprovethosewhodowhatiswrong.PeopleoftensaytheywillbelieveifGod
revealshimselfclearly,buttheresponseistosayhehasalreadydonethisandyouhaverefusedto
acceptit.SatanknowsGodbetterthanChristiansdoinalotofways,e.g.demonscryingoutIknow
whoyouare,theholyoneofGod;IknowJesusandIknowPaulbutwhoareyou?Despitetheir
knowledgeofGoddemonshatehim.Dreadfulirrationalismentersthethinkingofpeople.Theyare
notsmartandnotthinkingright.
FrameacceptsvanTilasasortofmentor,thoughheiscriticalofhiminvariousareas,considering
himtoberightmostofthetimeaboutthebestwecanhopefor.VanTilsaysinallhumanthinking
thereisapowerenablingustoaccomplishthings,butreasonislimited,wecantaccomplishall
things.ReasonislimitedbecauseitissubjecttoGodscontrol,butinthinkingunderGodscontrol
wecancometoaknowledgeoftruth.SoChristiansbalancethelimitsandpowerofreason.Butfor
nonChristiansthereisultimatelynocertaintruth.Buthavingsuppressedthetruththeygoforthe
scepticaloptionandintheirappealtotheirownreasonastheultimateauthoritytheyare
committedtosupremerationalism.VanTilsaysthisisbothrationalandirrationalatthesametime.
UnbelieversaccuseusofbeingirrationalbecausewesubmitourreasontoGodandyetaccuseusof
beingrationalistsforsayingweknowthingsforcertainandknowthingsareobjectivelytruehow
stupid,theythink.Modernistswouldaccuseusofbeingirrationalfornot(supposedly)believing
scienceandpostmodernistsaccuseusofrationalism.Butratherwebalancethelimitsandpowerof
knowledge.
Ofcourse,unbelieverscombinerationalismwithirrationalism.Ontheonehand,theyclaimthereis
noabsolutetruthandyetconstantlymakeclaimsthateffectivelysaythereis,e.g.evolutionasan
absolutethatcannotbequestioned.Thereisnowaytobesureofanythingbutsomewillinsistyou
canbesuretheBibleisnottrueandthereforeisnottobetaughttoschoolkids.Intheancient
world,theSophistsknowobjectivetruth.Parmenidessaidanythingwedontknoworunderstand
cantpossiblybetrue.Platosaidthereisonerealminwhichthereisabsoluteknowledgeandone
realminwhichcantknowanything,itbeingtrickytobringtheserealmstogether.
IntheGardenofEdenwecansayeitherEveissidingwithSatanagainstGodorthatsheisdeciding
autonomously.ShecanbeconsideredanirrationalistinsofarasherresponsetoSatanimpliesthere
isnocertainknowledgetobehadorshecanbeconsideredarationalistinsettingupherownmind
toassesswhatSatantellsher;soarguablyshewassimultaneouslyarationalistandanirrationalist
ThissamedialecticcharacterisesallnonChristianthought,avacillationbetweenrationalismand

MichaelK.Wilson

www.facetofaceintercultural.com.au

May2011

irrationalism,denyingabsolutetruthwhileneverthelesstreatingwhattheythemselvesbelieveas
absolute.
WhenwespeakofGodasanobjectofknowledgewesimplymeanthatheisanobjectasonewe
know.Wedonotmeanheisanobjectthatcanbemanipulated.
Whenwespeakofselfknowledgethisnotonlyappliesindividually,butalsocorporately.Thatis,
groupshaveaknowledgeofthemselves.

TheJustificationofKnowledge
Framepresentsatrianglewiththesubjects,objectsandnormsofknowledgebeingthethree
dimensions.Wearecalledupontogiveajustificationforwhatweknow(1Pet3:15).Justasthereis
triangleofobjectssothereisatriangleofjustificationforknowledge.
Knowledgeisjustifiedthroughbelief.KnowingGodisnotjustknowingpropositions,thoughwedo
indeedknowsomethingsaboutGod,whichwecanstateinpropositionalform.Beliefisasubjective
thing,truthisobjective,andthejustificationofbeliefisnormative.Ajustificationisareasonfor
believingsomethingand,therefore,forchangingoneslife.
Anargumentstringstogetheragroupofpropositionswithpremisespresentedasreasonsforwhy
peopleshouldthinkoractdifferently.Whenweteachorengageinapologeticsweareengagedin
rationalargumentation.Peopleoftencantspotthefallacyinbadargumentsbutoftencansense
thattheyarenotpersuasive,soitisimportantforChristianstopresentgoodarguments.
Justificationbecomesveryimportantintheentireworkofministrybutalsoinourapproachto
Scripture.Scripturecontinuallytellsustodothingsforparticularreasons,e.g.seekthethingsabove
becausealreadyrisenwithChrist(Col3:1);believethereisnocondemnationbecauseofallthathas
beensaidinChapters17(Rom8:1);similarlyRomans12:12.TheBibleargueswithusandpresents
rationalargumentsComenowletusreasontogether
Thetraditionalideaisofjustifiedtruebelief.Thishascausedsomedebatesincethe1960swith
counterexamplessayingtherearetimeswhenthisdoesntconstituteknowledge.Thereisaneedto
distinguishbetweentwokindsofjustification:theinwardjustificationbywhichwepersuade
ourselvesandexternaljustification,thefocusofPlantingasthought.Plantingafocusesonwarrant
ratherthanjustification.
Thereisadifferencebetweenexplicitandimplicitjustification.Therearealotofthingswesaywe
knowandweknowthemrationallyandwithjustificationeventhoughwearelimitedinbeingableto
argueforthem,e.g.believingyouhaveminds.Itisdifficulttoformulateajustificationforbeliefin
otherminds,butwebelieveitanywaywithoutargumentandwithoutevidence.Whywedowe
believethatwhatwillhappeninthefuturewillbeasitwasinthepast?Thisishardtoargue.
Similarly,withrespecttoourbeliefthatwhatgoesupmustcomedown.Webelievesuchthings
rightlybutareharddressedtoputthisjustificationintoasyllogism.Itispossibletohaveareason
withoutbeingabletogiveone.TakeathreeyearoldchildwhobelievesinGod,butheisunableto
articulatethis.Ifhecouldhemightspeakofacceptingwhathisparentshavetoldhim.Hehasa
belief,ajustifiedbeliefhehasareasonbutcantgiveit.Therearesomewhoreasontheirwayto

MichaelK.Wilson

www.facetofaceintercultural.com.au

May2011

God,e.g.C.S.Lewis,butveryfewdo,theyratherhearthegospelandfindittobepersuasive(there
isarationalsidetothis;itmakessense).Thisisimportantinapologeticsandintheknowledgeof
God.
Peoplearealwaysasking,Why?andwhenwegiveananswertheystillkeepaskingthissame
question.Therehastobeaplacewherethisstops.Allpeoplehavebedrock,theirfundamental
propositions.

FormsofJustification
Whensomeoneasksyouwhyyoubelievewhattypesofanswercanyougive?
1. Normative:Onecananswer,Ibelievep(avariable,representinganypropositionatall
bookontable,existenceofGod,etc.)becausebelievingpisinaccordwiththenormsorlaws
ofhumanthought.Iamfollowingtherulesofthought.Buttospeakofrulesalsobrings
ethicsintoknowledge.
2. Situational:Ibelievepbecauseitconformstothefacts.
3. Existential:IbelievepbecauseIfinditthemostdeeplysatisfying.Thisisnotblithering
subjectivism,buthardheadedrationality.
IntheChristianworldviewthesethreequestionsshouldhavethesameanswerbecausewebelieve
inGod.Godcoordinatesthelawsofthought,thefactsoftheworldhecreatedandhuman
subjectivitywhichhemadetobeareceiverofknowledge.Godistheauthorofallthreeand
thereforetheyareharmonious,theycohere.Ifweseeadiscrepancyitisbecausewehaventseen
thefullanswer.
Eachofthesemustincorporatetheothertwo.Thesituationalentersintothedefinitionofthe
normative.Oneruleofthoughtisthatknowledgemustbeinaccordwiththefacts.Theexistential
entersintothenormative.Knowledgeisitselfasubjectivequestionwechoosetobelieveand
believewhatwefeellikebelieving.Weclaimknowledgeonlywhensubjectivedoubtissubstantially
eliminated,whileallowingforsomeabstractdoubt(e.g.youmightallberobotsnothumans).
Removingdoubtisasubjectiveprocess.
Wehavearighttocertaintywhenwecansaywehaveeliminatedalltheobjectionsandknowwe
feelgood,atrest,anddontneedtodoanyfurtherresearchcognitiverest.
Thenormativeiscrucialtothedefinitionofthesituational.IcanbeconvincedthatIhavethefacts
onlywhenIamconfidentthatIamthinkingcorrectlyaccordingtotherulesandthatmysubjective
facultiesareworkingrightly.
Theexistentialentersintothedefinitionofthesituational.Wehavetobeconfidentoursubjective
apparatusisoperatingokayifwearetoknowthefacts.
Thenormativefactorentersthedefinitionoftheexistential.LetssayIhaveafeelingofdoubtand
uneasiness.HowdoIdealwiththis?Igobackandask,AmIfollowingtherules,thelawsofthought,
inaccordwithGodsrevelation,withreason?OrIgobackandlookatthefactsagain,doingan
experimentandresearchsothesituationalalsoentersthedefinitionoftheexistential.

MichaelK.Wilson

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May2011

Inshort,wecantknowanyofthesewithoutbringingthemintorelationwiththeothertwo.

SecularEpistemologies
Onemajorissueconcernswhatconstitutestheultimategroundofknowledge.FornonChristians
thereisnoGodcoordinatingthethreeperspectives.ThisisthemaindifferencebetweenChristian
andnonChristianepistemology.NonChristiansdontknowthatthenormsofthought,thefactsand
subjectivitywillfittogether.Tothemtheremaybeconflict.
Canasecularepistemologyachievecoherence?Itisactuallyeasytoachievethis,ifonehasvery
simplepropositions.Butthetrickistoaccountforallreality.ItisdoubtfulthatanynonChristian
epistemologyhasadequatelycomprehensivecoherence.Further,coherenceisnttheonlycriterion
forasoundepistemology,e.g.ifonerunsintoapparentcontradictionsasinthecaseofdealingwith
thetwowaysofunderstandinglight.SomeChristiansseeanapparentcontradictionbetweendivine
sovereigntyandhumanresponsibility,thoughFramedoubtsthereisevenanapparent
contradiction.Butitisperfectlylegitimatetosetasideanapparentcontradictionifonehasother
reasonsforbelievinginthesystem.Coherenceisalawofthoughtinthatinthefinalanalysisalltruth
iscoherent.ButitisnotalawofthoughtifImeanthatIhavetoachievecoherence.Wemusttake
intoaccountourownfallibilityandfinitude.
Therearethreeschools:
1. Rationalism:Thisbeginswithreasonasthesupremenormorlawofthought.Itbeginswithself
evidenttruths,e.g.DescartesandSpinozawhocameupwithseveralaxiomsanddeduced
variouspropositionstoarriveatasystem,atleastinoutline,toaccountforeverything.Though
mosthavesaidtheyfailedinthis.Thefactisthatthemathematicalmodelisinsufficienttocope
withalloftheknowledgeweneedtohave.Antagonismhadbeenbuiltupbetweenreasonand
thesenses.Rationalistsinsistedourexperienceisalwaysfaultye.g.oureyesdeceiveusand
thiscanonlybecorrectedbythemind.
2. Empiricism:Herethereisreliancenotmerelyonreason,butonsenseexperience,e.g.Locke,
Hume,Berkeley.Theempiricistssaidthatrationalistsweretryingtocomeupwithknowledgeof
everythingwhileabstractingthemselvesfromtheworldintheirivorytowers.Onehastosee
flowersandexperiencerealitytobeabletoknowit,withsenseexperiencebeingtheultimate
test,e.g.whatweseeandhear.Ifonehasanideaandwantstoknowifitistrueornotthenone
testsitbyseekingtotraceitbacktosomesenseexperience.
3. Subjectivism:ThisapproachbeginswiththeSophists.Humebeganasempiricistbutbecameso
scepticalthattheonlywayhecoulddealwithhisscepticaldoubtswasbyplayingbackgammon.
Hecametothinkthatwhatwebelievearethecustomsorhabitsofbelieving,e.g.thateffects
followcauses.Humemaintainedthiswassomethingwhichcantbeproved,butthatwearein
thehabitofbelievingthis.So,hereasoned,soweoughttofollowoursubjectivity.
Platodividedtheworldintotwo,beingarationalistwithrespecttotheworldofformsandan
irrationalistwithrespecttotheworldofourexperience.Yetwearesupposedtointerprettheworld
ofourexperiencewithreferencetotheworldofforms.Whenwedothatarewebeingrationalor

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10

irrational?TheproblemforPlatoisoneofhowtobringtheseworldstogether.Howdoyouknow
theseformswillhelpustogetknowledgedownhereintheworldofexperience?Platonever
answeredthisquestiontoanyonessatisfaction.Bycontrast,Aristotlesituatedbothhisformsand
hismatterhereinthisworld.
Kantalsodividedtheworld.Hewassubjectivist,scepticalabouttheworldinitself,thenoumenal
world.Buthewasrationalisticwithrespecttotheworldasitappearstous,thephenomenalworld.
Hewasalsoempiricistindefiningthelimitsofknowledge.
Alotofphilosophers(themodelfortoday)jointhesegeneraltraditionalapproachesinvarious
combinations,thoughnonesuccessfully.But,Frameinsistsonecannotknowanythingtrulyunless
thereisthenecessarysubjectiveequipment,knowledgeofthefactsandrulesforknowing.Allthree
areprerequisitesforknowing,allofwhichmustbecoordinatedinordertoknow.Framecantsee
howtheycanbecoordinatedwithouttheGodoftheBible.
Therearethreeformsofjustificationaccordingtothebiblicalworldview:
1. Normativejustification:IbelieveinGod,inChrist,inallkindsofotherthings,becauseIbelieve
thatbeliefisinaccordwiththelawsofthought,thatGodauthorisesmetohavethisbelief.We
startwithGodsrevelationbutknowthisinthelightofourknowledgeoftheworldandself.
2. Situationaljustification:IbelieveinGod,etc.becausethesearethefacts.Herewestartwiththe
world(onlyaperspective,anangle)butunderstooditinthelightofrevelationandself.
3. Existentialjustification:IbelieveinGod,etc.becausethisgivesmecognitiverest.Herewestart
withselfthoughthisisonlycomprehensibleinthelightofrevelationandknowledgeofthe
world.
Sofarwehaveconsideredtheobjectsofknowledge(Whatdoweknow?):God,theworldandself.
Wehavetoknoweachofthesetoknowtheothers:atriperspectivalknowledge.
Wehavealsoconsideredthejustificationofknowledge(Why?Whatbasisdowehaveforclaimingto
knowsomething?).Wehaveconsideredsecularapproaches.Biblicalmetaphysicsandabiblicalset
ofvaluesgivesusthethreeformsofjustificationsetoutabove.
Torestate:
1. Normativejustification.Whydoyoubelieve?Ibelievebecausebelievingnessisinaccord
withthenormsofthought,thehighestlawsofthinking.IfIfollowtheselawsIwillcometo
theconclusionChristianityistrue.
2. Situationaljustification.Whydoyoubelieve?Becauseitaccordswiththefactsoftheworld.
3. Existentialjustification.Whydoyoubelieve?Becauseitisthemostdeeplysatisfyingwayto
thinkandlive.
Onecannotbecompletelysatisfiedunlessalsolivingaccordingtorulesandconsistentlywiththe
facts.
Considernormativejustification.Whatarethelawsofthought,thehighestlawsforhumanthinking?
TheultimatelawofthoughtisGodsauthority,higherthanlogic,asimportantaslogicundoubtedly
is.Logichasbenefitsandlimitations.Logicisaboutargumentsandderivingconclusionsfrom

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premisesandtestingpropositionsforconsistencysomethingwedointheology,inpreaching,
leadingBiblestudies,etc.Argumentsarepartofanykindofteaching,preaching,witnessing,
apologetics,etc.ButinthefinalanalysisitisGodsWord,revelation,thattestslogicandnotthe
otherwayround.Godslogicisonethingandhumansystemsoflogicaresomethingelse.Human
logicisascienceanditisnotinfallible.Itiscapableofmistakes,butGodslogicandWordis
infallible.GodsWordisamoreultimatetestoftruththanhumanreasonorhumanexperienceand
feelings.
ThenormativeincludesallofGodsrevelationandweknowGodrevealshimselfeverywhere.Soin
onesenseeverythingisnormative.WhenIencounterafactintheworld,e.g.themarkerisonthe
table,thenthatfactmakesaclaimonmeIneedtopresupposethisfactistrueandthisbecomes
partofthenormativestructureofreality.WhenIfeelhotIhaveasubjectiveexperiencebutthisis
trueofrealityandIneedtoliveinaccordwiththeworldasGodmadeit.Everythingissomekindof
revelationorother,specialorgeneralorexistential.
TheBibleplaysaspecialroleinthehierarchyofnorms.Normsalwaysfunctionasahierarchy,with
higherandlowernorms.Kidsbelievealmosteverythingtheirparentstellthem,butlaterfindother
thingsmorereliable,testingoneauthorityagainstanother,e.g.teachersagainstparent.Everything
isnormativebutsomethingsaremorenormativethanothers.Weneedproceduresfortestingwhen
wearerightandwhenwrong.Sometimesmysensestellmethetruthbutsometimestheyleadme
astray,e.g.theseeminglybentstickinthewater.TheBibleplaysaspecialroleinallthisasGods
covenantdocument,withIsraelhavingtheultimatelaw.Frameconcludesthatthoughour
understandingoftheBiblerequiresknowledgeoftheworldandselves,oursettledconvictions
aboutwhattheBiblesaystakeprecedenceoverourconvictionsformedonotherbases.Butclearly
weneedtoreadtheBiblerightlyknowingsuchthingsasgenre,culture,etc.Butoncewehave
approachedtheBiblerightlythenweareabletoformsettledconvictions.
Godsrevelationbecomesourpresupposition,thebeliefthattakesprecedenceoverallotherbeliefs,
thatwhichIwillbelievewhenotherbeliefscontradictit.Herepresuppositiondoesnotimplythe
temporalpriorityoftheBiblewithrespecttoourknowing.BelievingtheBibledoesntalwayscome
beforebelievingotherthings,butitshouldbepreeminent.
Inordinarylifewehavepresuppositions.Webelieveinonethingbecausewebelievesomething
else.Therearedifferentauthorities,teachers,parents,textbooks,etc.Butthereisanultimate
authority,fortherationalisthumanreason.Therationalistbelievesthatalltheauthoritieshaveto
betestedagainsthumanreason.Fortheempiricistitissenseexperience.Forthesubjectivistitismy
feelings,myinwardness,mysubjectivity.ButforChristiansitisScripture.Weshouldbemorecertain
ofScripturethananythingelse.
Therearesomethingsofwhichwearemorecertainandsomethingsofwhichwearelesscertain.
Forexample,imagineIamtoldthereisasparrowoutside.ButwhenIgooutsideIcantseeoneand
soperhapsIdontbelievewhatIwastold.Itiseasytochangesuchabelief.ButtheChristianwillnot
changehisbeliefintheresurrectionofChrist,hislordship,hisdeity,hisatonementforsinallnon
negotiable.Butthereareotherthingsthatweholdwithlesscertainty,e.g.beliefsaboutinfant
baptismandaboutthemillennium.JustbecauseitisintheBibledoesntmeanitwillbeintherealm
ofhighercertainty.

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SomeChristiansgetconfusedattheideathattherearethingsintheBibleconcerningwhichwe
cannotbecertain.TheBibleitselftalksaboutcertainty,e.g.1John5:13.Weshouldknowwehave
eternallife.Teachingabouthumansinandourneedtobejustifiedbyfaithissomethingweshould
becertainabout.Wecometoconvictionswehearthegospel,includingthebeliefthereisaGod
whocreatedtheworld,thatwefellintosin,thatweneedatonement,thatChristroseagainwhen
apersonbelievesthesethings,thosebeliefsaresealedintheheart.Somemayprofesstobelieve
thesethingswithoutaworkofgraceintheirlives.ButwhentheHolySpiritsealsthesetruthsinour
heartsthenthesecertaintiesenableustobuildupourknowledgeoftheworldandcertaintiesin
otherareas(ofalesserkind).Thatis,becausewepresupposeGodcreatedtheworldIhavea
certainty(ofalesserkind)thatthereisindeedamarkeronthetable.
WecansaytopeoplethatweknowGodexistsnotthatwethinkheexists.Therearegeneraltruths
weknowfromGod.Thoughweknowourreasonislimitedweknowitalsohaspowers.Wehave
certainty,knowledgeandtruthbecauseGodhasclearlyrevealedhimself.
NonChristiansalsohavepresuppositions.TheymaysayChristiansarebiasedandthatnon
Christiansfindtruthwhereveritcanbefound;Christiansarenarrow,nonChristiansarebroad.Itis
claimedthatChristiansbelievewhattheybelievewithoutknowledgeofthealternatives,whereas
nonChristiansarepreparedtodothis.Yes,Christianshavepresuppositionswhichserveasthe
criteriaofcertaintyandsotoodononChristians,e.g.reason,senseexperienceorsubjectivity.
Romans1saysoneofthepresuppositionsnonChristianshaveisthatGodsrevelationcantbetrue,
thatitmustbefalse.ThisisbecausethenonChristiansuppressesthetruthwilfullyandsoinsteadof
testinghisknowledgebywhatGodhasrevealedhedoessobysomeothermeans,ultimatelyby
referencetohimself.
Itusedtobehardtoteachthis.ButalotofnonChristiansnowrecognisetheimportanceof
presuppositionsabigemphasisforpostmodernists,e.g.thewayyoureadatextdependson
whetheryouarepoororrich,maleorfemale,blackorwhite,etc.PhilosophersofscienceMichael
PolyaniandThomasKuhnrecognisethatscienceisnotjustamatterofacquiringfactsinaneutral
fashion,butamatterofapplyingparadigms(Kuhn),presuppositionsofacertainkind,tothedatawe
experienceandorganisingthem,experiencingandtestingthemusingscientificmethodsandvarious
kindsofinstrumentation.Buttheinstrumentationandmethodologycomesfromtheparadigm,the
presuppositions.Thereisageneralconsensusamongthosewhohavestudiedepistemologythat
whenwestudydatathentoalargeextentweseewhatwewanttosee.
NonChristianknowledgeoperatesattwolevels.ThenonChristianisnotonlyacquaintedwithGods
revelationandincontactwithit,butheactuallyknowsGod(Rom1).HehasaknowledgeofGodand
insomewaysitshowsup,withnonChristiansoftenbehavingasifGodexisted.NonChristiansdont
liveasthoughtheworldwaschaos,thatis,theyliveasthoughGodexists.Thereisthenatheistic
presuppositionpeopleusewhentheyarenotthinkinghardaboutit.ButthenonChristianworksto
overcomethispresuppositionandreplaceitwithsomethingelse,hencetheirrationality
characteristicofallnonChristianthought.

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SomeonecomesandaskswhyyoubelievetheBibleandwhyyoubelieveChristianityistrue?The
ultimatestandard,Scripture,mustjustifyitself.Itisselfjustifying,selfattesting,becauseitisour
ultimateauthorityandthereforecantbejustifiedthroughanappealtosomethingexternaltoit.The
fulljustificationrequirestheworkoftheSpiritthatgoesbeyondanyargument.
AccordingtoGdelanykindofformalsysteminmathematicsissufficienttoincludecertain
presuppositions,butnotenoughtojustifyit.Onehastogooutsidethesystemtodothis.Butweare
notspeakingaboutfinitemathematicalsystemsbutaboutsystemswhichembracesthewholeof
reality.Ifrationalismistruethenitembracesthewholeofrealityreasonisadequatetoexplain
everything,toknowanything.Butifsomeoneretorts,Youcantdothatbecausethesystemis
incompletetheansweristhatthisisallwecandosincewearestuckwithinthesystem,onecant
getoutsideit,thereisnomeansofaccess.Soifwearetalkingaboutsystemsthatwouldincludethe
wholeofhumanknowledgesuchasrationalism,empiricismorChristiantheismonecantgetoutside
suchasystembutonehastofindsomewaywithinthesystemofvindicatingthatsystemtooneself
andothers.ButGdelspointisvalid.Theimplicationisthatinordertocometocertaintyeven
withinthisuniversalsystemweneedsomethingoutsidethesystem,namelytheworkofGodhimself
topersuadeyouofthetruthofwhatheistellingyou.Wealsotrytoidentifywhatresourceswe
havewithinthesystem,butalsorecognisethenecessityoftheworkofGodtocometoaconviction
aboutthetruth.
TobelievetheBibleasaselfattestingdocumentinvolvesacertaincircularity.IfIsayIbelieveinthe
BiblebecauseittellsmetobelieveintheBiblethenthiswontdomuchtoimpressothers.Butall
universalsystemsofthought(notfinitemathematicalsystems)arecircularwhentheyseektojustify
theirultimateprinciple,e.g.therationalistdefenceofreasondependsonrationality.Rationalityis
selfattesting.Askanempiricistwhyhetrustshissenseexperience.Hereitisabitdicey,because
LockeandHumeandcompanydontseektojustifythisbyanappealtothesenses.Howcanyou
appealtosenseexperiencetoshowyououghttotrustinit.Sotheyusuallyfudge,butiftheyare
consistentthentheywouldhavetosayIbelieveinempiricismbecauseittellsmeto.
Itistobenotedthatsuchsystemsarenotcircularallthetime,butonlywithreferencetothe
fundamentalprinciple.
Peopleoftendonthavewellthoughtoutepistemologicalviews.Howdowesmokeouttheir
presuppositions.Byaskingquestions,especiallyWhyquestions.Inmanysuchcasesthebest
approachissimplytopresentChristandonestestimony,etc.
Weshoulddistinguishbetweennarrowlyandbroadlycirculararguments.Thenarrowcircle,e.g.
ScriptureisGodsWordbecauseitisGodsWord.Abroadercircle:ScriptureisGodsWord
becauseitsaysitisGodsWord.Thisisavalid,soundargument.Weprobablywouldntuseitin
apologeticsbecausetodosoitalsoneedstobepersuasive;itisanappealtoapresuppositionthata
hearerwillprobablynotbeabletoacceptatthispoint.
Instead,webroadenthecircle,e.g.ScriptureisGodsWordbecauseitislogicallyconsistent;
supportedbytheevidence.Doesthisremovethecircularity?NotfortheChristiansinceScriptureis
thefinalcriterionforevaluatingallthings.SomenonChristianswillcometorealisethisandfinda
probleminthefactthatweareevaluatingallthingsonthebasisofChristiancriteria.Ofcoursewe
are.ButwearebringingindatatheHolySpiritmayusetobringapersonfromunbelieftobelief.
AChristianapologeticisnotnecessarilynarrowlycircular,butcanincludeeverythingevidentialist,
includingclassicalarguments.ButallarewithintheChristiancircle,testedbyChristian
presuppositionswiththesedeterminingwhatwewilluseornotuse.Sopresuppositionalismdoesnt
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ruleouttheuseofevidenceandtheisticproofsanddatafromallareasofhumanlife,fromGods
generalrevelation.Somemistakenlythinkthatpresuppositionalismrulesouttheuseofevidence
andvanTilalsorejectedthiskindofinference.
Thereistheproblemofcompetingcircularities.Everyoneyouarguewithoperateswithininacircle.
ThereisaparticularproblemweencounterwiththeMuslim.Isay,YouhavetobelieveintheBible
becausetheBibleattestsitself.Heretorts,YouhavetobelieveintheQuranbecausetheQuran
attestsitself.Imightrespond,YouhavetobelieveintheBiblebecauseofallthisevidenceinthe
BibleandherespondslikewisewithrespecttotheQuran.Isay,Youhavetoevaluatetheevidence
bythepresuppositionsofScriptureandherespondsinkind.Inthiswaywegobackandforthandit
appearsasthosethesecirclesarecompletelyparallel.
Framesometimesusesanillustrationtoshowwhatweareupagainsthere.Somepeoplehave
clinicalparanoiabelievingtheyareunderattack.R.M.Haregivestheexampleofastudentat
Cambridgewhobelievesallthedonsandallthestudentsareouttokillhim.Whatdoyoudowith
someonelikethat?Youcantellhimthatsnottrueandpointoutcounterexamples.Youtellhimto
considerProfessorJoneswhoinvitedhimtodinnerandhelpedhimwithhisassignment.Buthe
respondsthattheProfessorisjustfatteninghimupforthekill.Heinterpretsalltheevidence
throughhisgridandnomatterwhatfactsorargumentsyoubringagainsthimithasnoimpacton
him.Hewillreinterpretthem.
Herewehavetwocompetingcircles.Hispresuppositionthattheyarealltryingtokillhimandyours,
thattheyarenot,aremutuallyexclusive.Totheextentthatdealingwithsuchapersonisamatterof
dialogue,thereisonethingonemustnotsay.Youmustnotsay,Iwillgoovertoyourpositionand
reasononthebasisofyourpresuppositions.Thisiswhatsomeevidentialiststrytodo.Theysay,
ThenonChristiandoesntaccepttheauthorityoftheBiblesowehavetosetthatasideandreason
onthebasisofpresuppositionsacceptabletothem.Thisisthewrongwaytogo,youwillneverget
tothetruth.Ifyoureasononthebasisofthepresuppositionsoftheparanoidyouwillnever
convincehimtheprofessorsarenotouttokillhim.Youhavetoreasonfromthestandpointofthe
truth,ofyourownpresuppositionsbecauseyouthinktheyareright.Paranoidsarehumanbeings
andsowehavetoassumethatatsomeleveltheyareawaretheirwayofthinkingisoutofkilterwith
reality.Sometimespeoplewhohavethesefalsepresuppositionscanbebroughtbacktothetruth.
ThisillustrationshowsusthatwearedependentontheworkoftheSpirittobringpeoplefromone
worldviewtoanother.
VanTilusedtosaythatapologeticmethodinvolvestwosteps.Thefirststepistoplaceoneselfon
theotherpersonspresuppositionstohelphimtoseethatevenonhisownpresuppositionshis
worldviewdoesntworkandleadstochaos.Thesecondstepistogethim,forthesakeofargument,
tolookatthingsbasedonyourChristianpresuppositions,whichleadtoorder,love,truth,etc.
Thatisgoodmethodologicallyandoftenthewaywego.However,whenweputourselvesonas
perthefirststepwearenotreallybelievingit,butsaying,Thisiswhatyourpresuppositionlooks
likefrommypointofview,i.e.weneverleaveourownpresupposition.Butwithrespecttothe
paranoidweneverstepoutsidethetruth,thoughwemightenterhisworldandaskhimifhecan
justifyhisthinkingaboutaparticularphilosopher,etc.
NowgobacktotheapparentlyparallelbutmutuallyexclusivecompetingcirclesofChristianityand
Islam.Tostressthisistooverlooktheconsiderabledifferencesbetweenthetwoholybooks.The
BiblemakesdifferentclaimsfromtheQuranandtheQuransayssomethingsaboutJesusand
thinkstheBiblealsospeaksaboutMuhammad.Onanevidentialbasiswecandemonstratethatthe

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BibleismorereliablethantheQuran.Wecanalsotapthecommonground,e.g.theQuranicview
ofJesuscomingtojudgethelivingandthedead.
Animportantthingtorecogniseaboutcompetingcirclesisthattheyareneveridentical.Thereare
alwayssignificantdifferences.
Theevidentialistthinkswecaninvestigatetheevidencewithoutpresupposinganything,juststart
withthefactsandcometotheconclusionthatChristianityistrue.SoR.C.Sproularguedthatitis
whenwegettothepointofprovingChristianityistrueonthebasisoftheevidencethatwe
presupposeittobetrue.
Toreview.Thefirstformofjustificationisnormative.IfsomeoneasksmewhyIbelieveIanswer,I
believebecausemybeliefisinaccordwiththenormsofthought.
Thesecondjustificationissituationaljustification.IfsomeoneasksmewhyIbelieveIanswer,I
believebecauseitisinaccordwiththefacts,itfitswiththefactsofmysituation.TheBiblehas
muchtosayaboutoursituation.MysituationiscompletelycontrolledbyGod,byhisdecreeandby
hisprovidence.ThereforethewholeworldisrevelationalofGod.EveryfactrevealsGodinsomeway
andcantexistasfactapartfromGodscreationandprovidence.Soeachfactcanbethebasisofan
apologeticargument,whichpresupposesthatweunderstandthefactsinamannerpleasingtoGod,
thatisgovernedbyhisWord.Thisencouragesustouseevidence.Alotofwhatwebelieveis
becauseofoursenses,experiencingfactsinourlifefactualdataplaysamajorroleinapologetics
asinmuchofhumanknowledge.Ourexperienceoffactsinourlivesgovernsourbehaviour.Itis
certainlylegitimateforpeopletotrusttheirsensesandtheirknowledgeofthesituationtoguide
theminlife.TheapologistseekstoshowhowthiscanleadtoaknowledgeofGod.Wecanhaveno
objectiontotheisticargumentsandevidence.Theonlythingthatisnotokayisclaimingneutrality.It
isnotacceptabletooperateasthoughwehavenopresupposition.
Wecantunderstandfactsexceptinthelightofthenormandourexperienceofthosefacts,butwe
alsocantunderstandthenormwithoutthosefacts,etc.
Considerexistentialjustification.SomeoneasksmewhyIbelieveandIanswerbecausethisisthe
mostdeeplysatisfyingtomepersonally.Christianserrindismissingthisassubjectivismand
emotivism.Thereisanunhealthyselfconsciousnessconcerningthis,anunfortunateoveremphasis
onrationalism.AftertheScopestrialtherewasatendencyforChristianstopullawayfrom
scholarshipandadoptafideisticviewandtosaywedontcarewhatsciencesays,whatculturesays
wejustwanttogetoutofthatandbelieveonthebasisoftheBiblealone.ButafterWorldWarII
CarlHenryandotherssaidweChristiansmustchangesinceweareestablishingarelationshipfor
ourselvesasantiintellectual.Sotheyrestressedtheimportanceoftheintellect.Buttodaymost
theologiansandthinkerswanttosayourfaithisobjectiveratherthansubjective,intellectually
graspedandnotbythefeelings.Dontlivebyyourfeelingsbutbyyourintellect.Framebelieves
thependulumhasgonetoofarontheintellectualsideandthereisabigneedespeciallyinthe
ReformedbranchofevangelicalChristianitytohaveapositiveviewoftheemotions.
Knowledgeisnotonlyjustified,objectivelytrue.Itissomethingthatgoesoninsidethehead.Itis
subjective,anexperienceandthisisimportantforanyknowledge.Fromonepointofview
knowledgeissomethingsubjective,somethinginsideyou.
Weoftendividehumanpersonalityintointellect,willandemotions.Framealsoaddsimagination,
memory,etc.Certainlythewillplaysanimportantroleinhumanknowledge.Webelievewhatwe
wanttobelieve,e.g.seeRomans1:19,concerningachoicenottobelievewhatGodreveals.Paul

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goesontosaythatbyGodsgraceitispossibletochoosetobelieve.Wemustnotdeemphasisethe
importanceofthischoiceGodsgracecausesustochoose.
Atonelevelbeliefsareinvoluntary:Icantmakemyselfbelievethisbluepenisred.ButinScripture
beliefisacommandBelieveintheLordJesusChristandthisispartlyanintellectualdecision.
Romans1concernsthatwhichisbothbehaviouralandbelief.Itissomethingpeopleareaccountable
forandsothereisimplicitachoicetobelieve.
Therearealotofsituationsinwhichpeoplechoosetobelieve.Sayoneisstudyingthehistoryof
philosophyorscienceandconsideringtwocompetingtheories.OftenasThomasKuhnpointsoutthe
decisiononemakeswillhaveotherramifications,e.g.thecommunityyoubelongto,thekindofjob
oneappliesforandthekindofrecognitiononewillreceive.Itisintegratedintooneswholelifeand
theseconsiderationsalsobearonthechoiceorcommitmentonemakes.Thereisalevelof
commitmentinknowledgethathastobereckonedwith.
Thewillhasaroletoplay.ThisishowGodmadeus.Thesameappliestoemotions.SayIamstudying
twocompetingsystemsandIammovedtowardsbothandImnotsurewhichoneistrue.MaybeI
ameveninclinedtoathirdalternative.Idosomemorestudyandthinkingandeventuallycometoa
pointofsayingIreallythinkthispositionisright.Iamnowreadytocommittothis.Itishardtosay
whatbringsmetothispoint.Itsnotjustacaseofbringingfactsintothesituation.Thereisa
subjectivejudgmentconcerningthecoherenceofallthisandwhenIsayIknowitissomethinglike
afeeling.
ThereisasubjectivesidetobeliefandknowingisoftenverymuchafeelingIfeelgoodaboutthis,I
canlivewiththis.Peoplecondemnthiskindoftalkbutitisnotentirelywrong.
Oftenwefeelwhatisrightbeforeweunderstandwhy.Maybesometimesmyemotionsaremore
sanctifiedthanmyintellect;theymaybeleadingmeintherightdirection.
WhenGodsavesushecreatesanewpackage,adispositionalcomplex(JohnMurray),anewheart
andthisincludeseverythingourintellect,emotionsandwillandotherthingstoo.Wehaveanew
outlookoneverything,differentideas,differentfeelingswelovethelightandhatethedarkness.
InGreekphilosophysomebelievedthattheneedofhumansistoputintellectontop,tolive
accordingtoreasonnotthepassionsandwill.Sometheologianstookthisup,includingCalvin,but
ScripturedoesnottellustoexaltintellectaboveotherfacultiesallaredamagedbytheFallandall
areaffectedbythetransformingeffectofGodssavinggrace.Intellect,emotionsandwillshouldall
besubjecttoGodswill,theWordofGod.
Persuasionisimportantinapologetics.TheBibleistheWordofGodbecauseitistheWordofGod
istruebutnotpersuasive.Wehavetotakeaccountoftheeffectofourapproachonpeoples
subjectiveresponse.Wearenotaskingpeopletobelievewhatevertheyfeellikebelieving.No!
Believewhatyoufeelafteryouhavegivensomethoughttotherulesthatgovernbeliefandthefacts
ofthesituationandafterbeinghonestintheseareastellmewhatyoufeel.Thereisareciprocity
betweenthesethreeperspectives,eachisdependentontheothertwo.
Weneedabroadunderstandingofoursubjectivitysothatwhenweachievecognitiverestthis
feelingwillnotleadusastray.
WeneedtheSpiritsworktoovercomethesuppressionoftruth.Wemustbewillingtodothewillof
Christinordertoknow.Romans12:2raisesthequestionastowhatisthewillofGod.Wecansayit

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isfoundintheBible.Thisisaperfectlygoodanswer.Butwemightalsosayitistobefoundby
examiningourcircumstancesandseeingwhatdoorsGodisopeningandclosingandthistooisa
goodanswer.ButRomans12:2presupposesaninnerchangeinourdispositionalcomplex.
Oftenourknowledge,especiallyinreligion,isamatterofseeingapattern,astructure.WhenDavid
committedsinwithBathshebaheknewwhathehaddonebutittookaparabletoenablehimtosee
thepattern,toseethestructureandthusfullyseehisactionsasadulteryandasmurder.Thisisthe
kindofthingthatgoesoninoursubjectivityandcontributestoourknowledge.
Herearesomeimplicationsofthistriperspectivalapproachforapologetics:
1. Normatively:
a. AlwayspresupposethetruthofGodsWord.
b. UnderstandthenonChristiansnormsandpresuppositions.Heclaimsneutralitybut
thereisnosuchthing.
c. Showhisrationalismandirrationalism.
d. Showthathecannotaccountformeaningandtruthonthebasisofhis
presuppositions.
2. Situationally:
a. Presentfacts(nocontradictionsbetweenafocusonpresuppositionsandevidence),
butastheytrulyare,thecreationsofthelivingGod,alwayspresupposingtheWord.
3. Existentially:
a. Presentyourargumentswithclarityandappropriatepassion.Wewanttoexpress
everyaspectofthetruthandthisincludestheemotionalsideoftheWord,e.g.the
Psalms,Romans12:33ff.
b. ShowthatChristianfaithaloneisultimatelysatisfyingandbringscognitiverest,plus
otherkindsofrestandevenexcitement.
c. Speakthetruthinlove,notlikecranky,belligerentapologists.
d. TestifytothegraceofGodinyourownlife,yourownexistentialencounterwith
God.Thereisaveryfinelinebetweenapologeticsandevangelism.Evangelism
alwayshasanapologeticthrust,sowedontmakeasharpdistinctionbetweenthe
twodisciplinesandweshouldntdrawadistinctionwhenwearecommunicating
withunbelievers.MorepeoplecometoChristthroughfriendship,throughthose
whomakethemselvesvulnerable,thanthroughapologeticargumentasitis
traditionallyknown.Butthisitselfispartofapologeticsitispersuasive.
e. PraytheHolySpiritwillbringtheunbelievertofaith.Conversionisasupernatural
matter,notjustpersuasionastointellectualtruthbutsoastoleadtocommitment.
OnlytheworkofGodwilltakeapersonfromonecircletoanothercircle.

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May2011