What is pre-suppositionalism, and how might it relate to apologetics?
Presuppositionalism is the school of thought that God and His revealed Word is the necessary pre-condition of intelligibility. As such Presuppositionalism teaches that the God of the Bible must be informative context in which all texts (facts) must be understood (In thy light we see light.) In short, Presuppositionalism holds that all facts are facts because of who God is. If one gets God wrong as the one who conditions all facts then inevitably one will get the nature of reality wrong in a substantive way.
Presuppositionalism thus holds that we must reason from God and only to God once we begin with God. God and His revelation will never be consistently adhered to if we start our reasoning from an autonomous position and in apologetical encounters the Christian will always come up short in his conversation if he begins with the presuppositions of the non-Christian or if he starts on putatively neutral (common ground). This school of thought thus challenges believers to be epistemologically self-conscious about their starting point (the God of the Bible) their methodology (reasoning from submission to God in His revealed word) and their ending point (the Glory of God).
In terms of apologetics the mission of the presuppositional apologist is often to confront the unbeliever with the Christ hating nature of his or her own presuppositions that automatically rule out of bounds any conclusions that they might come to which are contrary to their autonomous starting points. The Presuppositional apologetic thus focuses on the reality that the conflict in apologetic and evangelistic encounters often lies not in the clear evidence that all men have access to but rather the conflict lies in the reality that the non Christian, being in rebellion to God, reasons by his own self-attesting word whereas the Christian, in principle, reasons in submission to God’s self-attesting Word. This reality accounts for why it is that non-Christians, who are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, will not read any evidence for God in a way that speaks of God.
In terms of methodology Presuppositional apologetics is committed to epistemological confrontation done by exposing the contradictions that every non-Christian has in their Worldview living rooms. Since Presuppositionalism teaches that all non-Christian paradigms have surreptitiously imported Capital from a Biblical Worldview the Presuppositionalist sets about exposing the contradictions in non-Christian worldviews starting, for the sake of argument, from the non-Christians own confessed presuppositions. The Presuppositionalist knows that nobody will ever be reasoned into the Kingdom but he knows that regeneration normatively happens in the context of the Word proclaimed.
What is theodicy?
Theodicy is the work done to explain how a God who omni-benevolent and who is Omnipotent can be both at the same time in light of the reality of evil.
The Reformed expression of the Christian faith has always emphasized the “sovereignty of God.” If God has everything taken care of, why ought we pray? Why ought we engage in missions and evangelism?
The easy answer to both questions is because God commands it (Matthew 6, Matthew 28). It should be enough for those who are God’s Knights to do what the King says simply because the King commands it. When it comes to these matters it really is a case of ‘Ours is not to question why…Ours is but to do and die.”
Still, people usually want more than this so we probe the issue.
First, as it touches prayer, God in His sovereignty has not only decreed the ends of His work but He has also decreed the means to those ends. In God’s economy prayers is one end which God also uses as a means to bring about other ends. Second, at least some of the Reformers held that prayer was a means of Grace, which is to say that in prayer God uniquely gives Himself in ways that He does not give Himself except in Word and sacrament. The implication of this would be thus, that in prayer God gives us sanctification as we pray in faith. Third, in prayer it is often (if not always) the case that prayer changes us more than it changes God. In an active prayer life we are drawn into the presence of God where God teaches us the way of submission in those matters that we are bringing before him.
Touching Evangelism we would once again note that God predestines ends with means. God has predestined that thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand, a number that no man can count, will occupy the New Jerusalem. He could, should He desire, save them apart from human involvement, but Scripture clearly teaches that God uses human instruments to accomplish divine ends. He takes crooked sticks and draws straight lines and He does so by taking people like us and using us to take the glad tiding of Jesus Christ to the Church and to the culture. Second, we ought to be involved in evangelism and missions because God uses these as sanctifying shapers in the lives of those He sends out.
The truth of Divine sovereignty should never eclipse the truth of our obligation to be obedient to the King. God is sovereign but we are still accountable to be obedient in those things which He has revealed even if obedience seems destined, from our perspective, to end in defeat.
What concerns and/or sensitivities must Christians be aware of when sharing their faith in missionary or evangelistic settings?
First and foremost Christians must be sensitive to God and His revealed Word. We can never compromise that sensitivity by appealing to a pretended sensitivity to those in our culture. This is important to articulate because often in the name of being culturally sensitive we can show our insensitivity to God’s claims on us and to God’s revealed Word.
Yet, with this clearly before us, it is perspicuous that we must be sensitive to understand why the people we are commanding to come to Christ have the Worldview that they have. Why is it that they have embraced this plausibility structure and not another. What wounds are they trying to cover so nobody will notice. We must be sensitive to why it is that sin is manifesting itself the way it is in a particular person life. It is not enough to say ‘sin is the problem’ we have to go further then that and be sensitive enough to ask, ‘why this particular arrangement of sin and not another’?
In terms of concerns related to Evangelism and Mission I would say that the main concern would be to locate the Idol. Since God is an inescapable category those who will not bow the knee to Christ have bowed their knee to some Idol. Once we identify the Idol we can begin the work of toppling it.