The following chart, which lays out a summary of various apologetic postions is taken from the March/April 1997 edition of Modern Reformation magazine.

A Summary of Positions


Classical Apologetics



Reformed Epistemology

Starting Point:

Reason, especially classical theistic proofs: deduction

Empirical data, especially the Resurrection: induction

Negatively, the inconsistency of alternatives; positively, the Scriptures as necessary for even the unbelieverís rationality: presupposition

Belief in God, like other believes (including belief in the existence of others, the reliability of the senses, etc.) is "properly basic." That is, one is warranted in believing in God because the "sense of God" is common to everyone.

Main Emphasis:

Sound reason will lead to the truth

Sound investigation will lead to the truth

Acceptance of the authority of Scripture will lead to the truth

Proper function (viz., of oneís sense of God) will lead to the truth

The Chief Goal of Apologetics:

To establish the reasonableness of theism

To establish the reasonableness of Christianity

To establish the sovereignty of God over human autonomy

To expose the captivity of demands for evidence as unwitting capitulations to modernity

The Chief Philosophical Influences:

Plato, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas: Rationalism

Aristotle, Bacon, Locke, Butler, Scottish "common sense realism" (Thomas Reid), B.B. Warfield and "Old Princeton"; Empiricism

Hegel, Bradley, and British "absolute Idealist" thought, Kuyper, Van Til: Idealism

Anselm, Calvin, Kuyper, Bavnick, contemporary critics of "classical foundationalism" (e.g., A. Plantinga, N. Wolterstorff, W. Alston): Post-Foundationalism

Arguments Drawn From:





Typical Criticisms By Rival Schools:

Too deductivistically rationalistic (says the "inductivist" evidentialist); too naïve about the sinfulness of the fallen mind and hear, sacrificing Godís sovereignty by trying to preserve Enlightenment autonomy (says the presuppositionalist); too committed to classical foundationalism (says the "Reformed epistemologist").

Too optimistic about the powers of the senses, since observation is never neutral and the presuppositions which select, organize, and judge relevant data are never suspended so that one could appeal to a "zero point" of unbiased reflection; can only provide probabilistic arguments, while faith requires certainty.

Too pessimistic about the efficacy of common grace in providing shared convictions about rationality, sense-experience, and the innate sense of God; confusing apologetics (a pre-evangelistic activity of clearing away objections) with evangelism (sharing the Gospel), pressuppositionalism tends to deny the value of arguments and is founded on circular reasoning.

Sense of the divine is insufficient as it is neither an argument for Christianity (says the evidentialist), nor for the Scriptures (says the presuppositionalist).


Points of agreement among all four schools:

  • Arguments are useful but are not themselves salvific
  • There is a common ground of some sort between believers and unbelievers, but not neutral ground
  • Sin has so darkened the mind and heart that we al, by nature, suppress the truth
  • There is a place for reason, evidences, and Scriptures in apologetics
  • Only by the proclamation of Christ in the Gospel does one actually come to faith

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