Apologetics - Presuppositional vs. Evidential

Most know that 1 Peter 3:15 is the biblical mandate for all believers to be equipped and able to defend their faith. What you may not know, however, is the nature of the "in house" debate about the best way to do this. Generally, there are two schools of thought - presuppositional apologetics and evidential apologetics.

I won't attempt to define each method here. However, presuppositional apologetics takes the view that there is no neutral ground from which a person can evaluate evidence. Evidential apologetics does. Presuppositional Apologetics exposes the fundamental inconsistencies of a materialist, naturalist worldview and argues that only the Christian worldview is consistent. Evidential apologetics concedes an atheistic view of history for sake of argument and then from within that view of history seeks to provide evidence that the materialist, naturalist would presumably accept.

For a very good Intro of Presuppositional Apologetics, read Greg Bahnsen's Intro in his debate with R.C. Sproul that I transcribed from the audio. Read HERE for a quick break down of all five methods of apologetics.

James White (a presuppositionalist) does a good job of teasing out the differences between the presuppositional and evidential approaches as he breaks down Paul Copan's critique of Presuppositional Apologetics.

As I mentioned, Greg Bahnsen and R.C. Sproul had a presuppositionalist vs. evidentialist debate in 1977.
  • Listen to it HERE.
  • Read my transcription of Greg Bahnsen's very helpful introduction to Presuppositional Apologetics as given in the above debate HERE.

Presuppositional Apologetic Links:

Evidential Apologetics Links:

My Favorite Presuppositional Argument:
Alvin Plaintiga's "Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism" uncovers the fundamental problem of the atheist/materialist/naturalist worldview. This worldview can't account for its claim that our cognitive faculties (mind, reason, etc.) actually produce true beliefs. In other words, the purposeless process of natural selection acting on random, genetic mutations does not account for the reliability of reason. It is a powerful and complex presuppositional argument worth understanding.*

*NOTE - By way of argument, Plantiga suggests the possibility of theistic evolution. I, personally, do not think it is possible to reconcile the current model of Neo-Darwinian evolution with the Christian faith. William Dembski - mathematician and philosopher - expresses this same view here. And for a pastoral take, read Albert Mohler here.

The Great Debate: Does God Exist? Bahnsen v. Stein
CLICK HERE for the transcript of a classic presuppositional argument for the Christian God - The Transcendental Argument.
Notice the argument doesn't say that atheists don't prove things, or that they don't use logic, science or laws of morality. In fact they do. The argument is that their world view cannot account for what they are doing. Their world view is not consistent with what they are doing; in their world view there are no laws; there are no abstract entities, universals, or prescriptions. There's just a material universe, naturalistically explained as the way things happen to be. That's not law-like or universal; and therefore, their world view doesn't account for logic, science or morality - Greg Bahnsen.
As you read this debate, notice that Dr. Stein never does account for the transcendence of reason, logic and laws of nature. All he does is describe them and suggests that the relationship of past to the future accounts for them. Description is not an explanation. Description of a law of nature at work today does not account for how and why it is so and certainly does not account for why it will be so tomorrow. Therein resides the inconsistency; he uses what he can't account for.

Evidential Apologetic Debates:
These are more plentiful and easily found across the web. My favorite two both include William Lane Craig. They are his debate against James Crossley and Peter Millican. Interestingly Crossley puts the date for Mark as early as 5 or so years from Jesus' death!

One of the best apologetic podcasts to be found anywhere is Unbelievable. It airs once a week and is a must listen. Its catalog is extensive and it has covered everything from hell and homosexuality to the resurrection and Trinity.