Why Andy Stanley is Right About the Foundation of Christianity and How to Defend It

Dr. Russell Moore expressed several disagreements with pastor Andy Stanley at a recent conference for Southern Baptists. Dr. Moore is the president of the Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and Andy Stanley is the Founding Pastor of the Northpoint series of churches in and around Atlanta, which collectively have over 40,000 weekly attendees.

Moore was supposed to be interviewing Stanley about his approach to engaging the culture through preaching. Andy and his Northpoint team are known for creating a church environment that attracts unbelievers with the goal of making them disciples of Christ. Andy’s obvious success at engaging unbelievers made him the perfect subject for Dr. Moore’s interview. Unfortunately, the interview turned out to be more of an interrogation than a quest for knowledge.

After Andy read a letter from an atheist who had attended Northpoint the previous two Sundays and was moving toward Christ because of her experience there, Dr. Moore immediately took issue with Andy’s approach despite its obvious success in reaching just the kind of person the conference was convened to help reach. The tension level rose as Dr. Moore continued to disagree with Andy’s approach on several fronts. (I saw this interview from a private link which we originally had on this site and had to remove.  If you would like to see this interview for yourself, please contact the ERLC and ask them to post it.  It is their property and they originally said they would post it. UPDATE:  the interview video is now up here.)

Though he controlled the questions and the direction of the interview, Dr. Moore later said on his podcast that he didn’t want it to go the way it did. In fact, he spent his entire 22-minute podcast (which he recorded a few days later) explaining his differences with Andy’s culture-engaging approach. Based on the interview and that podcast (which you’ll have to hear to get a fuller understanding of what I’m about to say), I think Dr. Moore gets a few tactical issues right, but he gets the more substantial theological points wrong.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I am a friend of Andy Stanley, and he’s used and recommended my book in his current apologetics sermon series. I do not personally know Russell Moore but do appreciate much of his work. I’ve tried to be fair in the following assessment. I’ll leave it to you to decide if I’ve succeeded.

Since Dr. Moore was the one initiating the disagreements, I’ll address his points.

 

What Dr. Moore Gets Right

Dr. Moore is certainly correct when he states that churches have to strike the right balance between evangelism and discipleship. Russell Moore CLEARUnlike some in his reformed camp, he admits that the church is not solely for believers and that unbelievers will attend. In fact, he observed that the church at Corinth had unbelievers attending, and that pastors today must be sure to conduct worship services in an orderly and explainable way so that unbelievers don’t think “you are out of your mind” (1 Cor. 14:22-40).

Dr. Moore believes that Northpoint is out of balance—that it is weighted too much toward evangelism. I actually can’t verify if he’s right about that, but he could be. The many messages of Andy’s that I’ve seen are nearly always biblical, insightful and extremely practical. But whether or not Northpoint actually is successful at making disciples, I honestly cannot say. I’m not there, and discipleship is very difficult to measure at any church, especially a church of over 40,000. While there certainly is room in the body of Christ for churches that lean one way or the other, every church must “feed the sheep” to some extent. Jesus commanded us to make disciples, not mere believers.

I think Dr. Moore is also correct that all pastors, particularly a pastor of Andy’s influence, must qualify statements such as Andy’s, “We need to get the spotlight off the Bible.” A comment like that, without proper explanation, can lead down a dangerous path as Dr. Moore observed, and it’s certainly going to cause some Christians to run for their pitch forks (just google “Russell Moore and Andy Stanley” to see the pitch forks for yourself). Andy must go out of his way to explain exactly what he does and doesn’t mean.

In Andy’s defense, the context of that comment was made at a conference designed to reach a culture of unbelievers, and the more complete quote was, “We need to get the spotlight off the Bible, and back on the Resurrection. Because the issue for us is, ’who is Jesus?’ Did he rise from the Dead?”

As I’ll argue below, that comment can be defended in context. But extreme clarity is critical, especially when you’re talking about something as important at the Bible. Without that clarity, Dr. Moore is right to raise a red flag. (Other similarly provocative statements by Andy Stanley have raised evangelical eyebrows, including my own, at least until I better understood the context. Please understand that I don’t always agree with Andy. I agree with about 95% of what he says—I don’t even agree with myself that much!).

I also think Dr. Moore is correct about the need for pastors to address controversial moral issues from the pulpit. Although he’s protested at abortion clinics, Andy stated that he has never preached a message on abortion, preferring that and topics such as same-sex marriage are left to small groups within the church.

Why would a pastor of unparalleled communication skills (Dr. Moore called them “amazing”) leave such delicate and important issues to small groups—issues that are literally life and death and cut to the heart of what people perceive to be road blocks to Christianity? I’m convinced that so many people stay away from Christianity, and often destroy their lives, because pastors fail to tactfully present the truth on these issues (not to mention the damage our silence is doing to the nation and religious freedom). If anyone can present tactfully and compassionately it is Andy Stanley. Andy should take the lead on those issues instead of relying on less skilled and informed group leaders. Paul stated that he “did not shrink back from declaring to you the whole will of God” (Acts 20:27). Neither should Andy nor any other pastor.

Those are the tactical issues that I think Dr. Moore gets right. Now, let’s take a look at the more foundational theological issues that Dr. Moore gets wrong (and Andy gets right).

 

What Dr. Moore Gets Wrong

Quoting the Bible is the only way to reach unbelievers

I think Dr. Moore is mistaken for suggesting that the only way to engage unbelievers is by quoting Scripture. He argued that Andy’s apologetic approach is not Biblical because Jesus quoted Scripture to people and said “Thus sayeth the Lord.”

It is true that Jesus did quote Scripture with folks who already accepted the authority of the Old Testament. But when He spoke to unbelievers (the woman at the well, the rich young ruler, Pilate, and the thief on the cross), Jesus wasn’t firing Bible verses at them while assuming the authority of Scripture. Likewise, Paul didn’t assume the authority of Scripture or quote from it when speaking to the Athenians (Acts 17), but attempted to find common ground with them, even quoting their own poets and recognizing their “unknown God” beliefs, in order to connect them with the true God and the truth of the Resurrection.

I agree with Dr. Moore that quoting Scripture is effective to bring some unbelievers to Christ (with the work of the Holy Spirit of course), just that it’s not the only way. Some unbelievers have intellectual objections and often resist the Spirit until they get answers.

In fact, if preaching Scripture alone is the sole means through which everyone can be converted, why doesn’t Dr. Moore merely read Scripture on his podcast? If the Scriptures are all “sufficient” for evangelism, then why is he wasting his time organizing a conference where he seeks Andy Stanley’s insights on how to better preach to the culture? If merely saying “thus sayeth the Lord” is sufficient, then evangelists should forgo the hours of message preparation and simply read the Bible!

It seems to me that a preacher can do three things with regard to the Scriptures:

  1. He can read the Scriptures;
  2. He can explain the Scriptures so they are understood and applied (exposition);
  3. He can support their veracity with evidence (apologetics).

Why wouldn’t a wise pastor do all three? Pastors will reach and disciple a lot more people by using every tool available to them. Indeed, God makes his appeal through us, and it’s a deeper and wider appeal when we engage in evangelism, exposition, and apologetics.

 

Presupposing the Bible is true rather than showing it’s true

Dr. Moore’s stance on quoting the Bible to unbelievers seems to be the result of a presuppositional approach to apologetics, which just presupposes the Bible is true. In doing so, he is confusing knowing that the Bible is our authority with showing the Bible is our authority.

This is also a failure to distinguish between the ends and the means. Dr. Moore and Andy agree on the ends—that the Bible is God’s primary revelation and authority to mankind. However, the means of showing that are not presupposing it’s true (that’s circular), but the classical approach to apologetics that Andy advocates, which cites evidence for the events in the Bible, and the reliability of the biblical documents, from philosophy, science and history.

Getting evidence for the New Testament events and documents is not circular—we are not presupposing the Bible is true as the presuppositionalists do. We are gathering evidence to find out what really happened and to see if the New Testament documents can be trusted, which is what historians do when they investigate any set of historical documents or events. (For more on problems with presuppositionalism and the merits of the classical approach, listen to my recent interview with Dr. Richard G. Howe).

In fact, the Bible actually commands us to use reason and evidence in worship and in our defense of Christianity. Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God . . . with all your mind.” God speaks through the prophet Isaiah saying, “Come now, let us reason together.” Peter urges us to “always be prepared to give an answer.” Paul commands us to “destroy arguments” that are opposed to the truth of Christianity, and he declares that Christianity is false unless the resurrection of Christ is an historical fact. He even names the living eyewitnesses of the Resurrection, in effect daring his readers to fact-check him by asking them. He did not say, “Believe that Jesus rose from the dead because I’m writing the Bible and the Bible is the authority!”

Of course, not everything in the Scripture can be supported with evidence. But as Andy and classical apologists maintain, once we’ve established that Jesus actually rose from the dead and is therefore God, then whatever Jesus says and teaches is true. Since the evidence shows that the New Testament documents are reliable, then we know Jesus taught that the Old Testament is God’s Word (as is the coming New Testament). It is on the Risen Savior’s authority that we believe all of the Scriptures are true—even those events in Scripture that we can’t independently verify.

 

Failing to acknowledge the indispensable role of God’s other “book”

Dr. Moore seems not to acknowledge the indispensable role of natural revelation in understanding God’s special revelation to us. (I keep saying “seems” about Dr. Moore’s beliefs because I’m basing all of this on an interview and his 22-minute podcast—I may not be understanding his beliefs completely or accurately). God has actually written two books: the Bible (special revelation, see 2 Tim. 3:14-16) and the “book” of nature (natural revelation, see Ps. 19, Rom. 1:18-20, 2:14-15). Both are necessary in the life of the believer.

Unfortunately, when some Protestants today talk about the “sufficiency of Scripture” or “sola Scriptura” (Scripture alone), they often make it sound like we have no need for any truths outside the Bible. That’s not true for several reasons. Here are just two.

First, one can’t even understand the Bible (or any communication) without first understanding truths from outside the Bible—aspects of the natural revelation such as philosophy, logic, and consistent cause and effect. In other words, in order to get anything out of the Bible, you need principles or keys of interpretation from outside the Bible to access it, much like you need your keys to unlock your house to get anything out of it. Without keys of interpretation from the outside, we would never be able to unlock the Bible to learn what’s in it. While we often take those keys of interpretation for granted, we get them from the book of nature and the principles of human communication including language and grammar.

Sometimes we even use what we learn from nature or philosophy to overrule what appears to be the clear reading of Scripture. The rotation of the earth around the sun is one such example. Another is the immaterial nature of God. We use the book of nature and the principles of human communication to realize that the Bible uses observational language to describe nature (sun rising and setting) and metaphors to describe God’s attributes (He has eyes, arms, legs, etc.).

While the Bible does say “God is Spirit,” the only way to resolve the apparent contradiction with several other verses that suggest God has body parts is through philosophy. (Before you object to the use of philosophy, the Apostle Paul never prohibited its proper use. That would be a philosophy to not use philosophy which would be self-defeating. The “vain philosophy” to which Paul was referring in Col. 2:8 was legalism infecting the church). While one can use bad philosophy to interpret the Bible, it’s impossible to use no philosophy.

In his new series “Who Needs God,” Andy highlighted a second reason that truths outside the Bible are critical: Truths outside of the Bible got Christianity started! Before the New Testament was ever written, thousands of Jews and pagans understood the truth of Resurrection Christianity. While those early believers didn’t have as much information as we’re privileged to have now, they knew enough to transform the Roman empire.

how needs god and andy

Andy’s point in reaching unbelievers today is that unbelievers in the mid-first century were never asked to become Christians through blind faith in an authoritative New Testament that didn’t exist, but on the reality of God and the historical fact of the Resurrection. Contrary to what some skeptics assert, the New Testament writers did not create the Resurrection; the Resurrection created the New Testament writers!  So Christianity would still be true if every Bible and manuscript in the world were destroyed.

Let me sum up this important point in another way. The ontological foundation of Christianity is not a collection of ancient writings we call the Bible. The ontological foundation of Christianity is the reality of God and the historicity of the biblical events including the Resurrection of Christ. (In fact, the New Testament wouldn’t exist unless the Resurrection occurred.) So while we need all of the Bible to more fully understand God and live the Christian life, we don’t need all the Bible to understand its most important message—the Gospel.

That was Andy’s reason for saying, “Let’s get the spotlight off the Bible, and back on the Resurrection.” Not for believers, but for unbelievers. Namely, when unbelievers doubt certain stories in the Bible (such as Noah or Jonah), focus on the evidence that the Resurrection actually occurred so they don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and dismiss the Gospel.

That’s Andy’s approach because many in our culture believe that if you doubt one story in the Bible you can’t believe any of it. Andy’s apologetic approach defuses that erroneous belief and for good reason. Believing in Noah and Jonah are not essential to your salvation, but believing in the Resurrection is!

Andy Stanley does not deny the Scripture or the historicity of stories such as Noah and Jonah. In fact, he went on to affirm the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible (watch the interview). However, his point is that the way to bring unbelievers into Christianity with the fewest potential obstacles is to focus on the historicity of Jesus and His Resurrection.

This aspect of historical reliability is unique to Christianity among world religions. The fact that Christians tend to ignore the unique verifiability of their belief system and insist people just take it on “faith” like other religions do makes little sense, and it ignores Jesus’ directive to examine the evidence. He said to his disciples, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves (John 14:11).” Since Jesus cited evidence shouldn’t we?

 

Using an incorrect definition of Sola Scriptura

This final mistake is related to the last. Dr. Moore and several reformed internet critics seem to be charging Andy with denying “sola Scriptura.” But Andy doesn’t deny sola Scriptura. What he denies is their erroneous definition of that doctrine.

Sola Scriptura was cited by the reformers to correct abuses by the Roman Catholic church. It means that the Bible is sufficient for the faith and practice of a believer, as opposed to the Scripture plus church tradition, plus church councils, plus the statements of the Pope, and so forth. Andy’s critics seem to think that Sola Scriptura denies the role of natural revelation, including reason, in theology. But, as we have seen, such a position would make understanding the Bible impossible. Without natural revelation we couldn’t understand the Bible or anything else about reality! Even Martin Luther realized this point. He didn’t dismiss reason. He said he would only recant if he could be proven wrong by Scripture or reason.

It’s ironic that a tradition has arisen in reformed Christianity that distorts the original meaning of sola Scriptura—the very doctrine intended to correct the erroneous traditions that had arisen in the Roman Catholic church. Roman Catholics may nullify the Word of God when they add traditions to God’s revelation. But some Protestants are nullifying it when they subtract from God’s revelation. We shouldn’t add church tradition to God’s special revelation, but we also shouldn’t subtract natural revelation either. It’s from God just as much as the Bible!

 

Conclusion

You may disagree with some of Andy’s tactics (leaning too far toward evangelism, provocative statements, leaving some moral issues to small groups), but there’s nothing wrong with his theology, especially on the issues Dr. Moore brought up.

Ironically, it turns out that in several important ways Andy Stanley is more in line with all of God’s revelation than Russell Moore. So if anyone needs to make substantive corrections to his theology, apologetic method and approach to unbelievers, it’s not Andy Stanley—it’s Russell Moore.

I don’t expect our pitch-fork-bearing brethren on the Internet to agree with me. While classical apologists defend Christianity, presuppositionalists defend presuppositionalism (as you’re likely to see in the comments of this post). They and others seem hell bent on labeling Andy Stanley a heretic by taking his statements out of context. Unfortunately, they don’t appear to be open to correction by Scripture or reason (but I pray that I’m wrong about that).


Resources for Greater Impact:

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I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH TO BE AN ATHEIST

Deep and Wide Andy laying down

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ONWARD

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STEALING FROM GOD

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COLD CASE CHRISTIANITY

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WHY I STILL DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH TO BE AN ATHEIST

Free CrossExamined.org Resource

Get the first chapter of "Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case" in PDF.

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78 replies
  1. Henry Cruz says:

    Love this site it’s personally helped me a lot and some of Frank’s books have helped me a lot as well. However, I heard Andy Stanley’s preaching (I have not seen the interview) on the subject and I disagree with the statement based on issues that I actually learned from studying church history but also by reading Frank’s book stealing from God. So allow me to make my rebuttal to this in 6 points.

    #1 Clearly we cannot believe in Jesus being the Messiah if we never knew that a Messiah was going to come? Where do we learn this from? From the Bible or the Old Testament.
    #2 One of Frank’s point’s in knowing that Jesus was God is prophecy. We know He is God because He does what only a God could do which is fulfill prophecy. What prophecy? Where is this prophecy written? It’s found in the Bible! So often when we read the gospels we see the writers state, “and this was done to fulfill what was written.” What was written? Where was it written? It was written in the Old Testament.
    #3 The church fathers quoted scripture so we know (even though the 66 books of the bible were not yet put together) that there were manuscripts that existed that people read and used for guidance. These manuscripts eventually became part of The Bible! This is an argument again Frank makes in His book, which most atheist and even Muslims argue against stating that the Bible came into existence after 325 A.D. The problem as Frank points out is that we have manuscripts that people read and again these manuscripts became part of our Bible!
    #4 If we reach nonbelievers on the idea of “Who Jesus is and pin Him against the Bible” because that’s exactly what Andy does (I’m sorry but I don’t see this any other way). He is clearly arguing the story of Jesus is correct and giving atheist the victory over arguments like how the Earth was created, the story of Noah and Jonah. The issue I have with this is based on what Frank says in His intro to the book, “what you win them with you lose them too.” So now we can only preach to non-believers from the new testament and ignore the old? The problem I have with this is the new testament references the Old Testament! We cannot separate them!
    #5 Andy, is in essence, saying that atheists are right about the weird stuff in the Bible and we are right about Jesus. The problem is the Muslims argue the same thing in a different way. Muslims teach the Bible is only true up until the parts that disagree with their faith. Andy has done the same by saying, The Bible is only true when it talks about Jesus and the Resurrection but wrong in its stories that make no sense. Maybe he doesn’t’ believe that I don’t think he does but he gives that argument to atheists. It’s a huge mistake! If I don’t believe that God can miraculously split the red sea and drown the Egyptian army, how can I believe that God can come to earth, be born of a virgin and rise from the grave? Are they the same God or are they not? Can God raise Jesus but not save Jonah from the belly of a large fish?
    #6 Every story we know about Jesus is in the Bible itself. To say we need to take the spotlight off of The Bible and put it on Jesus again to quote Frank is, “a self-defeating statement.” Atheist do this all the time and now I feel cross-examined is doing the same by agreeing with Andy on this issue. We know about Jesus because we have a Bible. We wouldn’t be able to argue for Jesus if it wasn’t for the Bible. Regardless of when it was put together as Andy argues, I know that Jesus loves me because the Bible tells me so! I wouldn’t know how it was put together if there was no Bible, I wouldn’t study church History to defend the Bible if there was no Bible! And I certainly wouldn’t believe in Jesus if the early church had not died to preserve the accuracy of The Bible!

    To pin Jesus against certain things of the Bible is to clearly go against 2Timothy 3:16. It’s either all inspired and to be believed or it’s not. I’m confused by this article and in all honesty, I was hoping you guys would respond to it. I just didn’t expect it would be in this way. Any reply to this would be of much help.

    Reply
  2. Frank Turek says:

    Thanks for your comment Henry. Neither Andy nor I are saying the Bible isn’t true. Quite to the contrary: we both affirm the Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God (Please read the article again and watch the interview). What we are saying is that for UNBELIEVERS who do not believe in the inerrancy of the Scriptures, you don’t have to prove that the Bible is inerrant and everything in the Bible is true to get them saved. In fact, thousands of people were saved before the New Testament ever existed. Likewise, Abraham was saved before the Old Testament ever existed. So the point we are making deals with what you may want to emphasize in order to get them saved. It not a denial of the truth of the Bible. Make sense?

    Reply
    • Jonathan says:

      Frank,

      I agreed with Henry prior to reading your post. I haven’t listened to the entire interview, though I did hear a clip where Stanley qualified the Bible’s inspiration in terms of its ability to reach our culture (not clear enough to affirm inerrancy). Perhaps I missed something there that would correct me. Also, don’t misunderstand what I am about to say; I hear the point you are making and even as a Calvinist I think there are times to employ resurrection arguments instead of biblical inspiration arguments.

      However, I listened to Andy’s entire message as the 3rd part of his current series wherein he argued against defending Scripture and for the resurrection. He listed particular indefensible aspects to the OT, said that defending the entire Bible was next to impossible, and stated that we had no Bible until 350 AD, whereas in fact the OT was complete and sufficient at the time of Christ and at least most of the NT was being used in the first and second centuries. I’m not disagreeing with the position that you think Stanley was trying to make, I tried to hear him charitably in that same manner, but I couldn’t interpret his message in any other way than that he does not believe certain details of the OT and that he was building a false dichotomy between Jesus and the Scriptures (both OT & NT, but especially OT). He did not say the resurrection is another or even better apologetic than defending Scripture, he said that defending Scripture can’t be done and that if we try to our faith will fall like the walls of Jericho supposedly did. This is in agreement also with Adam’s point below me.

      Perhaps I have misunderstood him and you are right because you know him personally, I hope that is the case, but if this is so he did a very poor job of communicating his point, and I am sure many of the people in his audience understood him exactly as I and many others have. There were no attempts to clarify that the Bible was inspired or without error, only efforts made to point out its errors and deficiencies. Surely the significance of the resurrection can be explained in a better way. Honestly I don’t think I could believe that he is an inerrantist after hearing that message apart from a clear, explicit clarification on his part. Again, I hope I am wrong, but I don’t think we do ourselves any favors by making excuses for what amounts to minimizing Scripture and even doubting it’s truthfulness.

      Reply
      • Frank Turek says:

        Jonathan, thanks for the comment. Yes, I agree that it would be better said to say that some people are “skeptical of Noah or the Exodus” rather than risk affirming there is no evidence for those things. In the second service, Andy corrected the imprecision there.

        That’s one of the problems with those of us who preach without notes — it might make for a more persuasive presentation but we sometimes suffer some precision loss because of it. Andy does believe in an inerrant Bible, but he, like me, believes you should give evidence to unbelievers rather than just assert that the Bible is true.

        Reply
          • Brian says:

            And before making any judgments about what Andy Stanley says or doesn’t say in his sermons, make sure that you go and listen to ALL of them since this is a series of sermons (6 total sermons and at this point he has only given 5 of them.) Don’t rely on what other people say about Andy and his sermons, go and actually listen to them and allow God’s spirit to help you understand what He is saying. If you still disagree with him that’s fine but don’t rely on what others say and don’t allow others to think for you without actually listening to the messages for yourself. You can find the messages at http://www.whoneedsgod.com.

  3. Mark Jansen says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. FINALLY, someone with a common sense and intellectually honest approach to the “issue” at hand. A lot of the criticisms have been very biased and misguided. It seems we Christians are way too quick, way too often, to defend our personal ideologies instead of honestly seeking the truth in what others have said.

    Reply
    • Frank Turek says:

      Exactly Mark. If you go over to our Facebook pages, you’ll see far too many people commented without even reading the article. Jesus warned, “Stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment.” (John 7:24). A least know what you are judging before doing so! Sad to see Christians judging without evidence.

      Reply
      • Anne White says:

        Far too many people now “hear witht their eyes and think with their feelings” while using Facebook. The Bible speaks of the mind and understanding with which we are able to “hear” God’s Spirit. The evdence for a believer is the Word of God.

        Reply
      • Nathan says:

        Frank, I have watched the interview and I am of the opinion that Mr. Stanley is more interested trying to prove his spin on religion or redefining religion and setting himself as some sort of Intellectual Super Being. I know that you are buds with him so you have a predisposed disposition prior to evaluating the situation with an open eye. First of all Jesus said to love the lord with all your heart and then to love your neighbor as yourself, once you have an appreciation for these things, you can focus on “The Great Commission”. Ok Jesus said that unless you come to him with childlike faith, you cannot come to him, so why is there such an emphasis on proving things. Mr. Stanley calls the creation story myth, if he was following the first command, he wouldn’t question the Father and discredit his works. That, on a much smaller scale, would be like telling Steve Jobs he took a bunch of parts in a drawer and shook them up and out came an iPhone. If creation is a myth than how did we get here, what put the hand in motion? Are we products of primordial soup? I have heard him also say that the flood is false and no evidence exists. If so why are there marine fossils on Mt Everest the highest point on the globe, why are there so many accounts of a flood in many nationalities? Witnesses from generations past he discounts. Why does the Grand Canyon contain millions of fossils or marine life? How did they get there? I heard him say that he doesn’t believe in two naked people running around in a garden. Ok, first off who was ever born with clothes on? And who natured the first humans? Because if he doesn’t believe in Creation, then the first humans couldn’t have been adults, right? Also if he discounts Genesis so much, why does he reference Moses in his lectures. If the Old Testament is not true, then who is Moses?? He says to refer to the Author not the Bible, well Moses said so in 5 books. Also Jesus refers to Moses several time and if Mr. Stanley says that he believes anything Jesus said, then why would he call Moses the account Moses gives about creation a Myth? Does he not believe Moses received the Ten Commandments? I mean he doesn’t believe in Moses giving the Creation Story or the Flood. Who did Jesus bring back from the past Elijah and hmmm, oh “Moses”. And two witnesses of Moses and the Resurrection, so then how can he discount the first five books of the Bible, because in his own words “Wittinesses” give an account of Moses. So I’m really confused by his skepticism. Joseph forgave his brothers, sorry Genesis again, he said that they meant it for evil but God meant it for good. So the fact that Mr. Stanley is incorrect in his account of the Bible, God is still using him to reach thousands of people for good, so that is indeed a good thing. But for him to have such circular reasoning is very confusing, either you believe in the Witnesses, Resurrection and Moses, or you don’t or you are selecting what you chose to believe about God and not what he has provided. I guess the 6th book get tossed out too, because that is where the wall of Jericho, come tumbling down? I would love to have your opinion on how creation is a myth, what is your alternative, and why is Moses not credible for creation, also if you can ask Mr. Stanley why he said Moses was in his 20s when he killed the Egyptian when another Witness, Luke says he was 40 in Acts 7, why is that fact, New Testament distorted in his series “Time of your Life”?

        Reply
  4. Erik Strandness says:

    Frank, Thank you for your thoughtful approach to this issue. I also believe that we have tended to treat the book of nature as an inferior form of revelation when it is in fact the entry point for everyone (we are without excuse). As a scientist and physician, I find the comprehensibility of the natural world to be powerful evidence for a world made up of God spoken words that every image-bearer is capable of understanding. While the book of nature doesn’t explain everything it is the preface to God’s larger story, the body of which is contained in scripture. Personally, I believe a “bottom up” approach to apologetics, beginning with our common experiences of the natural world, is a far more effective way of getting people to take the Bible seriously. Thanks again for your thoughts. If you are interested, I discussed this bottom up approach in an interview with Sean McDowell http://seanmcdowell.org/blog/why-would-a-medical-doctor-switch-careers-to-teach-students-worldview-his-story. I also have written two books that approach apologetics from this perspective. http://www.godsscreenplay.com/

    Reply
  5. Adam Borsay says:

    You are correct in saying (to paraphrase) that someone with a large audience and influence has to be careful with the words they use. The problem I had is that the way Andy presented it comes across like we should stop trying to defend the truth of scripture and focus on the resurrection BECAUSE(and this is the impression his presentation left me with) it just to difficult to defend.

    I would have been fine if he had simply said…. quit arguing about secondary issues with non-believers. The resurrection is what matters. Even if you can prove a world wide flood, but the person still doesn’t have Christ, it means nothing. But, if Christ is resurrected, then a flood doesn’t seem too tough to swallow anymore.

    I once had a long conversation with an atheist author who wrote about the falsehoods of the bible. She included a large portion about Baalams donkey, complete with diagrams showing the “vocal” chords of a donkey and how they clearly can’t intonate human speech…therefore, the Bible must be seen as ridiculous. My response was simply, if Jesus rose from the dead, pretty sure he could make it appear as if the donkey was speaking. Her point was and is, missing the point.

    TLDR, Andy simply didn’t make it clear that the resurrection makes the rest of the Bible lock into place. He made it seem as if it was at odds.

    Reply
    • Frank Turek says:

      Agreed Adam. In fact, if you the first verse of the Bible is true, everything else (including the Resurrection) is possible. As you know we have very good evidence that God created the universe. So if the greatest miracle can occur, lesser miracles certainly can.

      Reply
  6. Danny Peters says:

    I do not understand how one can question events such the biblical accounts of the destruction of Jericho or the exodus from Egypt, and at the same time claim faith in the resurrection as absolutely true. They are all supernatural events recorded in scripture. Andy has left the impression that some of scripture is true and some is not. How do you pick and choose?

    Reply
    • Frank Turek says:

      Danny, to get saved you don’t need to believe all of it. But if you follow the evidence so you know that Jesus is God, then you will believe all of it because Jesus did.

      Reply
  7. Bucky Kennedy says:

    Frank,
    Thanks for the response. I’ve watched 3 &4 of the series, and I really do appreciate Andy’s heart for the lost. I don’t have a problem with using outside evidence in defending or declaring the gospel; I’m all for it! The questions I have are In line with concerns you have expressed in that Andy’s eagerness to reach the unchurched often leaves the saints confused as to his method. If we want unity of mission we have to have clarity of message. I want Andy to be successful in reaching lost people and in discipling saved people but I would also like for him to recognize the size of his platform. He can’t have it both ways in that his church has a wide reach and then accuse me of being of somewhat lesser intelligence for not being a part of his church as he did in part 4. There is a fine line between being “mind-bending” and confusing. I don’t believe him to be anything of a heretic but I do believe his presentation in part 3 lacked clarity and therefore caused confusion which he only stoked by his response in part 4 by his characterization of those who just wanted him to clarify his position which he has done on previous occasions. I don’t like pitch forks but neither do i like being talked down to as a non-member of his church because I had a problem with the way he communicated his message. What Andy believes about the Bible is represented on the church belief’s page and that statement of belief is one that I can completely agree with. I don’t know why he couldn’t deal with a “nones” issue with the bible without first stating his position and conviction of the bible somewhere in the message. I believe your response to be fair and gracious. By the way, I’m not reformed nor am I a presuppositionalist.

    Reply
    • Frank Turek says:

      Thanks Bucky. The “pitch fork” comment is mine, not Andy’s. Quite obviously, he can’t respond to everyone, especially from the pulpit. I doubt anything he said was directed at you. But I bet he was directing his comments to those who take his comments out of context.

      Reply
  8. Joel Thomas says:

    Frank, thank you for this. To those who have taken issue with your assessment of Andy’s approach and position, I offer this simplified explanation:

    1. This is about an approach to evangelism, not theology (Where to start with unbelievers who have difficulty embracing the historicity of the Bible).
    2. Some things in the Bible are more difficult to “verify” than others. (Balaam’s donkey vs. The Roman prefect Pontius Pilate’s role in the trial and crucifixion of Christ)
    3. We have sufficient “verifiable” evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus (And other historical NT events and claims) through numerous eyewitness who documented what they saw and circulated their claims while other eyewitnesses where still living.
    4. Belief in the person of Jesus as the Son of God and what His resurrection accomplished on our behalf is the foundation of our belief in the Bible. (Primarily because Jesus affirmed the OT)
    5. This argument does not position belief in Jesus at odds with belief in the Bible, but as the gateway to it (As it did for the first Christians).

    Reply
  9. Mark says:

    Simply put._____ “Faith comes by hearing. And hearing by THE WORD OF GOD.”____ROMANS 10:17_____Christ Jesus and His disciples warned us of these many false angels of light that would come. We need to remember this. Always. I’ve noticed in my own witnessing that when I begin to quote THE WORD OF THE LORD, some want to shut me up. But I continue to show them love and compassion through Gods Word. The Lord’s Words are TRUTH! And once you hear THE TRUTH, a person must decide to either accept it or reject it.

    Reply
  10. Ben says:

    Frank, I appreciate your obvious thoughtfulness in all of this and desire to be fair to all.

    On one point, though, I think you’ve missed something very important. I don’t have a problem with in-conversation decisions to leave Noah and Jonah to focus on the Resurrection if the other person is getting particularly hung up somewhere. Let’s keep the focus on Jesus. We can all agree with that.

    But when you build a whole apologetic around that, you run the risk of creating a system of belief where someone can think that they can accept Jesus without having to reconcile with the authoritative Word of God; you do what appears (I’m using “what appears” in the same manner that you used “seems” earlier) to be taking one story of out the Bible because it will look more palatable that way. Even when unbelievers were saved in the first century “without a Bible,” they still had to reconcile with the fact that God’s Word (=Truth) sets the agenda for what is good and right and true and perfect for all of creation past and future—that truth was merely transmitted in spoken form instead of in written form. Balaam’s donkey and Jonah hadn’t gone anywhere. The Cross is a stumbling block. It is an offense. A worldview based on God’s Word and not based on my experience is at best obnoxious, and at worst dangerous, in the ears of unbelievers. Trying to soft-peddle it by down-playing the more challenging sections is like telling someone that they have to swallow the ocean, but oh by the way, I tried to remove all the salt. Still impossible without the Spirit. Still impossible with human understanding. Still offensive.

    Believing specifically in Jonah and Noah is not necessary for salvation, as you say. But if you’ve read Jonah and Noah and disbelieve (I don’t mean a believer who doubts, I mean disbelieve), then you have not come to terms with Truth and whatever you “believe” about Jesus is probably much less than what God would say about it. Believers—even those that struggle with doubt—submit through the Spirit to what God says is true. Anything less than that misunderstands that Bible. God says I’m a sinner. God says He made a way. God’s love (which I doubt all the time because of my unloveliness) has saved me. Saying that you can be saved without believing in Noah and Jonah is incredibly misleading because you (presumably) don’t mean what that sounds like you mean.

    In a culture where so many “believers” claim to “love Jesus” but then hate the Bible and hate the Church and hate hypocrisy and hate Jonah and hate the moral claims of the Bible, I think it’s fair for many of us to lean towards proclaiming and defending the whole counsel of God over against trying to downplay and peddle “Jesus without the Bible.” In my mind, that sort of apologetic could easily produce those sorts of false believers. Now just to clarify, I’m not saying that Stanley or Northpoint are at that point—but the slope looks awfully slippery.

    Reply
    • Frank Turek says:

      I don’t really disagree with anything you’ve said. But it is true that someone can be saved and not believe every Word in the Bible. I think those who do that are not following the evidence where it leads, but it’s still true nonetheless. Andy’s approach is trying to get people saved by using the same apologetic method I use. Once they are saved, then things make more sense from the inside. However, as I mentioned in the article, it is unclear to me what kind of success Northpoint has in discipling people. Are they making some false believers? I don’t know. Many churches might be. Getting people justified but not sanctified falls short of Jesus’ command to make disciples. That’s true for every church.

      What alternative are you suggesting? Are you saying that a pastor must insist to unbelievers that they must believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God in order to accept Christ?

      Reply
  11. Wintery Knight says:

    Thank you for writing this post in defense of a practical approach to reaching out to non-Christians. I have listened to the first 4 sermons in the series, and it is very easy for anyone who has experience in evangelism to understand that Stanley’s goal is to appeal to non-Christians who left Christianity because of intellectual questions about evidence. He even went to far as to put the blame for the way the Christianity is presented in the church by fideists and presuppositionalists on parents and pastors, including himself. As someone who has struggled against anti-intellectual fideism and presuppositionalism in the church, I really liked that. Actually, I loved all the sermons – they really addressed the concerns that an engineer like myself has with the way the Christianity is presented as “what the Bible says” rather than “what is true and knowable through reason, science and history”. Russell Moore, who I already disagree with over Syrian refugees and national security, strikes me as exactly the kind of person who causes young people to leave the church when they ask fact-based questions and get faith-based answers from Bible-thumpers who are ignorant of the wealth of evidence that God has left us in nature and history. Well done, Andy Stanley. Well done, Frank Turek for defending his approach. This approach works on non-Christians. Anti-intellectual fideism does not work.

    Reply
  12. Ryan A Kaufman says:

    I’m sorry that it seems like your experiences with presuppositionalists have been negative. I promise not all of us are anti-intellectuals and fideists, nor do we all have sharpened pitchforks at the ready. Please understand though, that much of the backlash comes from the motivation of having God’s word front and center in epistemology. Of course other things, including evidences, come into place, but the starting point is crucial.

    Reply
    • Frank Turek says:

      Thanks Ryan. But how can the starting point be a series of writings, whatever they are? You need to know reality, including logic, grammar, language, interpretative principles, etc., before you can understand what a writing means and if it corresponds to reality. This is no diss on the Bible– I believe it’s God’s Word. But I can’t believe any book is God’s Word without knowing the issues I listed above.

      Reply
      • Aaron says:

        Because logic, grammar, language, interpretative principles are impossible unless the God of the Bible exists. We are not the judge, God’s word gives us the foundations for which to make all judgments. Otherwise you make your judgement according to your standard. And who cares about your standard.

        Reply
        • Frank Turek says:

          Aaron, I agree that there has to be some metaphysical grounding for immaterial realities such as the laws of logic, math and morality. And a theistic God best grounds that. This is the case I make in Stealing from God. But why does this being necessarily have to the God of the Bible? Why not the God of the Qur’an or another theistic God? The best way to discover which God is to use the apologetic approach that Andy is using.

          Reply
          • Cory says:

            “But why does this being necessarily have to the God of the Bible? Why not the God of the Qur’an or another theistic God?”

            Because of the Imago Dei, the immutability of God and the existence of Love. In order for love to be something God takes part in, there must be an eternal relationship.

            I can tell you for sure Islam does not provide a God that includes theses aspects.

  13. Jerry Brodie says:

    People stay for what they came for. Why should anyone believe the real issues are dealt with in smaller groups? Those groups invariably take their lead from the public ministry of the preaching pastor. We don’t argue people into the kingdom. Only the Spirit of God can call the dead sinner to life and He primarily uses the testimony of Scripture to do so. To purposefully and publicly declare that any single scripture does not necessarily matter is to deny Christ’s view of divine revelation by default. It is also dangerously pragmatic. The ends do not justify the means especially in the context of being a faithful steward of the inscripturated record. They’re all red letters. We don’t get to pick and choose. To separate the resurrection from the testimony of the inspired text is to saw off the branch you intend to stand on. The Jesus you have left may well be an idol of your heart’s own making. Mine was.

    Reply
  14. Josh Gatewood says:

    Frank,

    I’ve found myself caught between the proverbial rock and hard place with this issue. On the one hand, I’m very committed and convinced of the classical method of apologetics, but on the other hand I thought Stanley did a very poor job making his points clear in his sermon.

    For example, he said the church didn’t have a Bible until the early 4th century, but that’s not correct. The ancient writings we call the NT may not have been “bound as a Bible” until around that time (I.e Sinaiaticus and Vaticanus), but they certainly had the Bible in certain sense, because we know they appealed to the NT writings as scripture before the early 4th century. On several occasions, the early church fathers made appeals to NT as Holy Scripture. While I agree wth the general sentiment Stanley was getting at, his arguments for defending his position seemed very poor. In almost every part of the sermon I found myself thinking, “Yes, that’s a good point, but that’s a not a good supporting argument for it.” I actually found your podcast commentary to do a better job clarifying Stanley’s points than even he did.

    However, there was 1 point I’d like to ask you about specifically that I haven’t seen addressed yet: do you believe the resurrection can interpret itself? You state above that we don’t need all of the Bible to know the Gospel, but is that really true? It would seem the theological explanation of the resurrection can’t be collapsed into the event itself, but instead must be revealed by God to us. Otherwise it is merely a historical event of epic significance, but that very significance is up for interpretation. If that’s the case, then it seems we do need special revelation to know the Gospel with any sense of clarity, because in that special revelation we find the authoritative interpretation of the event and its relationship to us. As Paul said:

    “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
    ‭‭Romans‬ ‭6:4‬ ‭

    “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
    ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:11‬ ‭

    It seems impossible to come to these conclusions through the historicity of the event itself. While I agree wth you that it is the ontological foundation of the Gospel, it doesn’t seem to provide in itself the theological explanation needed to proclaim the gospel and disciple others with it. It may be a necessary condition to that end, but without a foundation of special revelation, I cannot see how it is sufficient.

    Would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you

    Reply
    • Frank Turek says:

      Hi Josh, I agree with you that the resurrection devoid of any other context isn’t enough to get one saved. But neither I nor Andy, nor other classical apologists would suggest otherwise. You have to know you’re a sinner (which you can know from natural revelation), and you have to know and accept the truth that by trusting in Jesus He will take your sins upon Himself (which requires special revelation). But that special revelation was first passed on verbally, which led to the writing of the NT by the eyewitnesses or those that knew eyewitnesses (i.e. Luke). So I think the overall point still stands: our beliefs are ontologically grounded in the reality of God and historical events, the truths of which were first passed verbally and later documented in the Scriptures.

      Reply
      • A Grandmother says:

        You said: “You have to know you’re a sinner (which you can know from natural revelation)…” “natural revelation” ~ excuse me? Even Paul said he wouldn’t have known he was a sinner except for the law! [Romans 7:7 “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”] The law (the Word of God) is the schoolmaster that leads us to Christ, otherwise we wouldn’t know we need a savior. [Galatians 3:24 ~ “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”] The Law is scripture and God wrote it in stone with His own finger first! [Deuteronomy 9:10 ~ And the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the LORD spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly.] Yes, Jesus is the Word made flesh [John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.]; but He is the embodiment of God’s Word (and He said “not one jot or tittle would pass away of the Law” [Matt 5:18 “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”]). So I don’t think anyone can discount Scripture ~ the Word of God ~ as unnecessary to lead people to salvation (and that’s the way it came across). It’s needed so we will know that we are sinners as well as to reveal to us how we are saved. Just my two cents worth.

        Reply
  15. David says:

    There are actually three gospels or revelations of God: nature, the Bible, and the changed lives of believers who practice their belief!

    Reply
    • Randall D Franklin says:

      Great point David! That’s where I’m at with all of this. Where do we see Christians sharing how God has moved in their lives in real ways.

      The unbeliever’s favorite attack upon Christianity comes in the way of a single term… “Hypocrite”. And they are absolutely correct. What do we expect them to think when they see us casting pearls before swine while we have a sheet of plywood in our own eye?!?

      While apologetics works to prove doctrine and the existence of God, there is nothing more powerful than the personal, genuine testimony of those who have experienced the power of God in their lives. Where is it? Churches are full of “perfect” Christians. I know. I ran from the church a number of times because I just didn’t fit in. The Christian church could learn a great deal by sitting thru a couple of AA meetings!!

      While I would never call the word of God platitudes, Id call a great many christians on social media “platidudes and platidudettes”. I’m sorry but I throw up in my mouth a little bit every time I see the hundreds of “amen” comments not only on the memes that say you’ll receive financial blessing if you like or share or say amen, but those where it’s obvious that the poster believes they are sharing the gospel because of their incessant posting of bible verses. I know many an athiest that knows the bible better than many pastors. I’m quite sure they gag at the spectacle, as Im a believer and it makes ME queezy.

      Where’s the meat… I mean fruit!

      Reply
  16. Donnie says:

    Dr. Turek, I appreciate your willingness to talk about this issue. By that, I don’t necessarily mean the issue of presuppositional vs classical apologetics, although I do believe it is important. I am Reformed and as you would say a five pointer. I am though, Classical in my approach to apologetics. In my world presuppositional apologetics is often revered as the ‘Biblical’ approach, but like you I believe that is circular although their arguments for circularity are often nuanced differently than even Dr. Howe described in your podcast. I do appreciate the passion of some Presuppositionalists and I agree with the premise that no one can come to Christ unless confronted with the Scriptures (I agree with you that that can come in various forms of preaching). What bothers me considerably about Reformed pastors, teachers, and elders is the fact that many of them I have spoken to about teaching apologetics in their church often use this method as an excuse to forgo teaching their folks to do apologetics. In my opinion if you claim to be presuppositional, fine. But teach your people to do it and do it well. In my experience, most of the time they don’t. However, the issue here is not necessarily which apologetic method is the ‘right’ one. It is the willingness and even the proclivity of a high profile Church leader to make personal attacks upon the character of another Christian and then hide. Dr. Moore is becoming good at that unfortunately. His arguments, when exposed as fallacious are never allowed to be criticized. He likes to hit and run, if you will. He practices ambush tactics on other Christians. In my opinion, although I don’t agree with Andy on some of the finer points of theology, Moore should repent of his treatment of Andy or face church discipline. That is the truly Reformed position on what he did according to 1 Timothy 5:19-25. Thanks for all of your work and you are in my prayers as well as Dr. Moore and Pastor Stanley.

    Reply
  17. Joseph Sigalas says:

    I stumbled across this “controversy” this morning. How disappointing. Makes me glad I’m not a so-called “professional Christian,” but I am grateful to you, Frank, for having laid out the issue in such a sensible way. I should disclose that I too am much more familiar with Andy Stanley’s work than Rev. Moore’s. When I lived in Atlanta, I attended Buckhead Church and have continued to learn from Andy and North Point Church’s ministries ever since. I was raised as a Christian, so I was a long-time believer already when I found Buckhead. I didn’t love that church because I was “saved” there. I loved it because Andy and Buckhead discipled me in a way I never had been. How? Rather than preaching to the proverbial choir, as many churches do to disastrous effect, that ministry gave me a way to meet unbelievers where they are–not just physically, as a soup kitchen does, but also intellectually. As a fairly recent PhD in English at the time, this was a special concern for me.

    Anyone familiar with Andy’s body of work might know the series “Simply Irresistible.” Part 5 is called, “Biblical Authority (http://goconnections.org/simply-irresistible-part-5-biblical-authority.html). In it, Andy powerfully and persuasively asserts the authority of the Bible. It should answer critics’ questions about his view of that authority.

    Insisting that intelligent unbelievers accept the infallibility of the Bible before anything else is a sure way to get them to plug their ears. Yet in effect, many, many of the followers of Jesus I’ve met do just that, at least implicitly. It’s a shame. Marketers talk about “segmenting” their audience and addressing the needs of particular segments with different strategies. This is Andy’s approach, and its effectiveness speaks for itself. We should never excuse the intellectual pride that blocks faith. We have to recognize, however, that the ability to presuppose the Bible’s authority is a gift those raised as Christians often have, but others have obstacles to overcome, especially those raised or mis-educated to reject it.

    Reply
  18. Bill Roach says:

    After I read your article (Yes, I read the entire thing), I realized you believe you are defending classical apologetics, when in fact, you are misrepresenting Sola Scriptura, the Sufficiency of Scripture, and failing to significantly interact or cite the opposing position.

    In fact, I believe the logic and argumentation in this article illustrates best what philosophers and logicians label as shadow boxing and straw-man attacks (against Sola Scriptura and the Sufficiency of Scripture). Namely, you are manufacturing an imaginary opponent and responding to hypothetical arguments that are neither made nor claimed by Reformed theologians or presuppositionalists. In fact, you do not even cite one theologian or apologist from the opposing side to prove or validate the claims you make about their position.

    Go read contemporary Reformed theologians such as: Wayne Grudem, John Frame, D.A. Carson, Doug Kelly, Ronald Nash, Carl F. H. Henry, James Anderson, Greg Welty, Paul Helm, etc. on these matters and you will find none of them of them portray Sola Scriptura or the Sufficiency of Scripture the way you characterize it in this article. For that matter, no magisterial Reformer such as Luther or Calvin, or scholastic Reformer such as Owen, or Puritan such as Edwards or Turretin would portray Sola Scriptura or the Sufficiency of Scripture the way you do in this article.

    In fact, even a simple survey of the present-day literature by Protestant (presuppositionalists included and in particular) illustrate your gross mischaracterization of Sola Scriptura, the Sufficiency of Scripture. Can you please provide quotes from the Magisterial and Scholastic Reformers making these claims? Could you please show me where present-day Protestant-presuppositionalists make similar claims? In particular, we could narrow it to two of the top individuals representing the Protestant-presuppositionalist position. Could you please show many anywhere in the literature by John Frame, Greg Bahsen, Vern Poythress, Ronald Nash, Wayne Grudem, or Carl F. H. Henry make such claims? I believe you will be hard-pressed to find your characterization of the Protestant position, even by those from the presuppositionalist tradition, who employ that mode of argumentation anywhere in their literature.

    Aside from the historical mischaracterizations, one is able to respond to your false claims about Sola Scripture and the Sufficiency of Scripture by way of two counter-examples.

    Suppose you are driving in a foreign country and you are pulled over by the police. You cannot understand the language, so you are in many ways unable to communicate. Fortunately your friend is a native of that country and can speak the language. He helps you understand what the policeman is saying and what the law means, and how you broke the law. However, just because these preconditions were required to understand the message does that someone change the fact that the law is still supreme and the full of legislation for the land? By no means! Similarly, just because someone needs to know English or Greek grammar or any other means (metaphysics, logic, etc.) to know what Scripture says, that does not somehow make those means superior to Scripture itself or deny the supreme rule or sufficiency of the Scriptures over other disciplines.

    Another example could be given. You know that the Bible has equipped you for all good works. Scripture clearly teaches this point. So, one day you are driving down the road and you see an elderly woman’s car with a flat tire. You pullover, get out of your car, and ask if she needs help. Then you walk back to your car and unfortunately your Bible doesn’t have a section titled, “How to fix a flat tire.” Does that mean Scripture doesn’t equip you for all good works? No. In fact, that would be a gross mischaracterization of Sola Scriptura and the Sufficiency of Scripture. For that matter, the Bible doesn’t teach you how to perform CPR, help starving children, or fight off a thief. Instead, the Bible teaches principles such as: Show compassion, love your neighbor, and defend the weak. Each of these traits is taught in Scripture and serves as the grounds for motivation to serve the individual.

    In brief, these types of arguments against Sola Scriptura and the Sufficiency of Scripture are just plain silly misrepresentations of the view. No classic Protestant worth his weight has ever tried to make the claims about Sola Scriptura or the Sufficiency of Scripture characterized in this article.

    What is needed for this article and topic to move forward is: 1) actual citations from the opposing views; and 2) accurate representations of the Protestant and Reformed position.

    Finally, just to ward off one possible objection. It is recognized that Neo-Orthodox theologians are considered Protestants. They do speak negatively about natural theology and the functional value of philosophy (see Barth, Brunner, and Tillich).

    But no one would consider the Neo-Orthodox position the traditional Reformed or Evangelical position. In fact, that isn’t even the presuppositionalist position. Specifically, you would be hard pressed to find notable Reformed theologians (Luther, Calvin, Owen, Edwards, and Bavanick) or respected Protestant-presuppositionaists (Frame, Poythress, Anderson, Bahnsen, Nash, Henry, etc.) make the claim that Sola Scriptura and the Sufficiency of Scripture entail there is no room for natural theology in their system.

    Reply
    • Ed Dingess says:

      Bravo Bill Roach. You hit the target dead-center. The trend among some of these classical apologists, especially lately, is very concerning. It is an impotent apologetic that cannot defend the authority and self-attesting nature of Scripture. It all comes down to the classical method’s reliance on and confidence in the autonomy of man. If Scripture cannot be defended, then Christianity cannot be defended. I think the problem is that the classical guys realize that they cannot defend Scripture and remain consistent with their method. I think this is why we are seeing this new idea emerge and I predict that it will continue to gain traction because I believe it is something that most of them want to say but no one wanted to go first. Now that Stanley has said it, the floodgates will open. I could be wrong, but that is my sense about many of these guys in that school.

      Reply
      • Bill Roach says:

        I don’t think it is necessarily an impotent apologetic method. But if someone doesn’t go beyond the classical method to allowing orthodoxy to define biblical doctrines, it can become an impotent THEOLOGICAL method. In short, even Norm Geisler used to say, “Classical apologetics eventually turns into presuppositional apologetics.”

        But the key, which you nailed, is that present-day classical apologists are quite different than traditional classical apologists. Namely, I believe John Gerstner would almost die if he heard someone try to justify the claims Stanley made under the guise of “classical apologetics.” In short, I believe Packer offers wisdom in the characteriziations:

        “A half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth.” – J. I. Packer

        But the bigger issue here is just a characterization of Sola Scriptura, the Sufficiency of Scripture, and the actual claims of presuppositionalists (namely, they don’t make the claims they supposedly make in this article).

        Reply
        • Steve Eberhart says:

          I think we are getting to the point in time where “Sola Scriptura” is ultimately tossed around like the term “evangelical” is. Just because you affirm Sola Scriptura does not mean you have adhered to the biblical definitions of inspiration, inerrancy and infallibility, let alone incorporated them into your theology. These three doctrines are where the rubber meets the road in terms of how a true believer molds his/her theology.

          Without posting a lengthy comment about the litany of errors in the article, I believe it can be boiled down to a dismissal or ignorance of what is said in 1 Corinthians. From 1:17 all the way to the end of chapter 2, there is a singular assessment of what Mr. Turek and Andy Stanley are attempting to unravel. There are few places in Scripture where a chapter and a half are used to underscore a single issue. The biblical position is not unclear, it’s only uncomfortable for people with shaky theology who resort to elevating philosophical constructs in their misguided effort. Are these constructs wrong in and of themselves? No. But when they are held up as the starting point and displace God’s revelation in the process, then they are merely human wisdom.

          I think James White made the correct analysis of this growing problem. Paraphrasing, he said “There is becoming a fundamental distrust that the Holy Spirit can ground/teach a believer and cause a love and obedience for His Word as He has done through the ages.” Bingo. Where does this distrust come from? Bad theology.

          Reply
          • Bill Roach says:

            I have been asked in a private email to clarify my comments. Let me just start out by saying, I know Frank. We both went to SES. I do not know him very well, but we are aware of each other. However, because I believe it is very important to represent positions correctly, I wanted to respond.

            Therefore, via a private email, I wanted to clarify a few things [below is an edited section from my email responding to a particular person].

            1. Frank was clearly responding to Moore and labeled Moore’s position as a version of Calvinistic presuppositionalism. Frank calls Moore and his group the “reformed camp,” “reformed internet critics [James White most likely],” or presuppositionalism as such (this comes near the end of the article). This is a very broad group, so I included the whole community (Frame, Nash, Henry, Bahnsen, etc).

            2. Frank also claims: “It’s ironic that a tradition has arisen in reformed Christianity that distorts the original meaning of sola Scriptura” Frank also says: “What he [Stanely] denies is their erroneous definition of that doctrine.” Who provides us that erroneous definition? Most likely Moore and the rest of the reformed camp Frank just mentioned [note Frank nowhere cites anyone actually using or employing that definition. Frank manufactures that definition just to knock it down later]. Here’s where your quotes come in, namely, Frank suggests that Moore, et.al., manufacture an erroneous definition of sola Scriptura that “make it sound like we have no need for any truth outside of the Bible” and “denies the role of natural revelation, including reason, in theology.”

            Frank then goes on to note in the article: “But, as we have seen, such a position would make understanding the Bible impossible. Without natural revelation we couldn’t understand the Bible or anything else about reality! Even Martin Luther realized this point. He didn’t dismiss reason. He said he would only recant if he could be proven wrong by Scripture or reason.”

            The reason I responded to Frank the way I did is because advocates from the “Reformed camp” or “presuppositionalists” [I would even add classical apologists from the Reformed Camp], never define sola Scriptura or the sufficiency of Scripture in those terms. Seriously, in my courses on Calvin, Edwards, Bavanick, Owen, etc., none of them employed that definition. Also, as I read Frame, Bahnsen, Nash, etc., I do not find them employing that definition. [I cut a personal comment to the person in the email out here but I want to note that I also believe Moore does not employ Frank’s definition of Sola Scriptura either].

            Frank seems to misrepresent the entire “Reformed camp” and their views on this matter. I would encourage Frank and others to take the time and read Frames book: Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief, 18-25. There Frame takes each of the claims made by Frank about sola Scriptura, reason, and natural theology and shows: 1) That’s not what he and other Reformed theologians are claiming; and 2) Shows that’s not what top notch presuppositionalists are claiming [I also removed a personal comment at this point too]. In brief, these few short pages [from] Frame serve as a counter-example to Frank’s claims and show that Protestants do in fact uphold the reality of my two counter-examples (presuppositionalists included). For a much more extensive account I would suggest Frame’s new Systematic Theology.

            For all for all those reasons, I claim that Frank is shadow boxing and manufacturing a straw-man of the “Reformed Camp” and “Presuppositionial” position. That’s not to say you can’t find someone, but I believe you would be very hardpressed to find a key figure from the movement make the claims Frank suggests they are making.

            3. Finally, Frank makes each of these claims without ever citing Moore or any person from the Reformed Camp (namely, those he considers presuppositionalists). I recognize Frank was writing a blog, but that is just plain sloppy. Especially when I can find quotes from this very group making the very opposite claims Frank suggests they are making.

    • Frank Turek says:

      Hi Bill,

      Nice to hear from you. Sorry for the delay: I’m preparing to debate an atheist next week so don’t have the time right now to debate brothers. But a couple of quick points.

      I like your “flat tire” good works scenario. Well said.

      I don’t find anything to disagree with regarding your reformed theologians, although I understand Frame and Bahnsen to have significant disagreements between them (but I’m not an expert on that).

      My one point of disagreement is that you seem to be charging me with things I didn’t say. My assessment of Dr. Moore’s position (which I admitted could be wrong because I based it all on an interview and a 22 minute podcast) was that HE appeared to be discounting natural theology. Several internet critics have done so as well, insisting that to use reason one “puts man’s reason above God,” when, in fact, one needs reason to even know that the Bible is the Word of God. Since they are discounting natural theology, it sure seems that they are operating under an incorrect view of Sola Scriptura. I didn’t mean to imply that the folks you cited had it wrong. I never cited them.

      Thanks again for your comments. BTW, are you teaching somewhere now? You have your PhD, correct?

      Reply
      • Bill Roach says:

        Thanks for the reply. I too have been very busy and didn’t see this until today.

        I believe I read your article correctly. Meaning, I do not see any Reformed theologians actually understand Sola Scriptura in that fashion. Maybe I need to go and listen to Moore again, but I don’t think he addressed the topic of natural theology (not that he discounted it). I will definitely listen to it again.

        Pertaining to Frame and Bahnsen, I know they disagreed on 2 things: 1) The full extent of the Transcendental Argument (they both affirmed it, but again, it is level of degree, not viability); and 2) Eschatology (Bahnsen was post-mill and Frame is a-mill). In fact, Bahnsen was denied the post at WTS because Van Til did not endorse Bahnsen’s theonomist views.

        However, I do know that Frame and Bahsen both agree on Sola Scriptura. If you compare Frame’s books with this article, I believe it proves the point: http://www.christiantruth.com/articles/bahnsen.html

        As for myself. I completed a ThM in New Testament and Greek at SEBTS and a PhD in Theological Studies and Philosophy of Religion at SEBTS. I wrote in the area of religious epistemology and hermeneutic. Specifically, I wrote on Carl F. H. Henry and the role of presuppositional religious epistemology and the role it played in 20th century hermeneutics. It was a philosophical, not historical, approach (see the link below). I am also teaching at SEBTS and in Washington, DC at Capital Theological Seminary.

        Blessings, my friend.

        Here’s the publication: https://www.amazon.com/Hermeneutics-Epistemology-Critical-Assessment-Epistemological/dp/1498222773/ref=sr_1_23?ie=UTF8&qid=1473703343&sr=8-23&keywords=carl+fh+henry

        Reply
  19. Matt Fortunato says:

    Dr. Turek, I see you’ve been inundated with responses, so I’ll try to be as concise as possible. Please forgive typos.

    (1) On Pastor Stanley’s comments. Yes, the redemptive-historical (what you call ontological) reality that grounds our faith is Christ’s resurrection and ongoing ministry in the heavenlies. But the methodological ground of preaching and teaching the Gospel is the written Word of God. There is merit in trying to address the woeful absence of the proclamation of the resurrection in churches today. The remedy, though, must be to return to Scripture, to reform in our understanding and use of Scripture, and to sure up the central role of Scripture in ministry and outreach. I would argue that only when Scripture is properly, consistently the methodological ground of Christian life and practice, could the resurrection be understood and celebrated as the redemptive-historical, or ontological ground. If God’s Word does not interpret and expound God’s deeds for us, then we are left with subjective interpretation. Apart from the ground of Scripture, we have no authoritative understanding of the meaning and relevance of the resurrection. If I were forced to frame this as a critique of Pastor Stanley’s position, I would say that he draws a false dichotomy between the methodological and redemptive-historical grounds of the faith.

    (2) I admit that I think you have painted an unfair caricature of presuppositional apologetics. I do not want to be combative, so I’ll just mention something about the following sentence, and then make a comment about circular reasoning. “While classical apologists defend Christianity, presuppositionalists defend presuppositionalism.” Surely you know of P.A.’s rich tradition of defending and commending the truth of God and of the whole Christian worldview. And you also know that there is an ongoing debate between P.A. and C.A. about which approach is more biblical and/or more effective. In this light, then, doesn’t each side have the duty and responsibility to defend itself against the other? Both sides defend Christianity to the church and world in different ways; both sides defend their approaches to each other.

    Now, on circular reasoning. A critical tenet of P.A. is that all reasoning is circular in some way because it must presuppose a functional authority that, itself, has no authority. P.A. makes a self-conscious choice to let the Word of God function as the authority that guides how reason is understood, used, and limited. C.A., though, it is argued by P.A. allows reason itself to function as its own authority. All forms of reasoning are based on an authority that creates a circle; within that circle emerges a particular worldview. Obviously this is more complex, but my point is that this presupposing of the authority of God’s Word does not translate to a simple, circular argument that, “The Bible is true because it says so.” The fact remains though, technically that is true — The Word of God is literally only true because it carries the authority of the very voice of God himself. Sure, there are historical evidences and P.A. does have a place for evidences, just not in a way that would make it appear like the authority of Scripture rests up some other authority outside it, say, for example, the unbeliever’s reasoning/reason/reasons.

    I will let that be, God bless you. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  20. Don Jones says:

    I’m in the process of thinking this all through. I did listen to the first few “talks” from Andy Stanley. A passage of Scripture that I am trying tor reconcile with the resurrection being more instrumental to helping a person to faith (I probably could have said that better) is Luke 16:27-31.

    Luk 16:27-31 “And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house– (28) for I have five brothers–in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ (29) “But Abraham *said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ (30) “But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ (31) “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'”

    How do we interpret that statement by Jesus into the current debate regarding the place of Scripture and resurrection? As I mentioned above, trying to reconcile Stanley’s statements with Jesus. Any help in understanding this would be appreciated.

    Reply
    • Frank Turek says:

      Hi Don, Good question. Those comments were directed at Jews who believed in the authority of the Old Testament. The Gentiles did not have “Moses and the Prophets” so Paul appealed to the truth of the Resurrection with them (Acts 17). He did not appeal to the OT scriptures at all, but their own poets to tell them of the Resurrection and the need for repentance.

      Reply
      • Don Jones says:

        Frank, thanks for taking the time for a response. That raises another question: “why would resurrection of someone from the dead not convince the Jews, but would be a convincing argument to the Gentiles?”

        Reply
          • toby says:

            I find it fascinating watching you guys quibble over the fine points of your beliefs. Frank, perhaps you’ve already answered this, but do you believe that all theism boils down to presuppositionalism?

          • Frank Turek says:

            Hi Toby,

            If your question relates the God “hardening hearts” as he did with Pharaoh, these next two paragraphs are instructive from “When Critics Ask” by Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe:

            “God did not harden Pharaoh’s heart contrary to Pharaoh’s own free choice. The Scripture makes it very clear that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. It declares that Pharaoh’s heart “grew hard” (Ex. 7:13), that Pharaoh “hardened his heart” (Ex. 8:15), and that “Pharaoh’s heart grew hard” the more God worked on it (Ex. 8:19). Again, when God sent the plague of the flies, “Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also” (Ex. 8:32). This same or like phrase is repeated over and over (cf. Ex. 9:7, 34–35). In fact, with the exception of God’s prediction of what would happen (Ex. 4:21), the fact is that Pharaoh hardened his own heart first (Ex. 7:13; 8:15, 8:32, etc.), and then God hardened it later (cf. Ex. 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27).
            Furthermore, the sense in which God hardened his heart is similar to the way the sun hardens clay and also melts wax. If Pharaoh had been receptive to God’s warnings, his heart would not have been hardened by God. But when God gave Pharaoh a reprieve from the plagues, he took advantage of the situation. “But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not heed them [Moses and Aaron], as the Lord had said” (Ex. 8:15).”

            Moreover, the very topic of a “hard heart” shows that Moses knew the religious beliefs of the Egyptians. A Pharaoh would only achieve a pleasant afterlife if his heart was weighed against the weight of a feather. A heavy (or hard heart) would mean the Pharaoh was a sinner, which means that he would be devoured by a voracious dog-like beast called “Amemit.”

        • Matt says:

          Evidence is important but does not exist in a vacuum. Jews and Gentiles have the same root problem — the rejection of revelation (whether general or special revelation) and the darkening of both heart and mind. Only the Gospel (presented persuasively using evidence appropriately) can change that. They must be born again.

          I think the passage you bring up is a great example of how the issue is not **the amount or the clarity of evidence.** Some people who saw Jesus in person (the perfect revelation of God) and saw his miracles (clear evidence of God’s power) believed and were saved. But some demanded more signs! As if they would finally believe if Jesus gave them the right amount of evidence, or much clearer evidence. In fact, for many, the more evidence they see and the more clearly they see it, the more they will hate it, reject it, and flee from it for the sake of a lie. The darkness hates the light.

          Evidence is necessary, but is not the whole package. What the eyes see does not always translate to what the mind accepts and what the heart adores.

          God be with you.

          Reply
  21. Paul says:

    “However, the means of showing that are not presupposing it’s true (that’s circular), but the classical approach to apologetics that Andy advocates, which cites evidence for the events in the Bible, and the reliability of the biblical documents, from philosophy, science and history.”

    If the Bible is God’s Word, God speaking, do we need evidence to know it is true? Did Adam need evidence that God was telling the truth that he would die if he ate from the tree?

    If your method for determining whether God’s Word is true or not is correct, was Eve godly to listen to Satan that she might substantiate God’s claim?

    Reply
    • Frank Turek says:

      Hi Paul, you mentioned “IF the Bible is God’s Word….” That’s exactly the condition the Classical approach seeks to establish. If you just assume it’s true, then what’s to stop a Mormon or Muslim from simply asserting their book is the true Word of God when you interact with them? How can you establish to them, or any other non-Christian, why the Bible is the true Word of God?

      Reply
      • Matt says:

        I would attempt to show them the inconsistencies and self-contradictions of their worldview, and also show them how Christianity addresses (with consistency and hope) whatever issue happens to be the focus. Yes, they can simply assert that their text is the Word of God… BUT they can also simply assert the historical reliability of their text by presenting historical evidences and citing what they believe to be fulfilled prophecies and miracles. So, I’m not sure the Classical or the Presuppositional approach have a clean way out of assertions that mirror and counterfeit Christian assertions. What would you say is the role of faith in someone accepting the Bible as God’s Word? Is it possible to empirically prove inspiration?

        Reply
        • David says:

          Matt you said, “I would attempt to show them the inconsistencies and self-contradictions of their worldview.” This statement makes me think that you feel Christianity is free of inconsistencies and self-contradictions. Is that correct?

          Reply
          • Matt says:

            Hey David. Yes, but there are many different versions of Christianity, and they do not all represent the core doctrines of Scripture accurately, so that is my one qualification. But yes, I believe that a true Christian worldview accurately interprets and describes the world and human existence. I believe reality is what it is only because of and in relation to God. // Free of mystery? No. Free of things beyond comprehension? No way! Free of things that seem irrational and inconsistent to natural man? Of course not. But free of actual contradictions, yes. In fact, I believe that the very notions of logic and of logical inconsistencies only makes sense in a Christian worldview. // Was just sharing my worldview and giving an answer from my perspective to a question that was asked. Are you a Christian? If not, what? Have a great weekend, I won’t be back on the thread for a few days. Cheers, Matt

          • David says:

            Well Matt, if you build enough escape hatches (it’s a mystery, god’s ways are higher than ours, in our fallen state we cannot rightly understand, whatever god does is right by virtue of the fact he does it, satan has deceived us) into your worldview/theology you can harmonize just about any inconsistency or contradiction. I used to lean on these types of rationalizations to manage the cognitive dissonance. Can’t do it anymore. Had to give it up and be more realistic. Discovering that the bible is not the inerrant, unassailable document I always believed it to be was a pivotal moment.

      • Steve Eberhart says:

        I believe the Scriptures answer your question very succinctly. You don’t “establish” this condition to an unbeliever. 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 very clearly explain that the Scriptures are foolishness to the perishing. An unregenerate mind will not be convinced by facts, logic, or anything else that can be construed as “evidence.” No amount of clever argumentation will break the spiritual barrier of an unconverted mind.

        Why is it foolishness? Why can’t even the wisest of the world see it? Because God destroys their *ability* to do so. (1 Cor 1:19) The knowledge to accept the wisdom in Scripture comes from the Holy Spirit and unbelievers do not possess Him. Unbelievers *cannot* understand them because that understanding comes only from the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor 2:14)

        So, you are making a huge category error by assuming an unregenerate Mormon or Muslim is hampered by a lack of evidence. Your “classical” approach is seeking to establish what God says cannot be done. You are hoping that a rock buried a mile beneath the surface of the earth can somehow see the sun. It’s not possible. Only when his heart of stone is changed into a heart of flesh and the Holy Spirit indwells him, will he be enabled to comprehend.

        Reply
      • John Warren says:

        The Bible never challenges people to build systems to prove God’s Word. Sure, sometimes God says “prove me now”, or “put your hand into My side”. But after Jesus said that to Thomas, and after Thomas believed Jesus (no mention of his putting his hand into His side), Jesus then said “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” And people in the Bible, even ones talking about the Resurrection, are always referring to Scripture. They dramatically portrayed Jesus’s Resurrection as fulfilment of Scripture. It doesn’t help people to start from some hypothetical neutral ground and then build up a case. It takes the Spirit of God to convince people of the crazy (from the world’s viewpoint) claims of Scripture, so why not just go all out, instead of walking on eggshells around unbelievers. The Resurrection is as crazy as the Flood.

        Reply
  22. Spencer says:

    Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries recently critiqued this article on his program, The Dividing Line. While I believe that some of his criticisms of Andy Stanley and Frank Turek have merit, I believe there is a major problem with the Presuppositional Apologetic method he espouses and would like to pose that problem to all those who would consider themselves to be Presuppositionalists.

    Before I begin, let me state clearly that while I am not a Calvinist or a Presuppositionalist it is my honest desire to know the truth as God has revealed it in Scripture and follow the evidence wherever it leads. I know I am not always right and will respond to correction if I can be shown to be in error. I also do not want to misrepresent the views of Calvinists/Presuppositionalists in any way. I encourage anyone who disagrees with me to express their disagreement. That being said,

    An Open Question to proponents of Presuppositionalism,

    It is my understanding that according to the Calvinistic interpretation of Scripture, human reasoning is so totally depraved that any effort to understand or believe the Gospel is futile. Unless and until the Holy Spirit regenerates the reprobate mind, a person will continue to suppress the truth regardless of how well it is articulated or argued for.

    In addition, the Calvinistic view of God’s sovereignty entails that God causally ordains all things that come to pass. There is no sense in which God merely “permits” things to occur. Everything that comes to pass, to include the unbelief of the reprobate, comes to pass because in so happening God will bring the most glory to Himself.

    Here in lies a problem I don’t believe the Presuppositionalist will be able to get out of. Obviously, I understand that the Calvinist believes that God ordains means as well as ends. He has not revealed the content of His Divine Decree to us and therefore we are only accountable to what He has revealed in Scripture (i.e. preaching the Gospel to everyone since we are commanded to and we do not know the identities of the elect). Still, while an understanding of this may lead to a Calvinist carefully weighing the decisions he makes in the future, he still must acknowledge that all events in the past have occurred the way they did due to the Sovereign Decree of God.

    This being said, I would like you to consider someone like Dr. Frank Turek who is not a Calvinist and uses the Classical Apologetics method. Based on Dr. James White’s own admission in his September 8th Dividing Line Program (start listening around the 18 minute mark), it seems to me that he (being a Calvinist) has to believe that ultimately the reason that Dr. Turek is in error regarding God’s Sovereignty and the proper apologetic method is because God has not granted it to him to understand these things. Just as the reprobate man’s fallen reason can never lead him to God, neither can Dr. Turek’s reason lead him to the truth of Reformed theology unless and until the Holy Spirit grants it to him to understand it. If Dr. Turek persists in his error, he does so only because God has sovereignly determined before the foundation of the world that he would be in error, for through Dr. Turek’s theological errors God will bring the most glory to Himself.

    Now once again, I’m sure that Dr. White and other Calvinists will quickly respond, “But we don’t know the content of God’s Sovereign Decree! It is our responsibility to preach the truth through a proper exegesis of Scripture in hopes that God will use it as a means by which He will reveal the truth to Dr. Turek and others who do not embrace the truth of Reformed theology and Presuppositional Apologetics!”

    Yes and I believe I understand that response, but I’d like to illustrate the problems of this response with a hypothetical dialogue between a Classical Apologist (CA) and a Presuppostional Apologist (PA). I understand that not every Presuppositional Apologist will give answers exactly like the ones I list here, but I have based all the hypothetical answers on statements made in Dr. James White’s most recent podcasts critiquing classical and evidential apologetics.

    CA: “How do you know that the conclusions you’ve drawn about Reformed theology and Presuppositional Apologetics are correct?”

    PA: “Because a proper exegesis of Scripture inevitably leads one to accept Reformed theology and its implications. I am prepared to demonstrate this directly from the pages of God’s Word.”

    CA: “But I’m using the exact same Scriptures as you are and I don’t draw the same conclusions as you. How do you know that your exegesis of Scripture is correct?”

    PA: “Like I said, I can demonstrate it. When you read the passages of Scripture in context with the proper historical and grammatical understanding, you’ll see that Reformed theology necessarily follows.”

    CA: “In other words, you can REASON from the text. The words of Scripture clearly do not interpret themselves. If that were the case we wouldn’t be having this discussion. You and I disagree about what the implications of Scripture are and therefore you have to attempt to demonstrate that your view is true by engaging in reasoning. Didn’t you say that our reasoning capabilities are fallen and that we should never place human reasoning above God’s Divine Revelation?”

    PA: “Of course our human reasoning is fallen. That’s why the Holy Spirit has to reveal the truth to us. I can know that my exegesis is correct because I begin epistemologically with God. Having put my faith in God thanks to the Holy Spirit’s regeneration, I can be confident that God has revealed the truth to me.”

    CA: “But tell me this. Hypothetically speaking let’s say that God wanted you to be in error about some aspect of theology. He still elected to save you, but He knew that if you believed and taught this theological error to others, somehow in the grand scheme of His Divine Decree He would bring the most glory to Himself. Would it be possible for you to reach the truth assuming that God had decreed for you to remain in error?”

    PA: “Well no. God’s Divine Decree cannot be resisted. Everything that happens in the universe ultimately occurs according to God’s decree in order that He might glorify Himself.”

    CA: “But if that’s the case how could you ever confidently know that anything you believe is true? I suspect you’ll say because God has revealed it to you, but that would just be arguing in a circle. You just admitted that if God wants someone to be in error then they will certainly be in error, including me and including you! How can you know that what God has revealed to you isn’t an error so that He can bring more glory to Himself by your being incorrect?”

    I have asked this question to Calvinists before and never received an answer with any more substance than, “You just don’t understand Calvinism!” or “It’s more diamond shaped than that!”

    This I think truly exposes the fatal flaw of the Calvinist’s embrace of Divine determinism. As William Lane Craig has stated, once a person embraces determinism of any sort a strange vertigo sets in. One very well may believe true things, but only because they’ve already been determined to believe those things just as much as their opponents have been determined to believe false things. In such a system, nothing can be rationally affirmed.

    I know that there is more to be discussed, but I don’t believe it is helpful at this point to simply appeal to the Scriptures that a Calvinist would use to defend their view of Divine determinism. Doing so would presume that you are engaging in proper exegesis, which can’t be the case if you are relying on fallen reasoning capabilities and can’t be rationally affirmed if you are relying on God to have revealed the truth to you. Simply put, it is impossible to begin epistemologically outside oneself. Unless we assume that our reasoning capabilities are generally reliable arguments about any topic can’t go anywhere.

    The Dividing Line Program I referenced can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxkYOCJ0pM0&index=4&list=PLBby84KboLbHiQEuvQK37IhLGlsUT67gO

    Reply
    • Matt says:

      There are a lot of good thoughts and questions there, but I will only respond to a couple things. (1.) “Simply put, it is impossible to begin epistemologically outside oneself.” I would just say that there is a difference between how one comes to know (how he begins epistemologically) and the actual ground of knowing itself. The Hindu and the Christian begin with themselves in how they know, but the Christian is in a process of submitting his thinking based on the one, true, unchangeable ground of knowing — God and his knowledge (as revealed in Scripture not by speculation). We are also in a process of learning about how knowledge itself is possible because of God’s revelation. We are made in his image, our conscience reveals him, the world reveals him, and the Word reveals him in a special and redemptive way. In one sense, Christianity is the process of learning about these realities and submitting our lives and minds to them. The subject/object relationship is complex: The act of knowing begins with the knowing subject, but that knowledge itself can only exist on the ground of the known object, and insofar as it corresponds to it.

      (2.) And just a quick thought on determinism… that is a philosophical position that rejects the authenticity of secondary causes. I believe the Bible teaches God and his decree as ultimate, but human choices, etc. as genuine secondary causes — explicitly so in the text of the Joseph narrative, Pharaoh narrative (cf. Romans 9), Nebuchadnezzar narrative, and Acts 2:23. Issues of the decree and predestination (both terms from Scripture) are theological positions based on Scripture. At this point, I don’t see Scripture pitting divine sovereignty and human responsibility against one another, where I then have to pick one or the other (just like I don’t see Scripture pitting the threeness and the oneness of God against each other, or the humanity and divinity of Christ, or divine authorship or human authorship — there will always be a mysterious side to how an infinite God relates to his creation). For either side of the debate, I would keep pushing back to the text of Scripture to grow in our beliefs.

      I am not technically Calvinist because I disagree with infant baptism and Presbyterian church polity (and some other things). But I do believe that in apologetics, it is important to challenge others at the level of presuppositions. Why do they believe what they believe? Where do they find justification for their worldview? Most people have bought into the narrative of pop-culture and have never thought about those things — they’ve just absorbed the spirit of the age without any thought or reflection. And I do believe in predestination (Eph 1, Rom 8), as well as the reality of human choice and accountability before God. None are without excuse; and any and all can believe the Gospel if they want to. Christ will never, ever turn away a repentant sinner.

      Reply
    • Steve Eberhart says:

      Hey Spencer,

      I would love to interact with what you have written here but I don’t have the time to dissect it all right now. If you would be willing to have a “reasonable” interaction with what your wrote and further discussion about this topic, please email me.

      Thanks,
      Steve steveeberhart75@gmail.com

      Reply
  23. Cory Lewis says:

    This article and most of these comments are COMPLETELY ridiculous!!! This doesn’t show anything at all and not only that, if you are wanting a so-called “pastor” that allows crotch grabbing teens and borderline adults to perform 90’s music with lyrics that include “i love the way you turn me on” you need to repent and believe in the one true Jesus Christ. What this man does is not church at all. This is 2nd Timothy 4 clearly and Jesus is coming back and time is ticking! This is not going to be a good day for most who are even commenting on this! Denying His Word as the supreme authority and making His Word ambiguous to fit today’s culture?? This is the very first sin and we see what God did with that! Oh my that the Holy Spirit would open many’s eyes who have written awful things about His Word. God’s Word is infallible, unchanging, unmistakably His and interprets itself! It is the very Word of God where we come to the understanding of the resurrection and what is the most important element in all this which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ! It’s up to us to humiliate ourselves to ask God’s permission to have His truths revealed! And MAYBE He will. This article is wrong and so is this so-called pastor! His dad is probably very shamed right now and terrified his son my be on his way to Hades! Repent and believe in the one true Jesus Christ!

    Reply
  24. Dwight Osborne says:

    Very simply, Andy Stanley is a heretic. Stanley doesn’t even know the facts about the Bible. The fact is that most of the New Testament was in the hands of the early church. Timothy possessed all of the letters of Paul and 3 of the gospels. Andy Stanley is no better than a sheep in wolf’s clothing.

    Reply
  25. John Warren says:

    How are “philosophy, logic, and cause and effect” part of Natural Revelation? God hasn’t written two books. He’s written a book (the Bible) and a pamphlet, or maybe just a flyer (Natural Revelation). Romans 1:18-20 says: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Natural Revelation only gives humanity enough knowledge (of God’s eternal power and divine nature) to condemn him, and this Revelation is described as “wrath”. Anselm of Canterbury and Thomas Aquinas’s efforts notwithstanding, you can’t build an apologetic or philosophic system on that.

    Regarding Romans 2:14-15, how can a law be written on the heart of an unbeliever? This passage is peeking ahead and talking about Gentiles who are saved and thus have God’s law written on their hearts. It’s not talking about the random unsaved Gentile who behaves better than the random unsaved Jew. This passage is not an argument for natural law.

    Psalm 19 is talking about the Mazzaroth, the Gospel that was written in the stars, which has come down to us today in the highly corrupted and paganized form known as the Zodiac. Read “The Gospel In The Stars”, by Joseph A. Seiss.

    Reply
  26. Royce Van Blaricome says:

    I read your article and listened to your interview. There are many things I disagree with you on but it would take way too much time, space, and effort to do so here. So I’m just gonna comment on one thing. You and Richard claim that regardless of one’s approach to Scripture and Evangelism they always look at Scripture thru the lens of Philosophy. You say, “It’s impossible to use no philosophy when interpreting the Bible. You are always using philosophical principles…” I disagree.

    Using the Dictionary definition: “the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline”; I submit that faith destroys your argument. I would submit that “the book Nature” that you two point to has some merit but you completely negated the Conscience that God speaks to in Romans 2. Men know the truth not because of some “study of the fundamental nature of knowledge” but rather because God has given it to them. If it were not for what God does and has done, Man would have NO concept of right from wrong. And I would submit I don’t have to come from any philosophical bent to simply say that I know because I know. Just as God said, I AM that I AM.” I believe it because I know it to be true. I don’t need to come from or bring into any philosophical idea, precept, concept, tool, teaching, or anything else. I know the Truth because God has revealed it.

    It’s like being Born Again. If you were to die and your funeral was held in three days during which you came back to life and sat up in the coffin. Does the pastor or anyone else in attendance have to tell you that you had come back to life? Do you have to tell anyone there? NO! When one passes from death to life you know it and they know it. There is no philosophical exercise or formula that has to be followed to know it. The truth is self-evident.

    Reply
  27. Gerald Landis says:

    The closest I got to Andy Stanley’s church is
    when I drove past its entrance on
    North Parkway when I worked briefly in
    Alpharetta. Police were always directing
    traffic on my way home his church.

    An elder in our church do preach a sermon on some of the Andy Stanley controversies.
    He basically said “I like Andy Stanley but
    what he said in sermon X was not Biblical.”
    It did not reflect Biblical doctrines from
    the seminary he attended.

    I do not remember what he said was wrong. I do remember thinking I did
    agree with our elder.

    As Christians we do need to faithfully
    study the Bible and be Bereans searching
    the Scriptures.

    Just because a pastor is famous he is not
    above being Biblical.

    We should not blindly follow any man.

    We need to know what is truly Biblical.

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Why Andy Stanley is Right About the Foundation of Christianity and How to Defend It […]

  2. […] Turek wrote an article concerning Stanley called, “Why Andy Stanley is Right about the Foundation of Christianity and How to Defend It.” Turek interacts with an interview Dr. Russel Moore conducted with Andy Stanley at a recent […]

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