I began this series with the claim that covenantal (or more popularly, “presuppositional”) apologetics are on the rise. I noted that I don’t have hard evidence that there are any more people now who know what presuppositional apologetics are than there were people who knew what they were ten years ago. However, I have spent a fair amount of time familiarizing myself with the method and its practitioners and feel confident in asserting that there are. My stated goal in writing this series was to provide an explanation of the aforementioned phenomenon. The series consists of my observations regarding why there are more covenantal apologetics being thrown around now than there were only ten years ago. The ‘reasons’ I gave for the growing popularity of covenantal apologetics over the last decade include the “New Calvinism,” Doug Wilson, James N. Anderson, Choosing Hats, James R. White, anti-Christian critics, Sye TenBruggencate, the Internet, and recent presuppositional publications. If I had it to do over again I would write the series in twenty parts. Or maybe a hundred. I just want to go on about covenantal apologetics, and I feel as though I have not been nearly fair or exhaustive enough in writing on this topic.
However, there was another motive in my writing this series, and that was to give the readers a brief introduction to covenantal apologetics through a different type of format. Hence the name-dropping. And all the links (that currently are not working). Like with An Informal Introduction to Covenantal Apologetics, my goal here was to get information about covenantal apologetics into the reader’s head as quickly as I could. To give him or her a feel for the lay of the land. The who’s who. I had a similar idea in mind with A Brief History of Covenantal Apologetics. Choosing Hats contributor defectivebit has put together a reading plan that will greatly help the individual who wishes to learn the covenantal method of defending the Christian faith. Put all four of these resources together and you can’t go wrong. That’s actually false. But you will have a decent amount of material to get you started on learning (and much more importantly, using) covenantal apologetics. Teach a man to fish and all that.
This leads us to the final contributing factor to the recent rise of covenantal apologetics. You. You are taking the time to read this post, and have probably read others like it both here and elsewhere. That makes you a part of the covenantal apologetics ‘scene’ regardless of your particular reason for being interested in the content of this post and the content of other resources like it.
You contribute to the hits that come into sites like this one when you take the time to sift through recent posts. You purchase books written by the brilliant theologians who espouse a covenantal apologetic method. You download and listen to lectures hoping to grasp just a little more of the professor’s argument this time around. You are part of a growing number of people who read, study, and use covenantal apologetics, and that is something to be thankful for.
Will the number of adherents to a covenantal apologetic method continue to grow? How long will all of the fuss over the methodology continue? I don’t pretend to know. I’m sure that interest will eventually wane, just as it does for everything else. Perhaps it will be resurrected five hundred years from now. I don’t know. And it’s not that important.
What is important is making the best of what we have now. We have a lot. Apologetics are not a God-given hobby with which 20-somethings might busy themselves in lieu of video games. They are the responsibility of every believer. They are an evangelistic tool. They are a matter of life and death. They are a call to repentance. They are a means of glorifying God.
Covenantal apologetics are biblical apologetics. There is truth to the notion of a “presuppositionalism of the heart.” And yet, the phrase too readily lends itself to subjectivism. The proper defense of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is necessarily predicated upon a right attitude of the heart. But to stop there is foolish. There is an objective difference between an apologetic which is offered in accord with Scripture to the glory of God and an apologetic which is not. Presuppositional apologetics are apologetics. If one is not a presuppositionalist, then one is not an apologist. Not a Christian apologist anyway. There’s a lot of argument that needs to go in behind that claim. At the same time, I do not see many apologists attempting to make the case that their apologetic is ready for use by unbelievers and better off for being explicitly unbiblical. The opposite is the case. The controversy over apologetic method almost always revolves around the faithfulness of the apologist to the Christian worldview and the consistency with which arguments are offered from within the context of that worldview.
Methodological concerns really can take away from the effectiveness of apologetic dialogue. Method is important. But so is practice. Too many people seeking to know more about covenantal apologetics get hung up on alleged differences between that particular method and others. They miss that evidences and arguments are just as available to the consistent Christian utilizing a covenantal apologetic as they are to those who supposedly reject such a method. Worse yet, they spend…waste…hours trying to wrap their minds around philosophical difficulties that form the content of the arguments from leading covenantal apologists. This is to miss one of the biggest features of the covenantal apologetic method. Worldview.
Worldview involves much more than erudite argumentation concerning the laws of logic. Worldviews involve – well – everything. The lesson here is easy enough. There is no harm, generally speaking, in branching out and learning new disciplines especially as they relate to, in this instance, covenantal apologetics. But the essence of covenantal apologetics is not purely philosophical procedure. It is the application of the Christian worldview to unbelief. So the mathematician who normally struggles to write a grammatically correct sentence at a fifth grade level should not immediately aim to impress anyone through rhetorical flourishes in a combox. There is already enough room for developing an explanation of mathematics as it relates to an explicitly Christian worldview. The calm, quiet type who would rather die than engage someone in debate need not strive to feel comfortable in the context of heated confrontation, but should instead think about how a gentle, respectful word to the unbeliever might win him or her over instead. The exegete does not have to leave the intricacies of the text of Scripture to grapple with theologians and philosophers thinking through obscure, abstract concepts when those same theologians and philosophers need the raw data gathered through rending the passages of Scripture in order to guide, correct, and fuel their own endeavors. The biblical counselor should not think he or she is ill-equipped when it comes to an encounter with unbelief in the non-Christian. There is an idol underneath all the intellect.
The point here is a simple one, though ill-expressed. We have our gifts and talents. They differ from one another. Covenantal apologetics are not so narrow as to preclude the place of any Christian in the defense of the faith. Let’s use our strengths together for the glory of God.