Thomas Arnold wrote an article for the Baptist Bulletin in May of 2006 entitled “Tailoring Apologetics to Evangelize.” He discussed the strengths and weaknesses, in his opinion, of the five apologetic strategies: Fideism, Presuppostional apologetics, Classical apologetics, Evidential apologetics, and Experiential apologetics. Arnold believes the strongest of the five are presuppostional, classical and evidential.
Two of the reasons presuppostional apologetics is rejected as the only apologetic approach that can ultimately convince the sinner to trust Christ as Savior are the following. I say ultimately evidences can be used to win a hearing and answer objections, but it is the special revelation of the gospel that God uses to convict and convert the unsaved.
The First reason is an unbiblical view of the Fall.
Thomas Aquinas had a different view of the fall than Calvin or Luther. He did not view man as totally depraved. His will was weakened and his intellect clouded, nonetheless his nature is not totally corrupted, for as created by God it is still basically good. Nevertheless man cannot attain to salvation on his own but is in need of grace. Though the intellect is clouded, unassisted human reason can still attain to many of the truths about God. For instance the existence of God can be shown from the nature of the created universe. Nonetheless certain things are only knowable through Divine Revelation such as the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. Because of his view of the power of the human mind, though harmed by the fall, yet not totally destroyed, the works of the classical, secular philosophers could be brought into the service of Christian theology. Charles Murray wrote, “Aquinas made the case, eventually adopted by the Church, that human intelligence is a gift from God, and that to apply human intelligence to understanding the world is not an affront to God but is pleasing to him.”
The Word of God states clearly the Fall of man affected his total person including his mind. Ephesians 4:17-18 defines the effect of the Fall on the sinner’s mind: “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.”
Not only did the Fall of man affect the mind but also Satan has blinded the sinner’s thinking so that he cannot believe unless the gospel penetrates “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:3-6).
“Any system of Christian apologetics that underestimates the power of Satan in the minds of unbelievers or the effects of the Fall is inadequate to save. What is desperately needed today is an apologetic with power” (Dallas Theological Seminary. 1977; 2002. Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 134).
The second reason is an expanded view of General revelation.
This point is important because Classical apologetics would begin with the theistic arguments from general revelation to prove God’s existence and the Bible’s reliability to answer the objections of the skeptic. Robert Thomas quotes Demarest and Lewis in exposing Millard Erickson’s expanded view of general revelation to include truth broader than “the disclosure of God in nature, in providential history, and in the moral law within the heart, whereby all persons at all times and places a rudimentary understanding of the Creator and his moral demands” (Bruce Demarest and Gordon Lewis, Integrative Theology, 1:61).
About Erickson, Thomas warned: “Certain data Erickson would class as general revelation have come to light only recently and have not been available at all times, neither are they at present available to all people in all places” (The Master’s Seminary Journey 9/1, Spring 1998, 5-23, page 7). When Erickson broadens general revelation to include truth that is not universal in all places and times for all people, special revelation is weakened so that it is no longer alone necessary to save the unregenerate. That position is not true to Scripture (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; etc.).
In Thomas Arnold’s article for the Baptist Bulletin he shared how he responded to a skeptic who said, “Since everything evolved, why bother with God?” Arnold wrote: “I had him consider the alternatives to God as our Creator, and I established the existence of the Biblical God, using presuppositional apologetics. Next I verified the Bible by first showing the eleven times the Bible says God has been stretching out or expanding the universe. I shared that in 1929 astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe is expanding, just as the Bible has said all along, and that running the expansion backwards necessitates a beginning of the universe, which necessitates an eternal Creator. Before modern science, only the Creator could have known these facts, so the Biblical Creator God is real, and His Bible is accurate.” After Arnold answered his skeptics objections, he gave him the gospel. I would have no problem first giving the gospel and then addressing his issues. Because it the gospel of Christ that “is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).