Synthetic Apologetics

28 Feb 2023

A case for compatibilism between presuppositional and classical approaches to apologetics. This thesis is in its works and is being constantly updated. Scripture proofs as well as confessional cross-referencing are still being added.

1. Of Revelation

1.1  There is one true triune God who has revealed himself to us in His Word and in creation.[1]

 BC Art 1

1.2  In his revelation, God has not given us exhaustive knowledge of himself. His Word, exclusive in nature and limited in audience, reveals to us all that is necessary to know about God, faith, and our salvation in this life. God reveals himself to a general audience in his creation through His invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature. 

BC Art 2 and Art 14, Rom 1:20. WCF 1.6


1.3  God’s invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, are clearly and inescapably perceived by all men.[2] His eternal power is self-evident by God’s creating and sustaining of the universe. His divine nature, which includes His transcendental properties - truth, goodness, and holiness - are self-evident in the existence of logic, morality, and beauty.[3] 

BC Art 12. WCF 1.1 


1.4  Men were created in God’s image: good, righteous, and holy. We are created for the purpose of knowing God and worshiping him.[4] 

BC Art 12.


1.5  All men were corrupted by sin after the fall. We are no longer good, righteous, and holy.[4.5] All the faculties of man - the heart mind and will - are affected by this fall corrupted by sin. Sin hinders man from knowing God correctly through His Word and creation.

  BC Art 14, 15

1.6  All men have knowledge of God, through his Word or creation.[5] Furthermore, the image of God and its purposes remain in us, though affected by sin.[7] Since these witnesses testify to God’s existence, there is no valid excuse for not affirming the existence of, nor honoring the one true God.

Rom 1:18, 2:15; Ecc 3:11


Rejection of Errors:


It is plain that Scripture testifies that believers do have knowledge of God through natural revelation. Romans 1 says that “For what can be known about God is plain to them,” and further, “for although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.” (Rom 1: 19, 21). Here, the Apostle Paul presents the very knowledge of God as the condition that leaves unbelievers without excuse for and accountable before God.

Furthermore, man is made in the image of God, is a rational being, able to know his creator, and have dominion over all creation.


Some say that just as 1 Cor 2:14 teaches that the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, it, therefore, follows the natural person does not know or perceive the invisible attributes of God. Paul does not say that the natural man cannot perceive general revelation. Furthermore, he does not claim that the unregenerate cannot know that God exists through this revelation. Rather, says that the natural man cannot know the things of God, that is the special knowledge that pertains to the Holy Spirit and to salvation.

That is why we also must make a careful distinction: knowing God in general revelation and accepting the God of general revelation.

Reformers have always made the distinction between accepting and knowing by terms notitia and fiducia. Notitia indicates that the unregenerate man can know God, in fact, he can even know the Gospel of our Lord Jesus and know of his deity as the demons do. Nevertheless, salvation as well as the things of God does not lie in mere knowledge, rather it requires faith and trust. This faith and acceptance, fiducia, must be a true personal faith from the individual and can only be achieved by the divine will and working of the Holy Spirit. All this is to say that there is a distinction between knowledge of God, and acceptance as described in 1 Cor 2:14.

That is why we must reject the position of Theology in Crisis which teaches that the natural man is blind to God’s invisible attributes, and further that the image of God was utterly destroyed in original sin.[8]


2. The Biblical Worldview


2.1  The biblical worldview is a worldview that corresponds to the truths of God’s special revelation in his Word. The biblical worldview is completely consistent, contains no contradiction, and corresponds with reality. This is demonstrable.


2.2  There are non-biblical worldviews that affirm truths not consistent with God’s Word. All such worldviews are false and will either be inconsistent or fail to correspond to reality. This is demonstrable.[9]


2.3  To adopt the biblical worldview as our own, and truly believe it is not done only by intellectual reasoning. Because of men’s hardness of heart, the things which pertain to God’s Word are folly to the natural man. It is necessary for the Holy Spirit to work within a person so that they may accurately interpret, understand, and truly believe biblical worldview.


2.4  One can argue either in favor of the biblical worldview, or against it. There is no third neutral option.[10] Christians, in the light of the ninth commandment, are required to honestly speak and confess their commitment to the biblical worldview, not arguing in such a way that communicates a false impression about their neutrality.[11]


2.5  While the regenerate man accepts all that is revealed in God’s Word by faith, we cannot assume that he will always consistently argue in favor of the biblical worldview. Moreover, due to the inconsistency of the unregenerate man, it is not true that he will always argue against it. Both Christians and non-Christians, sometimes unknowingly, argue in favor and against the biblical worldview. Nevertheless, there remains an antithesis between those who fundamentally affirm a biblical worldview and those who don’t.


Rejection of Errors:


Although a believer accepts all that God has revealed in his word, this does not necessarily entail that he argues in favor of the biblical worldview consistently. Rather, it is the Spirit's continued work of sanctification that renews our minds to conform our knowledge to the truth of God’s Word.


More on this to come…

3. The Nature of the Antithesis*


3.1  Although all types of men can argue for and against the biblical worldview since even pagans perceive the truth about God through creation, only the regenerate man is capable of accepting as truth all things revealed by God in his Word, that is, the biblical worldview.


3.2  The unregenerate man is not just merely ignorant of the biblical worldview but has some knowledge of the truths about God therein, through creation,[12] and in many cases, through explicit exposure to the Word and biblical teaching.[13] The unregenerate man’s unbelief is, therefore, a result of hardness of heart, willful suppression of the truth, and the natural man’s hatred for the one true God.  


3.3  The unregenerate man, by rejecting God as the source of all revelation, cannot account for or accurately explain the invisible attributes of God which he perceives in creation. Thus, in order to reject God as the source of revelation, man distorts the truth and creates vain philosophies or false gods in which to believe in instead.[14]


3.4  The regenerate man is capable of accepting the things of God and does so by faith. This is not achieved by intellectual or moral persuasion alone but is caused by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.


3.5  The regenerate man’s faculties are still affected by the fall, he may come to an incorrect understanding of the biblical worldview. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit works in his heart, renewing his mind and as long as he lives, changes him into the image of Christ.


3.6  The regenerate man, accepts God’s word as true, recognizing God as the source of all revelation. Thus, he is able to justify and accurately explain the invisible attributes of God that he perceives in creation.


Rejection of Errors:


Unbelievers, like believers, truly possess knowledge. The knowledge which an unbeliever has, both about creation and the invisible attributes of God, is sufficient grounds in which to persuade men to the truth of God’s Word, as seen when the Apostle Paul engages philosophers on Mars Hill.


4. Of Apologetics and Proofs


4.1  God calls the Christian to defend the biblical worldview and assert its truthfulness with the intention of persuading men to put their faith in Christ, and honoring God’s holy name [14.5]. He is to confess his faith publicly, declare God’s works, and live a godly life in an attempt to win his neighbor for Christ. 

Acts 17: 17,  Acts 18:4, and Acts 19:8.


4.2  The truthfulness of the biblical worldview can be asserted through the methodology of presuppositional apologetics by: (1) demonstrating that all non-biblical worldviews are false, and will either be inconsistent or fail to correspond to reality, and (2) demonstrating that biblical worldview is completely consistent, contains no contradiction and corresponds with reality.


4.3  The truthfulness of the biblical worldview can be asserted through the methodology of classical apologetics by: demonstrating that all men do know of[15] and perceive the true God’s divine nature[16] and eternal power[17] in creation. It is permissible to do this in a Christian manner through theistic proofs.[18]


4.4  All assertions of the truthfulness of the biblical worldview are incapable of making men regenerate and causing them to accept the biblical worldview. This work belongs to God alone and is normally done through the preaching of God’s Word. Nevertheless, the Christian remains obligated to give an account of his faith.


 Rejection of Errors:


Neo-orthodox scholars have plainly misread the father of classicalist apologetics: Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas, while flawed in his conception of revelation, did not believe that philosophical argument was what built the foundation for the Christian faith. [19.5] Rather, he argued that we ought to hold to the articles of faith as our most basic presuppositions and that proofs are secondary.

This can be plainly noted in his Summa where Aquinas writes that “As other sciences do not argue in proof of their principles, but argue from their principles to demonstrate other truths in these sciences: so this doctrine (5 proofs for God's existence) does not argue in proof of its (faith's) principles, which are the articles of faith, but from them, it goes on to prove something else;’[20] This is why classicalists call reason, not the dictator of, but rather the handmaid to theology.

Thus, the right relationship between reason and faith is not by “arriving at faith through reason, but in order that they may take delight in the understanding and contemplation of the things which they believe” and may always be ready to give a reason for their hope . . .”[21]

This objection leaves us with a stern warning. The scriptures determine truth and ought never to be compromised by the practice of philosophy or any other discipline.[22]


[1] See Berkhof on general and special revelation, p. 124-5.

[2] Berkhof, systematic theology p.126.

[3]Van Raalte, Reasoning in Faith about Reality, p.74. Attributes of God and hence attributes of God's creation. See Peter Kreeft for more on foundations for Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

[4] Within the very design (teleology) of the human in God’s image there is an inherent purpose or end that he is to fulfill.  

[4.5] We could also add “endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness,” (WCF 4.2). As I am building this system from 3FU I will not commit to Van Til's conception of internal supernatural revelation and knowledge in the creation of Adam. 

[5] Van Til, Christian Apologetics, p.76

[7] Known as the seed of religion, or the light of nature. See more in Berkhof's systematic theology 125, 128.

[8] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, n.d., 126.

[9] The methodology of presuppositional apologetics demonstrates this very fact by offering an internal critique of false worldviews. Van Til, 131. I would like to read 'God is there' by Schaeffer regarding his method 'he coins: 'take the roof off.'

[10] See Lisle, “the pretended neutrality fallacy”, Ultimate Proof Of Creation, p.36-37

[11] Lisle, Ultimate Proof of Creation, p.8, 26.

[12] More specifically, by his invisible attributes. Man cannot know what is necessary for salvation through general revelation alone as proponents of Natural Theology claim. See also Berkhof 129-30.

[13] Man’s knowledge of Christian teaching and the scriptures testifies to the perspicuity of the Scriptures.

[14] Some would go further and argue that the natural man due to his suppression of truth does not even perceive or know God’s invisible attributes. See the rejection of Errors in section 1.

[14.5] Our love for God and our neighbor is the basis of this calling.

[15] See Voddie Bauchum, Remind Men what they Already Know, In Expository Apologetics, 53-55

[16] Aquinas demonstrates that the natural man can perceive God’s divine nature in his proof: The Argument from degrees of perfection to a perfect being and the argument from the design of the world to the designer of the world (Nash, 174). C. S. Lewis likewise argued for God’s existence from the objectivity of beauty (Lewis, The Abolition of Man). Contemporary Classical Apologists have also attempted to demonstrate these truths from proofs such as: the Ontological, Teleological, and Moral arguments for God. Presuppositionalists are known to favor demonstrating this through the Transcendental argument for God.

[17] Aquinas demonstrates that the natural man can perceive God’s eternal power in his proofs: the argument from motion and change, the argument from cause to effect to the first cause, and the argument from contingent beings to a necessary being (Nash, 173-4). Contemporary Classical Apologists have also attempted to demonstrate this in proofs such as: the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

[18] “Van Til affirmed that in reality, most traditional arguments used in support of Christian theism are absolutely conclusive; they objectively demonstrate the truth of Christianity. But unless the Spirit is at work, unbelievers will dispute their decisiveness because they operate out of a false world and life view that keeps them from drawing the proper conclusions.”


[19] See Voddie Bauchum, “Refuse to make the fool God’s judge”, In Expository Apologetics, 55-57

[19.5] "The typical characterization of Thomas as a theologian who built a system of supernature upon nature and faith upon reason is false... he states that human knowledge alone is able to attain only certain 'likenesses' of what faith attains but it cannot demonstrate (argue for) the truth of faith." (Summa contra Gentiles 1.8.1). Van Raalte, Reasoning in Faith about Reality, p.49.

[20] Summa 1, Art Question 1, Article 8, I answer that.

[21] I cannot remember where I saw this. I think it is from Van Raalte, Reasoning in Faith about Reality.

[22] I hope to read more about this in Bauchum's Apologetics book where he analyzes the apologetics of Paul.

[*] I hope to watch Lane Tipton's lecture on the Antithesis according to Van Til to see if presuppositionalists would agree with this section of my thesis.

Please let me know how I can improve my thesis in the comment section below!