Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 10/07/2008 by Jacob Hantla.
Recommended. The first book you should read on apologetics.
I have read almost a dozen apologetics texts over the last year, and in my estimation, Apologetics for the Glory of God by John Frame should be the first book you read on the subject. Let John Frame guide you as you learn the particulars of apologetic argument from other apologists. John Frame describes what principles should be guiding the use of any evidence or line of reasoning as the apologist seeks to reason with the nonbelieving skeptic. Frame's apologetics would rightly be characterized as presuppositional in nature; he is not shy to be aligned with Cornelius Van Til. However, for those who think that a presuppositional apologetic eschews evidence, you will be pleasantly surprised. I recommend that any reader of Apologetics for the Glory of God get a copy of Frame's masterpiece Doctrine of the Knowledge of God as frequent reference is made to it and you will find ideas hinted at fully expounded in that larger volume. All of Frame's thinking is influenced by his tri-perspectival way of looking at things (which DKG goes into much detail), where he realizes the helpfulness of considering truth from different angles. His apologetics is no different; the perspectives into which he breaks the apologetic task (and the chapters of the book) are:
- Apologetics as Proof
- Apologetics as Defense
- Apologetics as Offense
Classical apologists seek to find commonground between the believer and the nonbeliever and work from there to convince the skeptic of the plausibility of existence of the God of the Bible; therefore, the classical apologist argues, the Bible is not the appropriate place to start in apologetic encounters. The presuppositionalist argues on the other hand, that the unbeliever is acting in rebellion to God as manifested by his desire to think autonomously and place himself as the ultimate criterion of truth. The apologist should not encourage this thinking; neither should the apologist adopt it. The skeptics basic heart commitment is that Jesus is not Lord; the apologists basic heart commitment is that Jesus is Lord. "Our argument must be an exhibit of that knowledge, that wisdom, which is based on the 'fear of the Lord,' not an exhibition of unbelieving foolishness. Therefore apologetic argument is no more neutral than any other human activity. In apologetic argument, as in everything else we do, we must presuppose the truth of God's Word....Even if neutrality were possible, that route would be forbidden to us" (p. 9).
There is no common ground apart from mutual knowledge of God of which Romans 1:19ff way. The thing that the apologist is most sure is true is that which God has told him in the Bible. Therefore, the apologists argument will be based on Scripture. Frame writes, "The preacher-apologist is to present the word...to expound it, to apply it to his hearers, to display its beauty, its truth, its rationality. [He] seeks to combat the unbeliever's false impressions and present to him the word as it really is. It is to this testimony that the Spirit also bears witness" (p. 17). This does not mean, however, that natural evidences or rational argumentation are out of line, just that they must be submitted to Scripture, "The obedient Christian apologist will show the unbeliever the various ways in which nature reveals God, without claiming neutrality and without allowing the use of non-Christian criteria of truth" (p. 25). The main attack against this line of reasoning is that it is circular; the teachings of the Bible are true because the Bible is true. We must recognize the truth of this statement but recognize that every system of thought is circular when it seeks to defend its ultimate presupposition: the Bible, reason/logic, sense-experience, relativism, or otherwise.
Frame spends the rest of the book working his presuppositional line of reasoning out as it relates to proving Christianity to be true, defending Christianity's truth, and attacking the irrationality of all other belief systems. Frame includes very little actual argumentation, with the exception of the problem of evil in the world. He admits this. His goal in this book is to provide the framework into which all other arguments or lines of reasoning will fit, and he does so masterfully. It is for this reason that I recommend that you read Frame before any other apologists, because fit into this framework the apologist can use any true line of reasoning or evidences (whether it comes from a presuppositionalist or not) and use it in a way that recognizes Jesus and not man as Lord.
Finally, the book ends with an exceptional transcript from a faux dialogue between Frame and a man on an airplane where Frame demonstrates how each item he has discussed throughout the book might work itself out in actual apologetic discussion with a real life person.
I do not recommend that Apologetics to the Glory of God is the only apologetics book you read, but I do recommend that it is the first. When you are finished, I recommend you move on to Busenitz's Reasons We Believe and/or Pratt's Every Thought Captive.