Foundations for Apologetics

Notes I took on Scott Oliphint’s Foundations for Apologetics lecture at the Westminster Theological Seminary Science and Faith Conference (2011).

principia: first principles that themselves provide for everything else that we think and are.

  • deals with a source or ground from which you approach any other discipline comes from arche
  • arche: the bedrock foundation for everything that is, or is known. This concept of a beginning point, what some have called an Archimedean point, is a necessary and crucial aspect of all thinking and being.

Sibrandus Lubbertus on principia
1) they are necessarily and immutably true
2) they must be known per se, that is, in themselves, as both immediate and indemonstrable

  • “immediate” means it is known without cognition reflection or inference

Two Necessary Foundations of Christianity

1. The principium essendi, or principle (source, foundation) of being is the Triune God.

  • the principle of existence
  • everyone else has existence by virtue of God; God has existence by virtue of himself

2. The principium cognoscendi, or principles (source, foundation) of knowing is God’s revelation.

  • these two points go hand-in-hand

3. In our context here, this means that Apologetics depends on a Reformed doctrine of God and a Reformed doctrine of Scripture.

If it is Christian, must be guided by God’s revelation.
Two aspects of how God reveals Himself:

  • Christian apologetics must be guided by God’s special revelation (Holy Scripture).
  • Christian apologetics must be guided by God’s generation revelation (Creation).
  • In this order. In terms of the way we understand apologetics. We get our understanding of apologetics from God’s Word.

1 Peter 3:14-16

  • “Set apart Christ as Lord” is the qualifier for apologetics.
  • apologetics is not concerned to demonstrate generic theism
  • the whole world will go to hell if they believe that “a” god exists.

Foundation #1
1. Apologetics is Christian

  • It begins with and requires the recognition that Christ is Lord
  • It is mandated in Scripture. Everyone has to defend the faith.
  • It requires gentleness and reverence

2 Cor. 10:4-5

  • “the power” is God’s Word. It is destructive and confrontational.
  • “take every thought captive to obey Christ”. This is constructive.

Foundation #2
2. Christian apologetics is both Confrontational and Constructive

  • It destroys arguments raised up against the knowledge of God
  • It takes captive every thought to Christ

Romans 1: 18-21

  • the truth is God’s existence and attributes because God has revealed Himself
  • everyone knows God
  • everyone has a relationship with the true God, either in Adam or in Christ, under wrath or under grace.
  • Apologetics is covenantal, there is a relationship that obtains in every person because they know God.
  • Apologetics appeals to people’s suppressed knowledge of God.

Foundation #3
Christian apologetics, as Confrontational and Constructive, is, at root, Covenantal.

  • all people know God
  • there is no defense for unbelief
  • suppressed knowledge is replaced with idols

Acts 17

  • Paul talks about who God is.
  • Paul takes what is false and makes it true. Their reference of God was false. It is true if it refers to the true God.

Foundation #4
4. Christian Apologetics is Contextual.

  • It uses the given context as a means of persuasion.

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